I’d say that overall I’m a fan of dissent. It’s pretty hard to hover on the verge of anarchism in your beliefs and not be. Some of my greatest heroes have advocated and succesfully created change through civil disobedience, whether it’s Ghandi or Mohammed Ali or Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King. I may not agree with everything all of them say or do, but it’s undeniable that all have had a dramatic impact on society one way or another, and all without resorting to or advocating violence (unless we count Cassius Clay’s brutality in the ring…but I don’t! Besides…he’s the Greatest! )
Ok, I admit, that first paragraph was mostly an excuse to post that album cover. Who knew Cassius Clay had an album of spoken word pieces? Dang. Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, civil disobedience. It can take many forms, but a popular one seems to be gathering a bunch of people in one place, bringing a bunch of signs, and shouting stuff. And that’s fine. It’s good and healthy to let the powers that be know how you feel. I’m just not so sure it makes a difference. How many protests did we see against the Iraq War? How many Tea Parties protested against government healthcare?
In both of these cases protesting had no effect whatsoever on policy. But I think one thing they have in common is the lack of principles behind them. Were Iraq War protesters againts war? Or just against Bush? The deafening silence and lack of protest against Obama’s expanded wars in Iraq and Afghanistan along with new forays into Pakistan, Yemen and Libya seem to suggest otherwise . Were those “Tea Party” protests against government health care really opposed to government intervention in the health care marketplace? Or were they just pissed because that stinkin’ no good Commie Obama was doing it? I don’t remember any such “Tea Party” protests over Bush’s dramatic expansion of government health care with the Prescription Drug Benefit / Medicare Part D. When the political slant to a protests overrides any philosophy, I feel it’s largely rendered ineffective as both sides can just go “Look at those dastardly ____ (Democrat/Republican, Communist/Fascist , meaningless term/meaningless term), at it again.”
I’m not sure if the current “Occupy Wall Street” protests are based in a solid philosophy or not. It’s certainly understandable that there is “anger in the streets” so to speak. Corporations are being bailed out with taxpayer money left and right, while unemployment continues to rise and wars rage on. And I’m certain many protesters are out there with legitimate gripes. But some things give me pause. For example, the location. “Wall Street”. Yes, it’s the symbol of the evils of finance and capitalism the world over. But are the traders that work on Wall Street day in and day out really the ones causing these problems? I suspect most of them are hard working individuals trying to do what the rest of us are trying to do – make a living, get by, make things work in this crazy world.
And when I see signs like “End Capitalism”, I’m not so sure. Capitalism is merely a system of trading goods in a free market , using capital (i.e. savings) as a means to invest in companies and markets. But it seems that people are mistaking “capitalism” for what is really Corporatism or to use the even scarier term, Fascism. This is when government gets together with big businesss, and essentially keeps profits private for the corporations while keeping the losses public. These terms would be much more appropriate in describing our current system and what those protestors are angry about. All of that $800 billion in bank bailout money is all off the books of those banks, and on the books of every citizen of the United States. But we are in debt, right? So this begs the question: Where did all that money come from?
The answer is of course, The Federal Reserve, which is neither “Federal” (it is privately owned and operated, albeit via government decree) nor does it have “reserves” (the money it prints is backed by nothing, as Nixon permanently severed the link between the dollar and gold in 1971). Without the Fed, you can’t have massive bailouts without directly taxing the people. Does anyone think these bailouts would go through if everyone got a bill in the mail for them? Or better yet a government armed tax collector knocking at every door in the country demanding payment for their banker buddies?
Again, I’m all for protest and civil disobedience. But I think it’s important that protests come from a true philosophical standpoint to be effective, and must exist outside of the Left/Right paradigm. I hope these protests will get people asking questions and hopefully lead to the kind of discussion that will lead people to the same conclusions I’ve reached on this topic. I think there’s certainly hope. Heck, check out this guy:
So there’s hope.
Then again, we also have these guys…
*Sigh* So there’s work to be done..
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