Sorry about the lack of posting. I've been busy with lots of stuff, including helping a friend move. (She's going to Vegas
. A gruesome idea, if you ask me -- which she didn't.)
Our last post, on the Occupy Wall Street movement, made a lot of people feel queasy. I'm queasy about it too. Theodore Roosevelt's "In the Arena" quote haunts us all: If you're just a spectator, what right do you have to sneer at the warriors?
Then again, perhaps this blog constitutes a form of fighting.
Part of the problem stems from personal history. My only first-hand experience of protest marches occurred during the movement to end America's covert wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador. Those marches seemed ineffectual, silly and depressing; worst of all, they offered a glimpse of the thin line separating mass action from mob action. I neither liked nor trusted many of the people with whom I marched.
On the other hand: Just how ineffectual were
those protests? Reagan never did send American troops into open warfare, although he clearly wanted to do so. When polled, the American public always remained anti-interventionist. I'm not sure that the protest marches played any role in keeping us out of war. How can one judge such a thing? But perhaps they helped.
We still haven't processed the lessons of the Reagan revolution.
I never will forget that the Reagan movement was created by people who once protested the Vietnam war. For that reason, whenever I look at the Occupiers, I see Tea Partiers, or at least potential Tea Partiers: The opposites look more like equivalences to these jaded eyes.
The thirst for rebellion will always -- in the long run
-- serve the cause of reaction, because conservatism is revolutionary. James Kwak
at the Baseline Scenario makes the point. Never forget that Boulanger, Mussolini, Hitler and Franco were all rebels
. So was Reagan.
I noted, in the earlier post, that the political history of the 1970s came down to this progression: The slogan "Don't trust the Pentagon" turned into "Don't trust the government," which turned into "Don't trust the very idea
of government," which turned into "Vote for Reagan."
Today, the "occupiers" have no universally agreed-upon program beyond an outrage over police brutality. Watch it happen: "Fuck the police" will turn into "Fuck the government," which will turn into "Fuck the very idea of government," which will turn into "Let's live in AynRandLand." Alienation from power is always a sentiment that the Libertarians can work with.
I suppose that support for the protesters depends upon one's level of discouragement over electoral politics. If you are a liberal, how can you not
be discouraged right now? The "liberal" label has been misapplied to a bad president who is anything but
Nevertheless, I have always counseled New Deal idealists to work within
the Democratic Party with an idea toward an eventual takeover. This is how the Libertarians took over the Republican party. Why not emulate a successful strategy?
Today, as in the Vietnam era, the protesters seem to think that elections can solve nothing because the candidates have been purchased by the powerful. Look, we're all angry at the corruption which has ruined so much of the American political system. But if you have given up on electoral politics altogether, then what are you for
? The only alternatives are fascism and/or AynRandLand.Krugman: Here's a point
which no-one has made previously...
If fear of future regulations and taxes is holding business back, as everyone on the right asserts, why didn’t the Republican victory in the midterms set off a surge in employment?
The right has been insanely successful in convincing the populace that prolonged unemployment is due to something other than lack of demand.Horatio Alger laughs at you:
Gore Vidal once wrote an essay -- I forget which one -- in which he noted that, during the Depression, every person who lost a job blamed himself. In the play Death of Salesman
, the unsuccessful businessman must listen to innumerable tales of smart go-getters who made it big. Our culture offers a thousand daily jabs at our egos: "You're not talented enough. You're not good enough. That's
why you're not rich."
Ever since the early 1980s, I've noticed that every recession is marked by a propaganda barrage designed to convince the public that bright, upbeat up-and-comers can still make it in America. The Horatio Alger myth just won't die. We're always being told that personal success has nothing to do with inherited wealth and everything to do with pluck and ambition.Here's an example
. Yahoo News runs a story like that nearly every day.
I think that the cumulative effect of these stories is not positive. The message is not "You can do it too." The message is "Lost your house? You have no-one to blame but yourself."