Thursday, October 15, 2020

Dangerous Words: A Political Memoir


  Dangerous Words: A Political Memoir
   By Greg Guma


Audio Prologue ON THE AIR: Burlington Reflections (May 2016)
(One month later Burlington College was closed)

Independent Politics (1989), Vermont Solidarity Conference discussion, moderated by Greg Guma, with Terry Bouricius, Sandy Baird, Ted Glick, Howie Hawkins, Eric Chester, Brian Tokar, and Barbara Nolfi

Part One: Education of an Outsider (1960-1968)

Part Two: Fragile Paradise  (1968-1978)

Part Three: Prelude to a Revolution (1974-1978)

The People's Republic: Vermont & Bernie Sanders

Listen to “The People’s Republic” podcast
Episode One: July 12, 2019
All Episodes Index

It was time for a change, real change... 
a revealing look at the rise of Bernie Sanders and the progressive movement that changed Vermont

“The best book on the pre-Congress years” - UVM Library
“Sympathetic but honest”  - Socialist Worker

Available in paperback from Maverick Media

Mentioned in 2019 articles and interviews 
with the author in the Washington Post, New Republic, Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones, Jacobin, Politico, and VTDigger

Discussed during the 2016 Presidential campaign in...
Mother Jones: How Bernie Sanders Became a Real Politician
New York Times: Bernie Sanders' Revolutionary Roots
CNN: Can Bernie Sanders Win Black Voters?
Politico: 14 Things Bernie Has Said about Socialism
Politico: Bernie Sanders Has a Secret
Washington Post: Sanders is in with the enemy, so old allies say
CNN: How Bernie Sanders Turned Himself into a Serious Contender
Mother Jones: Here's How Bernie May Be Changing Politics for Good
Washington Post: Sanders Prepares for His National Debate Debut
New York Times: Setting Bernie Sanders Apart from the Debate Field
Mother Jones: Here's What Bernie Sanders is like as a Debater
CNN Video: What is Bernie Sanders' Debate Style?
ABC: What to Expect from Bernie Sanders in Tuesday's Debate
International Business Times: Bernie Sanders' Debate Plan
Washington Post: A Somewhat Reluctant Socialist

BURLINGTON SNOW - By Allen Ginsberg

Bernie Sanders' election as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, in 1981 caught the attention of the entire nation and inspired progressives throughout the world. Originally published in 1989, just before Sanders won his first race for the US House of Representatives in 1990, The People's Republic: Vermont and the Sanders Revolution was the first comprehensive analysis of Sanders' mayoral years and the progressive movement in Vermont. It remains the most intimate and revealing. 

Greg Guma's exploration of the "revolution" goes far beyond Sanders and his impact on Burlington. The factors behind the initial surprise victory, the tension between leftist ideals and pragmatic politics, the evolution of an effective political coaliton outside the two-party system -- all these topics and more Guma investigates, with an eye on global political implications as well as the immediate local impact. The People's Republic is for all those interested in progressive politics and political history, not to mention those in places where a similar "revolution" is possible.

A fast-moving description that illustrates one of the great efforts at innovative government of the past fifty years…
--Pierre Clavel, Cornell University

If you were going to create somebody to write about Bernie Sanders’ years as socialist mayor of Burlington, you might make him a fortysomething Vermont journalist and bookstore founder and former government worker who almost ran for mayor of Burlington himself…That’s what you have in Greg Guma.
—Mark Satin, New Options

A treasure house of first-hand information and perceptive, if often controversial analysis of great value to anyone concerned to explore realistically the possibilities for combining third-party electoral politics with other methods of working for justice, peace, environmental sanity and genuine democracy.
– David Dellinger, author/activist

If you are at all interested in Vermont and Burlington, and public policy, get this book.
– Phil Hoff, former Vermont Governor

More Books from Maverick Media HERE 

Uneasy Empire
How an international establishment has used fear of socialism, communism and terrorism to justify repression and a massive military establishment. Pointing past nationalism and corporate empire, Uneasy Empire: Repression, Globalization, and What We Can Do combines a radical critique with hopeful solutions and a vision of democratic globalism through which people can regain control of their futures.

