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'There is no map. Follow me': Grassroots Strategies for Creative Social Change


'There is no map. Follow me': Grassroots Strategies for Creative Social Change

Rae Abileah

“Where is Salle B?” I ask through the torrential downpour of rain. “Come with me, I will take you there,” says the Tunisian student volunteer. I follow him through crowds chanting liberation slogans for Palestine and Argentina, past the frozen flash mob of Tunisian students demanding university rights, around the African dancers ringed by smartphone-clad onlookers capturing the moment, and along rows of tables with piles of literature blowing around like confetti in the strong storm winds.


Unless the war machine is stopped none of this will have meaning.


A legitimate progressive movement is not possible in the US today. We almost tried, with Occupy. Before we even had time to catch our breath, Occupy was successfully redefined – by Dem pols, and lib media – as a middle class movement alone. The rest of us walked away. Masses of the poor, and those who see how unrelieved poverty is sinking the country, voted for Obama in hopes that he could launch a legitimate discussion about our poverty crisis. Dems and libs aren’t interested, and have merely maintained a pep rally for the middle class over the past 6+ years.


You keep repeating your preposterous framing of the course of the Occupy movement in the USA.

You repeat and repeat and repeat your caricature of “the middle class” as being to blame not only for the demise of Occupy, but for EVERY problem in the USA.

You never say a word about the wealthy and powerful, and their machinations and strategies and crimes. EVERYTHING is the fault of “the middle class” as you caricature it.

Gosh, the ideology YOU spout here sure sounds very similar to the ideological fog that is spread by the strategic PR of wealth and power in the USA. You are simply not to be taken seriously.


“How will we strengthen people power in grassroots and frontline communities where the long arm of neoliberal capitalism is threatening daily livelihood and basic existence?”

By radicals, progressives and sensible liberals, rich and poor, WORKING together to build a single national party that will advocate socialism.


Rae, yearns for, “an ample metaphor for the state of many social movements”, and which fall, “across almost every issue, critiques of the current challenges that movements face inevitably point toward a broken … system” that needs to have an easily understandable analogy that can enlighten and join in non-violent solidarity the strength of all people who are truly committed to confronting and expunging that ‘system’ which is the underLYING CAUSE of all our “ailing social order”.

But, Rae Abileah, who is, along with Medea Benjamin and Jodie Evans, a codirector of CODEPINK, which was a prime sponsor of Cindy Sheehan’s very recent “Spring Rising” should well understand that the signature ‘metaphor’ and ‘analog’ to that causal cancerous ‘system’ attacking all our subordinate “issues” of protest, and ‘symptom problems’ of this dangerous, deadly, and disguised ‘system’ was already recognized and identified by “Spring Rising” as the Cancer of Empire — or as Ken Burn’s TV special tonight calls it, “Cancer: Emperor of all Maladies”.

I just wrote this first and only comment to PBS’s website to emphasize the ‘metaphor’ and the clearest ‘analogy’ between what this central and seminal disease of cancer is to individual human bodies, Empire is to our body-politic and entire world body:

"I look forward to this collaborative project on PBS, ‘Cancer: Emperor of All Maladies’, but from a different perspective than on a personal or familiar level — although my father was a 27 year survivor of melanoma, who died at 95 not of cancer.

My interest is in the connection that this documentary may make between the language of cancer and the “Language of Empire” by Robert MacDonald (not related), and perhaps ironically between the highly honored Indian born Dr.
Siddhartha Mukherjee’s confrontation against cancer, and Mahatma Gandhi’s confrontation against Empire.

This hope on my part is because what cancer is to a human body, Empire is to our body-politic and the entire body of our world.

Cancer is a malady that utilizes its hidden, disguised, or camouflaged nature as a disease as its greatest weapon, while Empire also, like predators, parasites, and cancer has learned to use disguise and stealth to do its work —
particularly since the mid-twentieth century.

As Professor Zygmunt Bauman hauntingly puts it, “In the case of an ailing social order, the absence of an adequate diagnosis…is a crucial, perhaps decisive, part of the disease.”13

Berman, Morris (2011-02-07). Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire (p. 22). Norton. Kindle Edition.

Thus my hope, in small part for your fine series, is that it may, through the connection of Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee’s book title and your PBS special, ‘Cancer: Emperor of All Maladies’, help in some way to connect the ideas of Cancer and Empire, as Earl Shorris’ death from cancer essay in Harper’s, “American Vespers”, did for me.

Liberty, democracy, justice, and equality
Violent (Vichy disguised)

Alan MacDonald
Wells, Maine

PS. I sincerely believe that there is a very reasonable ‘Hope’ that the ‘metaphor’ and ‘analogy’ (made miraculously possible by the design of all human brains for ‘analogy-thinking’) will be able to recognize that the hidden cancer of Empire as causing all our “ailing social order” of maladies, like the previously little understood hidden factor of cigarette smoke causing cancer in individuals’ lungs, will be quickly understood as analogous to the hidden impact of Empire being diagnosed, recognized, exposed, and non-violently confronted by ‘the people’ of America joining together for the public ‘common good’ and individual ‘healthy and successful choice’ of simply walking away from the previously hidden link between the private corporate profits of cigarette (cancer-sticks) more than a decade ago, and NOW walking away from the entire Disguised Global Capitalist Empire of cancer that we had been lured toward by lying advertisements to become addicted to by this ‘Evil Empire’.

Yes, there IS every hope that this Cancerous Empire of all our Social Maladies will be brought to broad public awareness by clear analogy-thinking about the metaphor of Cancer and Empire.