Revolutions have been sweeping the world for some time, not just recently. More than a decade ago, the people swept Chavez into power in Venezuela, spearheading a tide of change in Latin America. Less than a decade ago, Argentina repudiated predatory globalist loans. Five years ago, Morales came to power in Bolivia. Over the past year outrage against ‘austerity measures’ has exploded in Europe, in places like Greece, England and Ireland. Over the past month, rage against tyranny has overwhelmed US-backed regimes in Lebanon, Tunisia and Egypt. Now tyranny in Bahrain is shaking. But what about America? Where is America’s revolution?
America continues to look, depending on point of view, like a land of smug and self-satisfied people, stuffed with pizza and McDonalds, toting guns, watching football, and worshipping a God who blesses ‘our’ wars. But, it’s also a land where half the people are too alienated from the political system to vote, where 75% of the people distrust the government and 50% of the people FEAR the government; it is a land that has suffered through three decades of class war, waged by a Robber Baron class, where the disparity between rich and poor is now greater than in Tunisia. Is America ripe for revolution? Stirrings in Wisconsin suggest that it might be. The Robber Barons obviously think it is; via their political stooges, they’ve arranged for legions to ‘police’ America in case of ‘civil unrest’, equipped with all the latest Iraq/Afghanistan-tested lethal and less-lethal weaponry. Still, on the surface, America remains surprisingly placid. Most Americans seem to live in an imaginary Garden of Eden …
“… analyses have shown that income inequality in the US has grown steadily for the past three decades and reached its highest level on record, exceeding even the large disparities seen in the 1920s, before the Great Depression. Norton and Ariely estimate that the one percent wealthiest Americans hold nearly 50 percent of the country’s wealth, while the richest 20 percent hold 84 percent of the wealth.
But in their study, the authors found Americans generally underestimate the income disparity. When asked to estimate, respondents on average estimated that the top 20 percent have 59 percent of the wealth (as opposed to the real number, 84 percent).”
The wars on which we must spare no expense continue to expand, while Austerity Measures loom like vultures over our lives and our communities. Huddled in darkened rooms, before flickering images sent to us from central locations, many of us seem to watch all this happening passively and distractedly, but there is another trend, growing in the world outside the media’s flickering lights. The antiwar movement is its catalyst.
Most of us on the Left have been conditioned to hate and fear the Right, and vice versa, but many on both sides are starting to see that there is common ground between the Libertarian Right and the Socialist Left. Alex Jones has led the way, making ‘Challenge the Left/Right Paradigm’ his rallying cry, and it’s making more and more sense to people on both the Left and the Right, regardless of whether they like Alex Jones (or Noam Chomsky, or other iconic figures of Left and Right). Ralph Nader has made common cause with Ron Paul. Cindy Sheehan has appeared on Jones’ InfoWars. Ray McGovern publishes on the Libertarian site, Antiwar. Kevin Zeese has called for understanding and reconciliation between Left and Right. More importantly, individuals are finding that they are increasingly able to talk to those who once would have seemed to be polar ideological opposites.
“A year ago this week on Feb. 20, about 40 antiwar activists, writers, and organizers, gathered in a basement conference room in Washington, D.C., to launch an antiwar organization spanning the political spectrum. As a first step we agreed to publish a book of essays by meeting participants and others, now out with the title ComeHomeAmerica.US. The organization has also launched a Web site.
About 65 percent of Americans oppose the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia. And yet this majority is unable to prevail. One reason is that those who oppose war do not work together. In fact, we often are at one another’s throats even when we are in agreement. Some of that is principled difference – all to the good. But some is simply based on stereotypes of “the other,” a recipe for failure.”
It’s not that Left/Right dialogue is suddenly easy. People on the Libertarian Right, like Antiwar’s Justin Raimondo, continue to redbait constantly, while on the socialist Left, any reference to Ron Paul continues to warrant sneering dismissal. We have been deeply conditioned to hate each other. Old habits die hard. We are like dogs, circling each other, trained to attack, but trying not to. We growl and snarl at each other, and we keep circling, not exactly looking for weaknesses, but not able to reach out either. “Socialist!” they snarl. “Racist!” we retort. “Commie!”, they howl. “Fascist!” we scream.
But I think this is slowly changing on the grassroots level. The other day I had a furnace guy over to the house and before I knew what was going on, we got to talking about the Police State at home and the Empire abroad, and so on. After a while I began to ‘get it’ that he was a Libertarian Right type of guy, so I said to him “I’m a socialist. Do you want to keep talking?” He looked me right in the eye and said “I listen to Rush Limbaugh, but I don’t believe most of what he says. Do YOU want to keep talking?” We did keep talking, and we didn’t solve any of the Problems of the Universe, but we DID begin to feel each other out. I think people are doing that all across America, one by one, two by two. I think this is the Oligarchy’s greatest fear. I think that’s why they tried to distract us with the Palinesque Tea Party on one hand, and the Obamian ‘Change’ movement on the other. The one thing they fear is that the folks on the Left and the folks on the Right will stop hating each other long enough to start talking to each other.
The Wisconsin demonstrations to defend worker’s union rights are a heartening indication that there are masses of people willing to defend themselves against the Oligarchic Vultures, but there are some dangers there too. One is that the Wisconsin movement is backwards looking, fighting a battle of attrition against the erosion of People’s rights; such battles are important, but we need to be building a future we can believe in, not just defending a past that never really achieved what we wanted and needed, and is now mostly lost. Instead of fighting to give up a little bit less, we should be fighting to demand a lot more.
Secondly, the struggle in Wisconsin has, predictably, been construed as a typical Left vs. Right battle, once again reinforcing the Left vs. Right paradigm. In essence, the Dems are saying to the People of Wisconsin (and America), “trust us; we will take your rights away more gradually”! But we need to beware ‘friends’ who are pushing us SLOWLY off a cliff.
What if the Libertarian Right and the Socialist Left each holds part of the key to the future? Increasingly I think that’s the ‘secret’ they want us not to see. At its best, the Right stands for the principles of freedom and liberty, while the Left (at its best) stands for the principles of equality and fraternity. More concretely, the Right obsesses over Property, while the Left is preoccupied with Community. If we could see more clearly, overcoming the prejudices we have been taught, we could see that these are COMPLEMENTARY principles and preoccupations, not contradictory ones. If government is to work well, it must balance property rights vs community needs, just as it must balance individual freedom vs. community rights. These principles are all strengthened when they are in balance.
In future articles I will try to explore the potentially complementary relationship between Left and Right.