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We Can No Longer Hope to Win This By Simply Voting or Speaking Out

We Can No Longer Hope to Win This By Simply Voting or Speaking Out

Emily Johnston

Valve-Turners Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein along with independent filmmaker Steve Liptay were arraigned Monday in Bagley, MN for their role in a #ShutItDown direct action last month. Emily made the following statement after her arraignment.


I wish I had the words to express how deeply moved I am by your courage and integrity. Thank you all.


I feel that I should reply, yet I’m scared to say the words that are in my mind. So therefore, I will not say them. What I will say is: I am so proud of you Emily. May the Mother of All protect and keep you…


Just reading this made me tear up. Your bravery reminds me of this quote:

“You may be 38 years old, as I happen to be. And one day, some great opportunity stands before you and calls you to stand up for some great principle, some great issue, some great cause. And you refuse to do it because you are afraid…. You refuse to do it because you want to live longer…. You’re afraid that you will lose your job, or you are afraid that you will be criticized or that you will lose your popularity, or you’re afraid that somebody will stab you, or shoot at you or bomb your house; so you refuse to take the stand.

Well, you may go on and live until you are 90, but you’re just as dead at 38 as you would be at 90. And the cessation of breathing in your life is but the belated announcement of an earlier death of the spirit.” — Martin Luther King Jr.

We all need to take a stand, but how is the question.


I have been sitting with the words of Jay O’Hara’, another climate activist: “We are here to witness/ We need to start being really bold/ Our hearts know what’s possible / May I be used for the highest good.” Emily, you are exemplifying this principle by the action you took and amplifying it by speaking so eloquently here. Though I don’t yet know what I’ll do personally, I feel the power of your words and example moving in me, lending impetus to what these times have already set in motion. Thank you.


Together we can do this. It must be in large enough numbers and sustained for long enough but it can be done. There are more of us than of them.
Thank you Emily, you are an inspiration to us all.


There is no greater risk than doing what our conscience demands

Other than not doing so


The “How” is in your heart.


An article in the Guardian last week urging us to work at “humanizing” each other, because really we are born to be empathic, prompted a letter from me. I don’t know whether it will be published, so here it is:
“Owen Jones has reminded us of most of the 20th- and 21st-century’s atrocities, murders, genocides and wars. No need to go any further back in history, when we were no better, and no need to include state terror, police brutality and domestic violence. If we all have “the capacity for empathy”, why do we do this to each other? Nature? Nurture? Both, I think. One of our basic instincts is to protect our genes from harm until we’ve passed them on to the next generation. “Humanity” is family: our siblings, our children and our grandchildren; a fourth generation may have our names, but for most of us they will be strangers. We become selfish, intemperate, even savages, when our basic needs are threatened; we fight for water, food, shelter, work, land and, when attacked, our lives. We learn to trust those who look, talk, act and worship like us.
Jones thinks there’s “no systematic industrialized attempt to exterminate millions”, but of course there is. The international fossil fuel conglomerates denying global warming, the neo-capitalists poisoning our land, water and air for profit, and the wealthy for whom enough is never enough are intent on making some of us slaves and eliminating the rest. Before the end of this century, they will have destroyed all life on this once beautiful planet, and isn’t it nice to know they’ll be wiped out too? Freud called it “thanatos”: the drive that pulls us inexorably toward death. Meanwhile some of us can be kind, charitable and compassionate, probably not always and easily to strangers but to family, friends and neighbours. That’s small hope for a troubled world; Jones is right about that, but it’s all we have.”


Thanks for your thoughtful sensible comment. I’ve saved it: may I send it to friends and family who don’t get CommonDreams? I’ve put my own thoughts at the bottom of today’s comments. We agree except, perhaps, that I think we’ve lost the fight against the earth’s and our demise. Maybe that’s because I’m a few weeks short of 89 and have to hope people won’t say I have the comfort of apres moi le deluge. I have grandchildren, so I don’t.

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I wrote this several years ago, but it might be of interest.

