This picture has a little of that iconic quality of historical moments when a society stands right at or in the process of passing a tipping point. A peaceful assembly to protest an obvious loss of democratic rights and influence is met with a screaming authority figure and reluctant horses. And it looks so futile. Even the horses understand that this is wrong.
Times Square, New York City.
And in some ways the whole scam of 1980-2008 might have reached its logical endpoint, when all credit was exhausted. The People and the Country are broke, Government is fully corrupted and a tiny 1% have taken everything. No matter what the spin of others, no matter how the occupy movement should evolve or get succeeded by or warp into some other form of movement, no matter how things might quiet down with the colder winter or have some brief periods of inactivity and silence, this simple dynamic of a massive pushback from the whole population cannot be restrained for very much longer. If you take all the marbles the other kids will come after you.
Not the best example.
Sometimes when one reviews some old topic of interest with fresh new eyes – things suddenly appear a bit different. Watching a documentary about the French Revolution last night was one of these moments.
And in some sense, it really didn’t go that well.
Consider this: It was very bloody, very mismanaged, it introduced a new period of chaos and violence, and it led to more decades of tyranny, imperial disasters and return of the monarchies. Leading figures like Robespierre were just dreamy young boys with lots of romantic talk while chopping off heads. And the prime document of pride for the revolutionaries, the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen”, was done way better by Thomas Jefferson thirteen years earlier. While some might say that the French Revolution is the most important event in Western History, one could perhaps with some merit argue that both Athens, Rome, Florence and Philadelphia are far more important in both symbolics, originality, cultural impact and the role of being pivotal moments in time.
Moreover; the general thoughts about democracy and equality are probably tens of thousands of years old, as the normal and peaceful way of organizing big groups of people into communities and societies, even if history tends to skew the picture and focus on violence and problems. All of these basic principles and dynamics were written down beautifully by the Greeks some 2.500 years ago, while the ideas about the middle road and moderation are represented in variations in so many cultures and peoples throughout our written history.
So the revolts in 1789 might seem more to be a starting point of a long process towards a peaceful and representative democracy in France – but it could have been done so much better and faster. Without all this unnecessary violence and disruptive decades that followed. And the intellectual and philosophical substance of the movement is in some ways little more than some patchy and recycled snippets of Ancient Classics with perhaps a little French twist to it. But it is by no means new.
So what are the relevant lessons from all of this. Perhaps that decade-long supression and inequality could lead to self-destructive and uncontrollable revolts by the masses. That rapid change in society needs to be managed well to succeed. That chaos attracts and worships destructive personalities. And that renewal after decline and corruption is complicated and slow. But also, that societies often gravitate back to some sort of fair distribution of rights and resources among the population after an unhealthy concentration amongst a few over time.
We’ll see how this decade evolves.
In a somewhat remarkable shift the last few months, the President has slowly seized control over the national agenda and keeps steadily pushing the Jobs Bill and a specific point of view – rather than pandering to the minority and hoping that the other side will some day meet half way. It never happened and it never will. It only made the minority pull farther and farther to the extreme right.
But now the GOPs are on the defensive, running behind in crisis mode and whining at the slightest sign of retaliation after three years of constant bomb throwing and madeup allegations about the WH policy proposals. The President has a Jobs Plan independent economists agree would create jobs and do good – the other side has an ultra-conservative 1% plan to allow more pollution and more fraud on Wall Street. With no relevance to jobs.
If we think back a hundred years – the demands of today to fix the government and country should be this simple:
- Break the monopolies
- Curb money into politics
Then we’ll be fine.
Not by the People.
At times it’s starting to feel like the bigger issue now is the loss of legitimacy of the democratic institutions in America. Approval is at times lower than ten percent – and most often both elections and public opinion have ceased to have any real influence on the government.
When folks wonder about the “coherent voice” and “demands” of the growing movement – it’s sort of missing the point. People have lost their means of influence – and disagree with the rulers on issues like economy and foreign policy. It really is that simple.
And when all this is said and done – the boring solution to the whole problem is just passing electoral campaign reforms and get money out of politics. Then we’ll be alright.
Some kid from the “let him die” debate wanted to know how much he should be allowed keep of every dollar “I earn”. They repeated this on the “boo of soldier” debate.
Maybe it’s time to turn things around. How much is he willing to pay – to be a member of society, for schools, military, police, roads, public spaces, parks, protection from supression and abuse by private capital, libraries, various publics services, some sort of government to run all these things.
And if the answer is nothing – then who should pay.
Newsweek devoted a huge section on “Fixing America” this week, but they just missed the mark way off. Proclaiming that people should dismiss government and fix things themselves, playing on some old romantics about individualism and freedom, it’s simply irrelevant and an annoying distraction from the big picture.
The problem is this: In the same way that American Colonies were ruled and dominated by the British Monarchs a few centuries ago, the country today is ruled and dominated by a few private industries and special interests. Driving US into a third world society. And this is nothing the people as separated individuals can fix. They will be crushed over and over.
Money out of politics. It’s the only way.
There is some back and forth among liberals and democrats about the necessity and constructiveness of a primary challenge for Obama next year.
Our take is this: Obama is doing his very best. He’s not that good at a lot of things, but he’s trying to the max of his capability. Perhaps it’s not good enough, but it’s what we get.
A primary challenge will not make him any better, but only hurt his candidacy. So a challenge for the sake of improvement, no. It has to be someone who would then win the nomination – and has a better chance of winning next November, as well as a better capability of fixing the economy and fight back those who want to return to the 19th century.
If no one fills that spot, leave it be.