Saturday, October 01, 2011

The 99 Per Cent Solution: What Will It Precipitate?

A Message From the 1960s
Who knows where the Occupy Wall Street movement will go?
I know firsthand there is a lot of fear and anger among the vast majority of Americans who feel our nation slipping away, but it is hard to figure out where to focus those feelings.

I remember Billy Joel warning us decades ago of the collapse of American industry, as the jobs were shipped away, but most of my friends assumed that we'd be o.k., because we had education and technology - we'd work smarter not harder, and it would all work out. They wouldn't close down our white collar factories like they did Allentown:
Surely this couldn't happen to us!
"Well we're living here in Allentown
And they're closing all the factories down
Out in Bethlehem they're killing time
Filling out forms
Standing in line.

...Well we're waiting here in Allentown
For the Pennsylvania we never found
For the promises our teachers gave
If we worked hard
If we behaved.

So the graduations hang on the wall
But they never really helped us at all
No they never taught us what was real
Iron or coke,
Chromium steel.

And we're waiting here in Allentown.
But they've taken all the coal from the ground
And the union people crawled away.

Every child had a pretty good shot
To get at least as far as their old man got.
If something happened on the way to that place
They threw an American flag in our face, oh oh oh.

Well I'm living here in Allentown
And it's hard to keep a good man down.
But I won't be getting up today..."
Well, now that the manufacturing jobs have been exported, it turned out to be pretty easy to export the white collar jobs too. Our nation is rapidly changing from a First World Nation - which imports raw materials and exports finished goods - into a Third World Nation - which exports raw materials and imports finished goods. This is great news for our Aristocracy of Wealth, who enjoy being the 1% who own most everything, but not good news for the 99%, who have to get used to the prospect of living like a Chinese factory worker.
The Corporate-backed Tea Party tapped this rage for a while, and directed it against the enemies of the Aristocracy. This is a traditional tactic of aristocracies threatened by mass protests - turn one group of working people against another. The question yet to be answered is whether this will work in 2012. There is still a strong Know-Nothing group in America, happy to fight against their own economic interests so long as it means they aren't some sort of "liberal". And the Aristocracy is fantastically wealthy; America has a greater concentration of wealth than in any time in its history, and a far greater concentration than many contemporary Third World nations. As we saw in the Wisconsin recall elections, the Aristocracy is willing to spend money to keep power and as we see across our nation, it's willing to destroy democracy in the process by keeping people from voting.
These are interesting times, and I don't have any answers except that everyone should participate. Politics is how grown-up run our lives and, like doing the dishes and changing your car's oil, you have to do it - you can put it off for a while but sooner or later it has to be done.

No comments: