‘The struggle for social justice is not rated PG-13’

Updated

After watching Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello play his track “Union Town” and the not-edited-for-grade-school version of Woody Guthrie’s class-war anthem, “This Land is Your Land,” I asked him about Wisconsin governor Scott Walker.

Morello – the son of a schoolteacher, a Harvard graduate, and as much activist as musician – joined the massive protests against Walker’s union-stripping bill in 2011. (Video of Morello performing at the protest can be seen here.). He called Wisconsin “the next Cairo.” (He’s also a veteran of Occupy protests, including earlier on Tuesday, when he’d played at Occupy’s May Day protests in New York’s Union Square immediately prior accepting a special public-service prize from the Sidney Hillman Foundation that same night.)

After the Hillman event, I asked Morello about the question of economic inequality viewed through Walker’s race to save his job. Keep in mind Walker recently announced he’d raised $13 million as he seeks to avoid being recalled in about a month. Morello had some thoughts about Walker – “My hope is that we get that son of a b**** out of there. We’ve already fired the shot across the bow” – and about the larger question of inequality:

“The good news is that there’s a warning, both from Ohio [voters voting down the union-stripping Senate Bill 5 in a referendum] and from this recall election coming up, [that] when you mess with working people, it’s likely that you’ll get messed with back. I thought that we perhaps missed a golden opportunity – I was only in Wisconsin for a couple days, and one day there were 60,000 people in the streets. The day I played, it was 17 degrees without the wind chill factor; there were 100,000 people in the street! The idea of a general strike, but I think that both the Democratic Party and some of the conservative union leadership didn’t know what to do with it. It’s a city of 200,000 people, and there were 100,000 people in the streets; they didn’t know what to do with it….

Morello then pivoted from the specifics of Wisconsin to what needs to happen movement-wide, in his view:

I think that it’s important for working-class people, and union people in particular, not just to fight bad legislation, but to put forth our own agenda of how we want to see our country and our world. I’m very blessed that I’m able to do what I think I was meant to do. That opportunity is denied not to millions, but to billions due to gross economic inequality.

How many discoverers of the cure for cancer, or Mozarts, are slaving away…along the Mexican border, or in Indonesian sweatshops? The reason they’re not allowed to be the people they were meant to be is due to this horrible economic inequality… Those who are socially conscious and believe in social justice need to continue fighting until that’s rectified.”

As if designed to make Morello’s point, the New York Times published a profile of Mitt Romney’s friend and former Bain Capital partner, Edward Conard the next morning. Conard is making the argument in his new book that income inequality is a sign that the economy is working, “and if we had a little more of it, then everyone, particularly the 99 percent, would be better off.” Imagining the cursing that such a statement might provoke, I was reminded of what Morello told the Hillman crowd during his performance: “The struggle for social justice is not rated PG-13.”

No perspective should be censored, and frankly, I’m glad both Morello and Conard are making their unvarnished selves apparent. It certainly makes it easier to see where everyone stands.

More of what is on our radar today is after the jump, including a couple Scott Walker-related gems you won’t want to miss.

'The struggle for social justice is not rated PG-13'

Updated