HomePoetryShow Me An Old Rebel

Show Me An Old Rebel

Do not show me a young rebel,
whose eyes are bright
and whose tail is bushy.

Young rebels are fine and good,
but they are merely doing
what the young are meant to do.

Show me an old rebel.
One who keeps punching
when his hands are arthritic,
when her hair is white,
when his friends are all dead,
when her knees are shot,
when it hurts him to pee,
when her shoulders are so bad
that it would be much easier to punch down
than to punch up.

Show me an old rebel
who keeps standing up after being knocked down
over and over again,
year after year,
decade after decade,
who after the thousandth blow
merely spits out a tooth
and says “Son, you have no idea what you’re dealing with,
do you?”

Are you a young rebel?
Are you Sticking It to The Man?
Are you upsetting the gray brainiacs
and knocking over their word castles?

That is fine.
Youth will youth.

But show me a young rebel
who became an old rebel,
who stuck with it through the setbacks
and the beatings and betrayals,
who watched the hippies become yuppies
and the protesters become pundits
and still kept a fire lit
amid the monsoons of infiltration
and the hurricanes of heartbreak.
Who will close their tired eyes for a final time
without ever once having cast them to the ground
or peered up in imploring subordination.

That, my friends,
that is a true spirit.

If you are still a fiery rebel
even as everything is ripped away from you,
I will be humbled and awed by you,
because I will know that you will carry that with you to the grave.
And I will know that whatever you find on the other side
will be met
with that same defiant glare.

And I will sing your song when you are gone.






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Latest comments

  • That was my mom… still calling her Congresscritters and giving them hell when she was on 5 liters of oxygen & on hospice… thank you, she fought to the end & I fight on in her memory!

    • Britain’s pensioners taxes rebuilt this country, following saving us from Nazi Germany. Yet they are rewarded with a £7,000 a year State pension. And this generation are rarely ever mentioned by the media or the British under pensionable aged people. Disgusting!

      Please read right down to the bottom, sign and share and keep sharing, and make this petition go through the roof in signatures.


      This petition benefits all of us from the oldest pensioners, to the youngest pensioners, and all who are working today paying taxes and NI contributions into the system, yet the signatures are rolling in slower than a snail along the ground…

      All we need is a million signatures to at least try to make a difference in the lives of all those who fought for this country and survived, and who when working building this country up after WW2, founded and funded the very vital services that are now being privatised…

      This petition calls for a return to well funded Cradle to Grave care so cruelly and unjustifiably taken from us by the late right wing Tory leader Margaret Thatcher when she ended the Post War consensus from when her Premiership began in 1980 around 40 odd years ago.

      Increase State Pensions to £400 a week and fund free adult social care for all
      We want the Government to provide adequate “Cradle to Grave” care by increasing State pensions for all British pensioners to £400 a week, and fund free residential care for all, abolishing requirements to sell property to pay for this. The State should pay. This is what we all pay income taxes for.

      We the petitioners demand the State pension is increased substantially and universally to £400 a week for all British pensioners. This should increase yearly based on average earnings, or inflation, whichever the higher to protect the value of the State pension.

      Millions of elderly people in Britain today are living in poverty, having to choose between eating, and heating their homes because the UK’s State pension is so low at around £7,000 a year. This is unacceptable in 21st Century Britain.

  • I’m not nominating myself, because although I’m as radical as ever (more actually–I was naive about some things in my youth) I’m only 64 with no health complaints. I want to talk instead about Granny D, who walked across America when she was 89 and 90–took her 14 months, and she had arthritis, was less than five feet tall, but she had been an activist for decades and was increasingly disgusted with the political scam. Her issue was campaign finance reform, which is certainly central but that phrase unfortunately puts people to sleep. When she got to the heights of the Appalachians a big snowfall closed the roads; she called her son in New Hampshire and had him bring her skis, and she skied down the Cumberland Trail for the next few days. She had 2000 people with her when she walked into the Capital in DC–not enough, it didn’t change anything. When she was 96 she was disgusted with NH’s senator and challenged him. She didn’t win (at 96!) but got a good percentage of the votes. She died at 100. I walked with her on two days, and interviewed her afterward. And I decided she would be my model for old age: never decide you’re old enough to decently retire from the fight. Along with a woman I heard about who had Alzheimers and often was unclear about what was going on–but she’d still go to demonstrations, depending on the younger people around her to keep her pointed in the right direction.

    • I met Granny D! I have her autograph somewhere… she was a badass!

  • Thank you from an old singe rebel – it is kinda lonely tho

  • Great Poem & so many wonderful & inspiring stories by my fellow Rebel rousers …Malama Pono…Malama Ka’Aina….Peace be with you All…Viva Che Guevara !!! one of the greatest & most compassionate revolutionaries of all time…May we honour his commitment to the common peasants & his relentless mission for equality, liberty & justice for all

    • Bravo!

  • For some reason : } your conclusion brings this to mind:

    • <3

  • Beautiful,very well written!
    Thank you 🙂

  • Don’t ask what makes me think so, but I do think you know I’m an old rebel. And if I could upload a picture or vid of myself, I’d show the teeth I’ve had knocked out. Honest to god Caity you couldn’t have picked a better day to have published this jewel for love nor money. Thanks

  • I know the weary can rise again
    I know it all from the words you send
    I will go, I will go
    I will leave the firelight
    I will go, I will go
    For it’s now the time is right
    I will sing a young man’s song
    That you would sing
    On Remembrance day
    I will be the sacrifice
    And bells will ring
    On Remembrance Day
    from “Remembrance Day” by Big Country
    video at:

  • My fire will always light my way, it will carry through the trial and tribulations of those who thing they think and those who have no idea what is to come. James Dean and I have a lot in common – sad he died so young…

    • By the way – I’m the same age as the Beatles and did we have fun….

  • Okay, I’m 75 year old rebel. Here is my song:


    The whole world is in trouble now everyone can see
    Will human life continue, there’s no guarantee
    Understand the problem affecting me and you
    We all need to focus now on what we need to do.

    The big banks create credit, all our money as debt
    That is what is causing all the inequity we get
    Concentrating all the wealth, and power to the few
    Don’t you think it’s high time, we tried something new? So let’s..

