Script from Spectre of the Future Accused
performed as a 3D hologram by Lexie Braverman on Sept 30, for Nuit Blanche in Toronto, ON.
Script adapted by Leah Modigliani from William A. Pritchard’s W. A. Pritchard’s Address to the Jury (Winnipeg: Wallingford Press, 1920).
Your Honour and Members of the Jury:
I stand before you, a strong woman.
While I speak to you from one of the historic classrooms of the past, I am an educator from the future. In this modest little house Marshall McLuhan lectured to many about his most forward-thinking ideas. Before he saw me he knew I was possible.
In true McLuhan fashion - I am a vision, but I am not one you can be detached from. This instantaneous world involves all of us, all at once, no detachment is possible. You cannot see me outside of yourself.
[emphasize with emotion] I am Us. My trial is your trial, my suffering is your suffering, my joy is your joy.
For eternity, you and I have sat here from dusk to dawn, an intimacy I did not ask for but have come to appreciate. Much of this time has been spent listening to the State’s case against me. They say I am guilty of seditious conspiracy, that I have conspired to challenge the authority and will of this Great Nation. I am also accused of aiding, abetting, counseling, procuring and forming a common intention to commit a common nuisance. No doubt criticizing the State is a nuisance, but it is up to you decide if it is illegal.
[Excitedly] You have seen the indictment, as I have. I looked at it the way it reads when right side up, and then I turned it upside down and read it that way; I read it from the middle towards both ends, and I worked back again. One of my friends read it with me, and amazed she said: “This is the devil’s own indictment!!!” I agreed with her.
However, I know enough about the history of Law to know that it changes, and just because it’s lawful does not make it right.
I appear before you because information from thousands of computers, smart phones, and tablets has been collected and data-mined as evidence against me. Videos have been downloaded, audio recordings have been transcribed and highlighted. Dozens of peoples’ homes have been entered into and ransacked. Papers have been dragged out of basements, some of them filthy, pulled out of garbage and recycling bins. Books, papers, political speeches and letters have been piled one on top of another in this court; extracts have been taken from those letters and publications, and have been pieced together to make the most exquisite legal crazy-quilt I’ve ever seen. Words have been pulled out of context and previewed on the “news” as repetitive sloganeering. This collection of words, sentences, acts, utterances, all disconnected from and independent of each other, have been assembled, cut-and-pasted, collaged, and labeled “seditious conspiracy.”
[assertive tone] Lets be clear, I am looked upon with suspicion because I don’t believe Capitalism is working today. I have done my research!
I have drawn upon the great literature and knowledge of over two centuries of serious thought on the subject. And after all that thinking, I choose to trust the future to Socialism. I think we’d all be better off if human production was restricted to human use and not for profit. And--this really inflames the state ! --I am free to talk, write, and peacefully organize myself and others along these principles.
[Looking as though she is trying hard to remember them all…] The books they took from my home as “evidence,” include Marx, Engels, Darwin, Luxembourg, Trotsky, Lenin, Gramsci, Lafargue, Huxley, Adorno, Benjamin, Klein, Dubois, West, Harvey and so many more—I can’t even recite them all.
These great writers were artful in their political critiques. I suspect we are all standing here today because we love art. Marshall McLuhan stood right here not too long ago thinking about art’s role in society. This was during the cold war. With the now credible possibility of nuclear annihilation, states wanted early warning systems that could give notice of disaster. No doubt thinking about the militaristic jargon of the forward-thinking avant-garde artist, McLuhan characterized artists as Distant Early Warning Systems. He thought that artists are more likely to feel the discontinuities of the present and the future, which show up in their art as warnings of what’s to come. This is obvious enough in the great artworks of our time: Picasso’s Guernica, Chris Marker’s La Jetée, Kara Walker’s Sugar Baby.
In evaluating my guilt or innocence it is now your job to be an Early Distant Warning System yourself – to channel what an artist takes a lifetime of commitment to develop. [With contempt and disgust] But let’s be clear; this charge does not apply to the Lead Prosecutor. He is no artist. He stands firmly on wrong side of history whether he knows it or not. He only looks back while he claims to walk forward.
I don’t think the framer of this indictment drew it up as a monument to his art, I think he drew it up as a monument to his artfulness. And that’s the political mess we are all in now together isn’t it? Artfulness has supplanted art, surface has triumphed over meaning, magical thinking has buried science, lies have trumped truth [emphasis on trumped].
[mockingly] Indeed, I want here to offer my compliments to the Lead Prosecutor. What an excellent address he gave to you! What an artful case he built! I appreciate the works of a great craftsman, and I compliment my learned friend Mr. Renard upon his ably constructed, closely (if illogically) reasoned, and excellently presented argument. [more seriously] But I also noticed that too much attention was paid to the superstructure, and the foundation was not properly considered. No doubt future historians will clearly see the great oratorical edifice that has been built here today. That old dream of the ancient King comes to my mind; the statue with the head of gold, the torso of silver, the belly of bronze, the legs of iron, and the feet of clay. The State has built their case on unstable ground that will buckle under the weight of history.
Indeed, I recall that Marshall McLuhan published a wonderful little cartoon of Alice in Wonderland in one of his books, and it’s very relevant today:
“Now for the evidence,” said the King, “and then the sentence.”
“No!” said the Queen, “first the sentence, and then the evidence!”
“Nonsense!” cried Alice, so loudly that everybody jumped, “the idea of having the sentence first!?”
And in the Queen’s court today I have had my sentence planned first, and then they dredged up their evidence afterwards.
[Getting even more serious] At times I have been interested in this legal pageant—as I am sure you have. But this difference of opinion between the State and myself is no laughing matter and I can’t make light of it. [Getting angrier] They have dragged me out of my home, they have terrified my husband and children, they have sullied my name in the news. I have been mocked by the counsel for the State, and tweeted by those in power who would judge me in their ignorance without knowing the facts of the case or history itself. My words, now picked over and quoted out of context have emboldened the multitudes of ignorant and the fearful, who have comforted themselves by threatening to rape and kill me. I have been suspended from my position at the university, “pending inquiry.”
Yes, I am fearful for my future. I have been bullied by frightfully efficient terrorists who use the Law as their most effective weapon. All I can do is put my trust in you to make this right. I hope that you will rule in my favor. That your vote will be for our collective future, one where fairness and empathy rule, not injustice and innuendo.
[resolved to his fate and looking at the long term picture] After hearing the prosecution’s case, I came to the conclusion that it was a waste of time for me to call any witnesses. I believe I could defend myself without calling witnesses or refuting every single piece of the thousand and ten exhibits put forward as state evidence. I want to tell you, members of the jury, that if I thought it worthwhile I could have prepared a rebuttal to every point, and being diligent and careful in my work, would not have rested until I had destroyed every piece of evidence claimed as State’s proof.
Yet, this case seems not to be about what is lawful or right, and I have no interest in muddying the waters of an unjust and intolerable accusation. History is my witness, and regardless of the outcome here today I know I will be vindicated by time itself. When the historian of the future drives the knife of critical research into the very bowels of the bogey conjured up by these lawyers’ imagination, they will uncover the facts and understand the significance of this precedent-setting case.
The trial reminds me of the wonderful fable about the imaginary Kilamazoo.
The story is that immigrants arriving by ship into New York harbor were attracted by the actions of a fellow-passenger who they had not noticed before. He was keeping close guard over a box he was carrying and every few moments they noticed him pressing down on the lid as though something inside was trying to escape. The passengers gathered around him and asked him what the box contained. He immediately grew alarmed and told them to get away, but that only made them more curious. He said: “We have come so far, but I can’t tell you what’s inside, because if I do it will cause chaos on the boat and many will lose their lives, and if the box breaks open in the confusion all will be destroyed.”
That only made the passengers even more curious. “Well,” he said, “come close to me so that I can whisper it. I have inside the terrible Kilamazoo, the only one that has ever been in captivity, and what is worse, it is the female of the species and it is more deadly than the male.” All the passengers fled in terror except one. He wanted more information. “What do you feed her with?” he asked.
“That,” said the owner of the box, “is my greatest trouble. All her life in the wild she has lived on snakes and gorillas. She will have no other food. Fortunately, I have a brother who drinks a lot and every day or two he has waking nightmares and sees things like baboons and boa constrictors. When he does, I capture them and give them to my Kilamazoo.” “But” said the questioner, “those are imaginary creatures. You can’t feed it with those.” “Well,” said the owner of the box, “Since you are so damn curious I don’t mind telling you that what I have in the box is an imaginary Kilamazoo.”
[indignant almost mocking tone] Members of the jury, if you will take the case out of the hands of the Prosecutor and lift up the lid and explore its contents you will find they have been trying to terrify you with an imaginary Kilamazoo.
[looking thoughtful, assuming the role of educator once again…]
I’ve analyzed the case from every possible angle in preparation for defense today. Looking back over history, I traveled back to Caesar and the Roman triumvirate, to the days of hounding political opponents; to the days of empire-sponsored death and banishment… Then I moved forward to the 17th century when Giordano Bruno sacrificed his life and was bound to the stake in the flower market of Rome. After much scientific study, following the work of Copernicus, he had publicly declared that the sun, not the earth was the center of our solar system. This challenged the superstition and ignorance of his day, and because of that he was set on fire in February, 1600. Set on fire folks! Just think about that. Would you have been standing around that fire?
Not too long afterwards in June 1633, we find Galileo, old and sick, recanting his scientific beliefs in front of the authority of the State and the Church. He was a master of physics at that time, and he had publicly exploded Aristotle’s theory of falling bodies through his scientific demonstrations. Nonetheless, the full power of the Church and State bore down on his neck until he was forced to contradict what he knew to be true. Today the name of Galileo is given forth in our schools as a master of mathematics and physics, while the names of those who defamed him are barely remembered. [with a kind of arrogant contempt] This doesn’t, however, stop the remarkable number of idiots we have in this country who loudly claim the world is flat even as they party in front of televised space launches.
[with matter of fact tone] Unsurprisingly, we’ve heard a lot recently about toxic ideas without irony or regard for the teachings of history. Mr. Renard’s voice, ringing with indignation, told you all about poison. However some complexity of thought is needed here. Poison is easily available to us all…just go to a supermarket or pharmacy and find the shelves full of it. In every medicine there is poison; in most processed foods there is poison -- this is one of the contradictions that exist today in the world. A citizen must learn what is a lethal dose, and what is life-saving. Taking two aspirin can heal the mind in painful times, but to overdose on it to risk the body and brain shutting down. To drink a soda once in awhile is to feel energized and refreshed, to drink it all day ever day is to risk obesity and a cancerous death.
