March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Joachim Prinz pictured, 1963
(Image by Center for Jewish History, NYC) Permission Details DMCA
Never have so many wanted to do so much -- and had the means to do so much -- and done so little.
That will be the subtitle of the chapter of the future history book covering our lifetime. The internet is teeming with websites (like this one), blogs and videos calling for change, but nothing happens. You may argue with this, but you know in your heart it is true. Are we getting closer or farther away from destroying the planet, either by nuclear war, or by environmental catastrophe?
Two years ago I appealed to Paul Craig Roberts and Noam Chomsky to begin a dialogue that could bring together large numbers of progressive people, so-called "radical dissidents," who agree on many issues even though they may disagree amongst themselves on some, the most important of the latter being (still) 9/11. My effort was successful. Both Roberts and Chomsky responded positively, Roberts publicly and Chomsky by email, and Rob Kall agreed to do a podcast with the two of them on OEN.
Unfortunately, nothing further developed from this. I had hoped it would catch on, but it didn't, or at least hasn't yet, and not because of the reservations that Paul Craig Roberts quite rightly expressed in his reply to me but simply because, apparently, no one has bothered.
Maybe in the frenzy of the current presidential campaign the idea still has a chance. All it needs is one or two people who can write emails and maybe set up a website. Nothing fancy. It can work. If I could do it once with Paul Craig Roberts and Noam Chomsky, it can be done again, over and over, and with other leading figures as well. Robert Parry. Chris Hedges. Russ Baker. Michael Moore. There are many others so I won't try to name them.
Paul Craig Roberts used the phrase "council of dissidents" to refer to what I was proposing, and that is fine with me. There doesn't even have to be a website. The VIPS, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, publish their memos on Robert Parry's ConsortiumNews.com. This is a fine initiative that can be taken as a model. What makes it work is not a fancy website but just the names at the bottom of the memos. Consider what it would mean to have such memos written and signed by people like Noam Chomsky and Paul Craig Roberts. Those two names alone would give literally thousands, maybe even millions (globally), of people a single voice.
This is different from trying to organize mass protests or petitions, or get somebody elected. Those actions rely on numbers, big numbers, the bigger the better. This would rely only on the "prestige" of the individuals who write and sign the memos, or white papers, or whatever they choose to call them. (By "prestige" I mean the respect that people have for these individuals.)
We are used to thinking of significant change as possible only as the result of a popular movement, or mobilization (or as Rob Kall terms it, a "bottom-up" revolution). But movements need leadership. Our argument to our (potential) leaders, as I argued (successfully!) to Roberts and Chomsky, should be simply: How can you (or we) expect to organize thousands and millions of people, when you can't or won't organize yourselves? Set an example for us!
They still have to be persuaded, you have to get around their egos (everybody has one!) and be persistent, but it can be done.