    Change the money, no better way to turn the world around.
    Change the money, what’s gone up now must come down.
    Change the money; it’ll make our future bright (or – it’ll help us through this night)
    It’s all about the money now, it’s time to do it right

    No more bursting bubbles, no bailing out the banks
    Money for production, tell speculators no thanks
    We could lower taxes, put money in everyone’s pocket
    That would make our economy take off like a rocket

    And we could have an economy in a steady state
    No more worries over the unemployment rate
    No more corporate money choosing who we can elect
    No more corporate lobbies with a Congress we respect. When we..
    Now I know you’re all thinking of the possibilities
    We could save the oceans and replant all the trees
    Have a quality of life beyond anything we’ve seen
    No more war and conflagration and all our systems green. So let’s..

  • Thoughtful poem.

  • Put your hands together and sing it out loud. It’s all a part of my Rock n roll fantasy.

  • Caitlin,
    Given that I’m in the U.S. and that you’re in Australia, I’m wondering, do you have a spy over here? How else would you know how to describe me? I’m 76 and often upset the hell out of people, especially online, because no matter how great their trolling talents, they don’t work with me.
    I’m not going to describe my maladies, some of which you captured in this poem, but I do want to say that I’m planning on going nowhere, so maybe you won’t have to sing my song. A friend, singer/songwriter Harry Chapin, used to say that, at age 38, his life was one quarter over. If that were true then, at my present age, double that of 38, mine is merely half over. Whether or not that’s true, for as long as I’m here, I’ll continue to sing my own song and upset all those who are comfortably wrong.

  • “Opportunists are promoted, realists are co-opted, idealists are frightened,
    and radicals are shot.”

    Certainly a well-written poem, but we do question the accuracy of the content in our current situation. Today, show me an old rebel and you’re likely showing me one of those yuppies (or whichever term best applies). You, for the most part, don’t grow old because you kept your radicality, you grow old because you compromised it. Some might even argue the position of the old radical is a very privileged one: Could one really make it far without some insulation from the daily horrors that faced by so many of our fellow beings?

    Now certainly there have been times when this is a great option. When the world was `empty’ with lots of spaces to expand into—forests to flee to, deserts to disappear into, et cetera—then being an uncompromising radical is quite foolish. Even as recently as the Native American genocide by the US, we see many radicals die, and the only way the cultures survived in any way, shape, or form is because some radicals dialed it back, they changed their goals to survival rather than victory. Of course, would they have made the same choices if they could see what the future would hold? Probably not—who would?

    However, today, we find ourselves in a different situation. There is not necessarily any more runway for us rebels to build up the optimal takeoff speed. We are fast approaching tipping points beyond our control control: climate change, massive inequality, manipulating the fundamental building blocks of life, et cetera. So today, any hope of becoming an old radical is a naive fantasy.

    In a world deluged by irrelevant information, clarity is power. In theory, anybody can join the debate about the future of humanity, but it is so hard to maintain a clear vision. Frequently, we don’t even notice that a debate is going on, or what the key questions are. Billions of us can hardly afford the luxury of investigating, because we have more pressing things to do: we have to go to work, take care of the kids, or look after elderly
    parents. Unfortunately, history gives no discounts. If the future of humanity is decided in your absence, because you are too busy feeding and clothing your kids—you and they will not be exempt from the consequences.

    This may sound overambitious, but we cannot wait. Philosophy, religion, and science are all running out of time. People have debated the meaning of life for thousands of years. We cannot continue this debate indefinitely. The looming ecological crisis, the growing threat of weapons of mass destruction, and the rise of new disruptive technologies will not allow it. Perhaps most importantly, artificial intelligence and biotechnology are giving humanity the power to reshape and re-engineer life. Very soon somebody will have to decide how to use this power—based on some implicit or explicit story about the meaning of life. Philosophers are very patient people, but engineers are far less patient, and investors are the least patient of all. If you don’t know what to do with the power to engineer life, market forces will not wait a thousand years for you to come up with an answer. The invisible hand of the market will force upon you its own blind reply. Unless you are happy to entrust the future of life to the mercy of quarterly revenue reports, you need a clear idea what life is all about.

    Jeff Bezos did not wait for his wage-slaves to develop the perfect algorithm to start destroying small businesses and depriving states of revenue. He had them throw together something that works well enough and look at him now.

    So to all you radicals-in-waiting: I sure hope you’re not in this to grow old (unless as some `stretch goal’). And, let’s be blunt here, you’re likely not taking the path of the old radical because you’re looking at the long game. You’re taking it because you’re afraid—we get it, we certainly are, you’re a fool if you’re not. And perhaps a few because you have honest self-doubts about the accuracy of your understanding. But make no mistake: Taking the path of the old rebel, today, plays right into Their hands.

    If your three most likely outcomes are not (in no particular order):

    —Going into hiding

    Then I would argue your chosen cause is either not that important, not that much of a departure from the status quo, or you’re simply not acting effectively.

    So, fuck old radicals. Be a wise radical, as wise as you can be given your limited time here—but don’t wait forever.

    We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time. Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with a lost opportunity. The tide in the affairs of men does not remain at flood—it ebbs. We may cry out desperately for time to pause in her passage, but time is adamant and rushes on. Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: ‘Too late.’

    But, it is probably wise to offer Them one final chance. So…

    November 2024.

    We are coming. Expect us.

    Spread it, mock it, preach it, shame it:


    “. . . the work of some naı̈ve Millennial Malcolm X or Gen Z ‘intellectual’. . . ”
    —Bill Maher

    • Clearly a deeply thought message, but not, in the end, very attractive at all.

      One cannot help but wonder how you think you are going to cause something to happen, (exactly what you don’t say), in four years, by alienating people with offensive rhetoric. “Fuck old rebels”? Hmm… You think expressing that type of meaningless rage is going to attract people to follow your cause?

      What is it you think you’re going to cause to happen in 2024, by insulting people whose support you will presumably need? Or is this something you’re planning to do all by yourself, or with some isolated group of ‘closed feedback loop’ ideologues spouting rage-fueled rhetoric?

