As France takes to the streets for the nth time to protest a rise of two years in the retirement age (they currently retire at 60...), progressive Americans gathered in various cities yesterday, including Washington, to affirm their determination to put aside their disappointments, and give the Democrats another chance to prove that they represent the people.
Why do Americans rally, while Europeans demonstrate? The difference is crucial.
Americans desirous of change gather together to listen to well-known figures tell them what they already know. (This follows thousands of meetings across the country where activists do the same thing, but in smaller numbers. There may be slight points of disagreement among featured speakers as to which cause is more important, or how best to achieve the goal of a more just society, but essentially, these events consist of preaching to the choir.)
If this were Europe, which I know well, after a couple of months of choir meetings, people would be out on the streets with banners flying, megaphones blaring, and very little traffic moving across entire cities. Europe doesn’t need general strikes anymore, because the same effect can be had by just having a lot of people make a lot of public noise.
In America, union busting began as soon as unions appeared in the nineteenth century - setting the stage for muscled interventions in the Philippines and underdeveloped countries closer to home. Eventually, as technology gave up ever more of its secrets to man’s subliminal desire to dominate the Other we launched drone attacks on the civilians of a government we’re not officially at war with.
Our soldiers, ordered to carry out atrocities or risk becoming victims at the hands of their own, return home broken in body and spirit - to face a Congress that cavils over their care - until the suicides become embarrassing.
President Obama may be able to work his magic again in the mid-term elections, but until his base gets really fired up - enough tomarch from the Mall to the White House and the Congress-on-a-Hill, Americans will remain without not-for-profit, comprehensive health care (referred to in newspeak as ‘single-payer’), making war wherever the interests of its corporate masters are in danger.
How did this state of affairs come about? The opprobrium of ‘mob rule’ that attached to the bloody French Revolution has pre-vented Americans from taking literally their own Declaration of Independence which states: “Whenever any form of government becomes destructive of (the pursuit of life liberty and happiness), it is the citizens’ right, it is their duty, to throw off such a government, and to provide new guards for their future security.”
Instead, American progressives can only murmur disapproval when Tea Party candidates threaten to resort to ‘Second Amendment rights’, which owes its existence to the need for a militia with which to defend against the Briitsh, but which they claim allows every citizen to carry a gun with which potentially to eliminate leaders they resent.
Europe is criticized for ‘instability’, governments rising and falling according to the ‘whim’ of the electorate. Ours is touted as superior because it has ‘checks and balances’ which, with the help of the Supine Court, are as mobile as European parliamentary majorities. At least in Europe, the ‘mob’ keeps governments on their toes - and able, as the charts show - to better recover from American-led financial follies than we are.