**_Whatever Happened to Empathy?_**

Years ago, empathy used to be imbibed with mother’s milk. If you did something thoughtless or inconsiderate, mom or dad said, “How do you think that made them feel?” or “How would you feel if someone said (or did) that to you?”
*  Eventually, you learned to reflect upon the beliefs, customs and feelings of other people, not only in foreign countries, but in other areas of your own. If you were really lucky, your folks or your buddy’s folks subscribed to National Geographic magazine. After you got over your pre-adolescent sniggering over the occasional naked breast, you began to realize how diverse and rich in customs our beautiful world was. Now, with the advent of home entertainment centers and global satellite links, the world has shrunk to the size of our living-room. With this benefit, we should be far beyond provincialism and jingoism, but unfortunately our current obsession with the “bottom line” seems to have blunted many of our human sensibilities. Empathy seems to have faded. The ability to put yourself in another’s place is now looked upon as a weakness. This extends not just to foreign nations and customs, but to our own.
*  The jobless and homeless in this nation, whose numbers are legion, are not freeloading parasites. They are, for the most part, people whose living has vanished as company after company  has closed plants and “outsourced” the work to countries where people work for a few dollars per day, then move them even further when they find a place that accepts pennies per day. These companies, or their managing staff, look upon every dollar spent on employee retirement funding, medical plans, or workplace safety, as money wasted; money which could go into their pockets or into the acquisition of yet another company which can be raided and dismantled for profit.
*  To these people, the workers they displace are not people, they are merely ciphers. There is no empathy, they do not put themselves in the place of those desperate men and women trying to feed, clothe and house their families.
*  A nineteenth century writer, writing on moral behavior said: _"Teach the employed to be honest, punctual and faithful as well as respectful and obedient to all proper orders: but also teach the employer that every man or woman who desires to work, has a right to have work to do; and that they, and those who from sickness or feebleness, loss of limb or bodily vigor, old age or infancy, are not able to work, have a right to be fed, clothed, and sheltered from the inclement elements: that he commits an awful sin in the sight of God, if he closes his workshops or factories, or ceases to work his mines, when they do not yield him what he regards as sufficient profit, and so dismisses his workmen and workwomen to starve; or when he reduces the wages of man or woman to so low a standard that they and their families cannot be clothed and fed and comfortably housed; or by overwork must give him their blood and life in exchange for the pittance of their wages: and that his duty as a decent human being peremptorily requires him to continue to employ those who else will be pinched with hunger and cold, or resort to theft and vice: and to pay them fair wages, though it may reduce or annul his profits or even eat into his capital; for God hath but loaned him this wealth and made him His almoner and agent to invest it._"_
*  When he wrote this, the industry of the United States, and that of other industrialized nations was controlled by the robber barons, or “Captains of Industry,” as they preferred to be called. To get an idea of the condition of the working class, one should read some of Dickens’ novels, set in the slums of industrialized England, and works on social conditions by George Orwell, Jack London and others, writing in the early twentieth century.
*  Many of these writers, including Dickens, brought enlightened views as to the dignity of man, as our own Constitution had codified the basic rights of man. The great depression of the 1930's brought forth Franklin D. Roosevelt, who instituted programs to provide jobs, and to see that none should be left to starve after their working years had ended. World War II left the world with hope, as the United States set out to help rebuild a ravaged planet. The United Nations was established so that all nations, all peoples, would have a forum to solve disputes without resort to war and violence; to promote programs to end famine, ignorance and poverty. To a degree, this worked. It was not perfect, but at least it provided a forum for understanding. People had empathy. They could put themselves in other’s places and understand and feel their problems. Slowly, we were taking steps forward.
*  Suddenly, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, which should have been a time of hope, we suddenly reverted to the days of the robber barons. Greed and expediency outweighed every other value. Laws and treaties which had given hope to the world were unilaterally discarded. The wealthy were given breaks beyond their wildest dreams. We suddenly became the power which, with overwhelming military force, could stand astride the globe, dictating what other nations must do, making war upon those that did not kowtow to the new power.
*  Whatever happened to empathy? How did the world suddenly become inhabited by good, red-blooded Americans and a bunch of gooks, slopes, ragheads, sandniggers and any other pejorative which makes them seem less than human? How did the world suddenly become us and them? How is it that no one’s beliefs and concerns have validity except ours? How has it come about that the world is now divided between us, our few allies, and a world of terrorists?
*  Islam is not a religion of terror. It is a kind and loving religion, drawing its influence and origin from the time of Abraham. It regards the religions of Israel and Christianity as also being, “People of the Book.” Unfortunately, it has its fanatical adherents, just as we do, but in the main, the Muslim peoples are no different than us. All they ask of us, of the world, is the chance to live in peace, to raise their families and provide food, clothing and shelter for them. To educate them and teach them to live in peace when their generation matures. These are hard lessons to teach in the midst of death, starvation, war and killing. When this is all you know, you lose your ability to have empathy and put yourself in another’s place. You then grow to learn that there is you and the enemy, and you kill the enemy. If you have no hope, then life becomes cheap and it is easy to sacrifice it; to strap a bomb on your body and walk into a building full of humans, who are no longer humans, but the enemy, and push the button.
*  Somehow, we must take hold of our destiny and our lives and return to a path of peace and construction. War, greed and destruction is not working. A good start would be to once again learn the skill of empathy, and learn again to put ourselves in another’s place. As we would not be treated, so should we not treat others. Come to think of it, isn’t that covered in the Golden Rule?
*  Watching the worldwide demonstrations in support of the Indian Nations against the pipeline, the demonstrations against the TTP, the TTIP. The BDS of Israel for its apartheid against the Palestinians gives me some hope that empathy is not dead.

Thank you, I¹ll save and print your essay and read it tomorrow. If you
agree, I¹ll send it on to a few friends and family who worry about the next
government rewarding greed, selfishness, intolerance and apathy. What¹s in
it for me is an American slogan, Greed is good another, and my favorite,
thought British, is Thatcher¹s There is no such thing as society. Why do
³they² have all the best lines?
Bryna Hellmann

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Thank you! Feel free to pass it on.

I agree…and one word keeps pressing on my mind: “Treason”

Wow I have always made a point to read your posts and this one is superb.

There has always been a depth to your writings but it is usually hidden by your short remarks

Finally we can see full ideas. Don’t keep them so silent

Ideas Must come to Action if they are to have affect.

It is Your Courage which is to be commended.

May we all find such Conviction and Compassion.

Thank You