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When Will Direct Action Blossom?

By Mickey Z.

14 May, 2010

Anais Nin sez: "There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom."

I think of her words when I consider this question: How much more are we willing to tolerate before we take direct action? For those of you scoring at home, here is just a small taste of what we're already enduring without any serious fuss:

•  Epidemics of preventable diseases : cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc.

•  Poisoning of our air, water, and food (including breast milk)

•  Global warming, climate change, disappearing honeybees, destruction of the rain forest, topsoil depletion, ocean acidification, overfishing, etc.

•  One-third of Americans are uninsured or underinsured in terms of health care

•  More than half of the world's top 100 economies are not nations; they're corporations

•  Presidential lies, electoral fraud, limited debates, etc.

•  The largest prison population on the planet

•  Corporate control of public land, public airwaves, and public pensions

•  Overt infringement of our civil liberties

•  Bloated defense budget, unilateral military interventions, war crimes committed in our name, legalization of torture, blah, blah, blah...

Before you know it, the US government will start spying on American citizens and detaining prisoners without charges while allowing corporations to ravage the earth in pursuit of profit, wiping out entire eco-systems in the process—oops, sorry…they're already doing all that with limited resistance.

Frederick Douglass sez: "Find out just what the people will submit to and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue until they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress."

Every 24 hours, 13 million tons of toxic chemicals are released across the globe; 200,000 acres of rainforest are destroyed; more than 100 plant or animal species go extinct ; and 45,000 human beings (mostly children) die of starvation.

So, let's repeat my earlier question. One more time, with feeling : How much more are we willing to tolerate before we take direct action?

Which brings me back to Anais Nin's poem. What is our pain threshold? When does inaction become more agonizing than the fear we all harbor about stepping up and challenging this destructive culture ? When will we decide that we are less afraid of the police than of living on a planet without trees, without drinkable water, without arable land?

Participating in sustained direct action is not a popular choice. It could put us at odds with our friends, family, and community. It could jeopardize our careers. It could even lead to direct conflict with law enforcement officers. Scary stuff, for sure. But, as a thought experiment, ask yourself this: What frightens you more, being judged by your neighbors for getting ticketed for disorderly conduct or comprehending that 80% of the world's forests and 90% of the large fish in the ocean are already gone?

There are good reasons to be afraid. There are better reasons to be bold.

Could we be afraid of learning that much of what we've been taught is no longer relevant? Are we afraid to open our hearts and minds and start caring like we've never cared before? Maybe, just maybe, we're afraid of ourselves and of what were capable of accomplishing. Maybe Marianne Williamson is correct when she suggests: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."

It's time to blossom, comrades. Even with all the fear, pain, dread, and uncertainty we may (or may not) experience while blossoming, remaining tight in the bud is no longer an option…for us or for the planet. Just leap and the net may appear.

Mickey Z. is probably the only person on the planet to have appeared in both a karate flick with Billy "Tae Bo" Blanks and a political book with Howard Zinn. He is the author of 9 books—most recently Self Defense for Radicals and his second novel, Dear Vito —and can be found on the Web at http://www.mickeyz.net .