01 May 2011

May Day


May Day is an international holiday created to celebrate the accomplishments and trials of the men and women who have, throughout history,  made the modern world possible.  I celebrate this day not  because of my own personal politics, but because of my basic moral outlook. When we celebrate the worker, we celebrate the majority of humanity -- for most of the world belongs to the working class.

On this day, I invite you to consider that  most everything you can see and touch around you was created by the labor of another human being not unlike yourself. We live in a world created by one another, and virtually everything in our lives has been touched by the lives of countless men and women across the world. The food you eat, for instance, was planted, tended to, harvested, inspected, cleaned, packaged, transported, unloaded, and stocked in the store by people. We are constantly connected to one another.  This is worth being mindful of.

We should also be mindful of the widening gap etween those who create the wealth and those who horde it, between the working poor and the idle rich. It is more present now than at any time in history, for the strength of the few has been increased against the many upon whose backs they are perched.  The reasons for this are many, but the solution is the same.  We must stand together and work -- organize, protest, and defy.  We do not enjoy the civil rights and political liberties that we do because the powerful kings of the past thought it  was the right thing to do: we enjoy them because men and women of the past asserted those rights, demanded those liberties. They used the one weapon which can never be taken away -- strength of numbers -- to force reaction.  Human progress is the story of courage's advance and tradition's retreat.

While there are many appropriate songs I could share today, the song below has the most meaning for me. Back in 2007, as a self-described social democrat, I searched for 'democratic socialism' out of curiosity. I heard Billy Bragg singing the Internationale, and I listened to it again and again that weekend. It spoke to my humanist morals,  to my idealism,  and has taken on a powerful significance. Translated throughout the world into various languages, it may be the most sung song in history. 

Other suggestions:
1. "Power in a Union", Billy Bragg
2. "Ludlow Massacre", Woody Guthrie
3. "Solidarity Forever", Pete Seeger
4. "The Internationale", Alistar Hulett (traditional English lyrics)
     No savior from on high delivers
     No faith have we in prince or peer
     Our own right hands the chains must shiver
     Chains of hatred, greed, and fear.
5. "Internationale 2000", Maxx Klaxon (even more modern lyrics with more of an electronic than a folk sound.)
     Turn off their televised illusions
     Stand up and look them in the eyes
     Declare your mental liberation
     Shake off the dust, and claim the prize. 





Stand up, O victims of oppression
For the tyrants fear your might
Don't cling so heard to your possessions --
You have nothing if you have no Rights.

 
Let racist ignorance be ended,
For respect makes the Empires fall               
Freedom is merely privilege extended
Unless enjoyed by One and All 

So come brothers and sisters
For the struggle carries on
The Internationale unites the world  in song!
So comrades, come rally --
For this is the time and place
The International ideal 
Unites the human race.

Fall of the Berlin Wall, 9 November 1989

Let no one build walls to divide us,
Walls of hatred nor walls of stone
Come greet the Dawn and stand beside us
We'll live together, or we'll die alone

Earthrise

In our world poisoned by exploitation
Those who have taken, now they must give
And end the vanity of nations --
We've but Earth on which to live

So come brothers and sisters
For the struggle carries on
The Internationale unites the world  in song!
So comrades, come rally --
For this is the time and place
The International ideal 
Unites the human race.

"Tank Man". Tiananmen Square. 4 June 1989. 

 And so begins the final drama,
In the streets and in the fields
We stand unbowed before their armor
We defy! their guns and shields
When we fight, provoked by their aggression
Let us be inspired by like and love
For though they offer us concessions,
Change will not come from above!

So come brothers and sisters
For the struggle carries on
The Internationale unites the world  in song!
So comrades, come rally --
For this is the time and place
The International ideal 
Unites the human race.





3 comments:

Scott said...

Every bit as moving and as heart felt as an Ingersol piece. Thanks for this mindfulness.

"Human progress is the story of courage's advance and tradition's retreat."

Many people see it otherwise, I count myself lucky to be able to agree with you.

Tor Hershman said...

Oh yeah, Tank Man, such rugged individualism from a, so-called, commie country.

I the U. S. of A. he’d a-been know as Flat Man.

Scott said...

I take great pride in disagreeing with you Tor.