      • I’m hearing other sources about “too late” or if we continue with DNC Biden politics, the human species may last only ten years. There is an urgency like never before. If so, being a radical may have a much shorter life span than in the past. Probably true.

        • America’s chief export since I’ve been alive is fuckery. What’s fuckery? One way to define fuckery is the employment of fucked up ideas to justify being fucked up. It’s fuckery when you claim air pollution is the morally acceptable cost of economic progress. It’s fuckery when you let a show as fucking bad as Friends become the global ambassador of American ideals.

          America forces our garbage ideas on the world to justify being garbage. But in so doing, the blowback is a reputation so badly damaged, no other nation on Earth is particularly eager to claim us. The world no longer wants America to lead. The world looks at us and sees us bombing brown children into the sand and employing blue lives to end black ones.

          When dickweasels yell “LOVE IT OR LEAVE IT,” what they’re betray ing is their ignorance that you can’t just leave America. An American is so unwelcome abroad that it’s almost impossible to gain citizenship anywhere else without substantial sponsorship and privilege. For most people, borders are cages meant to keep them in more than they are walls to keep others out. And as the refugee crisis is proving to the world: the last place you want to be is anywhere without citizenship.

          Accepting the premise that we can’t leave, present living generations have no moral option but to end the exportation of American fuckery. It’s a mindfuck, but we don’t have time to wait for another generation to do it.

      • We might suggest you explore all the information offered to you before jumping to conclusions. It’s a quite good and widely applicable rule.

        We also don’t very much care if some sensitive folks get worked up over our message. Whether we offend you does not alter the truth or untruth of our message. And if we’re on the right track, and you ignore us because you were “offended”—well that’s on you bub, maybe be a bit more open-minded if you’re given the opportunity again?

        Plus, last we checked, the world is full of pretty offensive things. So a question for you is: why are you so fixated on the offensive things said by some “isolated group of closed feedback loop ideologues” (as you describe us)?

        And sincerely, thank you for your feedback, whether positive or negative it is much appreciated. We look forward to more of your assistance.

        Oh, and perhaps one last question to old rebels (and feel free to answer if you are an old rebel):

        Why did you fail to do what needed to be done?

        Answer honestly if you’re interested in helping the cause, rather than protecting your ego.

        • Well … Best of luck to you … A message that offends and alienates people, whether it contains truth or not, does not seem wise to me, if your objective is political power, but hey, knock yourself out.

          Try to realize that I do not know who you are, or what you represent. You address me as if I do.

          • No, we are unknown, but we provided you much material to get to know us.

            We simply objected to you jumping to conclusions based on an incomplete exploration of the information provided. We were using you as a teachable moment. You want to know what we want to do, who we are, that is what a charitable reading of your orginal comment would seem to imply. We offered you a link to shed some light on that. (You can also click on our name) Of course we don’t expect you to read all 3,739 pages before judging us, critiquing us, but we assure you we’re not angsty teens in a basement taking a break from 4chan shitposting.

            As for offensive and alienating being an obstacle to political power—I mean, no one can honestly make that argument in 2020 America. I mean it’s got a Reality TV star as it’s president. Twenty-five percent of the eligible voting population chose that. And twenty-five percent more chose a more polished but just as awful version in a pantsuit. And many of those in the previous groups would have rather chosen someone else. Plus, fifty percent didn’t even bother. And we’re not even including the ones who can’t vote due to criminal records. Or those too young.

            Sometimes when good people caution those who protest against against our society’s many injustices, to eschew ‘offense,’ that a ‘friendly’ society is better than one experiencing the turmoil of civil war and offensive speech, I think of the homeless people on the streets of Denver, of the Lakota babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome who will never have a chance to excel in school, of the black boys shot by police, of the girls who flee from foster care straight into the tender mercies of a pimp and forced sex, of the inmates in prisons who spend decades in a tiny windowless room, slowly losing their minds—and I think: Offended? Thousands of people are experiencing soul-numbing and body-destroying offensive-as-hell things on a daily basis. Some have made the decision that other people can suck off all the ills of our society so that they can pretend we live in a safe, just, inoffensive world. Well fuck that, I do not intend to walk away from Omelas, but instead to burn this unjust apparatus to the ground.

            • Yea … Well … You see what you don’t realize is that I am not in the least interested in learning more about you, because, as I said in my comments, your ideas are deeply thought but not “attractive”. The truth is only the truth. The truth presented as a weapon of ugly hatefulness, (“fuck old rebels”), is not the same as that same truth presented in gracious inclusiveness and mutual understanding.

              And you STILL have not revealed what you think you intend to have happen in 2024. Are you intending to build mystery, as in a marketing campaign?

              I’m happy to have provided you with a “teachable moment”. Speaking for myself alone, the main thing that I have learned from you, however, is that you are very arrogant and disagreeable, and it is therefore impossible to imagine that you will ever accomplish any meaningful political objectives.

        • Bravo!

    • Excellent! but remember, the power to share our thoughts, our idea’s, are subject to the powers of the corporate media/elite, which has become totally (or nearly) corrupt. My friends and I are censored (and shadowbanned) daily by FB and other social media networks. We have found VK is good, but two people are not allowed the same cell number. Germany is showing us the way (500,000 demonstration in Stuttgart against the lock-down) but will the American public follow? It seem the democrats have become fascists’ and the republicans have become nationalists. I posted (my first) a comment on the Philosophy/existentialism group denouncing the lock-down policies and was immediately berated by thirty or more very rude and angry replies. Alas, I thought this group would be more liberal (true Liberal) but was I wrong…. I’m an old rebel, once a young rebel, and will never allow that to be changed. Thank for a good post

      • We pose to you the same question we sincerely posed above (perhaps you’d like to answer):

        Why did you fail to do what needed to be done?

        And perhaps an addendum:

        What can we learn from that failure?

        We’re running out of runway, there are dwindling opportunities to get this right.

        • I didn’t, but that’s another story… There is only one way to get this right – be brave as you know what that is!

          • Wise words, perhaps one of the few ways one can avoid being a `bad’ old rebel. But I fear even this may be too charitable for our current dilemmas. Only time will tell—and even then, perhaps only if the `right’ people get to write the history books.

