Brace for political unrest this spring
What happens when a society creates a huge, growing underclass of unemployed or underemployed, powerless people who believe — and correctly so — that the powers in government and big business don’t care enough about them to act in their interests or even hear their voices?
History suggests the answer: Out of prolonged desperation, the situation will explode in frustration and people may resort to violence to be heard. If legitimate means of voicing dissatisfaction are cut off, people are prone to act out. This, I fear, will increasingly happen with the expanding populist protests, most notably the Occupy movement. Actions to remedy the present social and economic injustices happen slowly at best, particularly at a time of unprecedented congressional paralysis. People tend to become impatient when they cannot find work, pay bills or put a roof over their heads.
Let’s remember that these young people have been promised a democracy when they grow up, so they’re now expecting one — nay, demanding one. Are they getting one? We can’t begin here to go into all the ways that the present power structure favors the privileged and the powerful at the expense of the majority. With corporations now officially declared people, they have fully supplanted people as the prime objects of government policy.
Comments such as Newt Gingrich’s “Get a job” and “Take a bath” or Mitt Romney’s “I’m not concerned about the very poor that have a safety net” only reinforce the sense that no one is listening, adding yet more fuel to the fire. Where are those jobs Mr. Speaker? How many jobs were destroyed by Wall Street greed and lax regulation by politicians in the pockets of their corporate donors?
It’s very doubtful that the unrest will subside until significant change occurs. After all, this is democracy — and as we’ve been told, democracy is not only desirable, it’s inevitable. I hope our elected representatives act swiftly to begin restoring some semblance of populist democracy or I fear the situation will deteriorate as the frustrations explode this spring.
Tony Giordano is a part-time research consultant at the Heldrich Center and an adjunct instructor in social science at Brookdale Community College.