I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's worth; banks are going bust; shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter; punks are running wild in the streets, and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it.
We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat. And we sit watching our TVs while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be!
We all know things are bad -- worse than bad -- they're crazy.
It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out any more. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we're living is getting smaller, and all we say is, "Please, at least leave us alone in our own living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my my steel-belted radials, and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone."
Well I'm not going to leave you alone.
I want you to get mad!
I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot. I don't want you to write to your Congressman, because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street.
All I know is that first, you've got to get mad.
You've gotta say, "I'm a human being! My life has value!"
So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell,
"I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!!"
It's a great speech. One of those great moments in cinema where you're just caught up in the authenticity, the audacity, the rage. Yes! Yes! you say. I am as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this any more!
But is that enough? Is getting mad as hell enough?
Mohammed Ali had a patter he did in the ring. He goaded his opponent. He provoked him. He wanted to get his opponent mad. Meanwhile, he kept his own cool. He provoked, and then did his rope-a-dope. I'm not a big boxing fan, but that much I know about Ali. He knew how to fight the mental game.
You see, when you get mad, you start to make mistakes. You aren't thinking. You may feel good for a moment, raging. It may even feel empowering. You're expressing yourself! That feels so much better than keeping everything inside, all pent up. But when you rage, you're also reacting emotionally. You aren't thinking. And that's the mistake. When you get mad, your opponent can outmaneuver you.
That's what's happening in our politics. We're raging, and we're being outmaneuvered. The conservatives are so outrageous, so offensive, so evil, we almost can't help but get outraged. They're good at it. They're pushing our buttons. And we rage.
Is that effective?
Oh sure, it makes us feel good to spew venom. After keeping it all pent up, it's downright purifying. But is it going to change things? Is that vitriol going to make a difference in our political war?
Probably not much.
We have to be smart. We have to wake up. We have to keep our heads. We can't be going off half-cocked at every provocation that the wingnuts offer. They're going to keep doing it. We should not be baited.
So what should we do? We talk about our values. We talk about our agenda. We frame the debate so that they are the ones on the defensive, they are the ones on the fringes.
It shouldn't be that hard. After all, they really are on the fringes.
And for those of you who prefer to continue raging, consider this: Howard Beale, who made the above speech in "Network" ended up blowing out his brains on national television, and the network enjoyed huge ratings. His rage became part of the show. His rage was co-opted by the media. That is what's happening to us!
If it seems so easy to rage, it's because we're supposed to rage. We're supposed to bellow and make fools of ourselves and fight and attack. Conflict is drama. Drama is entertainment. Entertainment is ratings. We have become part of the show. We are the monkeys now.
I expressed a similar sentiment on DKos the other day in a comment, and got blasted by this tidbit of wisdom:
Being nice aint gonna do it. These people don't play nice. If you think sitting around waiting for them to have a change of heart is the answer, well, your already fucked. These guys have spent 40 plus years trying to wrestle control of the goverment. They are not about to give that up any time soon. Let me say that a different way. Your fucking dreaming.
This is my response.
It's time to wake up. It's time to get smart. It's time to stop playing right into the hands of the game masters. It's time to stop being the monkeys.
Yes. We've been getting our collective asses handed to us time and again. It's obvious that "being nice" doesn't work. No fucking shit. Thanks for that fucking insight.
But screeching like a monkey isn't going to achieve much of anything.
It's time to get smart. --And not just us progressives. It's time for the whole country to get smart, because the world isn't waiting for us to get our shit together.
But that's something for another post.