Every so often a small book comes along which encapsulates in a few simple words what many ordinary working people are experiencing. Such a book is Stephane Hessel's Time for Outrage--Indignez-vous!" Its slim 29 pages (not including the publisher's notes) embodies the democratic values, principals, and hopes of this 93-year-old veteran of the French Resistance to Nazi occupation.
Hessel recalls how, at the end of the Second World War, under the leadership of General de Gaulle, resistance movements, political, parties, and trade unions created an ambitious plan for the renewal of French Society. This included the creation of a social security system "guaranteeing that no citizen would go without the basic means to survive should he or she be unable to work" and "a pension allowing workers to end their days in dignity."
The energy industry (electricity, coal & gas) was nationalized, as were the major banks. Putting an end to "the economic and financial feudalism ruling our economy" and proposing a rational reorganization "that would ensure the subordination of individual interest to the common interest, a structure freed from the dictatorship of executives that is but a replica of the fascist state." A free press was another mainstay with "its honor and its independence from the state, from the power of capital and from foreign influence."
Like the rest of us, Hessel understands that the banks are "concerned solely with profits. They have no interest in the common good. The gap between the rich and the poor is the widest it's ever been." He calls for a rebellion "against the instruments of the mass media that offer our young people a world view defined by the temptations of mass consumption, a disdain for the weak, and a contempt for culture, historical amnesia, and the relentless competition of all against all."
Hessel is indignant about the current "corrupting power of money ... which is now greater, more insolent, and more selfish than ever." He sees our freedoms in peril -- where France was once occupied by the Nazis, our democracies are now similarly occupied by the financial elite and their proxies, installed in the highest spheres of the state.
American commentators have separately come to the same conclusion. Wall Street and the banksters are the new slave-owners, Congress the new overseers. We have socialism for the rich founded on corporate welfare, all paid for by the taxation of working families and unsustainable money printing. Millions are exiled to the gulag of unemployment or the minimum wage which can no longer support the modern family. The foreclosure crisis is little more than sanitized socio-ethnic cleansing where banksters strut about in pinstriped suits and silk ties rather than smart black uniforms with swastika armbands.
Hessel's words are uncompromisingly clear. "It's time to take over! It's time to get angry! Politicians, economists, intellectuals, do not surrender! The true fabric of our society remains strong. Let us not be defeated by the tyranny of the world's financial markets that threaten peace and democracy everywhere."
It's curious that public discontent in the USA is not more widespread. Perhaps much of the anger has been internalized, resulting in gang violence and the endemic drug problems that make America unique among the world's industrialized nations? However, a few crumbs from the rich man's table won't cut it anymore. Every American should read this book -- it's time to occupy the table.