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The High-On-the-Hills versus the Down-in-the-Valleys

10:36 am in Uncategorized by welshTerrier2

From our humble dwellings, we can look up to see, perched high on the great hills above our town, the brilliant sunshine glistening off the great white castles of the High-On-the-Hills (Hohs).  Things have been getting tougher and tougher for us Down-in-the-Valleys (Divs).

We Divs are a diverse lot made up of all sorts of constituencies.  Most active among us are women who continue to fight for control over their own bodies and discrimination against them in the workplace.  We have a variety of racial and ethnic groups, for example Blacks and Latinos, who see the American promise of justice and equality as an empty promise.  We have young people who see their futures dimmed by an inadequate national commitment to public education… among other things.  We have workers who have suffered economically as their jobs are either exported or eliminated.  They watch, seemingly passive and powerless, as their employers squeeze the very life out of them in pursuit of more profits to reward the Hohs.

Very few of the Divs have noticed the creek has been rising… year after year after year… and that the entire valley is threatened.

This is the landscape on which the two main political parties plot their strategies.  The party of the Hohs, the Republicans, promotes hatred against those seeking a better life.  Women are “uppity”.  They put family ahead of work and thus deserve to earn less.  It’s just a handful of bitter women who do most of the squawking.  Blacks are lazy and just want government handouts.  Latinos are taking “our” jobs and are illegal.  Workers have priced themselves out of the market with their outrageous demands.  It’s all based on hatred.  It’s “anti” as opposed to “pro”.  It’s the politics of divide and conquer.

The Democrats are equally interesting.  The Democrats, at least in word if not deed, reach out to these “identity” groups.  They think of themselves as a party comprised of these constituencies.  Look no further than the recent election to see the overwhelming support they received from these groups.  They pat themselves on the back.  Look, we won women; we won Blacks; we won Latinos; we won young people; we won workers.  Better, they argue, these groups are a growing share of the electorate.  The future bodes well for us.

The creek continues to rise.

Most disturbing in this scenario is that the Divs have allowed themselves to be divided as each group aligns behind its own cause celebre.  The Divs are truly “divved.”  The implicit strategy is that each group must fight for its own equality and justice.  Each group must build its own energy, its own movement, its own spokespersons, and must petition the government for a redress of its grievances.  Instead of fighting for a common cause, the only “unity” is seen every four years (or sometimes every two years) at the ballot box as these divided groups join together to support candidates from one party or the other.  There is no “movement”.  There is no synergy.  There is no “we the people”.  There is only the periodic casting of a vote.  You can’t get there from here.  The Divs are shooting themselves in their own feet.

The creek continues to rise.

This is not to suggest that the issues of these constituencies should be dismissed.  The issues they raise are critically important.  They fail, however, to recognize that equality is not justice.  The Divs, as divided populations, have no power.  Until they form a true union, i.e. a true movement, to strip the Hohs of their stranglehold on government, they will make no real progress.  The rallying cry must go beyond the narrowness of liberating one group versus another.  It must look to the global issues.  Fighting on the identity battlefield, each group is left fighting to equalize the crumbs it receives while the Hohs walk away with the main course.  Making the crumbs equal does not make a society just.

The Divs share of national wealth has seen a rapid decline.  Their share, whether Democrats or Republicans were in control, has continued to decline.  As wealth concentrates, power concentrates.  The environment, on which all life depends, has continued to decline as well.  The Hohs view it as an “externality.”  We had better make it an “internality” very, very soon.

The creek continues to rise.

Third parties and others on the left have tried to get the Divs to focus on the global issues of wealth inequality, power inequality, and climate disruption.  Politically, this has been a disaster.  The Divs are firmly entrenched in their identity groups and, while they might or might not agree with the so-called global issues, they are driven more by what they see as closer to home.   And so, we are where we are.  The left can gain no purchase and the Divs can gain no ground.

And the creek continues to rise.

Are you still trapped in the matrix?

6:16 pm in Uncategorized by welshTerrier2

We are trapped by a self-perpetuating cycle of concentrated wealth and concentrated power. As wealth concentrates, power concentrates. As power concentrates, wealth concentrates.

To quote the eminently quotable Mr. Chomsky:

Concentration of wealth yields concentration of political power. And concentration of political power gives rise to legislation that increases and accelerates the cycle. The legislation, essentially bipartisan, drives new fiscal policies and tax changes, as well as the rules of corporate governance and deregulation. Alongside this began a sharp rise in the costs of elections, which drove the political parties even deeper into the pockets of the corporate sector.

We waste our days highlighting the latest injustice… the latest madness. We are skilled observers and see most of them all too clearly. In the beginning, perhaps, labeling these symptoms could boast a small degree of educational value. Perhaps, even today, it helps build our community. The payback for such pursuits is small at best.

The risk is that we see these outrages as ends in themselves. We see them as requiring case-by-case solutions.

So, we speak about Obama’s crimes. We speak about the injustice of war and the lies and the money and the greed and the broken electoral promises.

We skewer the religious right and the Republicans or the corporatized media who do their bidding.

We align ourselves with a parade of identity groups… blacks, women, the elderly.

We speak of the need for third parties and we throw our support to one candidate or another.

We cannot get there from here… not with this approach.

To build the world we seek, power must be democratically distributed. And to achieve that, wealth, not just income, must also be democratically distributed. Any electoral success you might seek that fails to honor that vision is no electoral success at all. If you are campaigning for candidates or parties, they must, at their core, ascribe to the view that concentrated wealth, whether earned “legally” or otherwise, cannot be allowed to stand. Absent that, all other electoral activity is bankrupt. It is utter folly to believe you can effect change electorally without this prerequisite firmly ingrained in the population.

