One of the reasons I stay in NY despite the fact that it’s falling apart is that there are tens of thousands of kindred spirits here. Much as I love Florida, I almost got beat up in an Ocala Denny’s because the T-shirt I was wearing implied that native Americans looked on the European invaders much the way our contemporary Homeland Security looks on Jihadists. (see below)
I wear this t-shirt all the time in NYC, and I once got a free dessert when my First Nation waiter admired it at a local restaurant. In Ocala, a very angry senior citizen yelled at me that Indians are fat welfare moochers and I should be ashamed of myself. Her harassment continued in Denny’s where she carried on a pointing/whispering campaign with her friends in the restaurant for my entire meal.
But I digress.
I stay in NY (at least for the moment) because it’s a place that hosts events like this weekend’s Left Forum, a perennial gathering of lefties dating back to the 1960’s that’s currently held at John Jay College. I was invited to speak on a potential revival of Occupy Wall Street, which (amazingly enough) still has some semi-functional committees. My friend Sumumba Sobukwe has kept his wing of Occupy, Occu-Evolve, functional through the years. And there’s still an Action Council.
I was invited to contribute to a panel Sumumba helped to organize under the title OCCUPY ALL STREETS–BUILDING AN EFFECTIVE CITYWIDE/REGIONAL MOVEMENT. Speakers included Sally Gellert of Occupy Bergen County, Jan Weingerg of Occupy Princeton, and, well, me. Sumumba kicked off the event, pointing out that the economic war against the 99% that was called out by OWS in 2011 is going at full force now in the era of Trump. And what was I talking about? Well…
I discussed the many one-person shows I’ve written and toured with, and the history of my pieces and their impact. My thesis is that with corporate control of MSM and increasing censorship on social media (Facebook’s ‘Fake news’ jihad has targeted and suppressed many left of center publications including Truthdig and CounterPunch). What’s especially concerning to me is the campaign to take over religious institutions. The Evangelicals have marched into support of empire and war without much in the way of prompting, but there’s a growing meme about ‘taxing churches’. Tax churches and you don’t have a civil rights movement in this country. You wouldn’t have any sort of antiwar movement, which is exactly what many non profit foundations want to see.
My thesis is that performing artists still have ways of breaking the silence from the Left over the egregious behavior of American leadership. We still have theater. We still have music. We still have agit-prop. The question therefore becomes what we do for outreach? My answer has been to create plays that are easily staged (ideally solo performer shows) and can be toured. That’s why I have been writing solo shows for the better part of the last 20 years. It also helps if you create theatre pieces that can be done in non-theatrical spaces. By doing so, you’re following the instructions of Noam Chomsky’s MANUFACTURING CONSENT. You’re providing ‘the threat of a good example’.
I’m working on a longer PowerPoint presentation on the subject. Stay tuned.