There is a lot to be said for civic activism. The Civil Rights movement, addressing a leftover 19th Century attitude towards African-Americans called segregation, was a wonderful example of the dedication of a huge number of individuals who banded together to do the right thing.
It is always the right thing that seems to succeed in the end. Our march towards civility and our potential as human beings seems always to overcome setbacks and temporary shocks and defeats to end up one step further, one milestone more along the road of perfecting this intelligent animal that has crept out of the forests and plains into massive cities and culture beyond the scope of any other animal on the planet. So advanced have we become that even our connections to other animals seems almost impossible to fathom, even for the most sophisticated scientists…even for those who tell us…yes, it is true.
Our growth is in fits and starts. We develop a relatively cohesive society, like that gathered together by force—force and violence have always, even until today—been the organizing principle of societies, in Germany or Russia over the centuries. Then it consolidates around a ruling group, normally the successors to the strongest and most cunning in war. The generations that follow lose the brute strength and cunning in battle and substitute shrewd political maneuvers.
Thus in Russia the Czars and their extended families became less and less capable of ruling, but their generals were strong enough to maintain total control of the society, until they, too, became foppish and celebratory and weak. And in that shell of a ruling body, a handful of new, dedicated revolutionary thinkers decided that they had had enough. Of course, even though we praise them for their overthrow of a tyrannical, sinister regime of secret police and enslavement of the agricultural community, they, Russian society, only did so after centuries of oppression. Then, in five days, as John Reed so brilliantly recorded, they shook the world.
Mobs, revolution, men with a strong moral purpose—took over a country. They did so with the noblest of motives. Their goal was to transform Russian society into a workers’ paradise. All men would seek their greatest interest and fulfill themselves in their work. Society would share the fruits of its labors equally.
It didn’t work.
It quickly became clear that human beings do not work well sharing everything equally because they are not all the same. Some are religious; some are downright evil; others are free-wheeling, consumers; others are naturally parsimonious. Some are brilliant. Others are slower and some even functionally retarded. Some are aggressive and some passive. All these qualities have, to some degree, we now know, an economic factor attached. People with a scientific bent wedded to an inquisitive, imaginative nature often become inventors or explorers or creative scientists, moving the cutting edge forward. Those with highly organized personalities wedded to high intelligence often move ahead in business, politics or the military.
So, the Russian Revolution failed because of a political system based on a flawed understanding of how human beings function. Human beings have long traditions which are ingrained in what we know call our genes or DNA. Russians are, in fact, suspicious and secretive. Scandinavians are moody. British, Irish and Scots are lively and romantic. Africans are less advanced culturally and still closer to nature than the more organized areas of the West. Asians and Indo Asians are the finished product of thousands of years of civilization beyond that of Western countries and are thus patient and contemplative.
Americans are all mutts, combinations of all the above, pooled and mixed and reaching out in all directions, often moody, often wildly aggressive, often enormously compassionate and giving, and at times caught up in the overpowering greed that sometimes follows in the wake of a dynamic capitalistic economic system that has no patience and no morality…good or bad.
As we have come together, our forbearers brought all our native prejudices, predilections and promises to the new land. We brought our aggression and the need to seek to find to own. And we killed and looted and shunned aside the Native population. We have never repaid the huge debt that we incurred, never suffered punishment for those war crimes, never acknowledged that we came here in a time of conquest and colonization. And we have never paid a fraction of what we owe to those from whom it was taken.
At one point, early explorers noted that there were so many buffalo on the plains that on reaching the top of a hill they looked out at the dark brown land that lay before them, thinking, what a wonderful fine soil for farms, when suddenly there came a thunderous sound and the whole valley moved in one sinuous wave. The whole valley was not dark soil. What the trappers had seen was millions of buffalo suddenly moving in tandem. In our typical fashion we pared that down to a few thousand by the late 19th century, and now have less than one hundred thousand or so.
We caused a revolution. We were relatively small in number, fighting a native population of millions. But we grew in numbers and felt righteous in our cause…to civilize and make Christians of the “savages” as we called them. They don’t seem so savage or uncivilized any longer, do they? They understood the land and its value to the people and conservation better than we ever will. We can’t go back and change things any more than the Russians could restore the Romanoffs. But we could, at least, learn from our mistakes.
Revolution does not come from a gripe or a grievance borne of a lack of education or understanding. The Bolsheviks knew what they were doing was right when they overcame an oppressive, destructive monarchy. But once the system did not work, it gradually faded and eventually was peacefully rejected by the majority.
You cannot influence people to believe lies by offering them bribes. They will work for bribes, but they will know truth from fiction. The result is that phony revolutions will fail. Now some will say, and some today are counting on the fact, that the Nazis and the Fascists in Spain and Italy succeeded. And that is true.
But that was in a day when people had not learned the lessons of totalitarianism. The Fascists gained control by stealth and lies before the day that we came to be suspicious of the media. And we are still not sufficiently wary of the media or else there would be no Fox News, for example.
We know now that totalitarianism…a government led by those with sinister motives, i.e., to control the people completely… inevitably leads to oppression, enslavement and war. Not at first, of course. At first it is but a few powerful men, in business, in finance and often with colleagues in the military. And, today, often with pseudo-religious leaders.
