News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Thursday, February 17, 2011

It can't happen here

Wisconsin:  Headed for a concentration camp?

The young people of Egypt revolted in a manner that cannot be copied in many other places.  Especially in the U.S.  In a long report on the BBC Overnight Service, the reporters detailed the kind of young people who drove the protest against Mubarak.  One was a young man with a college degree in engineering who could find work only as an elevator operator.  He was frustrated, but hopeful and determined.  His focus was on a revolt that built a functioning society, not one which left a mass of destruction and the subsequent consequences of divisive anger and resentment. 

The young people comprise a huge, formidable force in Egypt.  Half of Egypt's 84 million people are under 30.  Some estimates say that two-thirds of the population is under 35.  Egypt is a young country with people looking for the opportunity to live in freedom and make lives for themselves.  The deposition of Mubarak is a huge step, but the celebration is premature.  The co-option of the coup by the military or Muslim clerics is a potential that worries any serious student of the history of revolutions.  American democracy in its current state hardly provides a model.  What is happening in America is the obverse of what happened in Egypt. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert states the situation: "The Egyptians want to establish a viable democracy, and that’s a long, hard road. Americans are in the mind-bogglingly self-destructive process of letting a real democracy slip away."  America is being dictated by a financial and corporate elite that is imposing on the American people the very deprivations that the young Egyptians revolted over. 

If you read the popular American press or its self-sucking parasites on the blogs, you get the news that what happened in Egypt caught us off guard.  It's like those who claim that we did not know that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction when we invaded it.  Reports otherwise abounded and rebounded.  But those who think that their national stature depends upon attacks, invasions, and dominance of other countries chose not to pay attention.  It is contrary to their  political agenda.  The fact is that the revolution in Egypt was carefully planned and was openly reported.

In 2009, some of those young, educated people in Egypt were holding seminars and workshops on how to organize and use the social media to expose and fight the oppression under which they lived.  Last summer, if you followed the competent and professional media, such as NPR, you would have known that the young people of Egypt were using the Internet and satellite media to expose and organize opposition to the oppression inflicted on them and their country.

Last summer, the young people were using their cell phones and the Internet to circulate news that was not available from the state media.  They were recording the incidents of oppression and suppression, and the record they established was openly available to the news media.  In the U.S.,  the anathema of the GOP, National Public Radio, was reporting the developments.  The young people were mounting a response to the repressions of their country, and a sociologist from Cairo American University, Said Sadek, was quoted in explaining what was going on:

"They see the future as bleak," Sadek says. "They don't know about the job, marriage, housing — they see torture. They see corruption. They see rigged elections. What can they do? Of course: The only tool in their hands is their fingertips. And the keyboard."

What the young Egyptians were using the new media for was in stark contrast to how it is being used in America. The young Egyptians were engaged in exchanging substantive information about the incidents of oppression, about their aspirations for freedom, and strategies for dealing with the aggression and oppression to which they were subjected.  They also adhered to an underlying principle:  using the lessons from the American civil rights movement, they concentrated on nonviolent resistance.  Their revolution had a  one-day spurt of violence when Mubarak backers launched assaults on them on horse and camel  back, but the demonstrators managed to respond without letting violence take over.  They instead maintained a calm, unyielding resistance which ultimately forced Mubarak to resign, which was their stated objective from the outset of their organized protest.  

A huge block of American citizens are facing circumstances similar to what the young Egyptians confronted.  While corporations and financial institutions have recovered and are back to giving their executives absurdly lavish bonuses and the Dow Jones stock market average has doubled in value since its low of two years ago, the unemployment rate is stuck in the 9 percent range, but that does not include the millions not counted because their unemployment benefits have expired and those who have little hope of finding jobs. The net effect is a demographic shift in America that has seen the country's wealth and earning capacity concentrated in the upper 10 percent while there is a massive descent of the economic middle class into the lower economic class, with more than 15 percent of the people living in poverty.  While financial institutions and corporations dictate the economy of the nation, they demonstrate that they have no interest in its economic welfare, but only in their own bottom lines, which are tied to global allegiances. 

