Solidarity Poster

Solidarity is the integration, and degree and type of integration, shown by a society or group with people and their neighbors.[1] It refers to the ties in a society that bind people to one another. The term is generally employed in sociology and the other social sciences.

What forms the basis of solidarity varies between societies. In simple societies it may be mainly based around kinship and shared values. In more complex societies there are various theories as to what contributes to a sense of social solidarity.[1]

I grew up in the rural area of Northeastern Ohio in a very middle class family. Very much like all the other middle class families in the area. A nice house my father built with a good deal of land. Nearly everyone one I knew and all my class mates were from pretty much the same kind of situation. A fairly rural area.   We shared mostly the same likes and dislikes, beliefs and even eating rituals.  Danced to the same kinds of music and listened to the same radio stations and watched the same kinds of TV programs. As did our parents and cousins etc. Typical white middle class.

After my father passed away we lived with my grandparents outside of Phillie. This was a more suburban neighborhood but of the same economic strata.  So I had no trouble fitting in there.  However my mother decided to move us to Florida after she got the business of my father’s estate taken care of and open up a kindergarten  there.  We located in a middle class area of Naples but our financial condition was far from being middle class.  We were quite poor for the first two years until the kindergarten took off.   On top of that, I was part of a single parent household which at that time – the 1960s – was not considered normal. Suffice it to say I did not fit in there very well. I had middle class attitudes but was economically closer to those at the bottom rung.

There were few that I felt solidarity with. Mostly those that came from a similar situation. Not many.

From the late 1960s I began to – as many of my generation did – question the Vietnam war and found camaraderie with like minded individuals outside of my economic class. We had something in common. We apposed the war and how the country was handling it.  It brought millions of us together with a common cause. Here there were solidarity – ties that bound us. Our backgrounds were different but our beliefs in this matter were the same.

This was what brought people together during the 1930s and before with the unions and socialist and communist uprisings. As well as civil rights. What brought them together in Egypt and Tunisia and now in Europe. A bond born of shared experience. Of oppression and exploitation and misery.

A common bond over an issue bigger than they are. A bond usually born in shared experience and unfortunately, shared suffering.  Just like the trade union in Poland that bears the name Solidarity.

We had it here for a short while with the outrage over the bank bail outs in 2008.

But like the the rage over the bail outs, the union and socialist movements were quite cleverly pushed aside by those in Washington.  When blue collar and union members began making as much as the upper middle class professionals, they began to identify with them and their beliefs. This made it easy to manipulate and propagandize them to abandon their previous beliefs and associations.  They no longer  were living in horrible housing and working in horrible conditions. They could afford good housing and nice cars and had health insurance and everything else.  Unemployment was low because after the war there was a shortage of workers.

Unlike Europe where nearly all belong to some trade union – even professionals and educators – here unions were and are considered below those in the professions and for laborers and the so called unskilled. Which made unions themselves an easy target as well.

So when the the time was ripe, unions too became the target of the propaganda and dismantling.  With those in the professional classes helping with the pejoratives and making more than a few  unions and unionists willing to give up most of what they had fought for.

I wonder how much worse it will have to get or what crisis we need to endure before we can once again rise above. What common and shared experience we will need. And will we be aware enough the next time to keep our focus like the people in Egypt and not let ourselves be easily compromised and manipulated.