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Tuesday
January 14, 2003

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i am perverse, that much is obvious.
one day i can read bukowski--"he walked all
the way home, 5 or 6 miles at 4 a.m. in the morning.
well, that's a nice time of the morning to walk--
hardly any people you have to look at, no shock
in belly as you pass the ususal sucked-out corpses."--
and laugh laugh laugh in the bath.
the next, sitting in the sun outside
a cafe on a quiet sunwarm day,
MLK makes me just about cry:
"And as I watched them I knew that there is nothing
more majestic than the determined courage
of individuals willing to suffer and sacrifice
for their freedom and dignity."
i don't think there's a contradiction
in that. i bounce between extremes.
bukowski gets at something, plumbs
the depths. MLK does the same in the
other direction. it's good to know both.
but reading MLK today gives me hope,
a glimpse of a very broad feeling, spacious
and warm, that there is an ideal for humans
to strive for, that the best in our nature
is attainable, and those feelings of hopelessness,
seemingly borne out by history, are just a matter
of conditioning. the same way brownskinned
people of the 1950s had been led to believe
they were inherently different & inferior,
so today do we have pervasive conditioners
which make struggle, toil, antipathy, anger,
work, waste, seem preconditions of humanity,
unavoidable consequences of being. but, you know,
it's possible for things to go differently. i don't want
to preach (that is too easy), but it is fun and potentially
[r]evolutionary to take a few moments to imagine
the world as you want it to be. for me that means
nothing more than people being free to live and work
locally, in their communities, from their surroundings
rather than giving up their time and individuality
up the line to those who horde profits, enforcing
unjust laws under threat of gun, prison, and the Bomb.
who controls the weapons of mass destruction?
certainly not the masses, but the greediest, most ruthless
individuals who by violence and deception have risen
to positions of power. but for all their armies, cops,
snitches, and spooks, their power resides in the people
and would hold no sway without the people's complicity.
as in montgomery, 1956, i think the way to chip away
at that power is boycott--refuse their products, their gas,
their cars, their gadgets, their sweatshop and slave labor
goods, their factory meat. just say no to their weapons
of mass distraction on which they rely for their wealth.
it's fun and easy to do. share what you've got, overcome
the addiction to distraction, and find strength in yourself.
it's scary, but in the end we are each alone and eventually
have to come to terms with ourselves. there's nothing else.

Without persistent effort,
time itself becomes an ally
of the insurgent and primitive forces
of irrational emotionalism and social destruction.
This is no time for apathy or complacency.
This is a time for vigorous and positive action.

first edition
Stride Toward Freedom is MLK's
first-person account of the
Montgomery Bus Boycott,
which he was elected to lead.
Over the course of 1956-57,
King and his colleagues in the
Montgomery Improvement Association
dodged assassination attempts,
wrangled with local politicians,
kept their people inspired, and
facilitated transportation for
the thousands of usual riders
who chose to stand for equality
by refusing to financially support
the systemic ill treatment they received
riding public buses in Montgomery, Alabama.

Mirroring King's view of "practical spirituality,"
the book offers an explanation both of
the boycott's ethical grounding as well as
the nuts and bolts of organizing effective protest.
As much as I dislike meetings & committees,
Stride Toward Freedom makes clear that mass
organizing requires a large amount of co-
ordination and concerted effort. A movement
does not necessarily require leaders (in fact,
a decentralized approach of distributed
responsibility might be more resistent to dis-
ruption), but it does need a framework
where consensus can be reached and
a course of action plotted and implemented.