Thomas' View of "The System"
Theory/Solution: A True Story

Al Tanzi
Theories of International Politics
for Prof. Onuf, American University
December 16, 1981

Every day hundreds drive past the White House and talk about the President and his "lovely" wife, Nancy. They peer out their windows as though the presidential home was part of a freak show, While children yell out the window, "Hi, Mr. and Mrs. President," adults either praise or criticize him. But Ronald Reagan is not always the only attraction, demonstrators draw attention, too.

Whether it be the suffragettes earlier this century or the anti-war demonstrators of the 1960s and '70s, protesters feel that the ultimate place to protest is in front of the White M?use on Pennsylvania Ave. Each hoping that their cause or what they represent will be beard by the highest elected official, the Chief Executive of the U.S,, who has influence or the power to do anything.

Rarely, Do you find someone walking back and forth holding a sign endorsing the president, "Your doing a good job," or "more power to you, Ron." Consequently anyone who marches in front of the White House is unhappy about something, be it abortion/anti-abortion , ERA/anti-ERA, etc. They are unhappy about something, or worried about something which would change "the system," i.e. essentially how the world really operates and Who controls 'the strings."

There are very few, who protest in front of the White House who are against the entire 'system.' One such devoted protester, a true model of civil disobedience, is Thomas, He has been sitting on the sidewalk with his back against the concrete ledge, below the black iron fence that surrounds the White House since June 3, 1981. I first met Thomas last September, when I happened to have been in the area. I stopped to chat, but unfortunately we got into an argument, in which he lost his temper. He had asked me what I was studying and I replied International Studies/ Economics. He then said the only way to correct the economic system is to scrap it and start over. I firmly disagreed and said it could be repaired from within.

Ever since that day I've had his words on my mind and especially during our class discussions. So when we had to choose the way we wanted to take our final exam, I immediately voted in favor of the paper, because I knew my topic and it would give me the perfect opportunity to see if either of us had changed and to get to know him better. I wanted to know why he was sitting out in front of the White House, when it was 35 degrees with the wind blowing as if it would never stop. Especially, when there were tents across the street in Lafayette Park, which were donated by the Committee for Creative Nonviolence. Is he crazy or is he lazy and needs the attention?

In order to understand Thomas, his viewpoint, theory and beliefs a discussion about his background would be helpful, Thomas was raised in Westchester County, N.Y. I mentioned that Westchester was s rather wealthy area. He nodded without looking and said, yes. When I inquired about his parents he said, "What, my biological parents?" There was a great sense of distance and 1 detected a bit of hidden sadness. He was married and has two children. They live in New Mexico, where he had lived for a long time. His parents don't know where he is and I don't think his former wife knows either. His list of professions include the following carpenter, driver of a semi, jeweler, and he worked on boats in the oil fields of the Gulf of Mexico.

So what made him take such a switch from the oil fields of the Gulf to the front of the White Mouse? Thomas didn't want to be a seaman. He was just working on boats. He just wants to learn. He's not interested in pinning labels. "I am not a thing. I'm just doing something." Another factor Thomas mentioned was The Bible. He couldn't remember exactly what passage, but it made him reevaluate hie lifestyle, Essentially, it said the Lord will provide all that is needed. One should be more concerned with how one is living his life, rather than what one has or is. Thomas didn't strike me as a terribly religious person, but he quit his job working on boats and with his seaman's papers went to Casablanca. He. proceeded to walk to Cairo. He wanted to test what was written and see if it was possible. He saw the world through a "looking up the skirts" viewpoint, no hotels, no tours, and most of all no money. He's visited many Third World countries and solidly affirms he never asked for food or money, but was provided for.

To this day he still lives that same lifestyle. He stated he obtains most of his food from garbage dumpsters. An excellent example was the 5 pm-donut break time. We went behind a donut shop, where he and his buddies searched and inspected donuts that they had dug up out of the dumpster. He told me that donuts were very filling. They were extremely generous and offered me some several times. I told them, "Thank you very much, but I'm very full now." Occasionally, someone will bring him food, but he never begs or buys food. Once in a while he'll ask someone for a cigarette. There's always an exception to every rule. Thomas is a short man who would be stereotyped in many a mind as a bum. In his own words, "I live as a penniless wanderer and pilgrim," His clothes are old, a rather "take what I can get or find" wardrobe. Considering his lifestyle, living constantly outdoors in all kinds of weather he looks rather clean with the exception of his untrimmed grey and white beard. Surprisingly, enough he doesn't have a horrendous odor, too. It is obvious after hearing Thomas talk about his lifestyle nne can easily see how it has aged him by several years, so it is hard to say exactly how old he is. I would estimate him to be in his early thirties.