[with a bitter tone] But what does the opposition do and say? They call certain works of “liberal” literature poison. And in their pursuit of due diligence, serving their clay-footed God, they have collected their “evidence” from people all over the country. They have dusted out every cobwebbed corner of every home of every workingman, every academic, and every artist whom they considered suspect. They have sent their agents to mine every cache and trash can from sea-to-shining-sea, and they have uploaded and collated a battalion of documents of various kinds. From this mass of documents they have gone with the microscope and the surgical knife and they have carved out terms, “liberal,” “feminist,” “environmentalist,” “socialist,” “evolutionist,” “revolutionary, ” “communist” “leftist” etc. You see these are the little pieces of poison they hope to overdose us with. To dull our senses, to relieve the burden of clarity of thought. [thoughtful tone] These are just words to me though. Just words in a wonderfully rich intellectual context. I have no need to fetishize them—to collect them like so many little bugs a child puts in a can to die alone without life support—where is the ecology in that?
Still, I can imagine the excitement by which Mr. Renard’s loyal assistant came in from the field and showed his evidence to his boss: “Look what I have found!!!” Remember old Archimedes? He stepped into the bath and saw the water overflow, and he suddenly discovered the way to find out if the King’s crown was solid gold. He forgot where he was, and he rushed through the streets naked, crying: “Eureka! Eureka ! I have found it!” And in my mind’s eye, I can see his loyal assistant rushing through the city with his jar of evidence crying: “Eureka ! Eureka! I have found it.”
And suddenly Mr. Renard comes around the corner in his polished shoes and designer suit, buttoning his fly and brushing the crumbs off his jacket, and says: “What have you got ?” and the young man says: “Here it is! Here it is! Here is the evidence!” and they put a new label on the jar so that no one will mistake it: “Shake well before giving to the jury.” “Take the poison out of your food.”
Well to do so makes the world a bland and simple place if you don’t know what you are doing. I have known people to try to make whiskey out of potatoes, and they finished up by making a casserole. Simple food fills you up but there’s not much life in eating without a shot of whisky or bourbon to go with it. I can easily forgive Mr. Renard for having mixed up his bottle of uninspired medicine upon me. I am not a vindictive kind of gal, and I can easily forgive him since he is old and set in his ways. But do you know, I am not so charitably inclined towards the young assistant. I believe he is college educated, and ought to have known better. [incredulously] How can he be so young and settled in his ways? Hasn’t he lived?
[serious but with a touch of playful humor] Ok moving on, let me address the indictment. This indictment has been held to be a good piece of Law. It may be so. It may be so. There are six counts in it, and those six counts describe the terms of seditious conspiracy in six different ways. They must have run out of ideas when they came to the end of the sixth count, and because they carried an fearsome Kilamazoo in their laptop, they said: “Now what’ll we do? She might get out of this. She might be able to produce her bona fides. If she does she’ll be acquitted. What will we do?” Then no doubt a bright idea struck one of the members of counsel who said: “I’ll tell you, we can’t allow the Kilamazoo to run around without a tail,” so they cooked up a seventh count and said: “We will charge her for common nuisance, and we will put that tail on the Kilamazoo to top it off.”
Well there is no doubt I’m in a strange position. Arrested on a charge of inciting rebellion amongst the nations’ laborers last May and June. As I showed you earlier, I wasn’t even there.
However I don’t deny I was in solidarity with those folks who saw no other choice but to walk off their jobs. By what is incitement? Is it really just publishing reading lists of Socialist literature for others to learn about history? Is it lecturing to students about the historical and social context for the Russian Revolution? Is it teaching students about what I know and think of First Nations worldviews? All I have done is show that other economic systems are possible. The weakness of contemporary Capitalism is revealed in the threat posed by my educational efforts.
So, from their original charge the case has been stretched. The Kilamazoo could not jump nearly far enough, so they fed it the propaganda it needed to go a little further. Energized, it seems to have jumped over many precedent-setting years: 2008, 1991, 1968, 1917... Why, one could even go further back; back to the days of William Morris; to the days of the Chartist movement, or even further to the days before the French Revolution. Yes! Why not go back to Sir Thomas More’s “Utopia” while we are at it? Why not bring all that in to the box of the Kilamazoo? Why not charge me with all that as well? Seems the box is so no large after all.
Really, I’m not sure if I should be flattered or offended by the charges against me. I am not so susceptible to hurt feelings as I used to be when I was younger. When Mr. Renard turned around in the courtroom to address you – God! he has been so theatrical! - and said: “Folks, you will see the paucity of originality in the accused”—he said it twice—“paucity of originality.” [incredulous tone]
Does he really know what he is talking about?
Doesn’t he know that every one of us, you and I, have nothing original about us; that we are all products of a long line of historical development, and that whatever knowledge I may possess I can trace it back to the literature, mathematics and sciences of ancient African civilizations, the landscaping and engineering of the ‘Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colonnades of Greece, and the grandeur that once was Rome?
