Find out just what the people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. — Frederick Douglas (1857)
Many years ago - okay, 1971 - our English class at Zweibrucken American High School (on the U.S. Air Force Base of the same name in Germany) was offered a choice in which book we wanted to read as a class assignment.
Three books were offered - Islands in the Stream, the newly discovered “lost” novel of Ernest Hemingway, Soul on Ice by former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver, or The Greening of America, by Charles A. Reich.
The class would be split into three parts, each group taking the book they had chosen, and presenting a discussion to the rest of the class on what they had gleaned from they had read.
I chose to be in the group that read Reich’s book, though I would later read both the Hemingway and Cleaver works on my own.
I still have my old, battered copy of The Greening of America, and reread it every few years.
The book resonated (oh my god, I used that horrible word) with me in 1971, but it has assumed more meaning for me over the years, and especially over the past month. The cover of the book reads:
“There is a revolution coming. It will not be like revolutions of the past. It will originate with with the individual and with culture, and it will change the political structure only as its final act. It will not require violence to succeed, and cannot be successfully resisted by violence. This is the revolution of the New Generation.”
Okay, yeah, it took a while, and it may not be wholly in existence yet, but I believe that what is happening on wall Street - and so many other parts of the country - is exactly what Charles A. Reich was talking about.
Reich wrote about the changing attitudes in America at the time, and may have been overly hopeful (and when was that a crime, except to the most bitter of cynics) but his message still rings true today.
Human beings are tired of the Corporate State, and of being forced to fit into certain molds of behavior. They are tired of living in a world in which one’s future can be mangled and even destroyed by the machinations of men and women driven not by humanistic goals but by mere profit.
Near the end of his book Reich writes:
“ We have all known the loneliness, the emptiness, the isolation of contemporary America. Our forebears came thousands of miles for the promise of a better life. Now there is a new promise. Shall we not seize it? Shall we not be pioneers once more? The breakdown of the Corporate State and the growth of radicalism would still lead nowhere, would still justify only despair, if there were not a new vision. It is the power of the vision that can turn hope into reality.”
Those at Faux News and certain political candidates like to sneer that those protesting have no clear goals, or message. Not so. It’s just that they are just too terrified to even acknowledge the message out loud.
Zweibrucken made me
In 1969, while waiting transport from Maguire Air Force Base in New Jersey to Germany, I met a young woman who had just returned from that country. After listening to some of my prattle about what was going on in the world - Vietnam, civil rights, etc. - she said, “You’ll be completely different when you come back.”
“No, I won’t,” I promised/threatened her. I would be just as conservative when I returned in 1972 as when I left in 1969.
There is a famous novel and movie, England Made Me, and I suppose in a sense I feel that way about Zweibrucken. I’ve written about the Zweibrucken experience before, and I will again, but for now I’ll just say this.
It was life-changing in away that the teachers in the school were the best I ever had, and no subject was taboo. And I learned to see my country the way that others saw it, which was a real-opener for a young American in the early 1970s.
Some people want to go back and relive their high school years, believing them to be the best years of their lives; I’m not among that number. But Zweibrucken American High School helped shape my political and social beliefs. And for the first time in the life I saw the Socratic method of teaching in full flower.
Who wouldn’t love a school like that?
Quote of the Day
There is no greater loan than a sympathetic ear. - Frank Tyger