            • Yes Indeed! unfortunately it usually the bad guys that write the history books – Shakespeare is a good example – not say he was a bad guy, though his head would be off if he wrote well of Richard III – They assassinated the real rebel MARLOW…

    • Your Bezos analogy doesn’t prove what you think it does. Bezos pulled out of his lane and stomped on the gas. But you don’t want old rebels to get in the passing lane, or dare to pass on the shoulder where it’s gravelly and dangerous. No, you want us to tuck into our place in lane, and do the speed limit, or less, because that’s safer. Bezos saw his fortune and drove toward it. So if this old rebel wants M4A, it’s at the end of the road, that’s the finish line, so no, I will not pull off at the next exit and see if this podunk town has a better compromise than the last podunk town at the last exit.

  • ♥♥♥

  • I lost my wife this week, she died as a result of this “carnivorous” bullshit, she’s been bed-ridden for over a year, with m.s., she’s been shuffled through doctors, pain clinics, all to control her medications, nothing to deal with her medical condition, something the doctors don’t even bother trying to explain because somehow, they don’t have a clue.
    I got multiple sclerosis after coming back from the Gulf, no rational reason for the disease, nothing at all that is rational, logical, the doctors speak like magicians, as if viruses were magic, like living well is by chance, happenstance, not the least bit of concern for the very real pain my wife and I have endured.
    She lost all hope, and just was waiting to die, accepting, mostly because the idea of lockdown, not the actual loss of freedom.
    I came home from “overseas” in 62, at six, to find everything I knew about America, was a lie, based on the reading of my father’s childhood books, overseas, and finding no trace of “the Republic” in existence.
    This poem, essay, statement, describes me, I never would have believed it could be written, but I’ve been in trouble since six, for speaking the truth, in the face of “bald faced lies”, all through school, all through my life. I was called “Spock” when “Star Trek” arrived, and many other things, related to aliens, having lived a life of technological skill, from my earliest days, and remaining “weird” as a person, a man, a Marine, a father, to this day.
    I saw “monopoly money” as the standard, at six, and have never stopped decrying the enormous lie, faux money is, and the primary purpose it has been used for. We, as a country, have never been so ignorant and proud as we have been these last decades. I lost the love of my life, this week, and have great enmity for those who secured her death by the destruction of any good we had left in our society. I will fight to the end. I will not go quietly into the night.
    Semper Fidelis,
    John McClain
    Vanceboro, NC, USA

    • Condolences for your painful loss. Thank you for sharing this powerful story.

  • I’m an old (ish) rebel. 68…and I learned about narrative management and co-opting of dissent back when Nixon visited China. An American reporter asked a young Chinese college student if students protest and rebel in China like they do in America (anti-war sentiment was very high in America at the time). Her reply was (paraphrased),..”Why would we do that? Our government is a revolutionary government. To do that would be anti-revolutionary.” Today, in America, the Nazi Deep State has co-opted dissent. There is a mainstream narrative, and to question it or oppose it is considered anti-revolutionary. They have co-opted our revolution.

    • This is very much true. I’ve been trying to make people more aware of how completely the ‘Marionette American Left’ has been co-opted, to the point that it is, quite literally, dancing on the ends of its own Enemy’s strings.

      If the American Marionette Left were taking direct orders from the Elites who rule over our nation, the Elites would not change the Left’s behavior and ideology one iota.

      This is the reason we cannot mount any meaningful resistance to the Elites’ rule. We cannot UNITE the Common People to any purpose or effect because the Left’s Identity Politics is custom designed to DIVIDE the Common People into mutually hateful tribal identity groups.

    • We can’t even go outside to protest without being accused of endangering the lives of our fellow citizens. Couldn’t have planned it better

  • Great fucking poem Cailtin. You express my feelings exactly, but better than I ever could. As a child of the sixties I just don’t understand how everyone sold out so easily, and for what?

    • It happened when so many young rebels, simultaneously seeking the ideal of social justice and the high of psychedelic experience, grew older only to find that while the former quest was a hard, long, thankless slog, money and status offered a much more lasting high than LSD.

      • Yes, all those wild one’s, where did they go? Walking down the Kings Road in Chelsea (London) was a delight! every kind imaginable. And, then the pubs for black velvet – my God, those were the days. And then I met my honey in Key West, just before hell hit the streets – we were lucky, many of our friends weren’t so fortunate – all I can say is thank god we met when we did. Now Key West is but a dream… WE WILL NOT SURCOME TO MANDITORY VACCINES – throw away your masks and live.

  • Yes, much respectful wisdom in Caitlin’s words. But old rebels are now looking for new ones of even greater strength and determination to take the baton. Perhaps this global pandemic/panic, which has rocked the foundations of the neoliberal world order, will be the occasion for the next generation of genuine leadership to step onto the stage of history, that play which some thought neoliberalism had ended before the curtain suddenly arose again. One thing I think I know as I’m slowly checking out: that next generation of leadership, if it emerges, will be neither right nor left but will blow apart both polarized caricatures into which our politics has devolved.

    • Mr. Finn: I’ve not yet had time to read the entire long Eisenstein essay you recommended, https://charleseisenstein.org/essays/the-coronation/ (maybe halfway), but the metaphor he opens with gripped my attention in graphic memory.

      He writes

      “For years, normality has been stretched nearly to its breaking point, a rope pulled tighter and tighter, waiting for a nip of the black swan’s beak to snap it in two. Now that the rope has snapped, do we tie its ends back together, or shall we undo its dangling braids still further, to see what we might weave from them?”

      “….the nip of the black swan’s beak” is itself a powerfully graphic metaphor. I have no idea what it means to him, but it is fraught with mystery that makes one want to know. But the image of the rope stretched tight, to its breaking point, brought back the memory of a powerfully formative lesson I learned in my early 20s.

      I was working as a deck hand on a river tow boat, making way up the Ohio River in mid-January of ’73. We were pushing 17 barges, loaded heavy, and therefore low in the water. Five rows of three, and two in the front. Each barge was 195 feet long, by 65 wide. The tow boat itself was also about 200 feet long, so the whole rig was nearly 1400 feet long, by about 200′ wide, about 400 feet longer than an aircraft carrier, with a similar ‘beam’ (width).

