Not to agonize but to organize
  • 'Not to agonize but to organize'
I celebrated the holiday yesterday at Raj Patel's talk at Town Hall. Patel wrote the book The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy, and he used MLK's forgotten economic radicalism to frame what he had to say (which caused an old black man sitting next to me to send up some pretty great hurrahs).

Patel calls out the totalizing nature of American capitalism—the way it externalizes costs it doesn't want to deal with—as the weirdly accepted violation of human rights it is. He laid down some statistics, the most striking of which was from a 1995 U.N. study that valued unpaid women's labor at $17 trillion, "an ongoing subsidy that capitalism gets from the home." He talked about food sovereignty and its intrinsic tie to an end toward violence against women, he proposed that there's a basic fallacy behind the Tragedy of the Commons (that fallacy: we are not all "selfish, greedy bastards"), and he confessed that he became an American citizen last week, "not because I want to have USA, USA, USA tattooed on my chest, but more so when I stand up for what's right in this country, I don't get deported." He didn't defend Obama (he referred to Obama's own admission that MLK wouldn't have voted for any of the presidential candidates, but would be standing at the sidelines, fulminating for more progressive change), but he did criticize the expectations of impatient Americans:

There's this idea that this president will be the pizza delivery guy of change—he will bring it hot, fresh, and steaming within thirty minutes, as we watch television.

"We have been actively deskilled," Patel continued, "in the arts of citizenship."

Patel's blog has an excerpt from MLK's speech "Where We Go From Here":

And I say to you, I have also decided to stick to love. For I know that love is ultimately the only answer to mankind’s problems. And I’m going to talk about it everywhere I go. I know it isn’t popular to talk about it in some circles today. I’m not talking about emotional bosh when I talk about love, I’m talking about a strong, demanding love.

Patel is in Portland tonight, L.A. tomorrow, and San Francisco next Tuesday (the 26th).