ORGANIZER 20

FACTIONALISM AND GERONIMO AND ORGANIZERS AND TODAY [HUNTER GRAY  7/31/02] ADDED NOTE 2/27/06

NOTE ON SOME  VERY SCARY OFFICIAL U.S. TALK ABOUT RESUMING NUCLEAR TESTING [HUNTER GRAY 8/15/02]

 

FACTIONALISM AND GERONIMO AND ORGANIZERS AND TODAY [HUNTER GRAY  7/31/02]

NOTE BY HUNTER BEAR:  2/27/06

This has been published in print journals every now and then.  I think it's
always timely.  As an aside, a direct nephew of Geronimo was an old friend
of our family when I was growing up.  Juan Carillo, from the Mescalero
country in southern New Mexico, who married into the Laguna Nation [west
central N.M.], was a genuinely great hunter.  Always a traditionalist, he
consistently used a Winchester Model 1873 [lever action] 44/40
with black-powder cartridges.  My father painted his portrait in the
1940s as he did that of Eli Beardsley -- traditional Laguna leader,
whose wife was Seneca, at the village of Seama.  Those oil paintings
are still in the appropriate homes at Laguna Pueblo. [A painting
of traditional Lagunas from that specific family hangs today in
our Idaho home.]    In the Old Time, the Lagunas and the Apaches
were adversaries -- Mr. Beardley's  father had fought them --
but by 1900 almost all Native people were standing pretty much
together.  Juan Carillo was a very special hunter for the people
of Laguna.  And he always admired his uncle.

 

[Published in Fall 2002 antithesis -- journal of Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group [Simon Fraser University, British Columbia.]

This is about Factionalism and Organizing and Challenges.

Geronimo [Goyathlay] knew how to do it.

The enduring Apache fighter, whose tactical abilities were equaled only by
his tremendous commitment to his people, never gave up.  Traveling, often
with his cohesive band encompassing only a few dozen warriors and their
women and children, frequently crossing vast stretches of formidable
desert -- sucking a small rock or chewing twigs to keep throats moist --
they fought on and on and on against thousands of U.S. Army troops.
Winchesters were as easily incorporated into their culture as computers are
by the Natives of today.

Even when captured, many -- including Geronimo --  eventually
escaped and continued the Resistance.  Finally, conclusively  in chains in
1886, he never capitulated.  While some members of his band escaped into the
Sierra Madre Occidental of Mexico -- their descendants to return briefly
into Arizona [about the time I was born ] and there to destroy three
towns -- Geronimo, exiled into a Florida prison and then another at Fort
Sill, Oklahoma, remained an unyielding "recalcitrant" until his death in
1909. His eyes --- as with other Natives, go back into the Gobi and
environs and whose kin, under the Great Chief Jenghiz  [Temuchin, 1162-1227]
and his successors, carried their culture and genes from the Yalu to the Danube --
stare back coldly at the Anglo photographers and then via the History pages
at the other curious over the many generations that have flowed beyond.

Geronimo was one of those, along with the Yaquis and the resistance fighters
 of other Native nations, who were so frequently referred to in Mexico as
"la raza de bronce que sabe morir."  Indeed, they knew how to die --
honorably -- and they fought, in one effective way or another, right
 to the very moment of their passage into the Spirit World.

Those in the radical movement of today [organizers, leaders, rank-and-file]
 could learn something from all of this. Indeed, many have -- or at least
many emulate the example of the Great Apache.  But many do not
 -- and the reasons are myriad.

I started out in earnest in the Save the World Business in 1955.
With my characteristic lack of false modesty, I can certainly
say that I've been a reasonably successful social justice organizer for
almost half a century.  There really weren't very many of us in the Open
Left of the U.S. at that time.  I saw more radical kin in those days in Mexico and
even in Canada. Eventually, as the '60s progressed, there were many more of us.  And
then  there were fewer -- over a very long stretch of desert. By the time of that
Great Trek -- much of the '70s through the rest of the Century -- there were some
who died and many who fell away.

And now there are more of us, and more.

But it isn't easy to be a radical in the United States. Lots of clubs in the
gauntlet, many slick fish-hooks as well.  Sometimes repression, overtly or
subtly cruel;  always social disapproval from the respectables -- including
the so-called liberals;  occasionally co-optation in some cases. And
sometimes there's withdrawal into "identity groups" -- all well and
good within reason but, too often,  simply becoming  closed and insular
retreats that never end.

And sometimes [sometimes indeed!]  there's factionalism.

Early this morning, I received a long message from a guy who, age-wise, is
half a century younger than I.  But that's about the only difference.  We
agree on much and certainly the critical importance of genuine socialism --
socialist democracy -- and the need to keep fighting.  But he did write
this:  " Can you help me understand why there is so much fighting and
bickering on the left? It's all like chicken scratching, there's nothing
there. Why argue about every little point or idea? So many splits based on some
old-fashioned ideology. I don't get it. That's driven me away somewhat."

