Friday, February 16, 2007

Friday Reflection: Activism in the Open Source Society

Our banner quote for this week is from Emerson's 1841 essay "Spiritual Laws". 125 years after his death, Emerson has a lot to teach us about living a decent human life amid a culture of corporatism and fundamentalist government. Here is another paragraph from Spiritual Laws, in which he recommends what I have described as "the open source society":

We are full of mechanical actions. We must needs intermeddle, and have things in our own way, until the sacrifices and virtues of society are odious. Love should make joy; but our benevolence is unhappy. Our Sunday-schools, and churches, and pauper-societies are yokes to the neck. We pain ourselves to please nobody. There are natural ways of arriving at the same ends at which these aim, but do not arrive. Why should all virtue work in one and the same way? Why should all give dollars? It is very inconvenient to us country folk, and we do not think any good will come of it. We have not dollars; merchants have; let them give them. Farmers will give corn; poets will sing; women will sew; laborers will lend a hand; the children will bring flowers. And why drag this dead weight of a Sunday-school over the whole Christendom? It is natural and beautiful that childhood should inquire, and maturity should teach; but it is time enough to answer questions when they are asked. Do not shut up the young people against their will in a pew, and force the children to ask them questions for an hour against their will.

Nor should citizens of a supposedly free nation be "shut up against their will." To that end, we have the activist arm of the open source society. Today, United for Peace and Justice is calling for our help in questioning and reversing the "mechanical action" which Emerson so eloquently exposed. UFPJ's recommendations are generally along the lines that we endorsed in Wednesday's post; but deserve restatement:

  • TODAY, call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121. You can get the name of your local Reps here. Tell them you want redeployment, not escalation; diplomacy with Iran, not saber-rattling; and an end to funding any escalation of this madness. UFPJ further recommends that you ask your Rep to email you a transcript of his/her's 5-minute statement from the debate.

  • NEXT: sign the online petition or download this pdf petitionthat has been prepared by UFPJ. Print it out and get as many signatures on it as you can. Take it to your local church, tavern, workplace, or wherever you congregate with others, and ask folks to sign. It shouldn't be that hard. Then get it in the hands of your Rep.

  • NEXT: as we mentioned Wednesday, make a real pest of yourself when your Rep comes home for his/her winter break next week. Some of them are planning to hold meetings anyway: here's a list of some. Remind these people how much is riding on their once showing a little backbone to these tyrants: it's the future that's on the line here. Your future, your childrens' future, and the future of people in Iraq, Iran, and America whose lives are hanging in the balance.

  • FINALLY: one month from now, there's another anniversary coming up. UFPJ has already scheduled nationwide protests, marches, and other events to ensure that the 4th anniversary of this war is the last.

  • As UFPJ says, "We are in the midst of a nationwide peace surge." Make yourself a part of it. After all, as Emerson reminds us (in "Self-Reliance"):

    There is a time in every man's education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.

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