And as I go into my own library today I am still confronted with the burning of the Library at Alexandria. The history of scientific innovation is full of burned books, and destroyed libraries. And one after another thinks that if they could only tie Bruno to the stake then the earth would not go around the sun any more. They can lock me out of the university but it doesn’t stop me from thinking, learning, teaching, speaking and writing… My books have not been burned. Well, maybe this is progress, I don’t know. They’ve just been confiscated as evidence and taken from my library so that the State could highlight certain passages and words, take them out of context, and use them as circumstantial evidence against me.
The most heretical of those taken is of course The Communist Manifesto, a book that can be banned again and again, but only increases in popularity. No doubt you have all heard something of this bogeyman Marx, but I still want to introduce you to the man as I know him. Who was he? Marx’s father was a Jewish lawyer, who, in 1824, went over to Christianity. The whole family were then baptized as Christian Protestants. Karl Marx went to the High Grammar School at Treves, and afterwards, in 1835, to the Universities of Bonn and Berlin. He first studied Law, and then history and philosophy, and in 1841 he earned the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. In contrast to most of the Socialists of the day, Marx stressed the necessity of political struggle as the lever of social emancipation. In a letter he wrote “Nothing prevents us…from combining our criticism with the criticism of politics, from participating in politics, and consequently, in real struggles.” Instead of being an armchair academic critiquing the world from a safe distance he wanted to get down-and-dirty; to be active. He said that theory is nothing without practice. As a woman, I get he had some blind spots, but I’ve come to forgive him for those.
What is relevant to this case—specifically the State’s charge that I attempted to incite a violent rebellion—is the fact that Marx and Friedrich Engel analyzed the political conditions in Europe and in England, and came to the conclusion that in all of Europe England would be the place where the overthrow of the bourgeoisie would come about peacefully through established constitutional forms. Do you get that? They thought a peaceful revolution might be possible in certain social conditions.
In 1859 Marx wrote an essay called “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy,” where he first developed his concept of historical development. Namely, men do not produce movements, but movements produce men; that it was not so much Napoleon that made the conditions of Europe of his time, but that the very conditions of Europe themselves called out for Napoleon to appear. What does Engels preface to The Communist Manifesto tell us? He says: “The history of the Manifesto reflects, to a great extent, the history of the modern working class movement; at present it is undoubtedly the most widespread, the most international production of all Socialist literature, the common platform acknowledged by millions of working men from Siberia to California.”
You may not agree with this view of history, members of the jury, but I must insist that you consider it. Marx’s claim that the way a society is structured determines and engenders what social movements can develop within it is an idea that has circulated with regularity and popularity among the Labor and Socialist Movements of Britain and North America since the essay was first published. [sarcastically] I didn’t come up with this dangerous idea.
And yet, for the first time in the history of the Labor Movement The Communist Manifesto has been plucked from a citizen’s home library and dragged in as evidence of a seditious conspiracy to destabilize the democratically elected government. The State is arrogant and powerful enough to claim “this is poison, ” “this is seditious” merely because they want to. It’s like saying there a million people standing here in front of this Courthouse, when in fact you and I can look around and see that only a few dozen are standing there. Just because you say it is true, doesn’t mean it is true.
[taking tone of teacher again] Remember how Galileo, when he heard about the telescope that the Dutchman Lippershey had invented, immediately figured out how to make one himself, and looking through it at the sky he saw things the naked eye could not. At the time thousands of people went around saying “I can only believe my own eyes,” and so denied the existence of Jupiter’s four moons that Galileo had seen. And the lawyers of that day came around and said “If Jupiter has four moons Galileo must have made them himself and stuck them into his telescope.”
So, here I am today, centuries later, utilizing fact-based economic research to tell you that Capitalism has become so intense; has become so complex; and grown to such a degree that it can no longer guarantee a living wage to all its workers even as their productivity has increased and investors’ profits rise. When I tell you that “Workers’ net productivity has increased more than 70 percent in the last fifty years but inflation-adjusted salaries have only increased 8 percent,” what do I mean?
Well the prosecutor comes along and tells you that I must have put it into my telescope, conjured up a neat trick to fool you, that I don’t understand how things really work. Except that, unlike Jupiter’s moons, you can see the hardship plain as day in your own lives, telescope or not. I would suggest that the real magician is the one who tries to make it all disappear; the one who says, “the real problem are those immigrants,” or “we can increase jobs and pay no taxes” or “there is no climate change.” You know it getting as hot as hell outside, no one can tell you otherwise.
When you go back into that jury room, remember that I am not being charged with magic, making things appear or disappear with the wave of my wand. I am not standing before you today because I am either religious or irreligious. I am not being tried for advocating spells or black magic . . . am I? If you were sitting upon a case in which a man was being tried for selling fake university degrees, if you had in the box a con artist, what would your questions be? Is this man a Wiccan? Does he follow Christ or Mohammed? Is he a Liberal or a Conservative or a Democrat? Is he a Democratic Socialist? Would these be the questions you would ask if you were deciding whether or not a defendant had defrauded hard-working people out of their money? Do these questions have anything to do with the theft? Has it got anything to do with the case at all?
I don’t know whether you are religious or not or what your political persuasion is. It doesn’t matter to me. These questions have nothing to do with the case, and I trust that you can judge the merits of the case as it’s presented to you. This trial should be about the facts, not magical thinking or the conjuring of an imaginary Kilamazoo fed on lies.