I -- and many of us indeed -- certainly know whereof he speaks.

As an organizer, and as a teacher/organizer,  I've worked with people from
many Native tribal nations, a great many ethnicities, and from all of the
major, so-termed racial groups save the Aborigines of Australia. [And, based
on some long, long-distance phone conversations that I've had with several
of  those fellow tribespeople, we'd get along fine indeed.]

But I have never worked with a tribe or an ethnicity or a "race" which, at
some point, didn't ask me:  "Are there other people who get into as much
factionalism as we do?" And my answer, of course, both reassuring and sad,
is an honest affirmative. Factionalism, in some degree or another, seems to
be a human universal.

However academically self-unfrocked I may seem at times, I still do remain,
 I guess, very much a sociologist -- but this is not an intricate discussion
of the social dynamics of factionalism. I do have, however, a few basic thoughts on that
sometimes sanguinary and always painful turf where, figuratively and
literally, many bodies are buried  -- and a myriad of bones as well bleach
under the sun and the very frequently dark clouds.

And I have a fair number of  closely related thoughts on my own Calling --
Organizer.

Some factionalism, of course, is inevitable.  Some can be healthy and a
positive reflection of democracy -- IF it remains in the Circle of Unity.
And, obviously, some -- breaching unity -- is dangerous as hell:  e.g., deep
political differences.  Schism may be inevitable -- but never as genuinely
inevitable as its often sad emergent reality.

An organizer -- or an organizational/movement activist -- confronted with
factionalism, would do well to ask:  "What are the real reasons for this?"

Sometimes the internal discord might stem from outside manipulation.  A
case in point would be the massive Jackson [Mississippi] Movement of 1962
and 1963, in which some frightened elements in the National Office of NAACP, joined by
comparable entities from the Kennedy administration, did their best to split
and retard the militancy and radicalism of that great and ultimately
successful grassroots struggle.  [See my own book:  Jackson Mississippi: An
American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism, 1979 and 1987.]

And then, of course, there's that eternal manifestation of secular "original
sin" which boils down to a few individuals who simply don't want peace or
unity -- no matter how intricately they may rationalize all of this.

And sometimes -- very often, in fact -- the really basic tap roots of
factionalism lie in  the fact that the organization/movement
 has lost its way.

To digress, for just a moment, into the related matter of The Organizer --
the person who ideally gets people together, and keeps them
together,  for action great and good.

A good organizer -- and a good leader generally -- has to have
 a number of positive qualities:

He/she should be reasonably intelligent; pure [but not sanctimoniously
so]; ethical and honorable; practice an unpretentious life-style;
should not "put on airs" [should simply be
oneself];  should communicate well [teach -- but not really appear to
do so]; and should  for sure practice the oft-difficult "art of listening."

 

If the organizer has an ideology -- and most organizers have Something --
then it certainly should be one open to sensible and flexible pragmatism.
That boils down to conveying a general ideological perspective --
but one which people can take or not take in total.  "The people" may very
well have a "loosening up" effect on the organizer -- but the good organizer also
brings to the people some very special gifts -- including verve and élan.

And a good organizer has bona fide commitment to living people --
 not simply an abstract generalization -- but a commitment based on
the very real belief that any person is important by dint of the fact that
he or she is an individual; that their active participation in the
organization/movement is needed and welcomed; that, right from the beginning, they can make
their voice and presence felt; and that, as the
Endeavor advances, winning victories, their power and ability to
affect those forces out in their world and beyond -- which have been
affecting their lives -- will be steadily and proportionately increased.

An  organizer needs to have a healthy ego -- even a sense of Destiny -- but
it should damn well be a controllable ego! And an organizer, of course, has
to have a tough hide and thick skull.  And he or she has to have courage --
courage not only against the official enemies -- but sometimes the courage
to say things among his/her constituents that, however
unpopular, must be said.

And, very importantly, a good organizer must have a two-dimensional Vision:
One eye going Over the Mountains Yonder -- and the other  on the Day-to-Day needs
of the people.  Each is absolutely critical.  Vision is the Dream -- the
Shiny Ideal -- that makes people part of a great crusade, gives deep
meaning to their lives, and may even be something for which one would die.
The other piece -- effectively addressing the practical day-to-day realities
and the immediate needs of the people -- creates a dynamic where, by seeking
and accomplishing these things, people help themselves, build confidence,
and contribute to the Vision Stream.

Each of these fundamental dimensions -- Vision and Day-to-Day -- stimulates
and contributes to the Other.  And any successful organizer has to show this
interconnection again and again -- and again.

A healthy organization/movement, democratic in ethos with the broadest
possible people participation, adding new dimensions -- often
with deliberate speed and sometimes quickly by necessity --
confronting new challenges,  and always with fresh and ongoing
leadership development, will live on:  enduringly, effectively.