      My primary job, as a deckhand, was pumping the ratchet jacks, using a 5′ long ‘cheater pipe’ over the ratchet handle, to tighten the 1″ thick steel cables that bound the barges together, as we dropped some off along the way, and took others on. (The barges shifted in the current as well, and the cables had to frequently be re-tightened).

      I liked the work. It was ‘elemental’ work, as Tom Joad described, (in ‘Grapes of Wrath’), as he spit on his hands preparing to swing a pick to dig an irrigation ditch.

      Pumping those jacks, in zero degree mid-January midwestern cold, often alone in the middle of the night, (I worked the 12-6 ‘watch’, on a 6 on, 6 off schedule), as we made our way in near silence, save for the soft splashing, and the constant distant low thrum of the huge diesel far off near the stern, making slow but steady headway across the snowy empty fields, was itself a rather ‘mystical’ otherworldly experience. But when we’d come into cities, it was rather like coming to a planet after crossing the empty voids of space.

      When we came through the middle of Cincinnati, for example, a ballgame was in progress in the stadium right beside the River. It was already pitch dark, (near the end of my 12-6 afternoon watch). The stadium glowed with brilliant light, and roared with human enthusiasm, (for whatever heroic exploits were taking place within). Most in that roaring crowd could likely never even imagine the reality of we tiny ant-like creatures, toiling, and sweating profusely despite the cold, as we made our way up the eternal river.

      There are a series of locks and dams, (like the Panama Canal), all up and down the Ohio, to make it a navigable depth, for these huge craft. We’d already come through several, so I had seen the process, but my stomach knotted up as we were coming up to the Hannibal Locks (I think it was), and the lead deck hand told me to “man the bow rope”.

      The rope was about 3″ (maybe more) thick, the kind that vessels that size tie up with when docked. The lock wall was only a couple or three feet from the edge of the barge deck where I was standing, the lasso end of that huge rope in hand. We were barely moving, maybe 1-2 feet per second, (if that). In my naive perception, it appeared that I could reach out and grab some rail or fitting on the lock wall and bring the vessel to a stop.

      My job was to lasso the ‘timber head’ on the lock wall, (two steel posts, each a foot or so in diameter), and then do a specialized wrap with the rope around the two posts of the barge’s timber head. Then holding the slack end of the rope, my job was to let the rope stretch tight, to slow the craft down, then let the rope coils slip slightly through the timber head posts to relieve the pressure on the rope, then do it again, and a third time as the craft came to a stop.

      I’d seen it done several times, and it looked easy enough when the experienced hands did it. But I had no concept in my mind of the sheer raw latent power at work in the process.

      I lassoed the lock timber head easily enough, did the wraps on the barge timber head but then was just too slow in relieving the pressure in the rope by letting it slip. I just had no idea how much kinetic force was in that vessel that was barely even moving.

      In less than half a second that three inch thick rope stretched out tight, and popped like a thin cotton kite string. Loud emergency shouts suddenly pieced the silence, and the captain had to hit emergency reverse, and it all worked out OK, (we didn’t collide into the front lock gate), but a young man learned a very BIG lesson about the magnitude of the forces of nature that we navigate as we steer, as best we can, through our lives.

      I was as completely amazed to see this happen, up close, ‘before my very eyes’, as if I’d seen that huge craft levitate off the water. I suddenly understood something that only seconds before I had had no concept of at ALL.

      So Eisenstein’s ‘black swan’ metaphor remains a mystery, but his rope stretched tight, to the very breaking point, by Corona, as we await an uncertain fate. Will our money itself fail, in Weimar-like collapse? Will armed bands of desperate men searching out food for babies crying in hunger threaten us with Mad Maxx dystopian danger? Will insanity, already so widely and well propagated, completely own all our lives?

      Is this your blog site, Mr. Finn? https://newtonfinn.com/

      • Yes, Caliban. It’s an extremely intermittent exercise which, so far, has attracted about as many visitors as Robinson Crusoe. But in the last three essays–the one about Schweitzer and the two about Bellamy–I managed to say the best of what I currently have to say. There’s also a video interview with Eisenstein that gets more directly to the heart of his take on the pandemic/panic crisis. I’ll add that link in case you’re understandably getting bogged down in the overly-long essay. Probably should have given you that video first.

        • I figured it was, I subscribed. I’ll read more on it as time allows.

          • Thank you. Believe me, unlike Caitlin whose really tapped into the muse these days, I won’t overwhelm you with reading material. Is she on fire or isn’t she?

            • Damn it, Caitlin, can’t you figure out a way to allow semi-senile codgers like me to edit posts for grammar? Should be “who’s”, not “whose” in the above. I know I should do my own editing before posting, but I’ve reached the point where I can read things repeatedly and still fail to see what once would have struck me immediately. I know I’m not alone here.

  • In 1970, when I bought an M-1 carbine at a gun shop up on Pico Blvd, (just up from that great Mexican food place at 26th St), and laid up a stock of ammo, we were certain that ‘the revolution’ was just around the corner. “The shit would hit the fan” any day now. We knew so much, yet we knew nothing at all.

    One day Jean Genet came to speak at our campus (UCLA). The Black Panther Party had invited him to the US to do a speaking tour. He spoke in French. Angela Davis brought him to UCLA.

    We expected to hear plaudits, of course, for our ‘revolutionary’ exploits, from this famous old author and activist, who remembered the Russian Revolution in his own living memory. But he scolded us derisively instead. “You know NOTHING!”, he said. “You know nothing about life. And therefore you know NOTHING about revolution. You know nothing about the working class. You are children of privilege, living here in your goldfish bowl. You want a revolution? Leave your goldfish bowl. Join the working class. Experience real life”.

    Those words made a deep impression on the young man I was. I soon left school, (just credits short of graduating). Got a job in Santa Monica as a general laborer on a construction crew. A couple years later I went back to my hometown, Kansas City, and got a job as an apprentice carpenter. I swung my hammer for about 35 years. I rotted out many tool belts in a lifetime of hard labor. (The salty sweat rots the leather through). I was in my late 40s, my own children (daughters three) choosing their own colleges, before I really started learning a lot about human life.