On the topic of mystification, notice that when he was done discussing my “poisonous” liberal ideas, Mr. Renard then set out to draw us a quaint picture of the laborer’s sweet, beautiful, and enjoyable work. But where was he? He seemed to be far away on the village green in the old country, in merry old England, dancing around the Maypole, when work was something which took men and women outside; when work was something which made a person; not the hideous thing it is today in our hellish modern factories, something which strangles and kills the spirit. [Getting angry at the thought of much modern day work]
[indignant tone] Work, work! Let us listen to the song, a psalm of praise, to work, as it comes tripping from the lips of a corporation lawyer. Did Mr. Renard ever work in a coal mine? Does he know what it is to bend his back before the face of the rock, or push wagons from-the drive to that bottom of the shaft? Does he know what it is to sit at a sewing machine for seventeen hours a stretch, to serve hamburgers for minimum wage, or to work at a call center all night long? If he did he wouldn’t trouble the terms so much. Work is work. Much of it is low paying and stress-inducing. There is a little book, which I don’t have here today titled: “Useful Work versus Useless Toil,” which Mr. Renard and all of you might well want to read.
Another word Mr. Renard is fond of talking about is revolution. It seems to have been sought for and highlighted in every piece of evidence recovered by the prosecutor. Politicians have been strategic in offering it up as one of their little poisons, and now Law is following suit, like good little Capitalist foot soldiers. They would have you believe that “Revolution” means violence, bloodshed, anarchy, chaos; as though it means every kind of crime grouped together at once. When I was protesting in Washington DC last January I saw hundreds of thousands of peaceful protestors, but the people most often shown on the news were the dozen or so radical anarchists wearing all black and smashing windows.
Over decades, Revolution has acquired a false sinister meaning; the graphic symbols of real social movements are now clichés: Che Guevara, soviet propaganda, the upright black power fists, long-haired radicals hurling bricks across street blockades. My students are regularly astonished to learn that the Black Panthers, those evil revolutionaries they had heard so much about, were nonetheless also busy providing breakfast to children in Oakland.
The state would have you continue to believe in the violence of all social revolutions, but I beg to differ. Lets consider what the word really means historically.
In English, from Latin, the term “Revolution” simply means to revolve. The word is used for all kinds of things. We call the daily motion of the earth a revolution; the movement of the earth around the sun we call a revolution. Gutenberg’s printing press was a revolution in the dissemination of information. The development of the personal computer has revolutionized all social systems. Revolution is a change that comes at the end of a line of growth or evolution. Scientists, as far as I can tell, do not distinguish between evolution and revolution when they study the material world. Growth comes from change. The scientist sees them as two sides of the same coin.
Remember Jesus’s parable: “A grain of wheat that falls into the ground and dies will spring forth a hundred fold.” What is that? Revolution. The thing dies in order to appear later on in greater fruition, a hundred fold. I know that hens lay eggs, and that from eggs come chickens. These are scientific facts. The hen lays the egg and then sits upon it until the egg is destroyed through the process of hatching. The period of evolution is there; there is the slow growth; the growth of the chick inside the shell until at a certain point in its growth it is faced with that condition, either it dies in its shell or breaks the shell, and the sensible chick wants to live, pecks at the shell, breaks the shell, and the only thing that is hurt is the shell.
Members of the Jury, that is a revolution in the organic world.
It seems obvious, yet Mr. Renard and his assistant would still run around the barn yard collecting eggs and bringing them before you in this court as evidence of a conspiracy amongst the hens. Peck! Peck! Peck! Lock up the Hen! Lock her up!
According to Mr. Renard we are all poor deluded Socialists. But knowing economics, one cannot look at that vast machinery of production that exists today and say “all is good!”, “no problems here!” Instead we see that a change is inevitable; that to allow things to go along as they are is impossible. They can no longer guarantee a living wage to the worker and at the same time keep hoarding interest and mountains of profit for their shareholders. You can’t keep shilling oil and air conditioners when the scientists tell us we are in the midst of the planet’s sixth mass extinction event. Something’s got to give.
Our society is faced with the question that the chicken is faced with in its process of development, the question of either bursting its shell and making the change or dying inside the shell. It is a matter of growth. You may know something about chickens. You may know something about cattle, or even global warning. They are not joking matters to me. I am going to take you back to the old days on the farm again. You can imagine what it was like to be kept up at night because of trouble with an old cow. In perfect obedience to nature that cow is about to calve. Should we hide that? Everybody knows it. People may laugh at this illustration. I don’t. It is no laughing matter for the cow anyway.
But what happens after a certain period of growth? There is a birth, there is a new being, and now instead of the old cow alone there is the old cow and her calf. Nature’s Law of change has been at work; that Law which you can see working throughout everything in the world: birth-growth-decay. And the Law that works upon men and upon women and upon chickens and upon cows, works upon social epochs, upon society, upon the planet: birth-growth-decay.
[Slowly and with feeling] And I want to tell you, members of the jury that when the State sees the calf alongside its mother, they can write whatever Laws they like; they can refuse to see what is taking place in front of their own eyes; they can do what they like, but they can never put that calf back [with emphasis].
