America has no leadership. One after another, charlatans, quislings, and narcissists have taken their turn upon the national stage, trifling with great issues and taking great issue with trifles. In the absence of principled, strong leadership, anybody with enough money can buy governing policies to suit his interests; lobbyists and corporations write our laws. An election year is coming, and there will be no real leaders on the ballot. So even the mechanism for ushering in fresh leadership is broken.
Into this power vacuum has stepped the most unlikely leader of our times: the ordinary American.
When there is this kind of breakdown in a nation’s government — especially that of a major power like the United States — there are only two possible sources of leadership to fill the void: a military coup, or a popular uprising. History will be glad to recall it was the latter, not the former, which stepped into the breach this time.
The Occupy movement, which represents that uprising, has grown at incredible speed, and despite the jeers from the establishment dog-show jury that passes for journalism in this country, it has shown some real political savvy at a very young age, especially regarding its goals. As I have written before, the reason a list of demands is required of any social movement is because demands can be talked to death — if you can keep a movement’s leaders at the bargaining table and in the back room, you can defeat it. It seems the protestors, or Owls (as they are sometimes called), understand this.
Even if a universally sanctioned list of demands appears tomorrow, who in Washington has the power to enact the changes America must undertake in order to break free of its catastrophic decline? Certainly not Mr. Obama, who seems to think we want a maître d’, not a president; certainly no-one in the House or Senate, cabals of nomenklatura so ill-regarded their approval numbers approach the margin of error for zero.
But if nothing may be done to upset the status quo, something must be done about the rabble. I recall it was that paleo-hippie, Mahatma Gandhi, who said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you; then you win.” The movement begun as Occupy Wall Street progressed swiftly from being ignored to being mocked; already there are signs the fight will soon begin. Mass arrests in New York and Boston are just prelude. At this rate we’ll have representative democracy in the United States before the crocuses bloom.
We all know that’s not really true, of course: it’s going to be a long struggle and a hard winter, and the whole thing could yet fizzle out. It’s not a revolution. Nobody is asking for overthrow or destruction — quite the reverse. This movement demands we as a nation start growing and evolving toward a sustainable, just, and egalitarian future. If nobody in power will act on behalf of the people toward this end, the people will act on behalf of themselves. That doesn’t require violence, but it may be met with force.
The Wall Street/ Washington establishment does not want a sudden outburst of popular will at this precarious time. The real economy is collapsing, it’s election season, and the consensus is that nothing whatsoever can be accomplished. If the common folk were to rise up en masse, it might be necessary to enact real change in the Way Things Are Done — that, or start shooting into the crowds. And yet the people are coming out in ever-greater numbers to demand their voices be heard.
This is supposed to be an ordinary election year in the grand American tradition. As voting day approaches, the incumbent is expected to make speeches as ringing and as hollow as church bells; his opponent is expected to denounce any policy more recent than 1861. Once all that has been done, the common people are entrusted to choose one of them — which one, it hardly matters, as far as the plutocracy is concerned, as long as the infernal mill of power grinds on.
But here are the ordinary Americans, demanding only one thing (and not in a list): to have their will reflected in the governance of this nation. They are not waiting for that quadrennial visit to the voting booth and the nose-holding ballot for the lesser of two evils, knowing that whomever they choose, it will be too little, too late.
By the time election day comes around, there may already be a new leader to guide America forward — and that leader may be all of us.
Cross-posted at the Post of Huffington.