We All Have A Job To Do
By Mickey Z.
10 August, 2013
World News Trust
Photo credit: Mickey Z.
"The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him." - Nuremberg Tribunal, Principle IV
As long as the “just doing his/her job” defense continues its relentless reign of terror, I’ll be reminded of the Nuremberg Tribunal quote above. Most recently, I contemplated the cultural concept of “jobs” and “following orders” as I watched the agonizing but excellent film, Fruitvale Station.
One could say that the cops responsible for Oscar Grant’s murder were indeed doing their job (oppression as profession) that night. The fact that these Blue Bloc members were ultimately fired over the incident is carefully presented by the mainstream not as a judgment on law enforcement as a career. Rather, a few individuals are deftly portrayed as unfit to hold such an important job.
The day after I saw Fruitvale, I found myself riding the NYC subway to attend a demonstration in support of Lynne Stewart. Known as “the people’s lawyer,” Stewart was targeted precisely because she was doing her job (details here).
Reminder: If the State needs to send a message to those who’d defend “enemies,” jobs suddenly aren’t so sacred.
Anyway, on the subway, I encountered an increasingly common sight: a homeless person asking for help. Reflexively, I reached into my bag for money (I always carry change with me specifically for this purpose) but the passenger next to me felt the need to offer the following advice: “Be careful. If a cop sees you giving him money, you’ll get a summons. I’ve seen it happen a few times.”
Indeed, as the robotic subway announcement voice warns us: “Ladies and gentlemen, soliciting money in the subway is illegal. We ask you not to give. Please help us to maintain an orderly subway.”
I half-jokingly asked him if he was a cop but my Blue Bloc radar told me he wasn’t. So, I simply replied: “We’ve criminalized compassion.”
“Yeah,” he said, “but it’s not the cops’ fault. They’re just doing their job.”
Before I could reply, the homeless man had reached me. Instead of giving him money, I asked if he’d like an apple (organic, to boot!) and he excitedly took it from me.
The train pulled into the City Hall station and I de-boarded. For the record: the homeless man was white, the passenger who cautioned me was African-American.
Upon reaching Foley Square, I joined with a couple of hundred kindred spirits for a short presentation about Lynne Stewart’s life and then a march to the Federal Courthouse where the specter of “jobs” once again reared its ugly head. Firstly, we were surrounded by a variety of Blue Bloc members -- local and federal -- doing their job and following orders, e.g. limiting freedom of speech and expression.
Also, three times -- three different times in less than 30 minutes -- I heard indignant passers-by yell in our direction: “Get a job!” If only I could sit them (and so many others) down and pose a few questions…
Firstly, the most obvious: How do you know which of us does or doesn't have a job? Many activists balance a wide range of responsibilities in order to be present at such actions. This assumption that we're all jobless is based almost solely on corporate media propaganda and the intense social conditioning that "productive" people simply "don't have the time" to engage in nonsense like, say, helping a fellow human who is dying of cancer.
Another question: What does it say about our culture that having a job is one of the primary barometers of "success"? Of course, by "job" most people mean any paid position that is respected by society's current standards and affords said employee enough money to engage in conspicuous consumption, thus further raising his/her status within a culture hypnotized by materialism.
Question #3: Are you aware that part of what inspires many activists is a rejection of the destructive and alienating work-consume-obey model of human culture? In choosing the "get a job" tack, skeptics ironically ignore the economic and social issues that provoke protests while tacitly offering support for maintaining a rigged system based on rampant inequality and misinformation.
Going bigger picture here: Exactly what job would you suggest for a socially aware and compassionate human? The global economic system is based on perpetual growth and the relentless exploitation of what we've come to call "natural resources." By definition, such an approach is unsustainable and cannot be reformed. Thus, almost all jobs within such a lethal system directly or indirectly contribute to the looming ecocide.
Staying with the holistic perspective: Why do you choose to aim your anger and fear at a random protestor you believe may not have a job rather than at the global criminals responsible for consuming, poisoning, and killing our shared landbase?
And finally: Even if every activist was jobless and even if every activist immediately found fulfilling paid work in a non-exploitative position, do you realize it wouldn't do a damn thing to rescue our dying ecosystem?
Earlier that day, after Fruitvale but before the Stewart demo, I felt inspired to post this as my Facebook status:
"General, your tank is a powerful vehicle. It smashes down forests and crushes a hundred men. But it has one defect: It needs a driver." (Brecht)
Lesson: Don't be a driver. No matter what they offer or promise, DO NOT drive their machines.
One of the comments related to how modern-day drones only require the push of a button (following orders, doing their job) but this time, I pondered a different quote from the Nuremberg Tribunal:
“Individuals have international duties which transcend national obligations of obedience. Therefore they have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring.”
Coda: When I got off the #4 Train at City Hall for the Lynne Stewart rally that day, I happened to walk right past the homeless man as he devoured the organic apple I had given him.
He greeted me with a huge smile and said: “Thanks again.”
I replied: “Just doing my job…”
Mickey Z. is the author of 11 books, most recently the novel Darker Shade of Green. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on an obscure website called Facebook. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here.
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