And so it is here today. Youth is speaking, rising up. They want to get to work. They want a future. They are white and black and brown and gay and transgendered and poor and ecologically conscious and religious and secular and they live in a global village now. And they have expectations of a good middle class life, one that television and movies and recent history taught them. So the State can change the laws, they can gerrymander the districts, they can build a wall, they can claim that ecological disaster is a liberal ruse, but they can’t ever get that calf of revolution back in its Mama.
They can’t say to the youth: “listen to your elders! We received an fairly-priced college degree and enjoy guaranteed health care and own a home, but you need to work harder for longer… and sorry… you can’t have those things because we can’t afford them any more because our shareholders need to make more money for their private air-conditioned villas and private school education.” That calf won’t be shoved back in the cow.
Call it a backlash, but the revolution always follows the economic evolution. You can see it just as we can follow the growth of a chicken or a calf, we can follow the growth of human society and we can see those changes taking place. In my work as an educator I do my best to explain these things. If I can see that the calf is about to be born, I am doing my best to encourage those around me to prepare a place for that calf. If the state wants to call my scholarship and teachings seditious, I can’t stop them, I’m busy getting ready to deliver the calf.
And I’m barely touching on all the other denials that support their ideological orientation.
In 2017 the State would have us believing we are back in the Gilded Age of Horatio Alger, where poor white children can rise from rags to riches through their honest work, and black folks lives are simply not written about so don’t factor into naturalized assumptions of white meritocracy.
The state, in cahoots with its official organs of propaganda, network and cable “news”, continue to peddle the founding fathers’ myth of the pioneering young man or woman who only has to work hard enough and they can achieve the American Dream. Symbols of this myth are dancing and singing their way across televised talent shows all year long. America’s Got Talent? So You Think You Can Dance? The Shot? Canada’s Next Top Model?
As this fairy tale commonly goes, these Bootstrappers, often sons and daughters of struggling immigrants, take personal responsibility for their lives and lift themselves up the social and economic ladder through their own hard work and persistence. They may even end up a movie star, or a real estate, software or finance tycoon. But then, along comes the inconvenient Dr. Pritchard to tell her students and workers to turn off the Disney channel and instead to read research reports from the Pew Charitable Trust. The science shows that social mobility between the lowest levels of our society and the middle class is increasingly difficult, if not impossible.
Mr. Renard, that crafty fellow, says the son or daughter of the day laborer can become Prime Minister or President if they are worthy. I’m not so sure. It seems to me that their parents would have to have pretty well connected to elite members of our society for that to happen. How many of our leaders were born with the silver spoon in their mouth? How many were indeed actually the son or daughter of a Prime Minister or President? I must argue with Mr. Renard when he says, tongue-in-cheek “any man can become what he likes, anything at all.” Just think for a moment; just let that sink in members of the jury.
How many farmers on our bald prairies does it take to produce supermarket half-price sales on bread in Chicago? How many generals, colonels, majors, captains … right away down the line to buck privates… does it take to make a field marshal?
Over and over again the State has pointed to the initiative of the millionaire, who presumably became great by their own integrity and brains. He is a millionaire in what? In copper. A copper king on Wall Street. How many toiling slaves in the hills of British Columbia and Montana were necessary to make a copper king? How many slaves working in the cotton fields of the southern states did it take to make a cotton king? How many families losing their houses over gambled mortgages did it take to make a finance king? These latter-day Kings and Queens can’t tell a California bungalow from a Japanese Danchi, but they are content to gamble on housing derivatives in London, New York, Tokyo and Shanghai.
[sarcastic tone] I know that you and I are part of a vast army of workers whose every energy makes possible the existence of some clever, marvelous individual, a King or Queen grown rich beyond their wildest dreams through nothing but their own efforts and God-given talents….
[righteous anger!] Fuck that! It is a personal effront to me, members of the jury, to know that someone is busy telling those hungry kids living in public housing: “You can all become the President one day if you try hard enough.” Did you ever run a race at school? I did. There are ten of you running; there is one first prize and one person wins. There it is. Boom. And so corrupted is this myth of meritocracy that the primary school teachers say to the kids, “No matter! You are all winners, and everyone gets a prize!” Just last year I sat through a grade one class where every student received a certificate of excellence, each one mass produced in Chinese factories so that every little seven year old in this country can believe that they can be President. Nonsense. You get in the real world, and guess what, you are forced to compete in a system stacked against you, and then you are told you are struggling financially, because those at the top of the social ladder have all of a sudden forgotten all the help they got they got on the way up that you did not have access to.
Lets consider competition amongst laborers from a historical perspective. One of state’s witnesses told you that he was staggered at the conditions he found in certain working class homes. It is not because business owners are all terrible people, nor because of the unworthiness of the workers that the situation has become as bad as it is. The blame lies with the historic and structural development of industry from pre-modern to modern times.
Here’s my view. If we go back into the days of the old gilds, when capitalism was only just being born we might see a cobbler working with his hand tools, and he makes a complete pair of boots. There is also a journeyman carpenter, with a full kit of tools and he makes everything. He will turn the newell on the staircase, and he makes the handrails, and the sills and the doors all by hand tools. We see an old weaver in the garrets of some old country town, weaving silk with a simple hand or foot loom. Simple hand tools, owned by those who used them. In those days of simple hand tools everything belonged to those who used those tools. Times change. Industry develops. Workers become divorced from their tools. Why? Because the age of inventors arrived, and Arkwright, Crompton and others invented the spinning jenny and the power loom, and the owners of the older simpler tools were compelled to leave those tools behind and gather together in the master’s factory where the new machines were located. Instead of producing things themselves, they became part and parcel of machine production.
