[A book with four interlocking themes:
- how to communicate with the dead;
- the life of a 19th-century American;
- the massive task facing us today, and
- the physical world’s place in the scheme of things.]
[Sunday, February 26, 2006]
8:30. I could get quietly excited over this. It almost seems a way forward.
It is a way forward, and maybe the only way forward for millions of people. And, you see, all the threads we been weaving these past sessions are a part of it.
I wouldn’t be able to summarize them but yes, I get the sense of it.
Well, that is where you are wrong. You can summarize it, and that is something you can do as well as anybody. I know what you mean – you don’t have it all in your head ready to spit out again – but after all that’s why the good lord made pencils and paper.
Now, consider. If you’re going to have a world-wide movement, one thing you don’t want is a center and somebody in charge. That’s just King Stork all over again. But instead you are going to see a whole boatload, as you say, of different movements, different organizations, different bodies, and the only thing they’ll have in common, maybe, is that they start to see the problem in more or less the same way.
Talk about strange bedfellows! You’re going to find union members and ex-communists and ex-Republicans and farm laborers and protestors against globalization and conservationists and NRA members and all – and if you’re serious about opposing slavery you will learn to get along, and keep your eye on the ball, and save your difference of opinion for other times. I say, if you’re serious for there’s always yapping dogs that love to pretend they are a wolf pack. But a wolf pack means business and mongrel curs don’t. That’s the difference.
You know the history – tell ‘em! Tell ‘em how the Republicans came together out of a ragtail and bobtail bunch of the damnedest people, some of ‘em that couldn’t cross the street safely, as you’d say in your time, and others as shrewd as bank robbers, and as cold. You had ten thousand shades of opinion, and a thousand vested interests, and people who would just as soon lay down with wolves as trust each other – but they finally got the idea that they had to hang together, and they did. They was not a collection of saints, exactly – they was a cross section of everybody in America that had come to realize that this can’t go on!
When you get to the point that a majority of people realize this can’t go on, then you win, and it don’t matter how much money or how many guns or how many lying newspapers the hogs got. Once you start hitting ‘em where it hurts, they are going to react stupidly, and every reaction will wake up more people.
I am not saying it is going to be easy – why should it be easy, when you have left it till after the last minute? But it shouldn’t take 30 years, either, like it did from Elijah Lovejoy to Sumter. Every thing is speeded up in your time, and the word goes around the world in a second.
All you’re doing, you see, is waking people up. Once they see what is happening, things will take on a life of their own. You’ll see. Intellectuals always overestimate the effect of their acts, and they overestimate how much they’re needed. Mr. Lincoln understood the strength of the people and when the match lit the powder, it was the people, not the intellectuals, who put it through. It was Lincoln, not Herndon, in other words. But Herndon did his part; you need intellectuals to be the thinking mechanism, to put two and two together for people. But it’s no use expecting thinkers to do the work of doers. When the doing starts their work is half done. Most done, until the next time the people get confused and need light.
That is the crime of the intellectuals in your day, by the way. They are too concerned with choosing sides and not enough concerned with looking for truth wherever it is. That’s because for the first time there came to be money in being an intellectual. But that’s a side trail.
Keep Mr. Lincoln’s saying in mind. There’s work for everybody and not everybody can do everything that needs to be done, but “them that can’t skin can hold a leg.”
10:15 a.m. It sure looks like a long row to hoe.
But what is your alternative? You know what your friend says – the difference between doing it and not doing it is, doing it.
You don’t have to have class warfare the rest of your time, and you don’t have to have war between Muslims and Christians and Jews and what have you from now till kingdom come, and you don’t have to have continuous attempts at revolution here there and everywhere – and, mostly, you don’t have to have most of the people of the world being slaves. But the way to avoid all that is to help people wake up, and there isn’t any use thinking there are short cuts. Lovejoy died, and Lincoln died, and 600,000 men died between the two, but the first part of the job got done. What is the worth of millions dying in the Second World War if you don’t keep fighting slavery? What is the use of anything if you don’t keep fighting slavery? And do you think it is going to be better over here if over there you let the balance tilt that way? I’ll tell you what is going to happen soon or late if you keep on the way you are going – it’ll be the end of that particular experiment, and we’ll have to focus on other places. It won’t be the end of the world to us, but it will to you, in other words. I can’t say it plainer than that.
Now if you are taking this at all serious, you have got to see that you cannot afford to keep playing Republicans and Democrats, Christians and Muslims, conservatives and liberals, intellectuals and practical. All those divisions are real, or real enough – but the primary division is on the line of values. Are you for the people or for the hogs? Are you for ever-greater participation, so the American experiment becomes the world experiment, and everybody has a piece, and everybody gets to contribute – or are you for a small bunch of hogs and everybody else nowhere? Are you believers in democracy – which means people having an independent place to stand, not depending on others for permission to sneeze – or are you for everybody hemmed in with rules and fear.
See, mostly it comes down to this (and here’s one place the Marxists went wrong): are you for everybody being part of one thing, physical shading into non-physical, and all in it together regardless what role we’re playing, or are you preferring us versus them?
You can’t be for everything being all part of one thing and still base your belief and action on hating people. You never saw Lincoln hating people, and in that he was like Jesus. Be like Jesus.
And that means you can’t be a party to violence as a means of action. Now, I know that statement is loaded with material for endless debating – what were we carrying guns and swords for, if we weren’t for violence? But it is one thing to use it when you have not got a choice, and another to use it on principle or because you prefer it. And I am not going to argue this because this is just the kind of argument that is a substitute for action, and it is past time to act. But the thing is, act in the way that is right for you. There will be plenty of soldiers if it comes to that – but a lot fewer people will die if it is kept peaceful and does not raise the fears of the other side. People will do things to protect their lives that they will not do to save all their property, and they will do things to save at least something that they wouldn’t do to save everything. So the key is – don’t threaten anything but slaveholding. If you do it right you can destroy slave holding without destroying the current slave holders – you can even bring a lot of ‘em to their senses, for don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are moral and they are not. It is the condition and the tendency you must fight, not primarily the individuals or families.
Go on and send this out now – and don’t expect a chorus of hallelujahs! This is going to mostly provoke irritation, because it is new. But you are nor responsible for people’s reactions, just for faithfully transmitting the message.
Yes, but I like the message. I begin to see it, even if I can’t imagine how it can be translated into action.
That ain’t up to you. Lovejoy didn’t plan for a Civil War, and Garrison didn’t count on a Greeley popping up – and nobody expected Lincoln. The thing is to clarify what is going on and what is at issue.