Spirits of Desire
Set during the spirtualist craze of the 1870s, Spirits of Desire follows a group of extraordinary people, including Russian theosophist Helena Blavatsky, paranormal investigator Henry Olcott and Oneida Community leader Theo Noyes, as they search for the truth about ghosts through a notorious family of Vermont mediums. The trail leads them into a world of seances, deadly elementals, astral forces and past lives.

Dons of Time
Unsolved mysteries collide with cutting edge science and altered states of consciousness in a world of corporate gangsters, infamous crimes and top-secret experiments. Based on eyewitness accounts, suppressed documents and the lives of world-changers Nikola Tesla, Annie Besant, Ignatius Donnelly and Jack the Ripper, Dons of Time is a speculative adventure, a glimpse of an alternative future and a quantum leap to Gilded Age London at the tipping point of invention, revolution and murder.

Monday, June 8, 2020

The Game of Becoming

Part 43 of Prisoners of the Real

Although history illustrates that one civilization may be buried beneath the foundations of another, this isn't always the case. Sometimes only the ashes remain. If human society is to be rescued and transformed, moving from the aggressively “rational” to the receptively Dionysian, many of our psychic road maps will have to be redrawn. Dionysian capacities are latent possibilities. But they may or may not become actualities.

One step toward the necessary change is honest reflection concerning our fundamental assumption about ourselves. The heart of the rational thesis is the belief that humans are essentially self-serving beasts. This belief has produced fear of our neighbors, and led to wall-building and extreme defensiveness. It has been safer, or so it has seemed, to turn control over to impersonal structures than to trust human nature. Gradually, each village, city, state and nation has come to look upon its neighbors as threats, "aliens," competitors who will either dominate or be controlled. Domination means defeat. And defeat, at the hands of the dehumanized beast called the enemy, normally means destruction.

Fear has given power to elite competitors who claim that control over others – in other words, victory – is the only route to independence and security. But in a hostile world, independence actually turns out to mean isolation. And the "rational" people who achieve the mastery they seek so diligently through self-discipline, ethical neutrality and mechanical effort find at the end that a beast confronts them still. The arrogant dragon has become themselves.

But this beast, who also whispers that everyone else is a brute, is no more than a nightmare image brought into the "real world" by our own minds. It is imagination run amok within a psyche that fears imagination and other natural impulses.

And can be changed. Reshaped by human will into a pleasing form.

Trust and love aren't merely options that we can take when we have finished with hard-nosed business dealings in the "jungle.” They are demands of the self for warmth and aceptance and "irrational" emotions.

To this rational managers reply, "Of course, that may be so, but it is also important to be prepared for the unexpected. We have to watch out for those who have rejected their better angels. That's why we need a strong defense to ward off predators, and an aggressive offense to push 'em back." Some also argue that intuition, while acceptable in those not in positions of power, is no substitute for facts. And after all, they will add, it's no crime to guard your flanks, lock up at night, keep a weather eye out, or even to get ahead of the game. "You see," they claim, "the name of the game is winning."

But is it? Just as we teach our children about the value of competition we also tell them that it isn't winning but how you play the game that really matters. Perhaps our task then is simply to figure out what the game of living really means to us as individuals and as a group of potentially beautiful beasts.

There is a life's work for all of us.

In the end, the purpose of the game isn't winning. It is playing well. In order to do that in any group experience, as most athletes know, you must work both against and with competitors. The most exhilarating moments aren't those in which you devastate an unwary opponent, but rather occur when the outcome remains in play. Then you feel a dynamic tension of united opposition, a cooperative exchange in which the elation of winning emerges from the excitement generated along the way.

Overcoming the fear that others will dominate us, let us down, steal affection like some finite commodity, and rob us of time, we must begin to build a new faith. Neither time nor love is finite. When our boundaries expand far enough beyond our physical borders, they can become infinite. Dragons need not be fire-breathing beasts. They can breathe life-sustaining warmth if they wish, if they are convinced that is their purpose.
When Konrad Lorenz wrote On Aggression, many readers confused the word "aggression" with "violence," even though the ethologist emphasized that most animals actually avoid killing. He subsequently realized that in translating his title from German the connotation of the word "aggressivity" had been lost.