The mission also must not be to defend at any and all costs the ever-more-necessary social safety net. To be sure, until we are able to install a just government, such pursuits are honorable… and necessary. Charity, though, is best when the need for charity is least. If wealth were less concentrated, more of us would have more wealth to begin with. If power were less concentrated, we could build a society that serves all instead of serving just a few. Don’t make the safety net the ultimate goal. As wealth and power become more concentrated, as they have, the demands on the safety net coupled with decreased funding create an unsustainable situation. You cannot prevent the coming “austerity measures” until you democratize wealth and power. For those who would counter with the very recent elections in Greece and France, allow me to say that the jury is still out. You can win elections and still lose the game.

The first sparkle in a very, very long time was Occupy. Although news coverage was painfully slow in the beginning, there were a few months last year where Occupy was in the news almost everyday. That is clearly not the case now. While many are still deeply committed and very active, the level of activity, and press coverage, is nothing like it had been. Perhaps the “spring offensive” has yet to take off. Perhaps the flashy occupations have settled into a more mature form of movement building. Or perhaps the kindling burned up before it caught the big logs.

Some seem to believe that when things get really bad, the public will join together to topple the power structure. It often seems this is more likely to happen in countries outside the US. In the US, i.e. inside the heart of the beast, perhaps we have grown too soft and lazy or fearful of losing our creature comforts. Or perhaps we face the most sophisticated propaganda machine the world has ever known. Or perhaps, burning in each one of us is a passion for justice that will sooner or later take to the streets to demand change. Things still look painfully quiet inside my crystal ball.

You cannot regulate the undemocratic abuses of highly concentrated wealth and power because you have neither wealth nor power. You cannot swim against the tide of media indoctrination because you do not control the media… but someone does. There are certainly no easy answers here. The path to change can only occur through massive public education and, eventually, through revolution… hopefully peaceful. Such change is nowhere on the horizon.

I wonder how many of you would ascribe to the view that we must directly confiscate wealth to begin the process of building a truly egalitarian society. I see no other viable path to change. For those who agree, I wonder exactly how you think we should go about it.

Obama’s Toughest Challenger

4:44 am in Uncategorized by welshTerrier2

Over the past few months, a handful of courageous challengers have stepped forward to throw their hats in the ring for next year’s presidential election. One or two have come from inside the Democratic Party; one or two have come from outside the party. Jill Stein will be the nominee for the Green Party; Rocky Anderson will represent the fledgling Justice Party. While I have great admiration for these candidates, sadly, I doubt they will be more than a footnote in history… at least for 2012. Perhaps someday, third parties will find a way to break through the corporate-stranglehold of the Republican-Democrat duopoly. Let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking that opposition candidates and parties are more than they really are. For those invested in such pursuits, I commend you and apologize for my skepticism. Go for it!

So, having said this, who… or rather what, has the potential to take down Obama next year?

The City of Charlotte, more specifically Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, said of a newly proposed ordinance targeting likely OWS protests at next year’s Democratic Convention: “The recent issues related to camping on city property have further amplified the need to review whether the city wants to regulate this activity during the DNC.” A city councilman commenting on current, and presumably future, Occupy Charlotte protests stated: “Once those ordinances go into effect, those overnight stays will end.”

Perhaps, unlike their 1968 predecessors, the Occupy movement will choose to steer clear of the political circus of the Democrat and Republican national conventions. Perhaps they will stage their own conventions at other locations. Don’t count it though. When the national media spotlights are turned on, what better place to get out your message? The conventions are likely to be ground zero for the movement.

Obama and his Democrats have some serious decisions ahead of them. Failure to handle the situation correctly might very well result in a crushing defeat for Democrats across the country. Occupy will be in Charlotte next year in waves whether the City of Charlotte welcomes them or not. Some, I’ve seen, on various pro-Democrat forums, have suggested that Democrats won’t be to blame; the choices are up to the City of Charlotte to determine how to handle the situation. They can’t be serious. Obama and the Democrats will get the blame if there are police and National Guard abuses against peaceful Occupy protesters. If it happens, there will be a bitter, emotional divide among Democrats and, just like 1968, the party will be crushed.

But it’s going to take much more than Obama’s pretty words and much more than tolerance of the street protesters to solve the problem. The reality is that neither the Democrats nor Obama himself is up to the task. At its core, the Occupy message is that they are sick and tired of the ultra-wealthy running the country and being catered to by the Democrat-Republican political class. Is anyone really naive enough to believe that the Democrats will accept the Occupy message and change course, deep in their hearts, before next year’s convention? They might try to show some sympathy in words; these words will be lies. In deeds, the Democrats have no interest in ending the rich-get-richer system of governance. Their token tax cuts will not end the special interest control of our government. Their wars and their endless military spending will do nothing to re-invest in America… and in Americans. Their moving further and further to the right to eat into the Republican share of the “independent vote” will do nothing to redress the desperation most Americans feel about their future. Their pursuit of Wall Street lobbyist loot and campaign cash exposes their lies.

Obama and his Democrats are in very, very serious trouble next year. There’s a challenger out there that they have no idea how to handle. It won’t come from the traditional, electoral model. It will come from the voices of the people assembled, legally or not, in the streets of Charlotte. And, just like in 1968, the whole world will be watching.