I suppose I’m preaching to the choir but just in case (& to express myself):
During the Viet Nam war there were basically 3 things that pretty much all left leaning progressives and ultimately a broader swath of the population could agree on as key issues. They were: ending the war, civil rights, and to stop the use of nuclear (mostly) as weapons & (secondarily) as a source of power.
Today, we are bombarded by information about countless issues that require action. Many that potentially puts our very world at risk. Climate change, the numerous declared and undeclared wars, America’s shameful and immoral behavior all around the globe, food, seed and bio-diversity, genetically modified crops, the corporate take-over of democracy, U.S. citizens falling into poverty at an alarming rate, the assault on our civil liberties, whistleblowers being treated as criminals, torture, the assault on unions, repressing voter rights, an administration that won’t prosecute the last administration or the bankers that caused our financial woes, a president that isn’t doing what he promised (when we had such high hopes) while acquiescing to the conservative agenda without a fight, not to mention a field of Republican candidates that makes our collective skin crawl.
Everyday my inbox is filled with emails about situations and causes that scream about some terrible injustice or how things will all fall apart if we don’t take action. Petitions and information regarding everything from dire environmental warnings, holding the bankers accountable, investigating Clarence Thomas, Internet neutrality, Bradley Manning being tortured, to applying pressure on Congress to pass a half-assed jobs bill. So much, if I read all of them I literally wouldn’t have time to do anything else. Back in the 1960’s and early 1970’s when people took to the streets, most of the problems we face today actually were happening or starting to happen, we just didn’t know about them. What we did suspect, was vague and hard to believe our government could be involved. Collective denial? Maybe.
For some of us, our eyes opened slowly as successive scandals came to light. Watergate, the Gulf of Tonkin, corporations deciding that the cost of litigation for consumer deaths was better for their bottom line when compared to the cost of making a product safe, the U.S. government in the crack cocaine business to support an illegal war in Nicaragua. The list goes on.
The TV news at the time had a semblance of independence, played a big role in awakening people about Viet Nam with a steady stream of reports about the war, complete with images of flag draped coffins. While the number of participants were down-played the protests were on the evening news. However, much of our population chooses to deny, or at least to avoid thinking about the mounting crises through various avenues of diversion (“Reality” and celebrity TV, e.g.). Seriously, are Brittany’s troubles or so and so’s marital problems really on a par with the climate crisis, the wars? It’d be hard to tell by how the mainstream media spends its limited time.
We are overwhelmed. Every place we look, there’s something threatening. A sort of mass paralysis from sensory overload has resulted. Instead of 3 things to focus on, there are hundreds. We may not know where to start. Add to this, either by accident or by design, it has gotten tough for most folks to even keep their own lives afloat. Personally, I don’t think it’s an accident, at least not in a general sense.
In Wisconsin, there was a single issue to focus on that was so immediate, so important to so many that more than 100,000 people showed up in Madison. It was a thing of beauty. Each of the uprisings of the Arab Spring has that type of focus but on steroids. A single goal that everyone could get behind and were willing to risk their lives for: forcing their current government out of power. If the changes can be sustained is to be seen. In Egypt, the military is still convicting civilians in military courts and using harsh tactics to break up further protests.
Since 9/11, the American government has built the infrastructure for a surveillance state. They can and do read our email and listen to our phone calls. Computers are used to scan millions of communications searching for certain key words. The Patriot Act has given law enforcement new powers to do warrant-less searches on U.S. citizens. These new powers, designed specifically to fight terrorism have been used extensively in drug related crimes.
New technology allows law enforcement agencies to spy on people from helicopters from farther away than can be seen or heard. They can see through walls. This equipment has been deployed in New York City. In an interview I watched, of members of the para-military counter terrorism branch of the NYPD, they promise that it has never and will never, be used to violate the privacy of our homes or offices. You’ll excuse me if I’m not reassured.
I am currently about a quarter of the way through Naomi Klein’s latest book, The Shock Doctrine, The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. It’s pretty disturbing but in my opinion is a must read to understand current events. And to understand what we’re up against, why our elected officials and the International Monetary Fund are pushing austerity measures and cuts rather than what many economists prescribe, spending to boost the economy and create jobs. Why a democratic president is fine with cuts in Social Security and Medicare and social programs. Why some of the GOP would be happy for the financial crisis that would come if we defaulted on our debts. Why there hasn’t been prosecutions of the major players in the financial sector. And ultimately, what’s in store for us if they get their way.
They have a head start. The media reports on a Tea Party gathering that draws 30 people while overlooking a progressive event that gets hundreds or thousands. The network for repression is in place, save for a few tweaks. We need to raise our voices in protest and non-violently let them know that it matters enough for us to take a stand. They pretend that they don’t pay attention to us, that we don’t matter to them. But I have to believe that we can still effect a change but we have to act quickly… the window of opportunity is closing.
The good news is that there are a bunch of groups that are working to reverse this assault. Find a group to protest with. Go to New York right now and join the groups that are Occupying Wall Street or check out Occupy Together to find one of solidarity actions (now over 100!) happening in most major cities. Go to Freedom Plaza in Washington on October 6th. Support progressive movements like Think Progress, Demand Progress and US Uncut. Arm yourself with the truth at sites like FireDogLake. Stop seeking a hero, it’s not the answer. We need to all take responsibility and be our own hero… waiting for someone else to make things right just won’t cut it anymore.
My name is David and I operate the site: Our World Report. I split my time between the U.S. and the Philippines. I am committed to contributing in a positive way to the progressive movement & invite other progressives to post at my site. You can follow me on twitter at #ourworldreport and I will respond in kind. Thanks.