    It is not until youth has passed that we even begin to understand the cycle of life.

    Yea … Blake’s Bubble … Human life is defined by diametrically opposing forces. Innocence and Experience. There is much wisdom in the innocence of youth, the fresh unsullied viewpoint, exploding with the exciting hopes and immortal dreams of a life yet un-lived. Ahh … But can there ever be true ‘wisdom’ until one lives in constant pain from every joint in a skeleton worn by so much toil? When one’s very bones are wearing out, one can only then begin to understand the arc of human life, and the end, the “good night” we do not welcome gently. (“Rage, rage, against the dying of the light. Do not go gentle into that GOOD night”)

    Aye … “A lifetime passes quickly. How I hate to see it go. A lifetime passes quickly, but sweet nigh-time comes so slow”. A song I wrote a couple years ago, when I first fully understood Dylan Thomas’s weary ‘rage.’

    The wisdom of youth is less when not informed by the wisdom gathered by those who have been much longer assaulted by the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”. But the wisdom of age is less than nothing when not informed by the energy, and dreams, and hopes of the young.

    Innocence and Experience are opposites. Yet together they form one thing. Our human condition.

    We live on the rare delicate skin of a bubble. The air within pushes out. The air without balances by pushing in. Opposing forces create our human reality. Good and Evil. Desire and Reason. Joy and pain. Innocence and Experience. Lust and virtue. Competition and cooperation. Victory and defeat. The security of established order and revolution.

    I was barely 20 when I read Blake. It made a deep impression. But it was a quarter century or more before I really even began to learn what is all means.

  • Caitlin, you just made this old rebel’s day! That last line is the most important.

  • Wow! Incredible force in your poetry. Thanks for all your efforts. Inspiring.

    Have a great day from a lone voice in France.

  • Ah, principled human beings do stay principled to the end, Ms Johnstone. Thank You for writing this and making us feel appreciated. To the ” man ” we are pests and complainers; but we are usually right in our thinking and actions. Recently one of the women in my apartment building told me that I deserved a metal and that made me feel some pride. When I die I expect my landlord to reopen my apartment into a ” crack house ” like it was before I moved into it 20 years ago. May the heavens bless and keep you!

  • Don’t start singing yet!

  • Here stand I.

  • Sister Megan Rice

    Ray McGovern

  • Yes Caitlin, you really moved me on that one. And so right. Few of the idealist 20 year olds retain any of those ideals much past the first marriage and child, for whatever reason. Hats off to those that never betray those ideals, who never feel the need to apologise for them to keep peace with friends and family, who have quit or been fired from comfortable positions due to moral outrage, who are backstabbed by collegues and neighbours for doing difficult but right things, those with courage to not stand silent in the face of great injustice. Thanks again, Caitlin…

  • Thanks, Caitlin!

  • I don’t know; if you’re still alive how great of a rebel can you possibly be? I live in a town in Illinois, not far from Chicago, were retransmiting an essay written by Jesse Jackson about his views on the racially motivated killing of a jogger in Georgia was deemed worthy of censorship, the folks here are no different than the folks in Georgia. I expect to dead by this coming Monday, and nobody will have ever heard my name. Seems to me that if you die a peaceful death then you’ve either failed yourself or your God.

    • “I would die happy if I knew that on my tombstone could be written these
      TO PASS!

      I’m just afraid of having a tombstone that says:

  • 75 and still going strong. We’re all resonating with this one it seems.
    The great part is … what are they going to do to us if we do scorch a few egos?
    With only ten or so years to go at most, I’ll keep on sticking it to them …
    We want our world back!

  • You have described me to a tee, Caitlin. A grizzled old git which came of age in university in 1968. I’ve never changed my politics…fuck authority, fuck the police, the lackeys of the elites……viva the revolution.

  • This really resonated, Caity.
    I’m now 66. I share your values and views, which should tell you where I’m coming from.
    The thing about being a rebel is knowing what to rebel for or against. I unfortunately know lots of people my age and older who are political liberals with conservative attitudes. They think the meaning of rebellion is voting blue no matter who in order to get rid of Trump. But they support gun control laws, mandatory vaccines, lock downs, censorship, anti-hate legislation, authoritarianism, and other tyrannical measures. They fight for “fairer” treatment of Americans from their comfortable arm chairs but don’t see the irony in supporting Big Brother.
    I am not one of them.
    I remember what liberty felt like prior to 911. I have always opposed U.S. imperialism. Over the years, I began to see through the deceptions. Those are some of the advantages of age and experience.
    I will be one of those rebels who will not comply. I will never stop punching up. Fuck the “authorities”.
    I stand with you and the growing number of others who are working to educate the masses in order to bring about meaningful change, not incremental changes to an irredeemably corrupt system.

