Spirit Quest - I'm mad as hell


Spirit Quest
For the 99% the heartfelt cry must be, We're mad as hell …
Next year back to Occupy again, we won’t take it anymore 
By The Rev. Dr. Hanns F. Skoutajan
True North Perspective
16 December 2011 — “I am mad as hell and I won’t take it anymore!” These words from the film, Network (1976) have largely been forgotten. Nevertheless their sentiments are growing in popularity.
In the film a newscaster is about to be fired because of the declining ratings for his show. He is angry and announces that on his final show he will commit suicide. This of course sends his rating through the roof. He relents but his anger persists. He encourages his listeners to follow his example, to open their windows and shout out to the world that they are mad as hell and won’t take it any more. His request catches on and all over the country people are giving vent to their spleen at their sense of helplessness and for what is being done to them without their approval.
As the last grain of sand trickles out of the top of my egg timer I sense the pervasiveness of that anger and helplessness. In the last twelve months the anger quotient throughout the world has risen appreciably.
In Tunisia it had a dramatic beginning  when a street vendor was deprived of his license to sell, his only means of making a living, and, unlike the American Hollywood newscaster, carries through on his suicide. At his usual place of business in the heart of the city of Tunis, he douses himself with gasoline and sets himself aflame. His act of self-immolation  sets off a revolution that topples the Tunisian dictatorship. Nor does it end there but is seen as the spark that ignited  movements for freedom in places like Egypt and Libya and is now convulsing Syria with great loss of life. 
I recall the self immolation of Jan Palach, the Czech student who committed suicide on Wenzeslas Square in the heart of the city of Prague in 1968 after the end of the Dubcek era. It took some 20 years for that spark to ignite the Velvet Revolution that liberated that country from the thrall of communism. Whenever I visit that old and historic city not far from my birthplace I pause at the site of his sacrifice. There are always flowers and candles to mark the very spot where Palach ended his life. 
This past year a movement came to life in the United States called the Occupy Wall Street, bringing thousands to the very place where financial power has its home.  Chris Hedges, an activist, an author, at one time a foreign correspondent for the New York Times, was one of those who was arrested as he and many other gathered  peacefully in front of the offices of Goldman Sachs, the world’s biggest investment firm. 
As he was led away to the paddy wagon he recalled the faces not of the Sachs employees who were taking pictures of the event from the splendid isolation of their tower or the police with their weapons and armour, “ they were faraway faces. They were the faces of dying children. They were the tiny confused, bewildered faces I have seen  in southern Sudan, Gaza and the slums of Brazzaville, Nairobi, Cairo and Delhi. They were the faces with large, glassy eyes, above bloated bellies. They were the small faces of children convulsed by the ravages of starvation and disease.” 
He lays blame: “ Profit, Globalization, War, National Security, these are the words used to justify  the snuffing out  of tiny lives, acts of radical evil. Goldman Sachs’ commodity index is the most heavily traded in the world. Those who trade it, by buying up and hording commodities futures, have doubled and  tripled  the cost of wheat, rice and corn. Hundreds of millions  of poor across the globe are going hungry to feed this mania for profit”  (Read his most recent book: The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress)  Hedges had studied theology at Harvard but did not become a minister, instead chose to become a prophet to the Americans and many others.
There have been hundreds of offspring of the Occupy movement around the world and even in the Peaceable Kingdom of Canada. It has named itself as the voice of the 99% against the 1% who wield financial and political power, as the only real power in the world.
The Occupy movement is nonviolent except when invaded by police who have used batons, pepper spray and even tasers, who have junked tents and their contents and jailed those unwilling to leave. 
This people's movement has been criticized as lacking a program or leadership. What it does have and does effectively is announce that people are mad as hell. It is not merely issues but systems that support those injustices that  are denounced. 
There are of course many other signs of discontent. There have been mass demonstrations in Greece against austerity measures that are demanded to bail out the country, measures that will cut back on social programs affecting people that cannot afford to live otherwise. Many are left unemployed. Education and health care are drastically cut back. There have even been demonstrations in Moscow denouncing the fraudulent elections that have returned Putin to power. 
In Canada one of the signs of dissatisfaction are not only the camps on city squares and parks but one of the lowest voter turnout rates, less than 60% in the last federal election. It gave the Conservative Party a majority of seats with less than 40% of the popular vote. That’s hardly a mandate but it has allowed the new government to pass all sorts of bills that will radically change our country and indeed the world as our government helped nix Kyoto in order to protect our highly polluting oil industry.
The word that I have heard from nonvoters is that they simply distrust politicians: “They are all crooks,” as a  friend of mine asserts. I disagree but can understand her anger. 
The tents have largely disappeared . The strong arm of the law has closed them down. The coming Canadian winter may also be a factor driving the dissenters indoors. But as we move into a new year, as the hours of sunlight lengthen sending tree sap from the roots to the trunk and branches, so the spirit of the people will rise. The coming year will undoubtedly see a resurgence of protests against the injustices and inequities that, under the guise of democracy, have been nurtured and extolled. 
We honour democracy. Churchill said it was the worst possible system of governance except for all the rest. Someone else said that it was the best system that money can buy. We have evolved into a plutocracy.
As the noose tightens, as the chasm between the rich and the poor widens and the middle class wanes, people everywhere sense a deprivation of the breath of life . With their last gasp they make known that they “are mad as hell and won’t take it any more.”
I believe that there is a Spirit that is finding hands and feet and voices. It is irrepressible. It’s power rests in numbers, and 99% is an awful lot. 
Jews have a greeting for one another, “ Next Year in Jerusalem!” For the people of the 99% it must be, “Next year in the streets and squares, we won’t take it anymore.” 
Hanns F Skoutajan
SQ 16/12/11       

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