No Fire this Time

Barack Obama’s tepid performance during the so called presidential debate with Romney appeared to be a smart move to hand over the massive problems of the USA to a new, obviously eager candidate. Obama knows enough to realize that he can’t do this. Maybe nobody can without a fundamental change.

We seem to be teetering on the brink of a revolution that , so far, has not been able to clearly identify what it wants.

Well, it’s not the first time we have been at this precise place; in fact it has happened at least twice before in our recent history: The French and the American Revolutions should be remembered because if you look closely, there are remarkable similarities as well as differences between that time of troubles and our own.

The similarities with the time leading up to the French Revolution are startling:

1. People felt oppressed by a small minority that held most of the power, the Clergy, the Aristocracy and the King who held absolute power and also sold powerful positions to the wealthy suck ups at the court of Versailles. The court was a maze of interlocking power with the King at the top. Remarkably, we have a similar system, a small coterie of privilege and wealth who are all in each other’s pockets. Look at who is holding the power today: unelected banksters, the IMF, the Federal Reserve and similar unelected bodies wield power over everyone including elected bodies. Instead of the Clergy, we have the money men, instead of the Aristocracy, we have large corporations, especially energy corporations, holding the power.

2. The French State was bankrupt as the result of wars. Hmm, that does sound awfully familiar. The US is bankrupt and is printing devalued dollars to keep itself afloat while not really stopping any wars, indeed; looking to start new ones. Iran has long been on the list, and the saber rattling is getting louder again. Also, the war in Syria is a proxy war funded and supported by both Russia on the one hand and the USA on the other. A situation not unlike Spain’s before the Second World War.

3. Taxes were unfair; the rich and privileged didn’t pay any, but the peasants who barely had enough to eat, were forced to make up the difference. Again, an eerie similarity to our own time where the money elite pays no income taxes, but woe betide the average person if he/she does not. Lackeys of the king enforced arbitrary taxation and helped to foment hatred of the nobility. See the IRS, Revenue Canada etc.

4. The cost of living kept rising while the peasants were taxed to the max and not paid more for their labours, in fact, they had to pay more for the land that they rented as well. There were also bad crop failures. Altogether, the plight of the peasants was simple: their income increased by 22% but their cost of living soared by 62%. No comment necessary.

The Differences:

1. Wealth alone was not enough to rise in society, one needed status bestowed by the nobility. The nouveau riches of the Bourgeoisie were unable to rise to positions of true eminence; their wealth could not buy them prestige and position. Today, extreme wealth, however ill gotten, will get you into the club of influence and power.

2. The ideas of democracy, equality and freedom were new and untried in Europe; they were being touted by the French philosophes like Rousseau but had only been tried out in Britain and America.

America and its Constitution was seen as a model of a new age when free and engaged citizens would rule themselves. As indeed they did, for a very short period of time. Thomas Paine, whose ideas were the backbone of the American uprising and whose books sold better than the Bible, soon was pushed out and died in poverty. He was far too democratic for the new rulers who came in after the first flush of victory was over.  And these self-serving blood suckers have been there ever since.

 

We have had more than 250 years to try these ideas out and now discover that they have become convenient cover stories for unprecedented power concentrations in the hands of corporations and bankers.  So another revolution would seem to be the answer to the increasingly dire global situation.

BUT IT WILL NOT HAPPEN

Americans, and by extension, Canadians, have become lazy and forgotten that a democracy demands constant vigilance and participation or it gets corrupted.

We are confused, lied to, and comfortably addicted to a lifestyle that even for the poor is better than anything the poor in other times  ever had.

And that may be the problem: as long as people have enough to eat and something to distract the mind—TV, Internet, Travel—they will not foment a revolution. The Roman Empire lasted as long as it did because the rulers knew this.

That is why we will not see a revolution this time —things have to get as bad as they were for the great mass of people in the seventeenth and eighteenth century before we rise up again.

I hope that we can avoid the fire, this time.

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