Swans Commentary » swans.com December 19, 2011  



Perspectives: A Review of 2011


Not Enough Yet


by Michael DeLang





"The whole world's a prison; some of us are prisoners, the rest of us are guards."
—Bob Dylan


(Swans - December 19, 2011)   One of my favorite blogging gadflies likes to describe the prevailing American socio-political-economic condition in the following terms, "There's a Club, and you're not in it." This may represent an oversimplified summing up of an exceedingly complex structure, but it's becoming increasingly hard to hide or deny the plain, succinct truth that underlies the core of this sentiment. Looking back, certain events of the past year seem to contain signs that a growing portion of the American populace is finally beginning to wake up to the inherent economic disparities created by an unregulated capitalism driven by the consumerist illusion of limitless growth.

In the early months of 2011, we saw thousands of outraged citizens occupy the capitol building in Madison, Wisconsin, for several weeks in response to the thinly disguised union-busting tactics of the Koch brothers' puppet, Governor Scott Walker. In that ongoing battle, the outrage lingers and the activism persists even though the television cameras have turned away. A massive recall effort is under way and my friends at WEAC, the Wisconsin school workers labor organization, tell me that they still have confidence that the people of their state will maintain the necessary support long enough to get the job done.

I'm not as close to the situation in Ohio, but my understanding is that the people of that state did succeed, this summer, in getting their legislature to overturn a similar assault on the bargaining rights of public workers engineered by their gubernatorial corporate errand boy. These hopeful signs, along with the anger and frustration associated with the growing specter of disenfranchising long-term joblessness, eventually emerged in the apparently spontaneous civic catharsis identified as the Occupy Wall Street movement.

The movement spread so rapidly and to so many corners of the nation that it became impractical for the mainstream media to avert their news eye. It could be spun, it could be slandered, but it could not be ignored. What's more, it manifested in a visceral expression that was too chaotic and disorganized to be readily co-opted and re-channeled by the safer and more controllable political entities. It provided for a heady and exciting spate of news cycles, leading the most naively optimistic among us to hope and maybe even believe that the tide of American political consciousness had finally begun to turn.

And then came the news on the morning of November 26th that exposed the ugly truth. Record retail sales were reported for Black Friday 2011. We're still not ready to take on The Club, because we're still not willing to understand that we are the ones who feed the monster. The germs of resistance are still infecting only those who have already been directly impacted by the economic meltdown.

The fallacy of the Revolution of 2011 is deeply embedded within the fallacy of the 99-1 meme that has become the rallying cry of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Grounded in an element of truth, that one percent of the population does indeed own more than 45 percent of the national wealth, enabling them to manipulate the system to even further expand their share, the formulation still tends to overlook the critical reality that the cruel economic suffering created by this disparity of wealth is far from equally shared by the remaining 99 percent.

As long as 74 percent of us are floating around in lifeboats and using the oars to whack at the fingers of the drowning 25 percent who are trying to climb into the already overcrowded boats, where will the motivation come from to make the sacrifices needed to undermine the system that empowers and enriches The Club?

If there is to be hope and change in our future, those of us still comfortably getting by are going to have to recognize that we must be the source of hope and the agents of change.

It begins with reaching out a hand in solidarity to those in the water and crowding them into the boats so we can start working together, even if it means taking on some water and getting a little wet ourselves. If we wait until they start dismantling some more of the boats for the materials they need to improve the Clubhouse, while pitching another thirty or forty percent of us into the drink, it's going to be too late to help ourselves at all.

We need to reassess our values now.

At the end of 2011, too many of us are still buying into the long con and behaving like a mark at the carnival biding our time and angling to obtain that invitation to join The Club that's sure to come our way some day, if only we are patient and play our cards right.

So much for this year. Maybe the delusional fog will begin to lift in 2012.


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About the Author

Michael DeLang is a self-defined middle-aged blue collar worker in the trucking industry who lives in Golden, Colorado.   (back)


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Published December 19, 2011