The new media in America is caught up in exchanging misinformation and disinformation, not the reporting and verifying of factual information.  Reports are obscured and lost in the blizzard of talk-show bickering that includes a huge amount of hate speech.  Some facts about American life and the bitter divide between those who support the plutocracy and those who see that the plutocracy has declared war on them  is reduced to squabbling.  But where Egypt was prepared for revolution, America is poised for civil war.  And the war taking shape is not merely a disagreement between the left and right wings; it is a class war between those who have and those who are being dispossessed from American life.  Like those young Egyptians, those being dispossessed see a future that is bleak.  They are confronted with uncertainties and disappointments about education, jobs, health care, marriage, and the total corruption of the economy by a small privileged class that has created a neo-fascist force in America.  Unlike those young Egyptians, the devices they hold in their hands and their keyboards offer little but discord.  But they do see a nation that is arming itself. While the right wing thinks it is arming itself for self-protection, those who are dispossessed see it as arming for war.   The American class wars of the past were fought with fists and clubs; the war that is taking shape will be fought with arms and explosives.  We have a large cadre of fighters who have been taught and coached in the techniques of insurgent warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan, and by extension in their own country and throughout the world.

The neo-fascist movement has declared war on the working class in America.  The conservatives give lip service to the value of hard work, but they hate the hard workers, unless their work is done in groveling subservience.  The official declarations of war on the working class are being issued in the state capitols.  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is asking for legislation that would deny the right of state workers to bargain collectively as part of a budget cutting effort.  

Wisconsin leads in the effort to use budgeting as the pretext for nullifying workers' rights.  The significance of the Wisconsin proposal is that in itself it does nothing to cut the state's costs in paying its workers; instead it removes their right to have an effective voice in the conditions of their employment.  The Wisconsin proposal is an outright declaration of class warfare.  It has no purpose other than to make workers an underclass that lives under the dictates of the neo-fascist ruling class.  Gov. Walker has put the National Guard on alert to quell any disturbances on the part of the workers.  This is a vicious and degrading act of war.  A peaceful exchange of messages on the Internet and the telephone satellites would be inanely pointless as an act of protest.  It is a situation that is created with the threat of force and if it is resisted successfully, it will be by force.  Unless, of course, the Governor backs down.  

The Governor wants state government workers to contribute more to their pensions and health care benefits, but he wants to do so without the consent of workers by taking away their right to consent or dissent.  When the automobile companies were working out the  terms of their bail out.  they bargained with the workers through their unions for cost-saving provisions.  The Wisconsin Governor wants the power of a dictatorship to impose terms on the workers.  The significance of his proposal is in the denial of hard won rights of workers.

Wisconsin is not the only state to declare the working class a new serfdom in the political scheme of things.  But the dismissive belligerence with which it has raised the proposal reveals the declaration of war on the working class.  

Contrary to what the GOP contends through its neo-fascist spokespersons, liberals and progressives want spending reined in and limited to restore fiscal stability.  After all, it was Democrat Bill Clinton who restored a surplus to the budget and hand it over to his Republican successor.  The difference between the Republicans and Democrats is that the Republicans want the working class to bear all the burdens and deprivations of fiscal responsibility.  They insisted upon maintaining tax cuts for the very rich, while they are condemning as un-American healthcare, job building, and civil rights for the non-rich.  

What is taking place in America is plain, old class war.  Finally with the Wisconsin proposal to return the working  class to a serfdom, it is becoming clear to America's workers that the people who voted for the huge Republican take-over of the U.S. House and state houses throughout the country have declared war on them to take their rights away from them.  John Boehner keeps using that insulting phrase about having an adult conversation, when the spokespeople of his party are Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman.  Adult conversation and reasonable compromise and conciliation have long been banished from the land.  The question is not whether such attempts at moderation are possible.  The question is if anyone really wants it. 



caheidelberger said...

Oof. Reading your work, David, regularly triggers a sinking feeling in my gut that I should be fighting a lot harder, a lot more desperately.

larry kurtz said...

Caught this at Montana Cowgirl.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States