By Richard Girard
"Death of Socrates" Jacques-Louis David (1787) Metropolitan Museum of Art
"Wars and revolutions and battles are due simply and solely to the body and its desires. All wars are undertaken for the acquisition of wealth; and the reason why we have to acquire wealth is the body, because we are slaves in its service."
Socrates (469--399 B.C.), Greek philosopher. Plato, Phaedo , section 65c--66e.
Let me start by personally apologizing to all of those who are manning the front lines at Occupy Wall Street and the other Occupy venues around the country. Twenty-eight years ago, I, and a few others like me, failed in arousing our fellow Americans out of their dogmatic slumbers when we first realized that the Reagan Counter-revolution, which was then in full swing, was a bad thing in the long term for the United States and its citizens. My wake-up call was the Greenspan Commission's report on "fixing" Social Security in 1983.
Shortly afterward, I remember reading an opinion piece somewhere (I don't remember where, but I am still looking), asking why the commission's solution was placing the majority of its burden on the working and middle classes. A much fairer solution (in that author's estimation) was eliminating the income "cap" on FICA taxes, as well as placing all income--not just wages and salary--liable to the FICA tax. Doing so, the author claimed, would keep Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid solvent well into the Twenty-first Century, without raising the percentage contributed.
This was in the era before the World Wide Web, so fact checking was a much more painful and laborious process. However, within a month I had enough information to convince me of the article's validity, at least in a general sense, i.e., the author's idea for fixing a potential Social Security shortfall was a viable alternative to the solution offered by the Greenspan Commission that was being touted by the mainstream media.
I attempted to arouse my friends and family to the inequities of the Greenspan Commission's proposals to fix Social Security, but I had little if any success in arousing any sort of interest in what I had found. The United States was in the midst of the worst unemployment crisis since the Great Depression (9.6% in 1982, and 9.5% in 1983). These rates that were unequalled until the Great Recession of 2008 to the Present. Many of my friends were still getting back on their feet after that catastrophe, and were much too busy surviving to worry about 35 or 40 years into the future.
My own writing was in its nascent stages, my use of a typewriter abysmal, and the ownership of my first PC was five years in the future. So I went back to what I did best: absorb information like a sponge, and hope that the other Americans of my generation would catch up with my conclusions before it was too late.
Most of them didn't, at least not until the advent of George W. Bush.
I must admit, some of it was my fault. I questioned my own conclusions, especially when so many people I knew told me I was being alarmist, or even paranoid. There was a plaque I saw in a bar one time: "If three people say you're drunk, it's probably time to lie down and sleep it off." When even your friends doubt your cognitive abilities, it tends to make one pause, especially if you have just been diagnosed with depression that is serious enough to require multiple SSRI's. (I didn't receive my diagnosis of Type III Bipolar Disorder until less than four years ago.)
By the early 1990's I had recovered enough of my self-confidence to no longer think I was wrong about my conclusions. At the same time, I also realized that if I brought them up as emphatically as I once had, I would be ignored as a "Chicken Little," or asked if I had taken my "meds" that day.
My mother always told me there were advantages to growing up. Perhaps, but there is also much to be said for the fire that burns in the breast of youth. I envy the members of today's Occupy Movement--for their courage, for their fire, for their refusal to be pinned down by the "authorities" on matters such as who is the leader and what is their goal? Leaders can be subverted; too specific goals can be used as a wedge to destroy solidarity.