Thursday, November 16, 2006

Without Struggle There Is No Freedom

Those words were painted on the side of a building near where I work. The building was torn down recently, but I saw that slogan every morning for many years. I believe that it predated Sept. 11, 2001 -- after which time the idea of jihad was very much on people's minds. In this particular case, the words "Without Struggle There Is No Freedom" were accompanied by the words "Festival del Pueblo," so it seems unlikely that whoever wrote them was specifically thinking of jihad. But as I understand it, the concept is the same.

A friend of mine came to visit last week. At one point she asked me if she was the most politically radical person I know. I asked, "Including myself?" and she said "Yes," in a tone of voice which contained the words "of course." Now, I remember when this person was not political at all (and to be fair, she remembers it too.) I learned my radical lessons by heart a long time ago, and it's a little hard to swallow now, the idea that I'm less radical than she is. (Especially since the only evidence I can think of is that I have a job. Or else that I have a non-political blog.)

It's true that I'm not an activist. I'm more interested in the inner revolution: the personal revolution. I believe that if we want to change the power structures of this country, or of the world, we have to start by changing our own beliefs about power, and the ways we use power in our daily lives. In our own homes. "The revolution begins at home." How's that for a radical statement? (I'm certain I didn't make it up.)

Society is not created by its government, or by its laws. Indeed, it's the other way around. Societies create their own governments. Laws and mores are the expression of society -- the end result, as it were. And society begins at home. As children, we are indoctrinated. When we grow up, we act out the lessons we were taught.

I truly believe that when you see injustice and cruelty in the world, when you see things that fire up your radical heart and make you wish for change, the roots of those things lie in the home. And the best thing we can do for the world is to teach everybody -- starting with ourselves -- that change is possible. We can break the cycle.

So: imagine a long, one-story building, made of cement blocks painted white. (It was in fact a garage.) Carefully written on the white wall in black paint are the words "Without Struggle There Is No Freedom." Underneath that is written, "Festival del Pueblo, May 15-20."

From now on, it exists only in the mind.

See also " The Power of Speech"