Political Imprisonment Of The Psyche

I sat this morning reading the news stories from my subscriptions. Nothing new. Not really news at all. A series of insignificant points and dots shaped into stories to be reported. Hard to make interesting, the rutted road of consumer society strangling in it’s repetitive dullness.

We in the US threaten the world with our prisoner mentality. Talking to people over the last several years I’m really at a loss of where to go from here in an effort to assist bringing about the changes necessary for the creation of different conditions. Different conditions take shape exclusively from different thinking. What I find in the North American and European societies are people living in mental prisons.

Until people, a majority of people, can think outside these prison walls – no significant change is possible. The most amazing part of all this for me is the participation the prisoners lend there jailers. In fact very few people in western society recognize their own imprisonment.

The stories, news and articles out there are so numerous and repetitive that it’s really too much to read – about to little. Once in a while someone suggests people stop participating with there captors. Almost exclusively the captive authors use the space to promote their tyrant of choice. That is really, really strange.

I wanted to present this story I clipped from a Noam Chomsky article. The excerpt below tells about a community who escaped from the societal prison – for a little while.

Chomsky,  By 1941, I was spending as much time as I could in downtown Manhattan, gravitating to another group of radical intellectuals in the small bookstores on 4th Avenue run by anarchist refugees from the Spanish revolution of 1936, or the office of the Anarchist Freie Arbeiter Stimme in Union Square nearby. They, too, didn’t fit the standard formula for intellectuals. But if by the term we mean people who think seriously about life and society, their problems and possible solutions, against a background of knowledge and understanding, then they were indeed intellectuals, impressive ones. They were quite happy to spend time with a young kid who was fascinated with the 1936 anarchist revolution, which I thought then, and still think, was one of the high points of Western civilization and in some ways a beacon for a better future. I picked up a lot of material that I used 30 years later when writing about the topic, most of it not then in print.

Among the most memorable of these materials is a collection of primary documents about collectivization, published in 1937 by the CNT, the anarcho-syndicalist union that is celebrating its centenary this year. One contribution has resonated in my mind ever since, by peasants of the village of Membrilla. I would like to quote parts of it:

“In [the] miserable huts [of Membrilla] live the poor inhabitants of a poor province; eight thousand people, but the streets are not paved, the town has no newspaper, no cinema, neither a café nor a library…. Food, clothing and tools were distributed equitably to the whole population. Money was abolished, work collectivized, all goods passed to the community, consumption was socialized. It was, however, not a socialization of wealth but of poverty…. The whole population lived as in a large family; functionaries, delegates, the secretary of the syndicates, the members of the municipal council, all elected, acted as heads of a family. But they were controlled, because special privilege or corruption would not be tolerated. Membrilla is perhaps the poorest village of Spain, but it is the most just.”

These words, by some of the most impoverished peasants in the country, capture with rare eloquence the achievements and promise of the anarchist revolution. The achievements did not, of course, spring up from nothing. They were the outcome of many decades of struggle, experiment, brutal repression – and learning. The concept of how a just society should be organized was in the minds of the population when the opportunity arose. The experiment in creating a world of freedom and justice was crushed all too soon by the combined forces of fascism, Stalinism and liberal democracy. Global power centers understood very well that they must unite to destroy this dangerous threat to subordination and discipline before turning to the secondary task of dividing up the spoils.