And when factionalism develops in this healthy context, it can be
constructively addressed by a wide variety of methodologies
ranging from on-the-spot dialogue to talking-it-all-out in a
retreat -- or at a leisurely dinner [an old Native
American unity approach], or arbitration. In a basically positive setting, a
good organizer can often help protagonists save face and bury the hatchet.

But when an Endeavor has lost its way -- really lost it -- then
factionalism, lots of it and virulently so, becomes inevitable.  At that
point,  things either become a small, ingrown sect [with ossified
Vision], or a tired, service type shadow [a few day-to-day crumbs] -- or ,
simply and mercifully, dies. [And an old Mississippi proverb comes to mind:
"A rabbit can't fight nothing but a rabbit."]

Geronimo kept fighting -- in the context of unyielding solidarity and
against great odds -- and the Apache world, and those of Natives generally,  are
 all the better for it.

And the guy who wrote me the question this morning is obviously "with it"
over the long, long pull.  He, BTW, is someone who, asked to write
letters -- say, with regard to the [still unsolved] murders of Native men at
Grand Forks, ND and with respect to death penalty cases -- will often do
those in the early morning hours before he hits the sack.

That's how I operate and I've kept going.  And so have many of us -- right
into this bitter and extraordinarily challenging and hideously crucial
blood-dimmed epoch.  When one horse has gone down, we've found
another -- and kept right on going -- full and directly ahead.

There are many of us now -- and there will be many more.  We may not chew
twigs and suck small stones, but, if we stick with this
fight, then we are all Geronimo's kin.

And together -- all of us -- we shall Win.

Fraternally/In Solidarity -

HUNTER GRAY  [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR]   Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
www.hunterbear.org
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
 and Ohkwari'

See http://www.hunterbear.org/GRAY%20LANDS%20AND%20GRAY%20GHOSTS.htm

In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings.  Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear]


NOTE ON SOME  VERY SCARY OFFICIAL U.S. TALK ABOUT RESUMING NUCLEAR TESTING [HUNTER GRAY 8/15/02]

Note by Hunter Bear:

      In addition to all of the other massively negative things renewed
nuclear testing would engender -- treaty violations, arms races into hideous
levels of insanity, and environmental disasters generally -- there is the
blunt fact that many, many thousands of people have died within the United
States [as elsewhere] as a direct result of nuclear test and related fallout
and the associated matter of uranium mining/milling/refining/waste-spilloff.
If anything in the whole contemporary global panorama of madness -- on-going
or proposed -- epitomizes the concept of "crackpot realism" coined and used
by the late radical sociologist C. Wright Mills, this whole nuclear testing
thing is certainly it.

      As a young person in Northern Arizona in the '50s, I saw the dark,
early morning sky light up again and again via nuclear tests -- away off to
the northwest in Nevada.These continued for many, many years.  In the
general Flagstaff region, we were protected by both  the very high San
Francisco Mountains just to our north -- and by the wind currents in the
further-to-the-north Grand Canyon.  But the fallout from the nuclear testing
at Desert Rock, Nevada created -- as the lethal years passed and the deadly
accumulations mounted -- a trail of death across much of Nevada, a good part
of Northern Arizona, much of Utah, Southern Idaho and well beyond.  Effects
have been noted in North Dakota.

       In the small Mormon town of Fredonia, Arizona -- close to Utah --
leukemia rates climbed to almost 20 times the national average by about
1980.  I lost two friends very directly from this Nevada testing.  One, from
Flagstaff, worked for the Nevada Highway Department in a setting where he
was consistently hit by fallout -- and he died young of massive brain
cancer.  The other, a friend from childhood onward, who was serving as a
U.S. Army veterinary officer in the late '50s, found himself in charge of
tethering livestock in the immediate test area and then directly studying
them in the field for various gradations of always lethal "nuclear damage."
When we got together for a visit in Salt Lake in the summer of '59, he was
planning to leave the Army just as soon as possible.  In 1975,  I saw him at
Flagstaff and, my age, he looked -- with his pale and incredibly wrinkled
face and sparse white hair -- like a man in his late '70s [if not older.]
He died soon thereafter of multiple cancers.

      The deadly effects of the uranium situation -- much of this within and
around the vast Navajo reservation [Northeastern Arizona, Northwestern New
Mexico, a slice of Southeastern Utah and a bit of Southwestern Colorado] and
the Laguna Reservation in Northwest/Central New Mexico -- have been
extraordinarily heavy on people, livestock, and land.  [We have discussions
of this in various parts of our large website: e.g.,
http://www.hunterbear.org/a_native_rights_sampling.htm

      Nuclear testing?  Fight this Evil.  Fight it to its death!  And fight
it to Hell.

      Hunter [Hunter Bear]


Note by Hunter Bear:  Written in response to a Las Vegas newspaper article indicating some U.S. officials are
urging a resumption of nuclear testing .

 

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