Saturday, October 15, 2011
Second American Revolution?
The angry, frustrated people rise up in the streets. Occupy Wallstreet. Occupy Boston. Occupy the banks and the neighborhoods of the wealthy. There is no violence. Not yet, at least. But, there is clearly anger fueled by frustration, and no sign of it's abating soon. Is this merely a random convulsion symptomatic of hard times? Or, is it something far more basic? Have we finally reached the wall of unregulated capitalism? I would say 'yes.'
When the lion's share of the wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few, when those "too big to fail" do inevitably fail, collapsing of their own bloated weight and the economy collapses with them, then the dominos of social change must begin to fall. As with any revolution, this one starts with the young and educated. Recent college graduates who step out into the real world and for all their hard work find no jobs waiting for them feel betrayed. And, they have a right to. They are joined inevitably by others. Peace activists and grieving families tired of war. Unions who feel threatened and exploited as their collective bargaining rights come under attack. There is no single, unifying message, creed or manifesto to this "uprising," if that's what it is. But, the common, visceral mood is clear: The status quo is not working; those in power are not serving the national interest; it's time for a change.
This has been building for the past few years. It started when the economy collapsed in the waning days of the George W. Bush administration. Hope was lacking, the people were hungry for change, and they voted for it in the person of Barack Obama. But, as always, Americans expect, quick, easy fixes for their problems. When Obama couldn't deliver jobs and recovery quickly and easily (thanks in no small part to Congressional opposition from stubborn and recalcitrant Republicans who care more about political ideology and allegiances than about the long-term stability of the country) the people were quick to blame the incumbent administration. The right-wing reactionary movement known as the Tea Party arose, fueled by thinly-veiled racism and right-wing sponsored propaganda. Such reactionary populist movements are a knee-jerk reaction to hard times; it's easy to blame the government (after all, we can vote them out.)
But, as the recession continues, the Obama-bashing and "anti-socialist" nonsense of the Tea Party could not continue to drain the collective energy of the people. Inevitably, the people have begun to recognize the real enemy; the unregulated, obscene hoarding of wealth by ruling strata with an over-indulged sense of entitlement. For the first time since the days of the Vietnam war, the people (largely, the young) take to the streets in massive numbers, to the point where the police have a problem simply containing the protests. Protests that have grown far too large to ignore. It has been long since the country (and, for that matter the world) has been so divided, and so energized. Neither side offers concrete solutions.
But, one thing is clear: The banks and corporations who condemn as "socialism" and "class warfare" any attempt at government regulation have no right to demand bail-outs (corporate welfare) at the people's expense, then spend the people's hard-earned tax dollars on bonuses while continuing to ship American jobs overseas. Those who whine that taxing the rich is not the answer, that we shouldn't punish the wealthy for being successful are missing the larger lesson of history. As we learned in the 1920's, in the age of the corporate robber barons, capitalism is a beast whose insatiable hunger must meet limits. Otherwise, the beasts grow too large, devouring the smaller ones until we can no longer afford to feed them at all. Until there is only one beast whom we cannot hope to control or even survive. In an age when multi-national corporations are powers unto themselves, owing allegiance to no nation or people, yet demanding both the individual's right to free speech and the worker's hard-earned tax money while giving nothing in return...democracy is in peril of extinction. In its stead may arise a hideous form of lawless corporate slavery once reserved to the darker pages of science fiction.
The fight for this world's future may well be waged in the streets, by a people who will no longer be food for the beast.