  • We are still here. I am a veteran activist of the 60s and 70s, now 77 and still fighting. Three years ago I started an anti-war group on Facebook, Americans for Peace and Human Rights. We have 765 members and most of us are not young. We fight for our children and grandchildren knowing that our time is not long. Not long ago I shared a small piece of my story so if you are interested here it is.
    ‎Larry Lambert‎ to Americans for Peace and Human Rights
    May 7 at 10:58 AM
    A Farm Boy from Texas, Memoirs of an Anti-War Activist
    by Larry Lambert with editorial assistance from Fred Karnes.
    “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” Karl Marx
    Men also make themselves but they do not make themselves as they please, but as Marx says “under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” So this is the story of how a farm boy who, molded by history, became an anti-war activist.
    The Democratic establishment has its thumb on the scale as usual while Tulsi Gabbard shocks everyone by endorsing Joe Biden. Meanwhile Bernie Sanders hammers away at his own battle plan for America’s latest existential threat: the Covid-19 virus. The primary season rallies and demonstrations have given way to a country forced indoors to avoid a plague that threatens to shroud the planet in death. Thousands have choked to death on ventilators with millions to follow. China is convinced the virus represents a biological attack on its country by the United States. The mortality issue is of particular concern to me. I’m seventy-seven, had a couple of strokes and find myself confined to a spacious hacienda in Latin America. Fortunately, my young friends down here are keeping me well supplied with food, water and books, and I have a great deal of time to think. Paradoxically, as the end of my life confronts me with every flip of the channel, my earliest beginnings fill my thoughts.
    Despite being a lifetime radical, my emotions have been tugged in unnatural directions this primary round. I am the same age as Biden, a man whose politics I have loathed for decades. I would never vote for him. Yet I find no joy in his stumbling confusion. Down in South Texas where I come from, family members are expected to protect their elders as they slide into dementia. I watched my father succumb to Alzheimer’s. His identity dwindled steadily away, hollowing out a man I recognized but with whom I could not connect. Biden’s people are serving him up to be filleted by the Trump operation. The thought of two mentally deficient candidates competing for the presidency while climate change and a viral pandemic threaten the next great extinction is terrifying. The country deserves better and so does Biden.
    I am a well-educated son of the working class. My father was a farmer/worker who found agriculture a stingy taskmaster. He always worked a full time day job while plowing his fields at night. Like so many others, I have known hardship and struggle, leaving me deeply and passionately committed to my class. Despite my PhD in physics, I am more comfortable with construction workers and farmers than intellectuals. The couple I am staying with reflect my human preferences. The husband works in the fields and swings a hammer. The wife is a homemaker. Both are talented artists. Both could have been chums during my boyhood.
    War resistance resides deeply within my DNA. My father was a farm boy from Mississippi, the seventh of ten children and the first to earn a college degree. He had studied agricultural engineering at Mississippi State and tended cattle to pay his way through school. His breakfast often consisted of a quart of warm milk extracted from one of the cows. He served in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) and graduated in 1937. My parents met in DC in 1940 while working for the Census Bureau. With war looming east and west, my father found himself locking eyes with a dilemma. His Alabama ancestors fought on the Union side during the Civil War. The First Alabama Cavalry U.S. Volunteers was the only integrated fighting unit of the Union Army. And now he was facing being drafted to wage war on brown strangers. Ancestry is both a burden and a calling in the Deep South and my father was feeling both.
    In January of 1864, my great grandfather Hiram Morgan Lambert and his brother William James Lambert and their future brother-in-law David D. Chastain traveled through the backwoods of Northwest Alabama and Northeast Mississippi on horseback using the shallow river today known as Bear Creek to avoid being tracked by bloodhounds. They arrived at Camp Davies near Corinth, Mississippi in mid-January. From there they were sent to Memphis where they joined the Union Army. Why the Union Army? Northwest Alabama is hill country, too rough for plantations, and too poor for most to own slaves. The people there had no interest in fighting for plantation owners who controlled state government. They were also not inclined to break up the Union that their grandfathers had fought for in the Revolution. To them, the Civil War was a classic case of rich men using poor boys to fight for their interests. So when Alabama voted on succession, the northwest counties voted no. That’s known as class consciousness.
    Many young men in those areas first tried to avoid the Confederate draft by hiding in the woods to dodge the many bands of Confederate militia who offered the choice of death or enlistment. My great grandfather’s older brother William Lambert was captured by the Confederate militia who took him to a local preacher’s house where they demanded that they be quartered for the night.
    “This is our prisoner and if he does not join us, we will hang him in the morning,” they told the preacher.
    The preacher whispered to the prisoner, “Bill, go sleep by the window and when the soldiers fall asleep, slip out.” The preacher brought out the whiskey and, with the cordiality the South is famous for, rendered the soldiers comatose. When the soldiers awoke, their prisoner had vanished. The Confederates were unaware that the preacher was an activist in the underground railroad that was helping southern boys avoid the draft.
    The house of my great great grandparents, James Edward and Sarah Chastain, was one of the stops on the underground railroad. After the war, their daughter would marry my great grandfather Hiram. The success of this underground railroad required three elements: community solidarity, organization and secrecy. These are all things that will be required of any successful movement today, although secrecy will be more of a challenge in the face of electronic surveillance technology.
    A few years back, my ancestor worship led me to the memoirs of a man named John R. Phillips. In the winter of 1863-1864, Phillips made a recruiting trip for the Union Army in Northern Alabama. He would have known Hiram, William and David personally and likely recruited them at that time. John is buried alongside my great great grandparents in a place called the Phillips Cemetery. This past year the graveyard was restored before it was registered with the state of Alabama as a historic cemetery. I suspect that my distant cousins who helped restore the site were as ignorant of its historical significance as they were of their relative who has made a life of war resistance.
    My lifetime distaste for war predates my existence. On August 1, 1941, my father was called to active duty after being married only six weeks. Three months later, the Japanese Air Force obliterated the American Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor. The timing was curious, suggesting that American forces knew what was about to befall them. I was born in September of 1942 while my father was in flight training with the Army Air Corps. My mother fell horribly ill with an infection after my birth. Penicillin would have restored my mother’s health quickly, but all available stocks were reserved for the military. My father was distraught. He had a newborn and a wife facing death while he was about to be shipped overseas. On his final flight test, he deliberately crash landed and was flunked out of flight school. Mission accomplished. My father served stateside while my mother recovered and I sprouted a healthy shock of blonde hair.
    My father spent our time together sharing his brilliance in mathematics. By the time I got to grade school, I was far ahead of my school mates. One day my third grade teacher announced a city wide math competition. I was the only volunteer. When I got home, I announced to my mother that I was about to win a very important math contest. I read the skepticism on her face and was more determined than ever to prove her wrong. I came in second to a young Hispanic girl, inoculating me against arrogance and white privilege simultaneously. Losing also encouraged me to work harder, and by the time I graduated from high school I was awarded a full scholarship to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT was like the other side of the world in South Texas. To me it was a ticket to a new life. My father’s example and my working class background taught me that I had to work harder than the other students to achieve. I graduated with honors in physics.
    In the fall of 1965, I enrolled in graduate school at the University of Chicago, a firestorm of political activity with a huge peace movement and the largest chapter of Students for a Democratic Society in the country. The Black Panther Party was active under the leadership of Fred Hampton, the most inspiring speaker I had ever heard. I was all in. Before his murder by the FBI, Hampton had formed the first rainbow coalition. His success at bridging the racial divide fracturing the antiwar movement probably got him killed. I was still in Chicago in 1968 when forty blocks of West Madison Street were burned to the ground following the assassination of Martin Luther King. Similar riots took place in dozens of other cities. King’s peace movement and the black community’s willingness to blow up cities led to a series of reforms. The Daley machine and the rest of Chicago’s ruling class were nervous, a lesson about the willingness to use violence that I would never forget. The revolution doesn’t come with a hug and a campfire.
    The 1968 Democratic National Convention was scheduled for August in an already restless Chicago. Up to that point, two antiwar candidates were splitting the vote following the recusal of President Lyndon Johnson. I canvassed for Sen. Eugene McCarthy in Illinois and he won the primary. In June, the other antiwar candidate, Robert Kennedy, was assassinated in California. The Democratic establishment seized control of the process and designated Vice President Hubert Humphrey as the presumptive nominee. Sound familiar? The young people who anticipated an antiwar candidate to oppose Nixon and Kissinger’s militarism and imperialism felt betrayed by the Democratic Party ‘and exploded into the streets in protest. I am proud to count myself among the ten thousand who turned Chicago and the convention on its conservative ear. Grant Park overflowed with camped out protesters. When the police attacked with their clubs and tear gas, people ran. The cops were fat and out of shape from too much beer, but many were beaten and arrested. I escaped after tripping over a park bench. I don’t regret a minute of it and would love to see the same response to the hijacking of the party’s better angels this time around.
    Despite all the protest and outrage, somehow I managed to complete my PhD in physics. The farm boy from Texas moved to the Boston area and connected up with radicals he knew there. I would love to recount how effective I was moving into the area factories to organize the workers, but my shyness overrode my politics. However, I learned a great deal from my compatriots. Don’t preach. Respect people’s level of awareness while progressing mutually toward a more sophisticated world view. In other words, understand who is exploiting you without falling victim to diversionary tactics like racism. I also learned the need for broad coalitions to unite around immediate issues without getting bogged down in long range pursuits. We made some serious mistakes in the new left, especially ignoring electoral politics. We knew forty-five years ago that the Democratic and Republican Parties represented the ruling class, were thoroughly corrupt and could not be reformed. I’ve learned a little since then to change my mind. We struggled to engage people who considered voting their only political strategy. We’ve improved over the years by working inside the campaigns of the best reformers with the knowledge that they will disappoint us with their compromises and betrayals. When that happens—and it always does—we work with the followers of these candidates to educate them and move them beyond electoral politics. That describes our work in Americans for Peace and Human Rights. The Democratic Party will not make concessions unless there is massive pressure from the outside. Our job is to build a movement to do just that.

