Other Editorials

Not Everyone is Asleep

R Zwarich
Tuesday, March 28, 2006

by R Zwarich

Surely we all have an innate instinctual sense of what 'apathy' means. Even as we use our own spirit of determination to hack away at its insidiously pervasive tendrils as they try to grow into our own hearts, surely we all can understand how so many other hearts have been overgrown and overcome.

Many of us have offered up, in this discussion, our instinctive understanding of Apathy. Many have commented on how it grows from a sense of powerlessness and fear in the face of our frustration and anger. Apathy, as Brother Christensen tells us, is the product of a culture of corruption, which has grown from what he calls a 'bad history'.

What's the use? Why bother? Why be involved? Why write? Why speak out? Nothing works. Why vote? The people we vote for only betray us once they get a taste of power.

We see that all our institutions are run by people so corrupted with greed for their own position, wealth, and power that they have lost concern for the purpose that the institution was created to accomplish. In government, in business, in churches, and certainly in our unions, our leaders lie, cheat, and steal from us without regret or shame. 'Honor' is a concept all but completely lost in this corruption. We watch helplessly as Orwell's predictions unfold before our very eyes. Up is down. Hate is love. War is peace. We drop bombs on people's heads to 'liberate' them. We cut funding for schools as we talk of our concern for education. We rob from the poor to give to the rich, as we talk about creating 'opportunity' for all. And, ah yes, NAFTA, and the holy grail of the 'free market', will bring prosperity to working people everywhere.

Caught within this maelstrom of corruption, unable any longer to tell truth from lies, to sort fact from fiction, unable to make sense anymore of anything, people are completely overwhelmed. Those in desperate circumstances may rise up in riot and revolt, but those who enjoy a degree of comfort will simply seek retreat from it all. Have another beer or wine cooler. Turn on the ballgame, or the soap opera, or the latest reality show. Pursue gratification of our carnal appetites. Look for happiness in food, and sex. Convince ourselves that our possessions can satisfy us. Try to believe that free indulgence of Desire can take the place of Honor, and that Justice and Freedom can exist nonetheless.

Those of us not yet consumed by Apathy are often tempted to regard those who are apathetic with contempt. We are tempted to turn our own frustration on them. 'THEY are the problem', we are tempted to conclude. 'If only they would join with us, we could win', we accurately observe. 'It's THEIR fault', we decide, in our human need to assign 'blame' where it belongs.

And that is the first stage of our own defeat at the cruel and insidious hands of Apathy. As we decide to blame its victims, as we come to resent our apathetic brothers and sisters, we are set against one another, and we lose our focus on our real enemies, which are not our fellow workers who have grown apathetic, but rather are those who would take the sustenance from our families' tables in their greed to have more opulent luxury at theirs. Soon we lose our focus on 'the real problem' itself, which is not Apathy, but the Corruption and Injustice that gave rise to it, and as those tendrils of apathy continue to grow insistently around our own hearts, our will to resist them, the power and focus of our own Spirit to hack away at them, will be weakened. Apathy begets more apathy, not in a dramatic frontal assault, but rather in a slow oozing envelopment of our will.

I am not an autoworker. I am a carpenter. I therefore lack the proper credentials to discuss this buyout offer, or any other specific aspect of your contract. But Apathy is an adversary that is common to us ALL. All of us who struggle for Justice in America in these times struggle to awaken people from their apathetic trance, and as we do, we also struggle against discouragement and hopelessness in our own hearts.

I was talking to a fellow carpenter up in Washington State just yesterday, (I'm down in KC), about this very thing. We were talking about how those of us who have not yet fallen to Apathy, (and NONE of us is immune to its threat, and ALL of us feel the weight of discouragement and hopelessness pressing on us), must join together in Common Cause. We must find the way to UNITE our efforts.

He was talking about the 'enclaves of resistance' all over the country. SOS is NOT alone. In virtually every union there is a group very much like SOS. In every union there is a group of 'dissidents' who understand that the House of Labor has been betrayed by its own leaders, and that it is up to us, as 'rank-and-file' working people to renew a legacy that has been lost. The very comfort and complacency that now threatens us was won by the bone and blood of our ancestors. It was only three generations back, in the times of our own grandparents' parents, that working people faced up to clubs with bare fists. And then when they took up clubs, it was guns that cut them down. But they had the courage and determination to face down all these odds and prevail.

Solidarity was their weapon. They joined together in common cause. Now, only three generations later, 'solidarity' has become something we talk about incessantly, but only rarely ever actually 'do'.

These disconnected 'enclaves of resistance' must find a way to conSOLIDATE. We must find a way to UNITE our efforts. Carpenter with autoworker, laborer with teacher, janitor with truck driver, dock worker with plumber, these enclaves of Progressive Labor must find the means to work together in united resolve. As isolated enclaves we remain relatively powerless, and as we recognize instinctively that it is powerlessness that gives rise to Apathy, we must join in common cause to gain the power to resist it in ourselves, and then to banish it from the hearts of our brothers and sisters. Show them the path to power, and they will cast out Apathy. It is incumbent on us to show them that.

No one is going to re-invent the wheel. Solidarity is STILL, and always will be, the only path to power. We must reach out to each other, and join in common cause.