Tuesday, August 7, 2012
This Is Our Summer of Discontent
The traditional locution, out of Shakespeare massaged by Steinbeck is "our winter of discontent," from Richard III, Act I and Steinbeck's 1961 novel, his last as it would happen.
But Americans, like many other peoples, tend to hibernate in the wintertime. Discontent and rage are traditionally features of the summertime and in the past have included the inner cities exploding, all kinds of "random" gun violence, and troops in the streets. The summertime isn't and wasn't all trips to the summer place and picnics in the park.
The United States is not really a peaceful -- or peace loving -- nation and Americans are not a peaceful people. It has ever been thus.
This summer has been one of much discontent both for cause and for show. The two Shoot 'em Ups so far, together with the police shootings of suspects in acts that have been called summary executions, have beaten a kind of tattoo on the overall discontent Americans are experiencing due to what is clearly a terminally failed economy for the masses, a high-handed authoritarianism from the government, and a ridiculous level of self-absorption by the government's owners and sponsors, personified by one Willard "Mitt" Romney, Buffoon.
Protest, suppression, protest, suppression have occurred with some regularity across the land, in Philadelphia, New York, Burlington, Los Angeles, Chicago, Anaheim, San Francisco, Oakland and on and on around the country, sometimes aligned with the Occupy Movement, but often enough quite independent of it -- though perhaps inspired by the Occupy example. The People have outgrown the Occupy frame. Yet for Authority, the pup tent is still the most terrifying People's Weapon.
The pup tent. Imagine. What a country.
The Summer of Love now seems like an aberration, but at the time it was a naive-thoughtful contrast to the violence and bloodshed that had characterized summers in the recent past. Watts, Harlem, Chicago, Philadelphia, Rochester, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and so on...
Blogger George Washington observed that we may be in a situation today that leads to, perhaps requires, a Peasant's Revolt to force real change on an indifferent and monumentally stupid ruling class in thrall to the financiers. Others have suggested we're already in a Peasants Revolt, and like all the others it will be crushed, the Movement destroyed, the Peasants worse off than before.
As a rule, these things don't turn out well. For anyone. And yet, despite the carnage and despair that frequently results from the peasant's rising, change does occur, change that might not have been possible had the peasants not arisen.
We can look to our own history for that clue. Had it not been for the continual agitation of the labor movement, had it not been for the continual defiance of authority by strikers and others, had it not been for the success of the agrarian and populist movements, had it not been for the demands of the Bonus Marchers, had it not been for the protest riots of the 1960's, had it not been for Stonewall and Wounded Knee and all the other refusals to obey, we would not be as semi-free as we are, and we would not have any of the social benefits we take for granted, but which are being chipped away at by the Overclass at an increasingly maddening pace.
We are near the tipping point for another general rising of some kind. The Revolution, in point of fact, has been going on for nigh on a year now, but the Rising of the Masses has been deferred. The actions of the killers among us, seemingly randomly massacring, will have something of the same effect that the mere showing of guns at town halls had in 2009, only now with far more certainty to instill existential fear in the populace. People are afraid. Their afraid of the violence of the police in suppressing protest and demonstrations and they are mindfully afraid of the killers on the loose always ready, willing and able to cause misery and mayhem at the times and places and in the manner of their choosing.
The peasants will not rise, however, without a John Ball or a Wat Tyler in the vanguard, and we do not have that in this country at this time. Whether we will ever have a genuine leader of that sort is an open question as our Overclass has learned and internalized the lessons of previous revolts very well indeed, and it is perfectly capable of producing an ersatz Revolutionary Leader should circumstances warrant, that is, should the pressure on the Underclass become so severe that their only choice for survival is to rise en masse and to put an end to their torment or to die trying. Should that point ever come, the Overclass would be delighted to produce a firebrand to ignite the torch of ersatz "liberty" -- think Glenn Beck with a brain and charm. A Leader straight to perdition. These things have happened in the past; they can happen again.
The Summer of Our Discontent is prelude, however. It is not the actual event, it is the stage-setting and prop mounting for the Show which is still to come.
The election in November may prove to be the last straw, but only if it is as easily determined to be fraudulent as the 2000 election was. Elections have been on a path to irrelevancy for some time, but the image of them as a reflection of the People's Will is still strong. If the election in November is seen to be yet another fraud, though (regardless of who is awarded the White House) the People may simply accept it the way they have in the past as "one of those things, oh well."
We'll see. Won't we.