    • Thank you for sharing this story, Mr. Lambert. I wish we lived closer together. (I’m in Massachusetts). I’d sure offer to buy you a beer.

      It gives one a ‘special feeling’ to be aware of one’s ‘roots’, don’t it? It makes one understand ‘history’, a subject many young people hate studying, in a much different way.

      I made sure my own children had some kind of perspectives of their lives in relation to all those who lived before. I shared with them my fascination in knowing that all my own grandparents were alive at the same time as Geronimo, and that my parents were young schoolchildren when Wyatt Earp died. Gandhi and I drew breath on this planet at the same time, (just barely, he was assassinated the same year I was born.

      You’ve been alive for just about one third of the entire time the United States has existed.

      Thank you for sharing this fascinating story.

  • Instead of seeking satisfaction, weaponize your dis-satisfaction and revolt in the face of the absurd….

  • Instead of seeking to satisfaction, weaponize your dis-satisfaction and revolt in the face of the absurd….

  • How about a middle aged rebel, sister? I’m 62. There is a very flattering picture of me in one of the vegetable gardens I tend on a morning a couple of weeks ago at the bottom of this blog post. My wife took it. She’s with the rebel-support-crew. http://www.johndayblog.com/2020/04/war-reparations.html

  • A teary eyed, bravo!

  • Yes the defiance is very much intact. But these days I don’t waste it on the middle managers of insidious intent, unless they have the temerity to come to my very door. I joust with evil where it lives, in its unmanifest lair. It is as you say an inside job. It was always an inside job. And with passing time, and practice, my reach is extending.

  • I remember when I was a young rebel and how I admired the wisdom and long struggle and courage of the old grey heads. I aspired to be like them. It has been a hard road with many disappointments, but as the wonderful Labor singer songwriter, Charlie King would say, Count it All Joy. A life well lived is well worth living…

  • Yes. Yes. What good medicine. Courage to never lose heart. Thank you, Caitlin!

  • Beautiful!

  • Fidel. All of us come to our end, some sooner than othets. Kennedy, King, Ghandi. Some last longer. Khameni, Mandella. Some live an entire and full life, fighting for the cause of resistance, for the revolution. Some become famous, some are never known. Some stand against the empire for years and years. Some are cut down as soon as they make their stand. For some, the thought never crossed their minds that life was any other way, but to resist, to push for change. I have to say, that considering all good and bad (of what I have gathered), I must give the honor of the most long lived to Fidel.

    • Far from a perfect man, as are we all. Made mistakes and got rigidly short-sighted in his older years. But history, if it continues to be written by other than American historians, will view him as among the greatest political leaders of the 20th Century, arguably at the top of the list. For those wanting an honest assessment of him right now, while we’re still too close to see everything in proper perspective, check out “Fidel: A Critical Portrait” by Tad Szuic. Utterly mind-blowing to get the inside story on the impossible tasks that Fidel set for himself and his country and then, in many though not all ways, pulled off.

  • I’m 66 with sore shoulders and I thank you, Caitlin. My nascent sense of outrage was cemented in 1972 when the labour leader Norm Kirk won the election in NZ. The mother of my then boyfriend reacted to my obvious glee by trying to lecture me with “Do you know what this will mean for people like us?” She from the wealthy side of the tracks, me from the state house. I’ve been offending people with my opinion ever since.

  • I love this one, Caity. I feel like you are speaking to me.

  • thanks.

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