The next step is suppression of free speech, free assembly, and free will. You cannot speak freely under penalty of losing a job or membership in a group. You cannot assemble freely to respond to a group without being removed, abused or shouted down. You cannot decide that this war is not one you would die for, but you will forced to go anyway. You or your sons or daughters may quite possibly die, whether it is a just war, or one that your leaders simply decide to wage. That is what comes of mobs and revolution that does not have a legitimate reason for being.
How can you tell whether a mob is serious or is being aroused by larger forces with a different agenda? It is not easy. But it does require a simple analysis. We all have innate logic. We can use that to determine whether what we see is a group of people protesting their real problems or whether they have other motives, such as racism or other anti-social biases.
Let us suppose that we have a health care reform meeting and it is largely attended by the elderly. And let’s suppose that a large number of those elderly are carrying signs that say “No Health Care Reform.” We might ask ourselves…why would people protest who are by and large on a public health system called Medicare, that 85% at least say that they like very much and the same number say that they do not want to change? And why would they protest health care reform that is at worst going to leave Medicare as it is and at best going to improve services?
We might look at the motivations and say it was this or that group that influenced them. But that is not really the point. The point is that sooner or later, if health care reform passes, and it will, they will realize that they were protesting for nothing. When that happens, we get back to the same issue, the reasons that the socialist regimes, the pure socialist regimes, failed…they didn’t work after the revolution was over. In this example, the system that they do not want to change, will not change. And thus the “revolution” will fail because there really was no revolution in the first place. Those who had ulterior motives will keep their motives. But the force of society will move slightly ahead again, after a brief set back.
When outside groups begin to agitate, there is always unrest, uncertainty, fear, anger. But it passes. Some things do not pass. We are a society with by far the lowest taxes of any advanced nation. We had lower taxes in 1984 than we did in 1964 and lower taxes in 2008 than we did in 1998. But we still clamor, especially these “tea party” protestors for lower taxes.
Of course it is only some of the protestors that do. Others protest…having no idea of government finances or macroeconomics or monetary theory…that the government is going broke. They claim that they want to reduce taxes further by having the government spend less money. They want to lower taxes further although they have no idea how the government works.
The government spends most of its money on war, Social Security and Medicare. It is that simple. The military is the largest single item in the U.S. budget. Ronald Reagan cut taxes from a top rate of 70% down to 28%, wiping out in one stroke of the pen, 42% of national revenues. He then quadrupled the national defense budget, which even then was at least 20% of revenues. So revenues went down by 40% and costs went up by 80%. That is the scope of the problem, if not the exact ratios. So it is pretty clear why we had a $2.14 trillion deficit after Reagan, have had one ever since and now, after Bush, have built it up to $11 trillion.
Anyone who looks carefully at the tea party protestors and the town hall protestors and the current rallies being held all over the country sees the same pattern. Americans for Prosperity is one of the leading organizers of the rallies. They have an ally in the Republican Party. They have organized rallies around the slogan “Hands Off My Health Care.” Now, they ignore the fact that the Democrats were elected overwhelmingly on a platform of reforming health care. They ignore the fact that 72% of Americans want health care reform with a public option. In other words, most Americans want some leverage over extravagant health care prices. So who does not want health care reform? Who is talking out against it? That is an easy way to see who is supporting these rallies. Let’s start at the beginning. Newt Gingrich.
Newt is the person who has admitted that he stopped the Clinton health care program, or, if you remember, any sort of health care program from getting through Congress…Newt Gingrich. Newt left Congress in the typical Republican way, (think Mark Foley, Duke Cunningham and Tom DeLay…in disgrace) and then formed…what kind of group?
He founded the “Center for Health Care Transformation.” Among the founding members and “Platinum” or “Premier” members are: United Health Care, AstraZeneca (pharmaceuticals) WellPoint, Healthways, AT&T, GlaxoSmithKline, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Hospital Corporation of America (of the $1.7 Billion U.S. government fine for fraud) and Intermountain Healthcare. Intermountain Healthcare was the health insurance firm that recently denied a 4 month old baby healthcare for being overweight.
The most recent version of the Center for Health Transformation talks nothing about solutions. Its hottest topic, the one at the top of its list is: “Card Check versus the Right to a Secret Ballot.” And what is that issue? Is it about improving health care? No. It is about preventing unions, in this case, undoubtedly nurses unions. What else does the Center for Health Transformation worry about? Their first listed work is entirely about Medicare and Medicaid fraud. In other words, we have no health care problems. Costs are all because of people defrauding the systems. And because there is so much Medicare and Medicaid fraud (despite 8 straight years of Republican Congresses who could have done something about it…if it is true and not exaggerated) we must, says Gingrich’s group, take care of that first and then have health care reform.
Gingrich’s group is one of the milder groups backing the Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks mob organizers. Others are much more radical. Perhaps the time has come to let these people wander out into the cold and shout and scream while the rest of us contact our Senators and Congress members.
Let’s let them know that there are huge numbers of people who are not concerned with fake fraud issues or whether people have the right to organize unions or whether we are all overtaxed. Congress needs to know just one thing. We want health care. We want protection from the predatory practices of the health insurance industry. We want the option to bail out if it continues its policy of higher prices and fewer services. And when we bail out, we want a reliable, affordable public health care system available to us.
We pay our taxes. Whether they are too high or too low, they should pay for a government that looks out for the People first.