labor policy calledhuman trafficking.
labor policy calledhuman trafficking.
The Table is a book about becoming a radical activist. It is also a book about what happens to a person, a folk musician, radical activist when they burn out. This book is about being the first musician to open the I.W.W endorsed musical tour, The Joe Hill Roadshow.
This book is about inspiration, meeting famous people, NYC, Christopher Street and … meeting with poet Wendell Berry several times at his farm in Kentucky. This book is about railroading, hobos and darkness. It is a wee bit about wildness and want.
This book is about me, growing up with a mother who was a radical activist. This book is also a little about being diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, living with the scare of a relapse. This book is absolutely, punk rock and slightly a bit Grateful Dead, minus dreadlocks and rainbow family oiled hippies, but … add bikers.
I wrote this book because when I was in marriage counseling, the counselor suggested that we needed to know our story. I also wrote this book because a woman, who is also a radical activist, suggested that I should keep writing it. She was reading a few chapters that I had shared on social media and thought that I was being courageous talking openly about mental health issues.
It’s intended audience would certainly be for young radicals. It would also appeal to older folks who remember some of the names that I mention in the book. I hope the audience would be somewhat GENx. I am from that branded generation and think we might be stuck in the middle of something. I would also like to think that my involvement as the National Organizer with Railroad Workers United, my two year stint with Teamsters for A Democratic Movement, my folk music audience and my membership in the I.W.W. might add to the list of rad progressives who would buy this book.
I am thinking back to my last
days on the rail.
Back to a final run that ended
in Cave City, KY.
My conductor and I
waiting for a van ride home.
We dogged, didn’t make it.
Thinking back to the train derailment
in Colesburg, Kentucky.
Thinking back to the locker room
Sitting at the picnic table, in the crew room –
listening to five trainmasters
make light of an unsafe situation
that could have killed
four of my union brothers
and possibly an entire town.
A 16,000 plus ton train.
Two locomotives on the head-end.
Two locomotives in the middle.
The train being in total, almost two miles long.
Two days before, a train just like this one
came off the rail putting 20 something
cars on the ground.
Half of it, still sitting up on Tunnel Hill.
Rumors, as of that morning were;
that the cleanup crew while
trying to move the rest of the derailed train,
what was left of it, almost derailed again.
I am thinking about the day
that broke the camel’s back.
My plan was to go to work and
just do what they tell me to do.
The trains that we were being expected
to run, were the talk of the town.
Something was always going wrong,
numbers were being crunched,
books being cooked, and we were all
being expected to just, “run the plan.”
I am thinking about
with my bosses.
The tremendous pressure that was
causing them to try and gauge
what my modus operandi would
be for that day.
One on the bosses, matter of fact,
the Terminal Superintendent,
suggested that he had heard,
“that us Louisville boys
don’t really like this train.”
I asked the railroad officials
the names of the people who were
almost killed the day before.
They didn’t know their names.
I am thinking about what I said,
pissed off more than ever before.
I almost marked off sick. Language, native.
A language only railroaders know.
Marking off sick,
the ace up the sleeve
that gives us a way out.
I told them very sternly
to get out of my fucking face.
I told them, I would show them how
to inspect four locomotives.
Twenty minutes for each machine.
They knew what I was saying. Implying.
They knew I was right to be throwing this fit.
Nobody thought these new trains were, a good idea.
That is why I never heard
the threat of insubordination.
And to be more explicit and
somewhat to conjure another voice
that was informing my resolve –
I told my train masters to …
Go take a flying fuck at a rolling donut,
go take a flying fuck at the moon.
Ting a ling, and so on.
They didn’t mention that they would
charge me with delay of trains.
The five bosses knew that what we were
being expected to do was insane.
They mentioned that this was not their idea
and were only taking orders.
They were half drunk on kool aid –
half on my side and wanting the strength
of my union educated foot to somehow
strike out at the ass of the message maker,
not their messenger positions.
