Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Right to Listen

Who knew the 1st amendment protected our right to listen as well as to speak? Makes sense, I just never thought about it that way before.

In that spirit here's a video by Art Mayers of a selection of speakers and performers at Tuesday's rally about the Maine Labor Mural's day in federal court, followed by the text of my remarks at the rally.

by Lisa Savage, CODEPINK Maine Local Coordinator

Information control is where the real battle for hearts and minds is being fought in the 21st century.

History is a particular kind of information, often highly contested. What do you mean when you say history? Is it just what's written down, or documented, somehow? Does it stretch back into the prehistoric, before writing? Before painting?

And especially: how do you know about it?

How DO we know that there was child labor in the mills in Maine? That there have been strikes in which labor prevailed, and in which labor was crushed?

Partly because of documents like the mural. Hooray for artist Judy Taylor! You did your homework! I'm sure you did not want to become a target and a cause celebre, however, we are especially grateful that you worked so hard, and made the mural both an elegant, dignified painting and, at the same time, an accurate historical document.

When I see the mural in my mind next to other art in state buildings, I see that the mass of people in the mural are as one in contrast to the highly individual portraits of one person, usually a rich, white, male employer.

And though the mural's palette is somber, the people do not look downtrodden. Their posture lends them dignity. And there are many of them.

If they stopped cooperating, who knows what might happen?

Threatening indeed. Best not have art around that might give them ideas. Or boost their morale by nourishing their souls.

Maine's labor mural is emblematic of the attacks globally on working people, their pension funds, working conditions, and ability to live. It's a thread running through the whole world now – government by kleptocracy, and the little people pay.

It cries out to be banned, because it is the history of the people. As has been said, the victors write the history books. Capitalism and its exploits intends to win. Books like Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States were written as correctives, because every history textbook that a teacher picked up was full of wars, glorious wars, with the United States military and the corporations it supports ever victorious. Who told about the times when regular laboring people triumphed?

What if the governor suddenly decided to take down the statue of Samantha Smith, the young anti-nuclear activist who died in a plane crash? She helped thaw the Cold War, some would say. And I have a question for the governor: was Samantha an employee or an employer?

We already know where censorship leads: people with Magic markers going through all the library books. Computer bots that search out banned memes. Surveillance. Suppressed news. Thought control.

The US has thought control prisons now. They're in the midwest and they're called Communication Management Units and Muslims get sent there. In order to balance out the appearance of racial profiling against Arabs, animal rights and environmental justice prisoners also get put in CMUs. Where they aren't allowed contact even with their families. Kind of like Bradley Manning in the Quantico brig for hundreds of days, in solitary confinement.

So by chance the Maine labor mural has assumed symbolic proportions far beyond its intentions. Being real and therefore nourishing, the mural is a threat because it communicates about history. The history of the people.

And information control is where the real battle for hearts and minds is being fought in the 21st century.

No comments: