“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Courage. It takes a lot of it to see something wrong and to do something about it in the face of ridicule and harsh consequence. We rather stay silent when we feel we have a lot to lose and only speak when we feel we have nothing left to lose. It’s taken some time for Americans who now realize they and their children are in debt for the rest of their lives and they’ve got no health care, retirement, and possibility of having the “American Dream” despite all their hard work. Some say better late than never, even if it’s been ten years in the making for this global financial mess.
As I’m living in France, I’m seeing the Occupy Wall Street movement on the news and internet and I’m happy and proud that Americans are taking to the streets in mass numbers to show their anger, frustration, and desperation as a result of corporate and government permitted abuse that has affected their lives and futures.
Some talking heads and politicians are calling what these protesters are doing, “un-American”. I want to know how is it un-American to raise your voice and say that you refuse to be taken advantage of? To say that you won’t allow a small percentage of people to do what they want to the majority? To tell politicians and businessmen that business will no longer be done “per usual”? If I’ve read my history books correctly, it’s totally American to stand up and defend oneself and the Constitution from tyranny both foreign and domestic.
No matter where one stands on the political spectrum, there is a grave situation in the world happening right now on the financial level. The attitudes and the policies that created the mess and the fear need to change and people are responding to that. They realize they can’t just let corporate business entities and politicians make all the decisions for them, that they must be involved in the process and change it from their own individual level.
Sunday, I was re-reading a ten year old essay by Greg Palast and Oliver Shykyles entitled Burn The Olive Tree, Sell The Lexus that criticizes Thomas Friedman’s globalism, free-market capitalist proselytizing. Palast and Shykles observe how, despite Friedman’s “good news”, people around the world presently suffer from privatization of public interests, deregulation of the financial and environmental realms, and the unrealistic monetary and fiscal policies set by the IMF and World Bank. The latter outlined specifically for loans that do nothing but bury countries in debt, destroy the purchasing capabilities of the populace all in the name of creating profits for businesses who then bail when failed ventures get out of control.
The authors go so far as to talk with Nobel Prize winner and former Chief Economist at the World Bank, Joseph Stiglitz, who at one point was the figurehead of globalism and privatization, and asked him why Friedman’s approach as it stands is actually worse off for the world. All Stiglitz could say was, “You know, economics is a science – it’s a dismal science, but it’s a science. And you know what the problem with globalization and the program of privatizations, deregulation, liberalization of capital markets is? They don’t work.” As you can see, it’s no wonder why Stiglitz was showed out of the World Bank.
If our Nobel laureates warned us ten plus years in advanced that this faulty business-oriented system is going to fail America (forget the existing evidence of countries like Mexico, Ecuador, and Bolivia), why are people suddenly so surprised that Americans are finally taking to the streets to say they’ve had enough? Does it take two recessions, vast corporate bail outs, failed stimulus plans, under-performance of the social security system, government bankruptcy, and extreme class inequality for Americans to finally speak out against the gross mismanagement of public and fiscal interest in favor for accountability? I don’t care which political faction you’re with (as both are equally elected and responsible) when I ask, “Are you really surprised to see desperate and disadvantaged Americans taking their voice to the street?”
I’m not saying America needs to become some socialist or communist country. However, I firmly believe that America should go in the direction of public interest, not corporate interest for a select few. Giving corporations immunity from accountability and purchasing power of elected officials is a gross insult to the American people who are voicing their objections on Wall Street today.
We must ask ourselves, do things have to be so bad that America has to eventually emulate a bloody French Revolution against the ruling classes? No! Will we turn the other way and let America slowly become like Nazi-era Germany in which the Nazi occupation took over the course of fifteen years to rise to power and then another 13 years to commit the atrocities that we shun today? No! Americans must learn from history and stand up before it’s too late and act beyond party lines by working together in creating a country that rises above paltry politics and biased, fear-based rhetoric.
Whether or not one supports those who occupy Wall Street, we owe it to ourselves to take a deeper look at the reasons why people are standing their ground and fighting for a world different than the one they’re experiencing today. There are real issues that go deeper than the petty politics some talking head on TV is distracting us from. There are real laws, politics, abuses, and secret deals happening in Washington D.C., corporate boardrooms, NGOs, IGOs, and other deals with other democratic and despot nations that are not being shared on your favorite television program.
It frightens me to think Americans are calling their own protesting citizens “un-American” although it doesn’t surprise me. My European counterparts have even told me they’re surprised to see Americans protesting as they see the average American as “being passive consumers, happy to bow down to tyranny as long as they can buy their way to happiness”. Which, I know, is a gross generalization. It makes me proud that Americans are standing up for themselves, breaking the mold of contented consumers and taking on civic responsibility and demanding accountability.
Time will tell if Americans will stand by their protests and if their leaders will open their ears and eyes and do their jobs in service to their real constituents: the American PEOPLE. Americans don’t need to wait for their politicians to acknowledge, let alone confess, that there is indeed a fundamental problem with the way that the government and businesses are handling the economy, let alone wait for them to come up with a solution. Americans must accept their role in the political process by getting together and telling their politicians what to do, not the other way around.