I was of three minds,
Like a tree
In which there are three blackbirds.
—Wallace Stevens, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird“
When I read Conrad DiDiodato’s terse, intelligent political post this morning, the first thing that came to mind was a rousing “Yes!” There are brutal assaults on human rights going around the world that deserve our attention.
The second thing that came to mind was the above stanza from Stevens’s famous poem. It brought with it the shadow of a doubt. There are always brutalities that deserve our attention. Does that mean that our political actions can’t address conditions that affect us directly? And if protests against the global capitalist elite are as irrelevant as Conrad implies they are—as they may well turn out to be—: well, how much more irrelevant would such actions be against the Iranian theocracy?
My third blackbird-mind kept chattering something along the lines of “can’t we do both”? Can’t we declare solidarity with Marzieh Vafamehr against the totalitarian I’m-a-dinner-jacket regime, and with Mexican poet Javier Sicilia’s campaign against Calderón’s drug war, and with environmental activists whose compatriots are being murdered in Brazil—and still agitate for the elimination of “corporate personhood” (the protection that in the U.S. at least serves as ideological cover for corporate crime families like Goldman Sachs)? Surely we can.
In any case, it would be shortsighted to simply dismiss what’s going on with Occupy Wall Street. As this philosophy professor from Columbia notes, its a movement that could be the beginning of big changes. And until there is economic and social justice at home, it’s hard to believe we can effectively demand changes abroad.