First in a multi-part series about the complex flow deep in our entangled society…
“There is no such thing as security for any nation — or any individual — in a world ruled by the principles of gangsterism.” – President Franklin Roosevelt, in a “fireside chat” to the nation after the Pearl Harbor attacks, and a first take on insurgency.
In my senior year in high school (1964–65), I got my first glimpse of our common entangled insurgencies, though I didn’t know it at the time. Our local John Birch Society gave a copy of “None Dare Call It Treason” to every member of my senior class. This amounted to somewhere around 650 copies.
I suspect I was one of the few Social Justice Catholics in our class to read it. Most copies of it had been tossed everywhere around the school campus and in various places on the many routes to our family homes.
I asked a classmate who was more familiar with right politics than me what this distribution was about. He told me that local JBS members had decided that they needed to begin advancing their beliefs in a more organized way after the much earlier collapse of McCarthy, and the impending defeat of Barry Goldwater in the presidential campaign, through what were viewed as the lies and manipulations of political advertising (isn’t all political advertising manipulative?). This book was published so that it could be distributed widely during the 1964 presidential campaign.
All I thought at the time: “All our parents are weird”, with the typical adolescent roll-of-the-eyes.
Looking back, if you changed the core villain from the communists to the various yellow, brown, and black enemies that are now the targets of right hate, and updated the names of the villains to the current ones in roughly similar jobs and social classes, you could republish it today with a few other changes. To me, that means the framework of NDCIT is mythic in its meaning, and can and will be applied to whatever is going on currently by those who are entangled in the myth.
But back then, I used the balm of young obliviousness to the outside world to dismiss the idea, and it faded from my consciousness.
Something must have stuck though. I began to notice stuff from the right that I had never paid attention to before. My deepest ignorance was my lack of understanding of insurgencies, and how they operate as flows of meaning.
My ignorance had two dimensions:
- I didn’t see my catholic social justice value system, socially just action, and our larger social justice community as an insurgency. I thought it was a nice way to be a human being.
- I couldn’t see the birth of a much larger right-wing insurgency in the expanding number of similar local organizing initiatives going on across roughly all rural areas and college campuses of the US, because I was simply unaware of them, or I consigned them to some dustbin of irrelevance.
Over the decades since then, I’ve tried to resolve my ignorance as best I could, and I have deepened my understanding of insurgencies.
I experienced insurgency first hand as a combat soldier in Vietnam, known people who participated in our American cultural entangled insurgencies and those who fought insurgencies in our overseas wars and our home-spun revolutionary movements, learned the history of insurgency through reading, board games, and video games, and, most critically, learned about systems theory, especially the theory of, and change in, complex adaptive systems (CAS).
These experiences and learnings helped me see the dynamic of our entangled insurgencies as a flowing shifting evolution with a broad disposition, if not a game plan. I want to pass on something of that observed flow in the stories in this series.
Part Two: So, How are We to Understand what Our Long- Entangled Insurgencies are?
One thought on “Our Long-Entangled Insurgency: Part One”
This point really caught my attention: “I didn’t see my catholic social justice value system, socially just action, and our larger social justice community as an insurgency. I thought it was a nice way to be a human being.” Even today it’s an accurate description of many of the folx I work with on social justice issues. Though they’re most likely aware of the nature of their movement in the wider society (i.e. an insurgency) their commitment often comes more from a “it’s the right thing to do” mindset. I don’t think it’s an ignorant way to move through the world; it’s self-protection.
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