Friday, October 21, 2011


The late Marie Antoinette, Queen of France, made the “let them eat cake” phrase because she had no idea what was really going on in the world, but lost her head, anyway.  Today, there’s no excuse for most people to ignore current events.

If you watch the news -- local or national -- you have probably noticed that there are a lot of people with signs occupying parks and malls.  As a matter of fact, the name they are using began as “Occupy Wall Street,” though the scope has spread.

As of 10/15/11, there were protests going on in 100 American cities, from Orlando to Anchorage, with events reportedly planned in 82 other countries.  Critics, of course, are downplaying the demonstrations, characterizing them as unorganized mobs with no central goal.

When enough people are angry, sometimes the unrest precedes the stated goal – awaiting leaders or pivotal events.  Laughing at such a large movement of people is a bad idea, as is ignoring them. Mohandas Gandhi, who had a lot of success directing peaceful mass movements of the poor, had this to say: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”

Gandhi was speaking of the British Empire, which he forced to its knees in India, but his nonviolent resistance was adopted from a 19th Century American named Henry David Thoreau.  Martin Luther King Jr. later used Gandhi’s tactics to fight festering racial injustices in this country.  Every movement starts somewhere.

The current crop of angry people are calling themselves the “99 percent,” but that’s rhetoric.  The majority in this country still have a job and a place to live.  Many are scraping by, but not yet angry enough to join the occupation.  The question is, what percentage of the population of a country as big as the U.S. must take to the streets before things turn nasty?

The Tea Party movement, whose members often refer to themselves “as the American people,” emphasis on “the,”  comprise an estimated 14 to 20 percent of the population.  Even so, they have managed to bring the country to a virtual stand-still by frightening weak-willed politicians into signing impractical pledges to never raise taxes.

Imagine the effectiveness of a group of people that may already have the sympathy of half the population, if and when they do coalesce into a focused and determined movement. As the young who sold their souls to the banks for a degree that means nothing now, and their elders continue to lose jobs and homes, they will only become angrier.

Recently a question along these lines made the rounds on the Internet:  “What kind of person believes that paying two or three percent more tax on millions is wrong, while cutting a school teacher’s salary by 20 percent is all right?”  It is not an outlandish question  because it is happening as tax revenues dry up and social services, schools, police and fire protection shrink.

As with every other every large group, there are a few who are there for purposes of  mischief and worse.  I haven’t personally been on hand for any of the occupations, but people I trust have and they tell me that many of the protesters are laid-off professionals, students with advanced degrees and no jobs and those who were living the American dream before they lost their homes.

If 14 to 20 percent of the population, mostly well-fed, secure in their homes and concerned primarily with how much they have to pay in taxes can cause government to grind almost to a halt, you have to wonder what an even larger percentage of angry people without jobs, medical care, and homes might do.

It’s something to think about while jeering at the crowds.

1 comment:

FrGregACCA said...

Of course, that 14-20% (numbers that I too have reached independently), has been well-funded by some very deep pockets, most notably those of the Koch Brothers.

Occupy can accomplish great things, but it's model is very different, given the lack of cash. This is all to the good, but the results will probably not be as immediate as those of the Tea Partyc