I am thinking about how,
for almost two years before that day in the
locker room – about how a fragment of a speech –
from a presentation at Yale University
that Wendell Berry,
the poet, family man,
and how it
in my soul.
I am thinking about how two lines
haunted my moral convictions.
I am thinking back,
in hopes my hindsight is 20/20.
I am thinking about being part
of an organization that beat down
the first widespread union supported
attempt to reduce trains crews
to just one person.
I am thinking about the
luddites who quickly new –
“the industrial economy from agriculture to war
is by far the most violent the world has ever known
and we are all complicit in its violence. The history
of industrialization has been violent
from the start”
I am thinking about the word,
how that word is used to suggest an authoritative
voice that speaks from experience.
And how that thought
takes me to this fragment.
I am thinking seriously about a moral.
A moral to a folk story and how that story,
and the fragments of a presentation from a poet,
informed my decision to walk away from a career.
A career that I was proud somewhat,
to be part of.
John Henry died for our sins!
John Henry lives every day when a
human being is being asked
to conform to an unreasonable shift.
A shift to the inhumane practices
of an industrial economy.
He died with a last request.
He wanted a cool drink of water
before he died.
What informed my decision
to abandon my post of Locomotive Engineer
was a complicated list that stretches as long
as the trains that were being demanded of us
And down a side track, I go, again.
I am also informed by another folk story
of what seems to be happening to me now
because of my decision.
Jumping Mouse, the fictional mouse in a well know
native peoples’ folk tale, is found to be suspicious after
his decision to leave his community.
After Jumping Mouse
was tricked to fall into the river –
he found himself not
trusted by his friends!
The searching –
that want to go away –
leave, find wisdom –
became a serious burden
and a long, difficult journey.
And what seems to me
to be a one-track pondering –
most of my narrative of late is …
A burning question
that fuels this want
to present ideas,
may call prose,
other may brand
a long read –
Isn’t’ this enough?
The creative questions presented!
Isn’t the hook baited well enough to be
expecting further questions?
I have named dropped well known
contemporary thinkers, folk tales,
scary stories of possible destruction!
I guess I am tied to John Henry
and his demise.
As many railroaders
who have not a clue
who their own
folk hero was,
there are as many
folklorists who didn’t
ever stop to think –
what was the moral to the story?
I have never heard a question
presented by any academic
accreditation that went to the
very end of the folk thesis.
Did John Henry ever
get his cool drink of water?
If I must suffer another narrative
of what is wrong with the railroad,
I also may just die before being allowed
time to vindicate the demise of my fellow
worker and brother,
I am thinking back to
the day, I walked away.
I am thinking back
to a lonely dark spring early
morning, watching leaves
blow down the street in
Cave City, Kentucky –
the day I sidetracked
my train and went home.
I stand for freedom
and the right to organize!
I stand for love
and strong communities.
I stand for immigrants and
I stand for human rights
and all marginalized voices.
I stand up for rivers
and on top of mountains
that you think you own –
i’ll stand with anyone
when your banks are
stealing their homes.
I stand for children and
dreams & folk traditions
that are passed down &
work to preserve our
stories, until all your
myths are torn down.
I will stand if that flag
is draped over a coffin
only devils disrespect
So much blood
has been spilled
for profit – I won’t
stand for Red.
I won’t stand for White
when it time to have
an American dream.
I will stand for Blue
when it’s in a song
about suffering and
when walking in someone
I will stand for fifty billion
stars and that stripe
called the milky way
as I look toward the heavens
& kneel down to to pray.
I won’t stand when you
trade blood for oil – &
trap people in cages to
work for you.
I will stand with any veteran
of any of your stupid wars
like i’ll stand with all workers
& the disabled when they
are knocking on
I will stand with the
gay community and all
of their alphabet soup –
my momma didn’t raise
no dummy – to trade
his soul for a
two piece suit.
I stand in my grandfather’s shoes
with his red, white and green
cedar tree flag, his brown skin &
Arab blood, he came here
looking up to you!
