Ironic, isn’t it?
Ironic, that those folks who are so worried about about the country are the ones so hell bent on destroying it?
I am, of course, talking about those who would drive this country to revolution.
See, there are certain things all revolutions have in common, especially those that led to communist, socialist, or fascist states.
It begins with the pervasive belief that the country is in decline. That its greatness, whatever that was, is being slowly leached away, gnawed at from the outside by some ill-defined enemy and/or stolen from the inside by some shadowy conspiracy perpetuated by fell creatures bent on supplanting “our way of life.” You pound this message home, over and over, until everyone believes it. Until it is a given.
Next, education. It’s the teachers. They are indoctrinating the next generation with those alien ideas. Divide and conquer, subvert from within the population is told. So the wealthy and privileged and those that can move their kids to private schools – and they move their money too. What happens to the rest, the majority, the ones who aren’t wealthy, aren’t privileged? They get what’s left, what trickles down, like the mice scurrying after the crumbs under a wealthy man’s table. Within a generation or two, the ones with the education become the de facto rulers, they become the leaders, the politicians, the owners, the landholders, the officers. They have all the opportunity. The poor get what’s left. The problem is that there are a lot of poor. Nothing opens the gap between the small number of haves and the large population of have-nots like this dichotomy. Nothing will erase the middle-class faster, leaving behind a tiny population of entitled elites and a huge angry miserable disenfranchised sea of proletarians.
Accessible, universal, secular public education is the very heart of a republic.
Without it, without a well educated population, democracy dies.
Those calling for increased privatization of education, for voucher systems that will allow their kids to attend private schools, aren’t trying to fix public education they’re looking to abandon it.
As the gap between the rich and poor widens, between the educated and the uneducated, the population becomes increasingly susceptible to manipulation, to group think and propaganda and pervasive false beliefs. This is a fertile ground for religious and political extremism, and it is almost inevitable that such will take root and flourish. Today, right now, nearly one in four Americans are birthers to one degree or another (read that carefully, note the small “B,” there is more than one kind of birther, not all of them are on the same side of the political spectrum and not all of them are talking about the same birth) – significantly most of them don’t believe that they are conspiracy theorists. A increasing fraction of Americans consider themselves 911 Truthers. Today, religious and political extremism and hatred of the government isn’t the exception, it’s the norm.
As the gap widens, a disproportionate fraction of the national burden falls on the non-privileged, on what used to be the middle-class but will increasingly become the de facto poor. An increasing percentage of their lives are taken up with the basic necessities of food, shelter, energy, transportation, communications, and reproduction. Things like child labor laws, safe workplaces, representation, medical care, education, longevity, and living wages become luxuries. Eventually, the non-privileged make up the bulk of the military, not the officer corps but rather the ranks – who are increasingly treated as mere cannon fodder. Note the increasing call for conscription, despite the fact that it’s not necessary to maintain the military.
Meanwhile, the privileged pay little or no taxes, nor do the corporations and businesses they own. They have access to shelters and protections denied the less fortunate. They are rarely held to account and they have an extraordinary levels of power and access to power. Inevitably, their glamorous lives, once desired, once achievable, become objects of resentment and disdain – the poor become proud of their station, of their lack of education, of their struggle. They revel in it. And those poor who attempt to rise above their station will be pulled back down by their resentful fellows. Those few who succeed are excommunicated by the poor and privileged alike.
The gap widens.
The poor become more and more restive.
Which, perversely, convinces the privileged of their uniqueness, their birthright, of their right to privilege and power.
Increasingly the non-privileged will go hungry, cold, homeless, and without access to basic services or civil rights. The standards of living, the rights they once knew, are taken away or are abandoned. Right now in America there is an increasing push by those in power to limit the rights of workers to organize, to repeal child labor laws, to remove protections for the weak and less privileged, to end government education loans and grants. There are far too many people in this country who go to bed hungry and homeless and uneducated every single day – and far too many people who think they deserve it.
There is much a population will bear, if they bear the burden equally.
But when the burden is unequal, revolution becomes more and more likely.
When people perceive that their voices aren’t heard, when the poor go hungry, when they are told over and over that it is their neighbors and their government who are the enemy, when those in power won’t listen or are perceived to be corrupt and in the thrall of foreign influence, corporations, and the rich – then upheaval is never far away, and you can, today, right now, see the seeds of it all around you.
No country is ever more than three meals from revolution – as events from the fall of the Soviet Union (or its rise) to the recent revolutions in stable Middle Eastern countries exemplify.
Add to the mix: unending war, economic uncertainty, a designated scapegoat, pervasive surveillance, and a universally held belief in manifest destiny combined with a wide availability of the basic tools of revolution – weapons, communications, and demagoguery – and the likelihood of a popular uprising increases exponentially.
Sooner or later, the disenfranchised will rise up.
The goals of the revolution will be noble, because they always are: wealth and rights for all, equality, liberty, justice, an end to corruption and greed and avarice.
But – as those in the former Soviet Union found out (both at the revolutions of its birth and the one that presided over its demise) and those in the Middle East are finding out right now – revolution rarely results in a republic, in democracy, in freedom and equality.
Revolution, big or small, almost always, eventually, gets coopted by a small handful of hardline idealists or the power hungry and results in totalitarianism in one form or another.
In fact, in only one case, has revolution ever truly ended in a democratic republic.
I’ll wait, while you figure out which revolution that was.
So, what do we do about it?
Are we doomed to eventual revolution and totalitarianism?
Does the light have to go out and darkness fall?
Of course not.
But that’s tomorrow’s post.