What could start a popular resurgence in this country against the abuses
of concentrated, avaricious corporatism? Imagine the arrogance of
passing on to already cheated working people and the jobless enormous
corporate losses? This is achieved through government bailouts and tax
History teaches us that the spark usually is smaller than expected and
of a nature that is wholly unpredictable or even unimaginable. But if
the dry tinder is all around, as many deprivations and polls reveal, the
spark, no matter how small, can turn into a raging inferno.
The Boston Tea Party lit up the American Revolution. Storming the hated
Bastille (prison) by impoverished Parisians launched the French
Revolution. More recently, in December 1997, an Israeli military vehicle
rammed a civilian van in the West Bank killing seven occupants and
igniting the first Intifada.
Last December, a young fruit vendor, abused by thieving police in a
small Tunisian town, immolated himself in the local square. Seen by
millions on Facebook, this self-sacrifice launched the Tunisian and
Egyptian overthrow of their long-time dictators. Later, in Syria, after
police arrested 13 youngsters in a southern border town for
anti-government graffiti the place erupted in riots and rallies that are
spreading to other cities.
A few weeks ago, many progressives and quite a few pundits believed that
the recurrent, ever larger February-March rallies in Madison, Wisconsin
by workers, students and others against the Governors' and the
Legislature's attack on public employee unions and social services,
following earlier blatant corporate welfare enactments, would be the
The Madison eruption spread briefly to Ohio and Indiana where Republican
officials were moving in the same direction, punishing workers and
families while leaving the corporate and wealthy to count their mounting
privileges. There, the crowds were neither as large nor as frequent. In
all these states, the Republicans got most of what they wanted, albeit
with a possible, future political price to be paid. The rallies have
subsided, not even culminating--as some organizers hoped--in a gigantic
march on Washington, D.C.
Granted, rallying a long repressed people into losing their fear and
demanding, as in Cairo's huge Tahrir Square "out with the dictator", is a
simple, anthromorphic goal. In our country, the rallies are hardly as
clearcut, though use of the citizen right of recall for Republican
legislators, and later Governor Walker himself, may produce an
interesting accountability election. But sparks are difficult to
In authoritarian regimes, there are few options for dissent or airing
one's grievances. So when the spark does occur, the climate is fertile
for an explosion of outrages.
In the United States, there are largely myths such as "anyone can sue,"
or "anyone can run," or "anyone can directly tell off the President or
the Mayor," or "anyone can blow the whistle." These combine with a few
celebrated successes by rebels or an ordinary David taking on a Goliath
for a win here and there, from a corporate-government ruling class that
bends a little so that it doesn't break.
Meanwhile, the inequality, gouging, political exclusions and overall
gaps between the top one percent and the rest tighten the grip of the
oligarchy and its draining, violent militarized empire.
Loss of control over almost everything that matters, including their
children to daily direct corporate marketing of junk food and violent
programming, is rampant. Over seventy percent of those polled told
Business Week that they believed corporations had "too much control over
their lives"--and that was in 2000 before conditions and controls--viz,
the Wall Street collapse, severe recession and taxpayer
The American people don't see much they can do to counter the pressures
of greed and power that tracks them daily from debt to debt, from lower
standards of living to outright penury, from denial of critical
healthcare to the iron collar of the cruel credit score, from
inscrutable, computerized bills to fine-print contracts trapping their
sense of unfairness into waves of frustrations, from being put on hold
by the companies until they're told no, no, no or penalty, penalty,
How do we break the cycle of despair, exclusion, powerlessness, and
endless betrayal by those given the authority to bring down the
exploiters and oppressors to lawful accountability?
The Empire rips up the Constitution and takes the reserve army of the
young unemployed to kill and die in aggressive wars of the White House's
choice, with Congress watching from the sidelines; its only role to
funnel trillions of tax dollars into the insatiable war machine's
unauditable budgets. President Eisenhower wanted us to control the
"military-industrial complex". Instead it grew much more out of control.
Eisenhower's grave warning as expressed in his farewell address in 1961
The spark can come from a recurrent sequence of abuses that strike a
special chord of deeply felt injustice. Or it could be a unique episode
or bullying that tolls the feeling "enough already" throughout the land.
Such sparks cannot be manufactured; the power to arouse and break
people's routines is spontaneous.
When that moment comes, millions of Americans whose self-respect and
keen sense of wrong will remind them precisely why our Constitution
begins with "We the People" and not "We the Corporations". They will
realize the necessity for a Jeffersonian revolution.