I stand with my German heritage
although my neighborhood has
been sold to the highest bidder!
Who find favor with our mayor
& their LLC’s and doctrines
I’ll stand behind
any Native peoples!
– some of them fought
for you –
although you pitted them
against each other like you
so often do!
I’ll stand anywhere I please
and sit down like Rosa Parks
if need be! This land was
never your land! Do you
remember Wounded Knee?
get off your high horse
and practice what you
preach – you once
put that flag on the moon
with your ego and
Two days from now, I officially start my new position with Railroad Workers United.
I will be a contracted organizer …
but what they don’t know is that they have hired a KAWA.
From what I humbly understand, from my deep study of West African, Guinean village tradition, is that the Kawa is the person who is in contact with the ancestors. The Kawa knows the natural medicines of the area and where they are to be found and is sort of the maintainer of society.
Sort of like a peacekeeper.
When there are ceremonies and community events happening, the Kawa wanders the crowd making sure people are staying appropriate and respecting the tradition and others.
Kind of like the Sergeant of Arms in a union meeting.
The video below is one of my favorite all-time YouTube videos. It is a Kawa and his apprentice.
I take the human side of organizing very seriously. Speaking as someone who has burned out as organizer before – One of the many problems that I see with the labor movement is that they put their apprentices into very powerful positions.
Sometimes organizations expect interns and paid organizers to do way too much internal organizational work. They put people into positions that they’re not ready to fill.
Sometimes that’s OK, however, only if there are patient and loving elders who have tons of experience. Elders who are employed to mentor and challenge strategy that is academic in nature. (that is not to say that all academic study is bad)
The native peoples for centuries solved many of the social problems that We, in the various movements that we are in, are suffering from today. Many native societies had already weeded out the organizational sicknesses that I see today that are originating from corporate thinking … i.e. metrics, performance evaluations, production goals and certain team building cultures.
Those sorts of corporate ideals are evasive and do not belong in structures that are designed to care take human conditions of exploitation, violence and intentional conditions of un-organization. Labor Unions and Community organizations are infested with academic corporate culture and language that is toxic.
In my humble opinion, that is why the AFL-CIO, the UAW and many other community organizations can’t seem to organize the south as well as they would like. They need more Kawas. The organizations need more elders who understand the community and know how to hold it.
The Kawa is sort of the police department. Sort of the internal auditor of the code of culture … the protector of the mission and vision. We need as a society, to re-evaluate and define social policing. Many native societies had already figured that out as well.
more on that later ….
On this episode of the Folk Labor Desk, John Paul explores several sides of the question – Who is the ANTIFA or the so called “ALT LEFT.”
Reporting from the heart of Central Kentucky – Leitchfield, Kentucky, John Paul gives a little bit of his personal background as well as coins a not so new hashtag for the pundits to talk about while in the confines of their respective social media fox holes and corporate media break rooms …
Please share this video with like minded folks. I sure could use your support. You can support my work by going here and purchasing my music or poetry!
Have a goodin’
America’s myths are
being exposed and run
through the ringer
of public discourse.
Keep trying to explain
your way out of this.
The more you talk,
the more you expose
You know you lied.
You snuck out of the house
got drunk and wrecked the car
date raped the country
and someone caught
you on video.
You know slavery was a
labor policy called human trafficking.
A slave is a slave is a slave.
Like the workers who made your shirt.
Like the wage slave at a for
profit, who trades labor for love,
because they are part of the team.
Like the military protecting “Our”
oil interests in the region.
So, keep talking.
Your children are
getting the picture.
You can’t blame this
on commies and reds.
You cant blame this
on the media.
The issue is –
you lied about
what you did.
And now the children
of the social revolution
want your heroes gone.
They are seeking truth
and getting results.
So, fess up.
the more you try
to lie and make
the more you
dig your own grave.
The founding fathers
were just men.
Like all other.
just men, protecting
their own ass.
They made selfies
to God that trust
wouldn’t find them
by their own
in a pot of