When They Pay Attention

This article originally ran on The Bern Report by Daniel H. Crawford III.

A poet named Gil Scott-Heron once proclaimed that “the revolution will not be televised”. Why is that? Why do you think that the people will be sheltered from calls for a rebellion? Is it because it is dangerous for the people? Or is it because the real danger is that the people will consider joining the revolution? Make no mistake about it; those in power are not ignoring us. They are paying attention.

You know that we have their attention because they react to the revolution in one of two ways: disregard or demonization. At first, the establishment (meaning the interests in charge of the media, our political system, and our economy) will try to do everything possible to ignore us, pretending that there is no smoke let alone a fire producing the smoke. We saw this with the first signals that there was a working class grassroots rebellion beginning to emerge in 2011. When Occupy Wall Street first organized in the early fall of that year hardly any media paid attention to it, but when the protest was subjected to an attempted crackdown at the behest of Wall Street the resulting chaos led the media to cover the drama. Problem is, the media began to cover the angst of those demonstrating in a less than flattering way. It was at this point – when sensationalism made the protests hard to ignore – when the media began to help demonize the demonstrations by portraying the occupiers as being clueless, aimless, and even lawless.

This ignore-first, demonize-second strategy is all meant to distract, divide, and divert the people. It is easier to conquer us when we don’t see clearly the reality in front of us. Fortunately, history is full of examples of collapsing power structures pulling out all of these stops to avert a successful toppling of the order. We can be thankful for this history because we can learn how to win this revolution if we pay attention to how past revolutionary efforts have come out victorious. The only way to defeat the establishment is through patience, persistence, and promise.

We MUST be patient. Patient with ourselves, patient with each other, and patient with the cause of justice. Think about the civil rights movement and the women’s suffrage movement. Think about Gandhi’s peaceful uprising against the British Empire. Think about Nelson Mandela leading a revolution and maintaining his patient resolve for victory even as he spent almost 40 years in prison for his determination. With patience comes the payoff for success, but the most important key to being a patient warrior is remaining steadfast as the model human that you would want your children to emulate. Patience is key because establishing the moral high ground requires the recognition that there is good in all of us and that the impatience of those yearning to crush your resolve ultimately always backfires in the public eye.

We MUST be persistent. So long as the cause is just there can never be a reason to relent. By staying the course against all odds the revolution will ultimately succeed not because it is fierce but because it is right. When the women tried to vote and were beaten and jailed for doing so, they did not relent. When the men and women marching for LGBT rights were threatened with and subjected to harm, they did not relent. When four little girls were murdered by a racist’s firebomb, their champions for liberty did not relent. No, they persisted because their cause was just and they knew that victory was on the horizon.

We MUST cling to and uphold the promise of a better tomorrow. The promise of something better is THE guiding light without which the revolution is meaningless. Every mass movement throughout history has been inspired by some attainable “promised land”. Without the promise of freedom, the Apartheid remains in power in perpetuity, the era of Jim Crow never fades, and the agitation for women’s rights withers on the vine. Our promise of justice is a contract with our collective heart to never stop beating as one. Remove our faith in the promise and you destroy the foundation of our campaign and break the ties which bond us in unity of purpose. If we reinforce the strength of our convictions as driven by the dream we share, then our promise to one another and to all will prevail in the end.

Do not let the powers that be fool us. They are watching and have been all along, but their patterns are predictable. There will be no attempt on their part at telling the people the truth about our collective condition and there will most certainly be no effort to offer a set of legitimate options for improving said condition. No group of powerful elites has ever willingly revealed to their subjects the means by which the people are exploited. This is because they know the truth in fact does set us free, and our freedom from the tyranny of poverty and faux democracy is a dream they can not permit to become reality.

One can not dismiss the fact that our media has taken it upon themselves – for the second consecutive presidential cycle – to try and ignore and then demonize the people’s revolt at every stage. First – as mentioned earlier – they tried to bury Occupy Wall Street when the movement proved that the Koch Brother-sponsored anger of the so-called “Tea Party” was not the only populist force to arise from the dust of the Great Recession and the subsequent assault on what little democracy we have. Then, they tried to dismiss the Bernie presidential campaign in 2016’s contest up until it became clear that their favorite wasn’t going to strut into a political coronation in Philadelphia without a struggle, and that was when they unleashed a flood of attacks meant to discourage the movement from spreading. The assault didn’t stop with the primary, as it continued in the months immediately following up through now, because they saw that the hunger for change was and is still present.

We’ve seen this movie before in our history. Just a tad over a century ago, another champion for the working class who stood tall against the political establishment was regarded as a serious threat by the regular order. He called out both political parties for their betrayals of the working people of this country. This champion was a bold leader who helped the suffrage movement and had a major role in organized labor and the original progressive uprising. His pursuit of justice was unyielding and he did not care if what he said was unpopular, because he knew it was his duty to speak out up to the point of being imprisoned for intentionally violating what was arguably an unconstitutional prohibition on verbalizing opposition to the First World War. That champion for all was a man named Eugene Victor Debs and his light continues on as a flicker in the great revolutionary flame which “berns” in each of us taking up this cause today.

Eugene Debs was mocked and his supporters were demonized in much the same way as we see with Bernie today. The only difference now is that our chances of success in winning this campaign and ultimately realizing the goals of our peaceful rebellion are better than was the case back in 1916. Today the propaganda against our message is weakened by the ease of mass dissemination of facts to counter the myths which long entranced a series of generations via the multiple “Red Scares”. We can take solace in this one fact: if we get the nomination, we are going to win this election…soundly, and if we somehow don’t win right now our cause will only gain more supporters in the years to come with the continuing collapse of this failing system.

The figureheads in control know all of this to be true, but they are hell-bent on making us ignore the world around us. These people know that if we can get our message across to the people without the pollution of sensationalism then it is only a matter of time before the illusions they’ve constructed for us come tumbling down. Those people in power recognize the danger of the citizens becoming better informed of a viable alternative to their exploitation. There is no denying that if we can inspire the populace to join the cause for something better than a true wave of change will come. For that reason, they have always been paying attention to us, and they hope no one else will.