04 July 2010

Greater than the might of atoms magnified a thousand fold

Maybe you know this song?
One line is the same as the title of this post.
Do you know it yet?

It's sung to the tune of "Glory, Glory, Hallelujah" (Battle Hymn of the Republic). Know it yet?

One of the verses goes like this:
In our hands we hold a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of atoms magnified a thousand fold.
We can bring to earth a new world from the ashes of the old,
For the union makes us strong.
Do you know it yet?

That's right. It's "Solidarity Forever".

Now I've really done it. You were all waiting for me to slip in something about unions, and now I have. Not only have I talked about unions, but I did it by talking about that corny song. That old cliche. Don't I know yet that people will be turned off by things like "Solidarity Forever"?

My answer to these possible criticisms is - What does that have to do with anything?
It reminds me of a story that I was told when I first joined my union of which I am now general secretary.

"There was an organizing drive at a school and the union organizers were trying to persuade the head teacher to join knowing that his membership would encourage others as he was a well respected teacher. The concern was that the head teacher was 'anti-union'. Another teacher, also thinking that the head teacher was anti union and trying to curry favour with him piped up, 'I don't like unions'. To which the head teacher responded, 'What does that have to do with anything?' "

This one line, "What does that have to do with anything?" sums up my feelings exactly. Some people are against unions' ideas, but very few people are against the idea of unions. I'm writing about unions because it's what I know and if I didn't, people would say; Oh! He's not even thinking about unions now that he's paralyzed.

Well, I'm thinking even more about unions now that I'm paralyzed, because when you strip away any biases (good or bad) about unions that you may have and get down to the basic question of what a union is - a group of people who share a common interest banding together to make sure that their cause, their issue, or their needs are not forgotten - most people see the logic in it. So did the head teacher, and he joined the union despite 'not liking unions'.

And that's what solidarity is; a group of people who have a common interest banding to make sure their cause, their issue, or their needs are not forgotten. It's not rocket science or even radical. It's simply the basis for all human society. People together.

Well, let's see if  getting people from many different 'disease communities' together is easy or not, my feeling is that if it's 'organized' properly and people feel that they can make a difference, then people will react. But people who are sick or paralyzed are a minority, so we need the solidarity of others.

But how can someone who doesn't have multiple sclerosis, or diabetes, or a spinal cord injury, or any other disease that stem cells may cure show solidarity with those of us who do. There is no sense in me saying that these things may also happen to you. No one who is healthy believes that they'll get sick. If you would have told me last year that I would be in the hospital, paralyzed, for almost a year, I would have cracked open a beer, popped a cigarette into my mouth, and told you that you were nuts.

Felipe Zegarra, a Peruvian diocesan priest and professor of theology at the Catholic University of Peru, said it beautifully, "Solidarity is a good alternative for the overused word compassion", and maybe for the underused word love, too.

In the weeks to come I will ask you to show solidarity with me and with the others that you know who are sick. I ask even those of you who "don't like unions" (Wink!). The first thing I will ask you to do this week is simple.

On the left hand side of this blog is a button called "follow". If you click on it you can sign up to get this blog regularly. Also signing up will leave your picture or shadow on the site and will let people know that you are showing "solidarity" with me or someone else that you know, including yourself, who is suffering from one of the many diseases that could be cured with stem cells.

Don't worry, I'm not doing this to increase traffic and then charge for advertising. I'm doing this so that if anyone who is sick or desperate because a person they love is sick, then they will see your face and know that they are not alone. The worst part about being sick is feeling alone and with one click you can help someone, even if it's just me, to feel not alone.

This solidarity/compassion/love is the first step in building something 'greater than the might of atoms magnified a thousand fold' and maybe someday beating diseases that you or a loved one have.

P.S. I hope that I don't have to explain to anyone what today's post has to do with the atom bomb. Wink! Wink! (I really have to learn how to use the brackets and periods to make those cool wink signs).

P.S.S. Also, in the original version the word 'atom' is not used. The original, written in 1915 used the word armies. But look at that. Only 30 years after the song was written an atom bomb had already been produced.

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