There is a lot of talk these days about change, and whether this movement will keep going or fade away, and whether the government will finally just crush it, and what's behind it all. But there isn't very much mention of the enormous technological changes that occurred about halfway through the Obama terms. There was a very big change to the Internet, as broadband service proliferated, and access traveled up the back roads, and smartphones got smaller and (for a moment there) cheaper.
Before this change, we were easily fragmented and isolated from each other, mostly just because of geographical separation. If you wanted to organize, it took "consciousness-raising" to get enough people behind an issue to get legislators' attention. And then you were contending with the banks.
Once in a great while the disconnect between we the people and the government got so blatant that this was not difficult. A protest could be effective if it was a broad enough issue, like "End the War in Vietnam," when bodies were coming back to your town, wherever you happened to live. But systemic racism was hard to focus on unless it hit you that way, a way you could detect. Most people weren't in a position to see what "systemic" really meant. People got killed by cops all the time, and sometimes it generated a protest, but didn't spark a national movement like what we see today.
Today, the landscape is completely different. The technology has changed so much that instead of a few people seeing an injustice, and then trying to tell everyone else about it second hand, now everybody sees it. And not yesterday, right now! Everybody has the primary experience. Everybody gets kicked in the guts and feels the pavement against their own cheek, and the suffocating pressure of a uniformed knee on their own neck. They don't have to tell anybody about it, they already know. This isn't going away, because it isn't just a story about something horrible: it's raw horror, up close and personal.
As the "protests" grew and spread, something else new emerged. Communications are so immediate and widespread that it no longer works to break some windows and say "the protests turned violent" on NPR. The old trope "outside agitators" is old hat too. Everybody knows exactly who instigates the violence now. It's all streaming video before the perps can hide their badges and swastikas.
The predations of Surveillance Capital have also broken down. This is a potent and divisive force, interfering with the 2016 election and sowing confusion about C19. But it's hard to do market segmentation on a market that's all riveted on the same image, the Third Horseman, and a President whose authority has evaporated, clearly serving only the interests of the slumlords and grifters looting the last of the nation's treasure while they can.
There's no way to spin this now. Everyone sees the government has been hijacked. It's been easy to dismiss it as something inevitable that complaining would never change. But now it's clear as day that the democratic process we have always told each other was real, was just a piece of mythology. We saw our Congressional Representatives and our Senators in the news when they were caught in some disgusting act of arrogance or pandering clearly out of character with a hallowed office of public trust. We knew about the hordes of lobbyists swarming the Capitol every day. We even knew that the current administration was purposefully destroying everything that stood for the safety and well being of the rest of us. But we thought this was all happening because we ourselves were not being good enough stewards, lacking diligence in following the issues and riding herd on the politicians. Maybe we didn't vote when we should have. Like kids whose parents split up, we thought it was something we did.
But strangely, given the constraints of aseptic precautions, we're not isolated anymore. We were driven into social intimacy on "social" media, by "social" distance. Despite the targeted ads cluttering our screens and our minds, and despite the troll-bots and memes and click-bait that try to pit us against each other to make us buy more toxic plastic junk and give away all our most personal data and get surveilled by our light bulbs and bathroom appliances, we're seeing each other's faces and reading each other's words, and hearing each other's voices and seeing -- seeing ourselves for the first time in history. And at such a vast scale!
It's from the pandemic that so much solidarity is rising. We understand now, that there are so many, many more of us than there are violent cops and corrupt politicians and neonazi concealed-carry wingnuts out there. The lights are coming on. Those pathetic cockroaches have nowhere to run. And they know it, too.
Who said the revolution will not be televised? And it's not torches and pitchforks and burning castles this time. It's nuanced and detailed and documented. With circles and arrows on each one. The Minneapolis City Council has announced that they are terminating the Police Department. The people speaking Authority this time were dressed in T-shirts and hoodies, not power-ties and blazers. And they are not just leaving an empty office building where people are needed to serve and protect the community: they already have systems and organizations and community leadership that has been addressing these issues for years, filling in for the police, who were long gone in flagrant dereliction of duty. There are people ready to step up and handle things, cause they've had to be. Such as addressing rape with trained professionals instead of SWAT teams. Such as helping young people extricate themselves safely from gangs. Such as trained and effective teams de-escalating violence. Food banks. Childcare. Minneapolis has been preparing to deal effectively with ordinary problems by applying remedies that work, while the police have been sucking up budgets and military equipment, and bunkering the wealthier neighborhoods, and letting the rest of us slide into poverty and hunger.
Maybe even this: maybe the conversation that's been cut off and redirected and disabled for so many years, so many generations, between ourselves and those we supposedly put in offices of public trust, and trust with our lives and our children's future; maybe that conversation that is the essence of democracy, is bypassing the corruption and implementing sanity. The Proper Channels have long been sealed off by the profiteers. But the thin membrane of obfuscation and misdirection is starting to break open. Real, responsible voices are coming through. And the rats are starting to head for the hawse-pipes.
There are going to be defeats and setbacks. We were already in deep trouble before the pandemic. This bug arose out of the trouble we were already in. The cracks in our national foundation were already widening in that dick Cheney's time. But the old paradigm has ended. The kind of parasitism that held us back no longer works in the Attention Age, because we are no longer blind to it. Now we've gotten through the early stage of a new world. There are stages yet to go, before we've dodged the bullet of extinction. There's catching up to do. Maybe at last we've started to turn this around.