Listening to my headphones at work today, a song by one of my favorite folk singers came up – Utah Phillips. Utah was an interesting character, and as he was a collector of history I have always felt like I have a lot to learn from him.
Utah was an anarchist – not through theory, but through the way he lived. His heroes included Ammon Hennacy, Mother Jones, and many more people that most of us likely wouldn’t know.
Utah’s histories are people’s histories, in the same sense as Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” – the history that we’ll never read about in the history books used in school. Folk histories.
The reason I’m talking about Utah tonight is because listening to “Direct Action” at work today (an irony a few of you might understand) I was struck by how appropriate much of what he had to say was to the Animal Rights and Environmental Rights movements right now. The AETA, the SHAC7, Operation Backfire…and everything that Will talks about on his blog, Green Is the New Red.
Will doesn’t just talk about the oppression, he also has a running theme, encouraging us to not be intimidated, to get out there and exercise our rights.
Well, Utah’s song/story/spoken word has a great example of what direct action is, or can be, and the impact it can have. And he has something to say on freedom as well:
Freedom is something you assume, then you wait for somebody to try to take it away from you. The degree to which you resist is the degree to which you are free.
The IWW, the Wobblies, those unionists we can thank for the fact that we have weekends, they believed that men and women were born with inalienable rights. Inalienable rights, natural rights…these are the terms that we use to discuss what we mean by animal rights.
The right to live, for example, is an example of an inalienable right that we, as animal rights activist, believe that all sentient beings have, and should be respected.
The right to speak is one that Utah talks about, as a right that no one can give and no one can take away…it is something we’re simply born with.
Interestingly, one of Stephanie’s posts on change.org today was about Ingrid Newkirk, or rather it was about an interview with her in the Financial Times. I have become more and more closed to anything Newkirk has to say (how can she possibly support Breed Specific Legislation, for example), but even she gets it right sometimes. To quote Stephanie quoting the Financial Times quoting Newkirk:
But if she considers animals “equal” to us, and we are dwarfed by their numbers, is it not inevitable that their interests will ultimately overwhelm ours? “No, no, no, ‘equal’ doesn’t mean ‘the same’. Happiness for a bird is not the same as happiness for man. I’m not suggesting we buy the chicken a golf-club membership, but if he has wings, let him fly and don’t keep him in a cage. Let him be who he is,” she says.
Freedom. That elusive inalienable right.