October 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
I reported in a recent post my reaction to “13 Bankers”, a book by Johnson and Kwak about the creation of the Wall Street banks whose reckless marketing of derivative financial products destabilized both our domestic and the European financial systems. The information in their account led me to believe that our elected officials had empowered those banks so they could wreck that havoc.
On September 28, as I was well into that book and beginning to feel some anger toward the politicians who figured so prominently in the sordid story, I read a lengthy article in the New York Times that reinforced my reaction. The headline read, “Protests Rise Around the Globe as Faith in the Vote Wanes“. [The headline on my edition differs slightly from the one on this link.]
The Times writer described protests in Spain, Israel, Britain and India, all based on outrage at the failure of government to protect citizens from corruption, economic inequality and the impoverishment of the working class. I learned a new term that charmed me. The protesters in Spain are called “indignados”, “the indignant ones”. Perfect. My mind responded with mini-movies of a Spanish citizen, hands on hips, chin slightly forward, confronting a hapless “public servant”, shouting “You did what?!” “You let them do what?!” “How much did they pay you, you chin**** cab***?! [My parochial knowledge of Spanish cursing is limited to experience near the Border in South Texas. The “indignados” probably have their own lexicon to express their anger but, hey! these are my mini-movies so I think in the language I know.]
I learned a new (to me) Hebrew phrase, “hon vishilton”, translated by the reporter as “a nexus of money and politics”. We should incorporate the phrase into our political dialogue, especially since the Supreme Court has granted it constitutional protection.
Within the past three weeks, these protests have broken out here, as Occupy Wall Street (or OWLS, as some call themselves) has spread across our country.
For me, there is an undercurrent of sadness to this information. People in the Middle East are reaching for democracy and, at the same time, they and others, including our home-grown OWLS, are discovering that merely gaining the right to vote is not enough to guarantee that elections result in representatives who will resist the dual assaults of the rich and powerful: “Either take our money and be obedient, or we will use our money to find someone to replace you.” The focus of our OWLS, is the nest of Wall Street bankers whom I tried to describe in my post. I will be interested in seeing whether they will focus any attention on the elected officials who launched and armed the financial predators who are the object of their protests.
The hesitant reaction of the Democratic Party to the OWLS is painful to watch. It is so familiar. When Blacks were beaten and murdered in Alabama and Mississippi, the Party leaders expressed dismay without rupturing the longstanding coalition of Southern Whites and Northern liberals that formed the basis for their political survival. A lot of blood was spilled before LBJ finally declared “We shall overcome” and waved bye-bye to the “Solid South”.
When the Peace Movement erupted, the Democratic Party was careful not to sound “soft on communism” and “soft on national defense”. When women finally had enough and took to the streets to burn their bras and demand economic justice, the Democrats were not quite ready to change the Senate from a “boys’ club” to a co-ed dorm. One of our most interesting legal stories involves the way “sex” was added to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, without any real debate. The focus was all on race and only later did many wake up to discover that they had legalized an end to male domination of the workplace.
It is plain to me that real changes have always required extra-political organizing and “direct action” in the streets. Politicians don’t typically react to issues because morality requires it. They react when failing to react becomes more perilous than reacting.
I don’t want to sound too cynical. I spent most of my adult life in “electoral politics”. And I cannot claim naivete as the reason for that investment. I became twenty-one in March, 1952. Within nine months I had toured Texas courthouse squares as part of Ralph Yarborough’s overwhelming loss to Alan Shivers. I had actively participated in precinct, county and state conventions where fights, verbal and physical, concerned whether the Democratic Party in Texas would or would not support the Party’s nominee for President of the United States. At the National Convention in Chicago, the Party’s elected leaders, LBJ and Sam Rayburn, chose to support Alan Shivers instead of Maury Maverick. The Democratic Party in Texas supported the Republican candidate and Adlai Stevenson was defeated.
Like A.E. Houseman’s Shropshire Lad, my “One and Twenty” education was abrupt and short. By the time I was twenty-two, I had few illusions left concerning the nature of the political process known as democracy.
I find the simultaneous outbreaks of outrage in diverse parts of the world fascinating. It is obvious that the timing is facilitated by internet technology and “social media” like Facebook and Twitter. It reminds me, however, of some ideas I have found interesting for a very long time, since college. Carl Jung postulated that we, all of us, share a “collective unconscious” in which common archetypes reside. He based that theory on his study of mythology. He found the stories that different cultures made up had common themes and characters, like the “Earth Mother”; the “Sage” and dozens of others. He did not think this resulted from coincidence. He thought there was some ineffable mental relationship that related all of us to each other.
If one accepts Jung’s theory of the “collective unconscious”, it is not so hard to believe that the urge to use Facebook and Twitter to organize similar protests in places as geographically and culturally diverse as London, Telaviv and Madrid involves more than shared technology. So far as I know, based on my very limited dabbling in his writing, Jung never claimed to have discovered a way to explain how widely separated cultures produced strikingly similar myths and stories. He found evidence that they did so and concluded that we share a level of mental storage he called the “collective unconscious”.
It seems obvious to me that if Jung was correct, and if we do indeed share a common level of consciousness with each other then, at some point in our evolution, there was some kind of communication among all of us at some level of consciousness. The fact that, so far as I know, except for some theories based on mysticism, our science has not divined the nature of that communication does not mean that it doesn’t exist. When some kind of global synchronicity occurs, it triggers this kind of speculation for me.
Well, I assume that, by now, you are shaking your heads and concluding that I absorbed too much of the ’60’s New Age airey-fairey hooha. I will severely limit future speculation about these subjects. I just thought you might be puzzling about these matters, as I am.