Interview with Mickey Z
"Take up yoga, lefties, because you're gonna need an awful lot of flexibility to perform the contortions necessary to explain and justify President Obama's actions over the next four years."
This was Mickey Z's candid response to the US Presidential election result and the likelihood of far-reaching change in the future. Not surprisingly, he didn't vote for Obama. "His ascendancy is an excellent illustration of how the system handles dissent," he tells me. "A black face, a soothing voice and a vague message of change - all designed to keep the rabble pacified without changing anything at all."
Lacerating and radical with a healthy dose of sarcasm, these comments are indicative of the wider thinking of the self-educated New York-based anarchist activist. "The planet is in a critical condition. Our actions should reflect that urgency," he explains about his politics.
A prolific writer, 48-year old Mickey Z - which is derived from his birth name Michael Zezima - has just published No Innocent Bystanders: Riding Shotgun In The Land Of Denial, his sixth non-fiction book, as well as his first novel CPR for Dummies. The former is a short, sharp radical critique of what the author calls the "hypocritical white supremacist capitalist patriarchy" that goes by the name of the United States of America. Using a mixture of essays, one-act plays, inspiring quotes, poems, lists and short-stories, he highlights intensifying environmental destruction, the massive amounts of extreme poverty that still exists throughout the world and the rapacious nature of US power.
As the title implies, Mickey Z says that his book is an attempt to "cut through the façade of blissful ignorance and points the finger at US citizens who support global destruction via their tax dollars, their silence and their support for the troops." No Innocent Bystanders certainly delivers on this count, constantly challenging the reader to take stock of how they live their own life and, more importantly, to take action. "In this age of information overload, we can longer hide behind the convenient veil of 'I didn't know'," he points out.
US liberals are a favourite target of Mickey Z, with one chapter of the book ironically listing eating free-range chicken and watching Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert as ways to change the world. "Personally, if I'm called a 'liberal,' I take it as a serious insult," he says. But, surely, I ask, aren't liberals part of the solution rather than the problem? "From where I sit, a liberal is one who is armed with information but chooses compromises over solutions," Mickey Z replies. "The liberal left in the US today, personified by wealthy celebrities such as Michael Moore, Jon Stewart and Barbra Streisand, does nothing but dilute genuine radicalism and are thus very much part of the problem."
He is also critical of the current patterns of dissent in the US. "What passes for dissent these days is the occasional weekend parade - I mean, protest," he says with a wry grin. "Permits are granted, designated 'free speech zones' are conformed to and the targets of outrage are typically limited to Republicans," he says.
Always keen to look at the bigger picture, Mickey Z argues that "the humans - and all living things - that come after us won't care if we engaged in such 'dissent' or if we ate organic or drove a hybrid or switched to recycled toilet paper, if they have no clean air to breathe and no clean water to use. They'd probably just want to ask us this: 'Why did you stand by and let everything be consumed or poisoned or destroyed?'"
It sounds like he is pessimistic about the chances of positive change. "I don't know if people - especially in the West - will wake up and take action in time," he says. "In a way, I can't worry about it. All I can do is my part by putting my ideals into action via my writing, my public speaking and the choices that I make on a daily basis."
No Innocent Bystanders: Riding Shotgun in the Land of Denial is published in the US by CWG Press. Mickey Z's blog can be read at www.MickeyZ.net.