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The Moral Imperative to Change "The System"

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Below are four suggestions for what ordinary citizens can do in our current and growing economic/political /social crisis. But first let's place what follows in some historical context.

Back in the day -- for me the decade-and-a-half known as "The Sixties" -- we dissenters railed against the corrupt "System." It seemed clear to all of us in "The Movement" that all the institutions that affected our lives -- government, academia, business, religion, the political parties, mass media, et al. -- were rotten to the core, concerned mainly with money and power and not with the consequences of their policies and behaviors on ordinary people.

I know it seems crazy today, but we Movement-activist types really did believe back then that we were riding the wave of history that would sweep away all the old rotten foundations and institutions of the decadent System all across the globe. We radicals (going to "the root") felt we were laying the new foundations, creating the new counter-cultural institutions that would lead to more peaceful, productive, happy societies.

Our job as young "revolutionaries," we believed, was to kick out the traces propping up the System's dry-rotted pillars and posts, so we could start the immediate reconstruction processes.

In our naivete, it hardly registered to many of us that maybe the System wasn't as weak as we supposed and might not appreciate our efforts to get rid of those power-supports. We didn't fully anticipate that the ruling forces were likely to strike back, successfully, with all the fearful, angry instruments at their command in order to hold onto their preferred positions in the economic/social pecking order; these instruments included police brutality and even murder of selected radical leaders, e.g. African-American hero Fred Hampton in Chicago.

THE GAINS OF "THE SIXTIES"

Even given the massive conservative backlash that did come and even aware of the self-righteous mistakes we had made, many of us still feel good about the limited but very real successes in our amateurish attempt at cultural/political revolution: helping stop the immoral war in Vietnam, provoking investigations into widespread governmental and corporate and police corruption and brutality, creating alternative institutions including media sources for news and opinion, providing avenues for minorities and women to create their own power movements, and helping bring down the despised criminal in the White House, Richard Nixon.

Looking back on the scene now, it seems clear that the longest-lasting influence of the multi-splintered "Movement" was the tone of idealism and outrage and spontaneity and fun that influenced an entire generation of young people, and beyond.

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So, other than nostalgia, why am I writing about an era that fluorished decades ago? I think you know the answer: The System today in many ways is similarly corrupt and decadent and in need of a major shakeup. And, as in "The Sixties," those who rule the System are not going to simply abandon their perqs and power; it is up to us ordinary citizens to point out the corruption and malfeasance and to do something transformational with that power.

CHANGE WINDOW IS OPEN NOW

With the massive defeat of the conservative Republicans in the November election and the installation into the White House of a liberal-leaning centrist President, there finally might be a window of opportunity when popular political pressure could actually make a difference. We don't know how long this window will be open to fresh air, so it's important that we get our act together ASAP and move with solidarity to effect as much vital social change as we can.

Sometimes, we might be able to do this in concert with President Obama and the Democratic majority in Congress, but because the hyper-cautious (and at times complicit) Democrats are often part of the problem, we may have to raise a mighty voice to get our point of view across in a Washington that is all too prone to wishy-washy compromise, a helleva lot of "spin," and lack of genuine progress for ordinary middle-class and poor citizens.

You may question my assumption that the System now is reminiscent of the corrupt System that was facing me and my contemporaries back in "The Sixties." Yes, our society has made great progress in some areas. But in others, it has regressed mightily. So, before moving on to plans for implementation, let's take a look at a few of the various parallels from the two eras:

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1. MISADVENTURING ABROAD

The U.S., no matter whether under Democrats or Republicans, is still prone to imperialist adventurism abroad. The Democrats tend to run a "soft imperialism" program, making sure the U.S. gets its way through firm diplomacy and economics, with threats of something harsher always looming in the background. The Republicans, especially during the CheneyBush reign of error, tended deliberately and openly to rush to the use of violence, warfare, torture and threats as a club: Accept our way or prepare for some good old-fashioned shock&awe.

The CheneyBush method is derived out of a belief that America is exceptionally beloved by God and charged to bring "democracy" and "free markets" to the populations of the world, whether they want it or not. The unexpected result of this mode of operation has been to demonstrate that hi-tech superpowers are limited in effectively exercising their strength against nationalistic, religiously-influenced, guerrilla-style opposition. Ignoring this fact and staying-the-course of various invasions and occupations has brought the U.S. into worldwide disrepute, devoid of moral authority (especially given its widespread use of torture), and stretching our military way too thin across the globe.

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www.crisispapers.org

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, worked for two decades as a writer-editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently serves as co-editor of The Crisis Papers (more...)
 

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1962, and SDS in Mississippi to 1977, and Watergat... by GLloyd Rowsey on Wednesday, Dec 10, 2008 at 10:09:44 AM
As a peer from the "movement" I always f... by Richard Hirschhorn on Wednesday, Dec 10, 2008 at 11:39:19 AM
The sixties movement had a founding document delin... by WML on Wednesday, Dec 10, 2008 at 1:29:02 PM
Who's got the preliminary draft of Port Huron ... by Jim Eldon on Wednesday, Dec 10, 2008 at 5:20:18 PM
this would take a call for a Progressive Congress ... by WML on Wednesday, Dec 10, 2008 at 6:57:09 PM
I believe there's a coherent sociological anal... by Jim Eldon on Wednesday, Dec 10, 2008 at 8:22:51 PM
the PHS being insufficiently complicated.  I ... by GLloyd Rowsey on Thursday, Dec 11, 2008 at 7:39:04 AM
I'm not sure what you're disagreeing with.... by Jim Eldon on Thursday, Dec 11, 2008 at 12:40:59 PM
As a leader in the system, you should think more o... by Harold Barre on Thursday, Dec 11, 2008 at 3:33:02 AM
by the reaction to my post.I was tempted to sugges... by GLloyd Rowsey on Thursday, Dec 11, 2008 at 7:32:44 AM
I was going to print it out to make notes on, but ... by Jim Eldon on Thursday, Dec 11, 2008 at 11:34:52 AM
I was in Winter Soldier in the 6o's / 7o's... by arlen custer on Thursday, Dec 11, 2008 at 8:54:49 AM
But as our profs used to say: Hold on to that... by GLloyd Rowsey on Thursday, Dec 11, 2008 at 9:03:15 AM
Well, I was a hippie in the era discussed in this ... by William Whitten on Thursday, Dec 11, 2008 at 10:22:18 AM
I think it's largely an anthropological questi... by GLloyd Rowsey on Thursday, Dec 11, 2008 at 10:44:02 AM
Marx posited that government was only necessary to... by WML on Thursday, Dec 11, 2008 at 1:46:12 PM