This is Part 2 of 3 of a mega-post. To read Part 1, click here.
Power is only exchanged through conflict. However, conflict has been sublimated, in domestic terms, in modern America. Those currently in power (essentially, the corporations and special interests whose money powers the politicians who run or fail to run the country) have long been engaged in a sort of silent, backdoor civil war against the rest of us.
There’s really no other way to describe everything the wealthy white establishment within the conservative movement in particular is doing, while in its death throes, to continuously dehumanize minorities and the lower classes in an ongoing attempt to maintain control over the economy and country no matter the cost. They worked for a long time to quietly warp the narrative of what it means to be American, such that they could grow richer and more influential as we absorbed everything through a one-way screen (the television) and ended up simply “missing” what was happening. Once the recession started waking people up, these same manipulative special interests started screaming (or saw to it that their “constituents,” true believers in their messaging, started screaming). They started painting other Americans as enemies.
No, our current civil war has not been waged with weaponry. It has only resulted in actual violence in cases when citizens snap and spasmodically act out in tragic explosions of long-simmering emotional pain, which is itself arguably caused by our failure to treat each other not as ends but fellow humans. No, this war has been waged through suppression, carried out through the propagandizing, via The Screen, of an emotionally Darwinist narrative that depicts America as a place that was built by rugged individualism and unfettered free-market capitalism. All you have to do is read three history books that aren’t written by right wing conformists to realize that this simply isn’t the truth.
While we sit in front of The Screen, battles in this war are decided by lawyers and lawmakers. Plans are laid with the (sometimes even unwitting) goal of bleeding out the spirit and the animus of the average American man or woman in small, incremental steps. Whereas America as we know it was actually built by the partnership between wealthy capitalists and an industrious working class that became a robust and energetic middle class, now it is mostly a place where the rest prop up those at the top, even as they take more and more from us because they need and must retain their power. So now, absent any experience making things or solving problems, because many of them were born fortunate and don’t know how to work or to be creative, they attack the future under the guise of protecting the past.
A man cornered and attacked cries out and fights back. But a man prompted to wait, by the lack of a discernable oncoming blow, even as the air around him is increasingly poisoned by the second, idles almost willingly when faced with essentially the same end result. And who can blame him, when his environment is full of so many invisible threats that are impossible to track and avoid all at once? Except that, in the second case, such a man is robbed of the benefit of the assistance from his fellow man that would surely come in the first, as each eventually realizes that they are under similar assault.
What I’m suggesting is that The Screen has become the corner that we’re backed into. The old guard, exemplified by those in control of certain too-big-and-too-greedy corporations, is the attacker.
So what do we do?
Well, we talk about this shit, first and foremost.
I’m neither an economist or a political scientist, and I acknowledge and understand that even if this combined missive spreads like Bieberfire (it won’t), and we all collectively look up and whisper “no” – that things won’t change over night. But what influence we have, which we do not exercise enough en masse, is our bargaining power as consumers.
As trivial as some of them may seem on the surface, I’ve delighted in recent socially networked movements against backwards or exploitive corporate policies in recent months (the furor and flight over Instagram’s change in their TOS is a recent example). However trivial in comparison to what we should also be doing (increasing our active participation in combating social injustice on the ground) this sort of viral participation represents an easy and tangible way to band together and enact change. Companies can’t ignore shocks to the bottom line, which is something they used to worry about predominantly on our terms, not just the terms of wealthy shareholders. If our relationship with our corporations are going to swing back towards balance, this needs to become the norm once again.