“I talk to the young folks, they don’t understand,
‘A thing this old man has to say…”
–from the song “I Wish I Was 18 Again” as sung by Jerry Lee Lewis
I would tell young people that they are going to have to win their rights all over again. I would also tell them not to settle for what their parents had. I would tell them to figure out what needs to be done to get things right, even if it takes some time and experimentation, and then to do it!
False Roads Are Almost the Only Roads
I suppose that everyone is entitled to their own mistakes. In my 50 years of activism, Almost everything I ever did turned out to be mistaken, so I certainly have no right to expect young people to do any better than my own sorry example. Nevertheless, I have to try to warn you.
You Will End Up Working for the Man
Almost all of us want to choose a career that will actually make things better than they are. That’s why there are so many college students in the arts and in social studies. They want to do something meaningful while earning their living. It sounds reasonable but it’s nonsense.
In this system, we work for the people who have money and power. We perform the duties laid out by the people who sign our paychecks. The people with money and power are not the people who want change, no matter how they may sugar-coat it. If we want to make a living, we have to please them. So don’t waste your time trying to find a job as a progressive change agent, you will, sooner or later, be disappointed. A better career choice is one where you can make as much money as possible with as little of your time as possible. Look for a job with a union or one that can be organized into a union.
When In Doubt, Choose Democracy
When you are confronted with a decision about how to best employ your resources in the struggle for a better world, democracy makes a good guideline. In general, the political system democracy is in opposition to the economic system capitalism. Democracy pushes for equality. Capitalism has to have inequality.
Study Our History
Their history tells us that George Washington overcame British autocracy, that Lincoln freed the slaves, and that Martin Luther King Jr ended discrimination. Without taking anything away from these outstanding people, we need to acknowledge the masses of people who did the work before them.
Take, for example, the civil rights movement. It didn’t start in Montgomery in 1954. It was well underway before slaveholder George Washington’s time. There were great people who made great sacrifices to win the degree of racial equality that we have presently attained. Some of them were preachers, teachers and wonderful orators, but, in the final analysis, Black people in America freed themselves!
The union movement is responsible for bringing economic and social advancement for workers. There were some wonderful leaders that we know of. But the union movement, by its very nature, consists of and relies on the rank and file members. Workers in America, to the extent that we are free, freed ourselves!
The War Continues
We sometimes win a battle against our bosses; we sometimes lose one. But the war will continue as long as they are in charge. Every advance that we make will have to be won again, sooner or later.
So, my young friends, you will have to win everything that was won before. I’m hoping you’ll go further.