Chris Hedges has an important essay in Truthdig this week, Our Invisible Revolution. Essentially he describes a revolution of the mind in which people’s consciousness are raised as they become aware of the inability of the current governmental and economic systems to respond to the needs of people and the planet. When this is understood, then the revolutionary changes that seemed impossible become possible. Hedges writes:
“As long as most citizens believe in the ideas that justify global capitalism, the private and state institutions that serve our corporate masters are unassailable. When these ideas are shattered, the institutions that buttress the ruling class deflate and collapse. The battle of ideas is percolating below the surface. It is a battle the corporate state is steadily losing. An increasing number of Americans are getting it.”
People realize that the institutions don’t work because they are experiencing the consequences.
This week was the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy and the recovery effort, Occupy Sandy.To mark the occasion, people rom those areas brought a human “wave of change” to city hall in New York and held a march they called “Turn the Tide.” Protesters are demanding that five priorities be met: good jobs, affordable housing, sustainable energy, community engagement and strong healthcare.
Sandy demonstrates the dysfunction of government to address both the people’s needs and climate change. As Naomi Klein wrote this week in How Science Is Telling Us All To Revolt, “there is still time to avoid catastrophic warming, but not within the rules of capitalism as they are currently constructed; which may be the best argument we have ever had for changing those rules.”
Within the current rules, big business continues to build pipelines, even when experts say there is a 90% probability of a leak, and withholds information from the public, as in North Dakota where there were 750 “oil field incidents” including 300 oil spills in two years. When people stand up and protest these realities, big business spends large sums of money to stop those efforts, as big oil is doing in South Portland. Young people at the Power Shift conference experienced how the entrenched big environmental groups hold them back from saying and doing what they believe is necessary.
The effects of the unfair economy are also waking people up. The root of the economic crisis, the housing market collapse, is still with us five years after the crash. Foreclosures continue and people are angry. Constituents of Georgia Senator Johnny Jackson (D) stormed his office to protest his threat to filibuster a new head of the Federal Housing and Finance Agency who might finally reduce the principal on home mortgages to real housing values. And on October 30, there were protests across the country against the major money managers, Pimco and BlackRock, who oppose principal reduction.
As families struggle to keep their homes, billionaires are trying to cut the meager social safety net that exists in the United States. It is becoming more obvious that the current system is rigged in favor of the rich. JP Morgan, who is negotiating with lawyers at the Department of Justice that used to work for them, will likely receive what amounts to a slap on the wrist. And Hillary Clinton is charging a minimum of $200,000 per speech. She spoke at two Goldman Sachs events this week raking in at least $400,000 – ten years of work for the average American.
The Security State is Fueling the Revolt
In his essay, Hedges points out another ingredient for the growing revolt, the expanding security state. He writes that people
“. . . recognize that we have been shorn of our most basic and cherished civil liberties, and live under the gaze of the most intrusive security and surveillance apparatus in human history. . . These truths are no longer hidden.”
A protest held in Washington, DC last weekend showed that a diverse group of Americans are angry at the surveillance apparatus. Those at the rally covered the political spectrum, all racial and ethnic groups and every region of the country. And anger will continue to grow because Greenwald promises the worst is yet to come.
The Washington Post just reported that the NSA had tapped into the cloud of Google and Yahoo to gain access to hundreds of millions of personal accounts. It is not only Americans that are angry, but people around the world and world leaders are angry at being spied on. In addition to protesting, people are also developing technical solutions to block the NSA.
Abusive police practices at the local level are also fueling revolt. Just in the last week there were reports of Maryland police raiding the home of an award winning journalist who was exposing problems at Homeland Security; and in Alabama, a corruption-fighting journalist was arrested and beaten for refusing to follow a court order to stop writing about a Republican politician’s affair. Earlier this month, a report found unprecedented attacks on the media.
We are all at risk of unjust treatment by the security state. Local police are looking more like the military, even with tanks, which has people wondering – are the police preparing for a war? This week in Oakland, police gave surveillance footage to an employer to get an activist fired. In Hawaii, two (de)Occupy houseless protesters were sent to jail for 30 and 60 days for refusing to take down tents at an (de)Occupy Hawaii sidewalk encampment.
There were several days of protests in Northern California against a Sonoma County sheriff who killed 13 year old Andy Lopez. In Oakland, people protested against the police Urban Shield convention. In addition, rallies were held in 30 cities against police brutality and abuse. Students at Brown University booed New York’s police commissioner, Ray Kelly off the stage preventing him from speaking because of racist police practices, like stop and frisk which was in the Court of Appeals this week. The court decided to allow stop and frisk to continue pending their final decision and removed the district court judge who banned it from the case.
More people are taking up the cause of ending police abuse. And, there is also a growing movement of undocumented immigrants putting their bodies and freedom on the line to stop abusive immigration deportations.
The Revolt has Begun
For some, the revolt has started. Less than a year ago in December 2012, the Idle No More movement began, now it is a movement of thousands of people and has taken hundreds of actions. This week another coalition of First Nations announced a joint effort to deal with the threat of oil exploration in the St. Lawrence area. How much will that movement grow in a year? The Elsipogtog and Mi’kmaq have recently been in a heated struggle in New Brunswick. Some wonder whether the conflict over extreme extraction will finally break Canada’s cycle of colonialism.