Lorenz' insight is that animals and humans do seek some sort of dominance, in the form of a drive that differentiates all of us as individuals. "If you lack personal aggressivity," he wrote, "you are not an individual. You have no pride in yourself and you are everyone else's man." The collective enthusiasm that, unfortunately, produces war is also the motivator for our most creative achievements. "Without the instinct of collective enthusiasm, a (human being) is an emotional cripple; he cannot get involved in anything."

The point is that aggressivity is actually a potential force for spontaneous invention, and doesn't necessarily imply hostility or evil. But when aggressivity lacks purpose, dominance can produce devastation. Purpose tells us where we are heading, and when we have arrived. Its absence leaves us roaming the planet, searching for victories we won't even recognize.
The key to our purpose is intuition, more reliable as a guide than analysis alone has been. The Dionysian approach – spontaneous, lunar-centered, reflective rather than reactive – rests upon the naturally aggressive nature of any inspired idea that struggles to impose itself upon reality.

Intuitive processes demand intimate involvement with the subject of one's attention. You can't be a detached, disinterested observer and maintain the necessary intellectual sympathy. Centuries ago rational men resigned themselves to watching and reacting to what they observed. They called it the "practical" path. In contrast, the Dionsyian path is a "romantic" alternative, one that recognizes the value inherent in the infinite variability of individual acts.
The Receptive brings completion to the Creative.
And feels the pulsing rhythms of matter in space
which is nature.
Creativity is the light power of consciousness;
thinking and seeing.
Receptivity is the dark power of what is inside;
unconscious and
Invisible. What I cannot see may feel threatening.
By yielding, the dark mystery is revealed.
My Creative spirit soars to Heaven and leads with
energetic ideas.
As I am Receptive and absorb them in practical and
Earth-bound work.
A doubled Earth signifies fixed lasting conditions
and mysterious
Powers within that have strength to bring Creativity
to birth and nourish it devotedly.

-- Adele Aldridge, I Ching Meditations

The image of harmony within duality is the root of many knowledge systems. The first two hexagrams of the I Ching illustrate the need for both aggressive creativity and intuitive receptivity. The hexagram on which the meditation above is based, the six broken lines known as K'un, The Receptive, says that although The Creative begets things – ideas, plans, machines – they are brought to life through the complimentary action of The Receptive, which helps us to act in conformity with our situation. This bespeaks an attitude of acceptance.

As Richard Wilhelm explained in his commentaries on the Chinese oracle, the "superior" person allows him or herself to be guided, learning from each situation what is demanded and then following this intimation from fate. This calls for both effort and planning. The Receptive is a planner who uses solitude to discover plans that grow from unique experiences.
Both formal and intuitive knowledge are valuable in building humane institutions. As Bergson wrote, instinct and intelligence, manifested through voluntary and reflex actions, embody two views of a primordial, indivisible activity which can become both at once.

"As a rule," he explained, "they have been developed only in of them will be clung to first; with this one we shall move more or less forward, generally as far as possible; then, with what we have acquired in the course of this evolution, we shall come back to take up the one we left behind." Of course, cooperation would be preferable, with each one intervening when circumstances require. But the signs don't point in this direction. For several centuries we have relied on the rational, the predictable, the efficient, the material, the absolute. Therefore, it is likely that, as we fully realize the physical and psychic costs of this approach, we will turn – perhaps too much – to the intuitive, the spontaneous, the romantic, the spiritual, the relative.

Still, there is always hope. If we are wise the pendulum will not swing too far this time around from the cool, harsh light in which we now stand toward a fiery darkness. If we are wise the rational and Dionysian will not become antagonists again.

The two are, after all, complimentary opposites. They could fuse into a new synthesis of intuition and analysis and create a community of subjects, a flexible whole in which science and art merge, in which infinity is glimpsed in its temporary structure, and through which we humanize our machines rather than allowing mechanisms to destroy us.

In such a New World, we would replace static order with dynamic tension, re-energizing the dialectic of spirit and matter. In that world, Apollo and Dionysus unite to play the endless game of becoming.

Until then, let us dream.
Originally posted on June 3, 2010. To read other chapters, go to Prisoners of the Real: An Odyssey