If Thomas is so unhappy with 'the system,' then why doesn't he just leave? Thomas did leave this country and wanted to stay out, but be ran into problems with Customs when he tried to enter England. His seaman's papers had expired, but he refused to file for new payers, on grounds that he disagreed with the whole concept of immigration policies and regulations, He disagreed with the idea of living by "imaginary lines" that are on amn made maps, which don't physically exist an the earth. feels that man should be free to travel where ever he would like to go. Before he travelled he claimed he really didn't know the true meaning of nationalism. He said it is all very arbitrary where (i person is born, which determines how he can travel, how he can live and whether he has access to the most fundamental things that are necessary for life.

"The only reason that piece of paper is issued is to help me, in theory and in practice it identifies me as a protectee of this government, And this government to represent me and help me and defend my rights, well I don't need them, Well, since I don't need them to do that shit for me, they have no right to expect me to carry around their piece of paper and say I am one of them. It was a matter of principle. I an a human and not a piece of paper,"

That is why he didn't file for new papers, instead he was deported back to the U.S. and not by his own free will. It was all because he happened to be born in the U.S. and is therefore a U.S, citizen.

Thomas sits In front of the White House in order to make his theory or views public. Thomas sits next to a sign stating, "Wanted: Wisdom and Honesty." Further down the White House fence, a female friend sits next to a 'second sign which states, "Do you believe in 'Humanity?' For God's sake, Help me, Don't destroy me, care, dare, share, Get involved to strengthen the good that remains" (and to the left side of the sign) "Corruption in U.S. Political System Assaults terrorize women by Chemical Radiation Warfare deadly to health." The second sign has pictures of women whose bodies were exposed to large doses of radiation.

Why is 'the system" so wrong in Thomas' opinion? According to Thomas, the U.S. is 1/20 of the world's population and that it consumes 1/3 of thc world's resourcesi This is not equitable.

"There are so many things that are outside of 'the system,' now. Improvements that could make life so much better, but "the system' because 'the system' is "things." 'The system' is automobiles, so automobiles have a vested interest in remaining. You can't come up with a better form of transportation, because if you do it's going to put the automobile industry out of business. So we must protect the automobile industry, It is an endangered specie, There are many alternatives to transportation, communication and education and all of the things that civilization is about, but civilization won't allow them because they threaten 'the system.' If you make these new innovations, then all 'the things" in 'the system' disappear."

When asked if 'the system' had anything good to offer, Thomas replied, "No. 'The system" doesn't offer anything good. The ideals and principles, on which it bases its reasons for existing, its justification for existing those 'things' are good; justice, equality, freedom, Those things are good, but 'this system' does nothing, whatsoever to insure those ideals." Thomas does not support any 'system' that is presently in operation. To him the Soviet Union is just as guilty as the U.S. what does he for see as the ultimate solution? After interviewing Thomas twice, I outlined a five step plan or theory that would lead to his ultimate goal; the destruction of 'the system' and a final solution.. It would be the following:

1st step, Communications must be improved, Communications is the most important issue, Thomas' answer is through computers.

"Having a computer gives you the ability of having the Library of Congress in your living room. You would have the ability to solve all the problems, because you would have access to all the information, You would need honest people to act as judges to mediate, if there was some type of problem, of decision, that could not be reached independently. But once people view reality realistically, they'll see that's in their best interests to resolve all the differences amicably, Then you won't even need honest people to mediate, because everyone will do their own mediation. But communications is all that you need, if you have access to information you can solve all the problems, all the problems!"

Thomas sees computers as being misused. They are keeping track of money and people. In his mind, that is a waste of time and energy.

2nd step, If 10-20% of the producers stopped producing and held strikes, then this would eventually paralyze the country within time. It would help to destroy 'the system.'