So grows the factory era, where electrical power is supplied by wind or water-wheel, and the machines are the property of the factory owner. That again is superseded by the joint stock company, and the use of industrial steam power. The cycle repeats itself; the old tools become obsolete, separated from their owners, not because someone takes them by the nape of the neck and drags them away, but simply because the newer tools coming into existence render the older shops useless as market competitors.
Then, from the joint stock company there comes finally the trust--the vast combination--the merger. Every change that has taken place in those changing relations between those tools and the owners, and between the owners and the workers who merely operate them, and every change that has taken place all down along that line, has been a change in the ownership. We, today, stand in front of mighty machinery capable of supplying the world’s needs in shorter time than ever before in history.
I look back along the line and I see the simple hand tools, then the power machine in the factory ; then I see the mighty industry with motor power supplied by steam and electricity, and I find myself today standing in front of the combinations, trusts and mergers, in short, practically the entire world’s resources in the hands of a huge financial oligarchy, and that is what I mean when I refer to the capitalist class.
But as we follow that line of history, Dear Jury, we can see that the machinery of production has changed hands from one group to another and is now in the hands of mighty corporations. Are we really to believe that there will be no more changes in the ownership of the tools, or in the nature of the tools moving forward? The world will not stop. The world will not stop even if we do, members of the Jury.
But I take it that the wise woman is not the one who refuses to go forward in a world that insists upon moving. The wise woman is the one who tries to keep pace mentally with the development of society in its industrial and technological processes. The wise woman notices the calf being born because she has seen it before.
Just like a hundred years ago, our workers are tired and their dollars are stretched too thin. And they see the fat cats on their private jets and private golf courses, they see them disappear behind closed doors to take away the workers’ benefits and rights, they see the hypocrisy of words that don’t match actions, and they get angry. The promise of democracy is tarnished again and again, and no amount of gold spray paint can cover it up.
And so I urge wise men and women everywhere, you included, to adopt the ideas of bygone Utopian thinkers from long ago, to act on creating the greatest social good for the greatest number of people. Our social mission should be production for use rather than production for profit!
The vast machinery of production that is in the hands of a financial few should be vested in the entire people!
I have believed this for quite a long time. But this is a frightening prospect for the rich minority who buy the laws that control the workers. Duty-bound, Mr. Renard circled “Production for Use” in blue in one of his exhibits to try to discredit me. Singling it out as one of those poisonous liberal ideas that may incite a violent revolution. Members of the jury am I not within my rights to suggest such a thing? In putting forward such a view, I am going to ask you, do you think there was anything seditious in it? Is it not just an idea?
Really, I don’t know why my learned friends are so fearful of revolution that they should seek to entrap me. Why!--they even appear to hate me, happy as they are to try to lock me up and silence me. There is in fact quite a bit about hate in the State’s case against me. Mr. Renard says that I have been preaching class hatred. But the fact is, if you actually know anything at all about working people’s lives, and if you have any sense at all, you will avoid preaching hate. What’s the first thing they teach you in anti-oppression training sessions? Have some humility. Listen to to the other person’s point of view and accept that you don’t know everything. Eventually, you come to understand that the working conditions of contemporary life pit people against people and generate hatred amongst different groups, and if you are good and honest you will dedicate yourself to educating the workers on where the hatred actually comes from. If you are successful, they are very likely to become educators themselves.
Now of course there may be some disagreement between myself and any other person about anything at all that exists in the world. I believe, and I admit I may be naïve, that there is only one reason why myself and this other person should disagree - one of us does not know enough about the matter. I always take the position that progress can be made if I assume that it’s me who doesn’t know enough, and the only way to move forward is to discuss the issue in detail and thrash everything out. But because I discuss those things, and might possibly fight with those individuals on certain points, there is no reason why I should hate them. I don’t hate those with whom I disagree, because when a man or woman progresses in knowledge they will cease to hate.
The way to do away with hate is to clear the road for an understanding.
Maybe you are thinking about those masked “revolutionaries” inciting violence on your TV or computer screen, and you say “Well, Pritchard, what about these angry young anarchists I’ve seen smashing windows and building street blockades?” Just like accusing old Galileo of putting those four moons of Jupiter in his own telescope, the learned thinkers of our day claim it’s all the liberal’s fault: “Yes, you have fueled the discontent with your theory and rhetoric, you are responsible for these citizens angry outbursts.” But to you, members of the Jury, I say that our free-market economy explains these things. The anger is amplified every day of the week by the conditions surrounding our people. High personal indebtedness; rising housing costs that force them into substandard living in urban centers or long commutes from outside the city; not enough good quality jobs; a racially-biased militarized police forces that threaten many of them; less and less of a social safety net; decreasing access to high priced college education; the dangers of global warming that will disproportionally affect them, etc. etc. The list is long and we don’t have all day.