Another area where the revolt is growing and is no longer invisible is the worker rights movement. Low wage workers at fast food outlets and Walmart have been escalating their battles. Fast food’s un-liveable wages cost all of us through a massive subsidy in food stamps, Medicaid and housing. McDonalds alone cost taxpayers $1.2 billion in subsidies for their underpaid workers, while the corporation made tremendous profits.
Students are realizing that the low wage worker’s struggle is everybody’s struggle. This week students in California wrote a letter to University of California president, Janet Napalitano stating that they stood with low-wage workers on UC campuses. Students are also fighting back in NY against the closing of a student center. The administration responded not by listening but by suspending the protest leaders. This tone deaf response will escalate protests.
Corruption Stands in the Way of a More Positive Future
There is another side to the revolt, a vision of a world that is not ruled by money, where people and planet come before profits, where among other things a carbon-free, nuclear-free energy economy is put in place and US militarism and empire are ended.
“the real work of revolutionary ferment and consciousness is unseen by the mainstream society, noticed only after it has largely been completed. Throughout history, those who have sought radical change have always had to first discredit the ideas used to prop up ruling elites and construct alternative ideas for society, ideas often embodied in a utopian revolutionary myth. . . Once ideas shift for a large portion of a population, once the vision of a new society grips the popular imagination, the old regime is finished.”
The vision became clear for students at Brown University who wanted the school to divest from coal. The students narrowed their focus to 15 companies in the school’s investment portfolio that make up 1% of the school’s $2.86 billion endowment. They thought the president of the university, Christina Paxson, a former public health researcher would be with them. Students asked the five members on the board of trustees who had a conflict of interest with coal to recuse themselves. They didn’t and once that decision was made, the students knew they would lose.
Corruption runs deep in the United States.The system is rotten and Hedges points out that many in the system know it. No doubt the Brown University president knows recusal should have occurred and Brown should divest from coal. Hedges points to smart politicians like President Obama and former President Clinton. He writes:
“Clinton and Obama, and their Democratic Party, understand the destructive roles they played and are playing, they must be seen as far more cynical and far more complicit in the ruination of the country. Democratic politicians speak in the familiar ‘I-feel-your-pain’ language of the liberal class while allowing corporations to strip us of personal wealth and power. They are effective masks for corporate power.”
This week we wrote an article about the Affordable Care Act.We titled the article: Obamacare: The Biggest Insurance Scam in History. Both of us were heavily involved in the health reform process pushing for Medicare for all or a single payer national health system. When we reviewed a book by a con man describing the six stages of a con, we were amazed to see how the selling of Obamacare had all six stages of the classic con.
The con continues. Democratic-leaning media spokespersons continue to mislead people as do non-profit organizations that took millions of dollars to join the Obamacare effort. Now a new non-profit has been created to use Madison Avenue sales techniques to sell Americans inadequate insurance, Enroll America. They plan to spend up to $100 million to sell Americans health policies that assure that Americans who become ill will face the risk of bankruptcy and foreclosure. But, the scam is so effective because partisan Democrats are cheering it on, thinking they got a great deal when in fact they are being robbed.
Not all Americans are fooled. Some recognize that the ACA is part of a neoliberal economic plan that serves the corporations and not the people. They also recognize that Obamacare is part of an effort to destroy our social insurances. As a result, across the country campaigns that declare healthcare is a human right are developing. This week in Maryland hundreds marched for single payer.
Hedges concludes his essay quoting the anarchist Alexander Berkman who wrote in “The Idea Is the Thing:”
“… [M]any ideas, once held to be true, have come to be regarded as wrong and evil, thus the ideas of the divine right of kings, of slavery and serfdom. There was a time when the whole world believed those institutions to be right, just, and unchangeable. In the measure that those superstitions and false beliefs were fought by advanced thinkers, they became discredited and lost their hold upon the people, and finally the institutions that incorporated those ideas were abolished . . . how did they ‘outlive’ their ‘usefulness’? To whom were they useful, and how did they ‘die’? We know already that they were useful only to the master class, and they were done away with by popular uprisings and revolutions.”
There is work to be done. We must build a mass movement. One essay we published this week by activist Matt Smucker focused on first building a core group of people who are aware and committed but to make sure this core is strategic in its actions, and realizes that the path to success requires a mass movement, not a fringe movement. We must put aside our ‘more radical than though’ egos and reach out, invite people in, applaud their positive actions whether large or small. Our core groups all over the country must be careful to not self-define ourselves as fringe, as small, but to see us as representing the interests of the vast majority and invite them in.
Brand, like Hedges also sees the need for a revolution of the mind. He is disenchanted with electoral politics but excited by something not on the ballot, “total revolution of consciousness and our entire social, political and economic system.” That revolution begins by recognizing: “Capitalism is not real; it is an idea. America is not real; it is an idea that someone had ages ago. Britain, Christianity, Islam, karate, Wednesdays are all just ideas…nice ideas…when they serve a purpose.” But, they are ideas that can change when they become obsolete or dysfunctional. He concludes:
“The revolution of consciousness is a decision, decisions take a moment. In my mind the revolution has already begun.”
His conclusion is consistent with our experience. The revolution of the mind is underway. The seemingly impossible becomes inevitable.