3rd step, abolish money, patents and copyrights. "Money is the root of all evil,"

4th step, Abolish all political systems. There is no need for government and dictation of policies, because Thomas believes 'the law' is set, referring to, "Every action has a reaction. What you give is what you get, Treat somebody good, you get a good reactions. Treat somebody bad you get a had reaction, That's how you get to be happy by treating people good."

Thomas later stated,

"You can build yourself a big White House on 'the Hill,' but that doesn't change the law, You can put a lot of words in books and make life very complicated and difficult, and very unattractive, and very mundane, and routine, and boring. But it doesn't change the fact that there's only one law. 'What you give, is what you get.'"

"The more primitive, you could say, a system is the more in accord with natural law it lives, In many places like the Third World, in Arabic countries for certain there is virtually no crime, because people realize this law of action and reaction, so they don't need strong Police forces to control the people. They have strong armies instead."

"If this country cannot make people act the way it wants them to act. Cannot make people behave the way it wants them to behave, If the Soviet Union can't do it, then no one can do it .., No power on earth has ever been able to do it. The Romans couldn't do it. The Greeks couldn't do it. Hitler couldn't do it. You can not build a system that will make people behave in your ideal manner,,,You can coax them. You can say things to them to try to make them see their mistakes, but there's no sense in trying to coerce them, because you are not going to be able to do it, And I see no need for policy because you can't enforce it."

Which leads us to the last and most important step, the 5th step, because without this, Thomas' solution is probably impossible. Moral ethics, responsibility, control, sharing, and honesty act as the foundation material for Thomas's theory. Thomas speaking firmly said,

"There's a need for responsibility. There's a need to govern your desires, your emotions, a very pressing need. Rut don't expect somebody else to control them for you, because if you do your going to wind up with Park Policemen sitting around burning up energy and flashing their lights, and not controlling nothing." (During the second interview several policemen were sitting in the car in front the white House, in front of us; with their emergency flashers and the engine was on, too,) "Control yourself. Be responsible for yourself. Be responsible to your environment.''

Sharing and honesty is, also, needed.

What thoughts came to mind while interviewing Thomas? My first impression was that he was just another bum. But after talking with him I discovered that this man for only having gone to the ninth grade, was extremely intelligent and extremely dedicated to his beliefs, For someone who faces never ending harassment by police, fighting the bitter cold weather and living or what I and others would consider a despicable. diet, he is more than super human.

In reference to his theory of the perfect solution, I find several major faults. It is all based on idealism; abolition of money, patents, and copyrights. He also emphasizes ethics, responsibility, no social control, sharing and most af all honesty.

It might be wonderful if all these existed perfectly but this is the real world. Thomas even stated that the two greatest super powers cannot maintain social control. How can he expect total social control among individuals? All it takes is several dishonest individuals and Thomas' theory/ solution could end up in a worse state than our present day 'system'/s In regards to people putting in wrong information in the computer bank (whether it be accidental or not) while others are using it, is dangerous. I think it would be very dangerous to rely on computers to the extent Thomas advocates.

It would be very difficult to abolish all political systems and if it was possible, I do not think it would happen all at one time. This to me seems very dangerous because, even if just one system existed, more than likely another country would conquer and replace the already present 'system' with the aggressors 'system.' In other words there would be no change. Thomas does not think this would happen.

Thomas is against nationalism, He sees it as creating friction, building barriers, causing major disruptions in communications (which he considers to be most important), creating all possible symptoms which lead to war, I view nationalism as a means of uniting people, but I recognize after reviewing history that nationalism can go too far.

Even though I disagree with Thomas, I respect him and his viewpoint because he is, to the best of his ability trying to achieve his goal. Living by his beliefs and trying to inform the public openly is quite admirable, He is unemployed because he does not like 'the system.' He wants it to be destroyed, therefore he does not want to contribute to it. Do you think he likes digging: in dumpsters? It takes a lot of guts to do what he is doing. What Thomas enjoys most is learning, talking with people and travelling. In fact, this spring he plans to travel to Jerusalem. Ask Thomas, "Why Jerusalem'" and he'll smile saying, "It's a good place to make peace."

Continued over time...

Reopen Pennsylvania Avenue
Proposition One | Current Events