Freedom [sic]

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When you write books, articles, and essays that typically fall into the “radical” category, you take hits from the full range of the political spectrum. Right, left, or anywhere in-between, beliefs run deep and viewpoints die hard. Often, however, irate critics of all stripes lazily fall back on empty rebuttals.

For example, this timeless classic: “How many other countries give you the RIGHT to write what you just wrote?”

Let’s put aside the unintentional tongue twister and the fact that the obvious answer to their question—plenty of other countries do—destroys this line of reasoning [sic]. The larger issue, as I see it, is how we each choose to evaluate our freedom.

I’m not living in Myanmar. I know. But what are we talking about here? Is freedom just bigger cages and longer chains? Is it merely a commodity sold to the highest bidder? Must the majority of us sit by and drool while freedom fries on the grill of capitalist avarice?

To have more freedom than, say, a woman living under Taliban repression is not the same as being free. But it is the same as settling for less subjugation instead of demanding more liberty (or at least as much liberty currently guaranteed by virtue of the Constitution).

handpointRTig Read my full article here

(Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism can be ordered here.)

Hepburn wore pants

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“Stockings are an invention of the devil.” (Katharine Hepburn)

It’s the hallmark of innovation and rebellion that what once was outrageous is eventually mundane. After all, what could more unremarkable than seeing a Western woman wearing a pair of pants?

When Katharine Hepburn shunned the girdles, petticoats, stockings, garter belts, and high heels considered “normal” for women, she was brazenly defying fashion and social convention.

Hepburn wore pants. She even wore sneakers. In 1930s Hollywood, such behavior was deemed scandalous and worthy of public scorn.

Reviews for the 1936 film Sylvia Scarlett—in which Hepburn spends almost its entirety in short hair and men’s clothing—were sarcastic, to say the least. Time magazine declared “Hepburn is better-looking as a boy than a woman” while the New York Herald-Tribune named her “the handsomest boy of the season.”

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In real life, Kate’s bosses at RKO went as far as commandeering her slacks in the hope of forcing her to wear a skirt. Unmoved, Hepburn strolled the studio lot in only her underwear. Her point was made. Her pants were returned.

“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun,” said Hepburn…and by doing what came naturally, her public mutiny became a high-profile example of independence and individuality.

(Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism can be ordered here.)

Coffee Break in #Ferguson: Talking “Violence” in a Corporate Culture

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An August 19, 2014 Wall Street Journal article headline blared:

Strong Police Presence Felt After Night of Violence in Ferguson

“Night of violence.” Singular.

Corporate media lessons:

  • Violence is the anomaly in God’s Country™
  • Violence results when “demonstrators” decide to “clash” with police in the Land of the Free™
  • Prior to some windows being smashed and fires being set, the situation in Ferguson had not been violent

The unarmed man shot and killed by a local cop? Not violent.

Militarized Ferguson police officers shooting rubber bullets and tear gas while releasing dogs on unarmed civilians? Not violent.

A QuikTrip is burned down? Look out now, things have finally turned violent.

handpointRTig Read my full article here

(Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism can be ordered here.)

Every tool is a weapon if you hold it right

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(Some parts of the following post appear in Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism)

Often, the only way to learn if a battle can still be won is to keep fighting…with ever-evolving tactics, of course.

Our existing, mostly stagnant methods have left us with undrinkable water, polluted air, and inedible food [sic] and have most of us believing that coal is clean, nukes are green, and climate change can be reversed by switching to recycled toilet paper.

Suggestion: When faced with a daunting task, keep yer toolbox full.

Let’s say you’re a handy man/woman/human and you get hired for a job. I’m guessing you’d bring your full toolbox to the worksite. After all, you can never be sure what might pop up and what tools you’ll need. In other words, if we have a job to do, it would be illogical to decide beforehand that certain tools are off limits.

It would equally as illogical to not remain on the lookout for new and updated tools.

Take-Home Message: Keep all your tools at your disposal—even if some remain untouched—just in case.

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#shifthappens

Nazi Germany, Holy Grail, and Myths of Racial Superiority

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“I have come to believe that men kill in war because they do not know their real enemy and because they are pushed into a position where they must kill,” proposes peace activist, Thich Nhat Hanh. “We are taught to think that we need a foreign enemy. Governments work hard to get us to be afraid and to hate so we will rally behind them. If we do not have an enemy, they will invent one in order to mobilize us.”

In the case of Nazi Germany, it appears the propagandists themselves began their march toward genocide by inventing a past so mythical it could sway an entire nation. Even the leaders themselves couldn’t tell fantasy from reality.

handpointRTig Read my full article here

(Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism can be ordered here.)

“Strange Fruit”: Lynching By Any Other Name

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“People don’t understand the kind of fight it takes to record what you want to record the way you want to record it.” (Billie Holiday)

“Not many singers could claim to have ‘suffered for their art’ as Billie Holiday,” writes journalist Don Atapattu. “Born Elinore Harris…Billie certainly knew torment. As well as growing up black in the Jim Crow South; she endured sexual abuse; extreme poverty; homelessness; and (worked) as a prostitute before she began recording music at the age of 18.”

Southern trees bear strange fruit,

Blood on the leaves and blood at the root

Billie Holiday (1915-1959) did not write “Strange Fruit.”

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze,

Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.

A former slave in America’s post-Civil War South did not write it.

Pastoral scene of the gallant south,

The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth

“Strange Fruit” began as a poem…written in the 1930s by a Jewish schoolteacher from the Bronx.

After viewing a photograph of a lynching, Abel Meeropol was moved to the pen the words Holiday would later make her own. Under the pseudonym “Lewis Allan,” Meeropol set the poem to music and saw it first performed at a teachers’ union meeting. It just as easily could have vanished into obscurity after that…but fate intervened.

Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh,

Then the sudden smell of burning flesh.

When Barney Josephson—the manager of Cafe Society, a popular, desegregated Greenwich Village nightclub—heard “Strange Fruit,” he arranged a meeting between Billie Holiday and Meeropol. After some initial hesitation, Lady Day decided to record the song but her record label refused. Her persistence landed the song on a specialty label and Holiday began performing it regularly in live shows in 1939.

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck,

For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,

Holiday’s passionate interpretation of “Strange Fruit” introduced white audiences to powerful images of racism, inequality, and hate crimes…images that were now more difficult to ignore.

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“‘Strange Fruit’ probably did more to put Billie on the map than anything she ever did,” wrote Michael Brooks in the booklet that accompanied the three-CD box: Billie Holiday – The Legacy. “It was totally unlike any song written up to then, and it enraged those people it didn’t scare.”

For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop,

Here is a strange and bitter crop.

Postscript #1: According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, between 1882 and 1968, mobs lynched 4,743 persons in the United States, over 70 percent of them African-American.

Postscript #2: Today, 44 percent of the U.S. death row population is African-American, an ethnic group that constitutes a mere 12.6 percent of the nation’s people as a whole.

Postscript #3: Abel Meeropol and his wife Anne later adopted Robert and Michael Rosenberg, the orphaned children of the executed Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.

#shifthappens

(Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism can be ordered here.)