Alayne, one of the ETC staff, started the festivities off by reading the Song of Bealtaine:
I am the calm, I am the quickening,
I am the silence, I am the singer,
... I am the stallion galloping to its source.
I am the bright pavilion and the feasting,
... I am the wedding couple and the bed,
I am the morning chorus and the heartbeat,
... I am the goal to which all paths are led.
After the festivities, I asked her to tell me more about the traditions surrounding this day, and then I asked her if she knew about its political associations. She did not. To her, May Day is entirely wrapped up with the Earth, the ancient traditions, and the changing of the seasons.
I called my fellow podcaster, Doug Lain of the Diet Soap Podcast, and asked him about his associations with this day. He has a different take on the day. Here is a bit of our conversation:
KMO: And they were protesting for an 8-hour work day? What was standard before that?
Doug: I think anything they could get away with. I don't know. Let me look.
Doug reads from Wikipedia:
The eight-hour day movement or 40-hour week movement, also known as the short-time movement, had its origins in the Industrial Revolution in Britain, where industrial production in large factories transformed working life and imposed long hours and poor working conditions. With working conditions unregulated, the health, welfare and morale of working people suffered. The use of child labour was common. The working day could range from 10 to 16 hours for six days a week.
Doug: Yeah. So, they were struggling for something they really needed; some sort of cap on how many hours a week they could be asked to work by the new bosses of the industrial revolution.
The conversation turned to the topic of population overshoot. I summarized a portion of a conversation that I had recorded the previous day with SF author David Marusek.
David: I do believe that we are, at this point, already over-populated. We've exceeded the carrying capacity of the globe, and it's only a matter of time. (…) I just saw Paul Ehrlich, the author of the Population Bomb on TV the other day. When the book came out in the late sixties, Ehrlich was predicting that by 2010 society would already have collapsed because we wouldn't be able to feed everybody. That hasn't proven to be true... yet. Agriculture as a science has matured quite a bit in the meantime, and we are feeding a lot more people. Not everybody. What is it? A billion people who go to bed hungry every night? But we're doing it. We're feeding people at the expense of the Earth, and I believe that we are living on borrowed time.
So, yes, I believe we must be at Peak Oil, but we're also at the peak use of this planet. We are living not just on borrowed time but on borrowed resources.
I summarized David's comments for Doug, and he responded with:
Doug: When I think about overshoot, I think it's really unfortunate that we've come to this time where so many problems that require the best of us and the most intelligent and humane aspects of us are facing us at the same time the intensification of the current system is happening where we have less and less control and less and less ability to address those problems. So, rather than hunkering down and trying to protect as many people as we can, trying to put as many people in charge of solving technical problems and social problems as we can and dispersing power out and using our best selves, we are seeing more and more power and money going to fewer and fewer people and getting more and more concentrated.
And that process itself has a horrible impact on people's everyday lives, and it's seen as murder in the Third World because people are starving. It's hard to parse out what's real resource depletion and what's just this process of the intensification of private power and wealth. And that's why the story of Haymarket is important even now to remember because if we're going to have any hope of adequately and humanely dealing with overshoot, the principles that you see at work behind the Haymarket riot and it's aftermath and the memory of May Day are going to have to be a part of what we do.