Those in power, when confronted with such criticism, love to cite our Nation’s successful experiment in democracy, always pulling a dictatorship or autocratic regime out of their back pocket to hold up as an example of how much worse other people have it. For over a century, this word “democracy” has fallen from the tongues of all the political administrators like a sweet morsel. Democracy has been the magic word of beneficial creation, while autocracy is cursed.
[with sincerity] And this may be well, for human liberty cannot be prized too highly.
Despite the widespread belief in individual freedom and individual worth, and the right of everyone alike to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness the fact is that a modern popular movement can be exceedingly corrupt and almost inconceivably inefficient.
So it comes about that in so-called democratic countries the people are very often badly cheated and almost invariably very badly served. Recognizing this truth does not necessarily follow that democracy, as a form of society, is bound to perish, or that autocracy, as a form of government, is likely to persist. But on the other hand it’s becoming very obvious that if democratic countries are to continue to exist as national entities, they must adopt some different institutions of governance than those embodied in the party system.
In my view, our so-called popular government has become as great a tyrant as any autocracy. Indeed, in some ways it is worse. The ultimate sum of its activities may be even more deadly and destructive than those Kings and Queens of old or deranged tyrants abroad. The ravages of a swarm of locusts is often more harmful than the occasional incursion of a larger beast of prey.
The main point of distinction between ourselves and more obviously tyrannical regimes lies in the fact that our depredations are usually spread over a larger area, and are accomplished, as far as possible, in secret; and we rely more on corruption than on open violence. Quite recently this corruption has attained alarming proportions. Popular government has altogether ceased to perform the functions for which it was instituted. It has become merely a means for the existence of politicians, for the enrichment of the leaders of the dominant party and the livelihood of the shareholders in corporations that bribe them.
A new burden of restraint has been imposed on the people as the tax burden on the wealthiest has declined precipitously. Large parts of the public revenue are secretly and fraudulently diverted to serve the needs of corporations and party politics. A whole host of parasites grows obese on what should be the public wealth. As public wealth declines more and more vulnerable voters buy into shameful political promises that once implemented impoverish them even more.
This portentous phenomenon has been brought about by a skillful misuse of the representative system, and the regimentation and rigid control of the parties. The political boss of old has become ubiquitous as business-as-usual in contemporary times. Nations are governed in the interests of particular classes. All these party activities need copious supplies of money; and those who pay the piper feel justified in calling the tune.
Every organ of public life becomes corrupted. Media is bought and broadcast to advance the interests of particular groups of society, and this species of corruption is perhaps more dangerous than the more vulgar methods of debauchment, because profit is made under the guise of advocating public morality. Public opinion is debased. Data mining leads to individually targeted “news” feeds, often little more than 200 word op-eds of fantasy with no basis in reality, all of which foster a climate of fear and ignorance.
By these means a political party is built upon the foundations of the material interests of certain social classes, and in doing so the professional politician is given immunity from common courtesy and lawful behavior. What was once considered a crime may now be excused as an individual quirk of the elected official.
All the strings of the organization are held in the hands of a few men and woman who have cunningly succeeded in dominating the party. In their cold hands rest the destinies of many Nations. To attack them means usually to jeopardize the interests of the party. Over their followers they maintain their hold by a similar system of rewards and punishments. The faithful are rewarded by nearly untraceable global business deals through shell corporations, employment for themselves and their relatives, and other kinds of quid-pro-quo. If I put that forward as an indictment against the present system, it is my constitutional privilege to do so.
If I hold that greater efficiency and greater good to the greatest number can be made possible in the nation by holding and advocating another system of government, it is my constitutional right to do so. In closing, let this be my defense: the current system is not working.
I am to be judged soon. Forgive me if I speak too bluntly. The world is more connected every day. The threats of the corporate elite can no longer be tolerated. There must be security for all, or no-one is secure. This does not mean giving up any freedom, only the freedom to act irresponsibly, now made permissible in unjust laws.
You stand before me tonight, perhaps comfortable in your own life and with the policies of the state. But your comfort is only a temporary stay.
The refugees from war and climate change are already knocking at your door, and millions more are coming. The digital world has overthrown the old-fashioned regimes of time and place, it drenches you instantly and continuously with the concerns of all other men and women. Your can no longer trust your neighboring states, and it’s getting hot outside. You know that your gay brothers and sisters are being banished from their homes or killed abroad, and this troubles your mind. Your particular religion, once a source of security and strength, now sometimes feels like a burden out in the streets and spaces of the wider public. If you are a woman, you know you are still sexual prey and continue to adjust your freedom of movement accordingly.
You suspect that your country does not take care of everyone equally and this bothers you because you know in your heart you might not survive the extreme poverty that your neighbors live with. If you are white you are troubled by videos of police violence and you have been shocked to realize that not everyone can trust law enforcement. You know by now that your home was purchased on land stolen from indigenous people. You know that your paycheck is not going as far as your parents and grandparents, and you worry for the life of your child.
You may be comfortable in bed at night, but these worries are knocking on your door, begging for you to do something.
What will you do? How will you reconcile this with your comfortable life?
What did I do? I spoke my mind and I have encouraged others to become educated and to educate others in turn. By doing so I have become a threat. I have been accused. So be it. I am the spectre of the future accused, knocking on your door. You can lock me up but I will still be here knocking at your door.
I am the spectre of the future accused. What will your judgment be? What is your want?