By Carolyn Chute


Carolyn Chute is the author of a number of well-known novels—The Beans of Egypt, Maine; Letorneau’s Used Auto Parts; Merry Men—and most recently Snow Man. Carolyn says this piece "Was written for the Dissident around 1985-86, but they wouldn't print it. Too Violent. I sent it to an organizer of a big liberal-type festival held yearly here -- he was upset and sent me some Gandhi stuff to read and try and change my mind." ED.

Many many many people say PEACE is the way. PEACE at all cost. They say PEACE is possible. All we need to do is have love in our hearts. Think nice thoughts. Teach tolerance. Equality. Fairness. Etc. They say VIOLENCE is bad. VIOLENCE is something we must avoid.

Yes, VIOLENCE is bad. It hurts. It causes terrible irreversible injuries, death, grief, terror and destruction.

VIOLENCE is bad.

A power elite (a tiny percentage of our people) ruling and devastating our lives through laws and its effects on our culture is a FORCE. It is a bad FORCE. It undermines equality and fairness. And it works successfully to keep people divided and intolerant.

An organized unified people objecting to the bad FORCE are also a FORCE. A good FORCE. Such a FORCE is capable of pushing the bad FORCE out. The good FORCE can start by using REASON. "Hello! Hello!" we say. "Here's our list of changes WE THE PEOPLE want made." WE THE PEOPLE (The good FORCE) make a highly-visible noisy presence demanding that the power elite politicians dismantle their corporate arm. Yes, this is reasonable and right and fair. This is possible. But only with the FORCE of millions of Americans screaming "DO IT!"

However, the power elite, being not as nice or fair as we are, might (most likely they will) use VIOLENCE on us. If all its mighty work to keep us divided and uninformed and disorganized and passive and PEACEFUL fails and we become a FORCE to be reckoned with, yes, they probably will use VIOLENCE to terrorize us. FORCE against FORCE.

And if they poke us with sticks, shoot us with rubber bullets or real bullets, gas us, burn us, smash our heads, cut parts off us, we'll probably fight back. It's only natural. We aren't above the laws of nature. So VIOLENCE probably will happen.

Should we be blamed for the VIOLENCE because we gave ourselves unity which invited the blows of the power elite?

Is it more honorable, more just, more fair, more right to wait till we are totally without homes, communities, livelihoods and protections of the law, till they have nearly all of us in cages letting us out only to labor for them? Is this PEACE?

PEACE can only be got in the absence of a power elite. First we must FORCE the power elite out. Because a good FORCE and PEACE are brother and sister.


AUTHOR’S NOTE: Today we have no good FORCE. Just many disorganized revolts (ordinary people turning on ordinary people with violence and thievery and blame). And also many clumsy pitiable little coalitions for change. And labor organizations which call themselves a force (they used to be) but are merely weak and highly-paid bargaining agents.

The power elite loves this situation. They can pick us off one by one this way. An old logger growing marijuana to pay his taxes. A welfare mum who quit her $3.10 an hour job. A hundred man militia holding out in the hills. A city gang. A family who can't pay their town or federal taxes who are having their home taken. A disgruntled postal worker who acts out. A mother who in desperation and depression beats or kills her kids. The power elite and its supporters tells us to despise these people. And most people will fall for this and say, "Yes! Yes! That person or group is bad! They should be jailed! They should have everything taken away from them!...their kids, their homes, their freedom. Yes! Yes!" And this makes the power elite smile.

Meanwhile, there's the buzzing and squeaking of all the "nice" groups. The Coalition for Clean Air and Water. The Coalition of Injured Workers. The Coalition of Injured Vets. The Coalition of Outraged Taxpayers. The Coalition Against Frigging with the Constitution. These groups are also easy for the power elite. For some the power elite uses Green- washing agencies. For others there are special lawyers. But most they just ignore.

But imagine if all the groups united. All classes, all cultures, the urban-thinking folk and the rural-thinking folk, the insiders, the outsiders, the ostriches, the angry white men, the angry black men, the angry feminists, the kids of all colors, the shy people, the unemployed, the over-employed, the damaged, the strapping, the fat, the thin, the hairy, the spiffy, the homosexuals, the heterosexuals, the gun lovers, the gun haters, the marijuana smokers, the prohibitionists, the whores and the clergy, the lefties and righties, the tall, the short, the beautiful and the ugly. Holy smokes! If that isn't a FORCE, I don't know what is!! Please consider this because we must unite soon. Unite or die in a cage.


Originally published in New Democracy Newsletter, March-June 2001.