Luis Rodriguez: Something is dying so something else can be born
Recently, people from around the country who have taken up the call for a New Poor People’s Campaign gathered in Baltimore, MD. We got together so we could learn more about each other, build trust, strengthen relationships, and envision ways of moving this campaign forward. We opened with a panel on the current state of things in our communities across the US, and what the Poor People’s Campaign needs to be and do to meet the challenges we’re facing. Below, Luis Rodriguez, poet laureate of Los Angeles and co-founder/president of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore, reflects on that panel and this moment.
For me, the panel on the first day expressed the commonality we have in this country, from coast to coast, of loss, displacement, and environmental disaster. There are “a thousand points of blight” in the richest country in the world, and this is the key contradiction of our time. Income inequality, mass incarceration, police killings, joblessness, poisoned water, and homelessness are all linked.
The corporations, in the current, most acute stages of capitalist devolvement, own and control the economic, political, and environment situation – but they won’t be held accountable. This is where we are in this country. A time of reckoning. A New Poor People’s Campaign can’t be about any viable reforms within this system. It has to stretch the system beyond its limitations. For there is no accommodation to the poor as long as we have this “kill or be killed” quality of today’s stage of social development, capitalism in the age of electronics, presently called globalism.
Both political responses, neofascist or neoliberal (from Trump or Clinton), are unable to fully and profoundly address the root of the problem or the root of the transformation needed. Capitalism simply cannot align with these needs. I see the NPPC being about abundance, a recognition that nature can provide if we have the proper relationship to it as well as with people (everyone needs to be healthy and thriving so anyone can be healthy and thriving). I see The Year of Revival being about renewal, regeneration, and true responsibility. The end game has to be structural changes not just remedial or superficial ones.
Everything is in crisis, even churches and political parties, even the Left. As it should be. Something needs to die as something is being born. We need to analyze what is dying, what’s being born. For every particular crisis, but also for the main one we’re all facing in this country. As a whole, a society based on the industrial and post-industrial reality of advanced capitalism is dying. What’s being born is a world where resources are aligned to needs, science and technology are aligned to natural processes and laws, and human beings are aligned to their own particular genius and internal patterns of their lives.
Change is not doing things differently, it’s aligning. Simple, yet perhaps the biggest, most difficult battle of our country and the world. We as a country went through a similar, quite destructive process, to end slavery. We should learn what happened then and why.
One thing is clear to me – we need books, ideas, stories, songs, poetry, art, and more as we continue to understand, develop, and engage Americans with this new consciousness. Class conscious but also earth conscious at the same time. Presently, the Standing Rock battle against the corporate oil pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois is at the edge of this consciousness and change.
To me, after 45 years of learning, organizing, teaching, creating, and presenting, I’m more excited about the possibilities than ever before.
Here is a 40-minute film produced by Luis, his wife Trini, and Tia Chucha’s on how the arts are transforming the northeast San Fernando Valley, the 2nd largest Mexican/Central American community in the U.S. after East Los Angeles. The heart of this community is called Pacoima, a Native word for “Rushing Waters.” It has over 50 toxic sites and landfills — a highly industrial area that lost much industry since the 1980s — and also has the second largest homeless population in L.A. The film is called “Rushing Waters, Rising Dreams: How the Arts are Transforming a Community.” Written and directed by John F. Cantu.