Now, since there are lyrics in this video I can't understand, there's a chance it's advocating some ideas I don't fully support myself. When it comes to The Revolution, I'll stand with the Quakers. You can always trust the Quakers to think about things before shooting off their mouths. Further, I don't know anything about the individuals that the makers of this video say they stand with. However, the overall message of this piece is one we should all have been asking ourselves regularly ever since Florence Reece wrote this song in 1931 on account of a dispute the miners were having with the bosses in Kentucky. Pete Seeger is still spreading the word and I'm nearly certain Pete is singing here too.
I first saw this video last night, and I woke up on this sunny morning with it in my head. I wake up with a song in my head and heart all the time, but this is the first time it's ever happened with hip hop.
To a nice lady from Central Park West like me, the images of skinny kids throwing rocks at tanks or playing guitars as big as they are for pennies and young middle-eastern women shouting in the night are frightening. More alarming still is the idea that in emergency rooms across this country, there are lots of bloody little kids and sick grown-ups who are also at risk because they don't have health insurance. Every sunny morning more Americans impoverished and enraged.
As it happens, I believe that Texas is leading the charge to lock up the Disenfranchised while they are still in High School. They start the process by giving some kids $350 tickets - payable to the Court System - for tardies and other small infractions. Interestingly, Muffy the Cheerleader generally gets excused when she's late. I'm sure Dick Cheney is making money off this big idea since he's a big fan of the Prison Industrial Complex.
Impoverished and Enraged.
I don't pretend to have a comprehensive solution to any of this swirling mass of injustice. As a plump, moderately privileged white American female, I have the luxury of ruminating over what to do about that guy who won't talk to me aka the blogstalking ex-boyfriend who worked as a writer for that blow-hard Jim Cramer at SmartMoney.
The two issues - one large and political, the other small and personal - are tied together, however, because a need for justice is driving both dilemmas and so is a need to remain true to my own sense of personal integrity. When deciding what to do about things, the first thing we have to remember is everything we do is an expression of who we are. We can't control the things that happen to us any more than we can control the weather - but we have dominion over the decisions that reveal our character. We each must decide what we stand for.
Our personal identity determines our responses in situations large and small. Personal dramas that happen around relationships and careers, or the kids in your living room, may not have an impact on issues involving Life, The Universe and Everything, but those of us with the resources to focus endlessly on our luxury problems sooner or later will find ourselves in a situation that requires us to declare which side we are on. Here's a picture of Pete with his hearing aid showing. He's not nearly as scary as angry brown people in ghettos and war zones and emergency rooms.
I have to say that as influential as Pete has been singing Florence Reece's song, Rebel Diaz's version is 100% better for dancing. And it's time that we start dancing together to resist the domination of the dollar. In fact, the very dancability of this song by Rebel Diaz is why I'm going to blast it loud for Velvet today and give him a lecture about the importance of staying true to his side. He's known how important it was ever since he first identified with Elliot in ET. Those kids in ET knew how to resist The Man.
For myself, though, today as a result of this song, I woke up remembering one of the great lessons of living in New York City for over twenty years: I don't have to be nice. The patriarchy counts on good citizens - especially women - to be so nice they would never act up. The issues facing us in today, in America and in the World, are as unjust and life threatening as the issues facing those miners in Kentucky back in 1931. It is no coincidence that the Robber Barons of the early 20th Century, and the slave owners before them, are the very same patriarchal perpetrators as those who would keep us enslaved by consumerism and ignorance today.
I still don't know what I'm going to do about anything, but I have a feeling that effective Civil Disobedience for Middle Class citizens lies in our meager bank accounts. As I'm pondering The Resistance, I like to remember that the person who wrote Which Side Are You On back in Kentucky during those violent labor disputes was Just A Mom. The mine owners hired thugs to come after her husband. He was the union organizer and got out of the house. She and the kids watched the thugs bust up their home. When they were gone, Florence Reece wrote a song that remains an anthem for working people nearly a century later. Sometimes that's what somebody who is Just A Mom can do.
Maybe it's ultimately a bad idea, but I still enjoy the thought of the Menopausal Stoners Militia. I'm absolutely against shooting folks and tossing molotov cocktails - but the vision of a bunch of high, pissed off, hormonal bitches with firearms and demands should scare those patriarchal bastards at C Street nearly as much as the idea of a slave revolt scared Massa back in the day. Maybe it could give old Rush Limbaugh a real heart attack.