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The Protest Wave Reaches The Land of The Free

February 21, 2011

[Real information here about the background, fakeness of the deficits and all the rest.]

I find this story fascinating. The American government won’t (I still believe in America, don’t let me down) shoot protesters like the Libyans and Bahranians are right now, though they have sent state troops to try to track down Democratic senators to force them to stop their procedural opposition: running to Illinois so that there’s not enough members in the house to have a quorum. But if the government of the USA has not reached Libyan levels yet, is it crazy to view the last ten years as tending towards that state of affairs? What is it that makes it so strange to imagine popular protests actually having an effect in America, or the corporate/political oligarchy actually descending into a government of the privileged against the people like that in Bahrain? The anti-Iraq war protests, for example, were the largest protests in recent American history, and had essentially no effect: here we are stuck with years of terrible conflict in Iraq.

It’s also pretty confusing trying to unravel the reasoning behind tea party supporters embracing the comparison made by protesters of the Republican governor of Wisconsin to Hosni Mubarak. Is it that they support dictatorship and government oppression? The bill before the Wisconsin house attacks freedoms to associate and collectively bargain which seem like pretty good rights to support unless you think the UN declaration of human rights is wrong (spoiler: it’s not even remotely close to wrong). Is it that they really think that unions = Muslims = communists = destruction of American way of life? I suppose the Chomsky-style explanation would be they are just really confused by constant misinformation. Either that or they are entirely (rather than mostly) astroturfed. Still, I try to be charitable with people who hold seemingly (to me) insane and obviously false ideas. I’d really be interested to read a proper, non-patronizing interview with someone who sincerely believed in embracing the “Republican Mubarak” as their icon of freedom…

One thing is for sure: there are an awful lot of Serious Opinion-Makers who are happy to dismiss populism and worker organization as mass delusions which are pointless or even counter-productive. As the narrative goes, if ten thousand teachers go on strike for better pay they’re just being greedy jerks trying to steal public money etc., whereas the Chamber of Commerce and such similar groups are merely acting in a rational way to help all of us be better off by consistently supporting existing businesses, consolidation, rent-seeking and such over all else. If business groups can be blatantly greedy why not workers? Corporations are based on the idea of maximizing shareholder returns with a single-minded focus that excludes all other factors. Why then is it wrong for a beneficiary to demand more money if they want it?

Despite the fact that left-wing populism is wrong according to columnists, economists, businessmen and whoever else, I reckon it’s about time people at least tried to exert some power on behalf of themselves. If greed is good then why not be greedy as a teachers union? It’s not like governments can really punish unions by getting even more anti-union or going even harder on austerity. People should simply demand more, from the government, corporations, and anyone else they can exert power over, and let votes and public opinion decide, rather than tempering their views. Libertarian views as represented by the ACT party support are less than 2% of the popular vote, and the share of press narratives about unions/welfare/arts funding/public waste/Roger Douglas/etc. should reflect this! What you can do for your country is to be clear in your demands that your country give you everything you want.


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