Silence. Golden … Or Deadly?

“As long as enough people can be frightened, then all people can be ruled. … mass fear becomes the ticket to destroy rights across the board.” –James Bovard
“No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.” –Barbara Ehrenreich

“If we let things terrify us, life will not be worth living.” –Seneca

“In a democracy, dissent is an act of faith.” –J. William Fulbright

“Dissent is what rescues democracy from a quiet death behind closed doors.” –Molly Ivins

So do we truly want to give up without a whimper, go down without a fight? Not me, I’m still snarling and swearing … and doing what I can. It’s our choice, friends and neighbors. Let’s not piss it away watching Duck Dynasty or American Idol — that would be beyond embarrasing!

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Published on Monday, January 27, 2014 by RobertReich.org
Why There’s No Outcry
by Robert Reich
People ask me all the time why we don’t have a revolution in America, or at least a major wave of reform similar to that of the Progressive Era or the New Deal or the Great Society.

Middle incomes are sinking, the ranks of the poor are swelling, almost all the economic gains are going to the top, and big money is corrupting our democracy. So why isn’t there more of a ruckus?

The answer is complex, but three reasons stand out.

First, the working class is paralyzed with fear it will lose the jobs and wages it already has.

In earlier decades, the working class fomented reform. The labor movement led the charge for a minimum wage, 40-hour workweek, unemployment insurance, and Social Security.

No longer. Working people don’t dare. The share of working-age Americans holding jobs is now lower than at any time in the last three decades and 76 percent of them are living paycheck to paycheck.

No one has any job security. The last thing they want to do is make a fuss and risk losing the little they have.

Besides, their major means of organizing and protecting themselves — labor unions — have been decimated. Four decades ago more than a third of private-sector workers were unionized. Now, fewer than 7 percent belong to a union.

Second, students don’t dare rock the boat.

In prior decades students were a major force for social change. They played an active role in the Civil Rights movement, the Free Speech movement, and against the Vietnam War.

But today’s students don’t want to make a ruckus. They’re laden with debt. Since 1999, student debt has increased more than 500 percent, yet the average starting salary for graduates has dropped 10 percent, adjusted for inflation. Student debts can’t be cancelled in bankruptcy. A default brings penalties and ruins a credit rating.

To make matters worse, the job market for new graduates remains lousy. Which is why record numbers are still living at home.

Reformers and revolutionaries don’t look forward to living with mom and dad or worrying about credit ratings and job recommendations.

Third and finally, the American public has become so cynical about government that many no longer think reform is possible.

When asked if they believe government will do the right thing most of the time, fewer than 20 percent of Americans agree. Fifty years ago, when that question was first asked on standard surveys, more than 75 percent agreed.

It’s hard to get people worked up to change society or even to change a few laws when they don’t believe government can possibly work.

You’d have to posit a giant conspiracy in order to believe all this was the doing of the forces in America most resistant to positive social change.
It’s possible, of course, that rightwing Republicans, corporate executives, and Wall Street moguls intentionally cut jobs and wages in order to cow average workers, buried students under so much debt they’d never take to the streets, and made most Americans so cynical about government they wouldn’t even try for change.
But it’s more likely they merely allowed all this to unfold, like a giant wet blanket over the outrage and indignation most Americans feel but don’t express.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Article printed from http://www.CommonDreams.org
Source URL: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/01/27-1
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Unlike Reich, I’m not sure much of this WASN’T deliberate. Because, planned or not, it’s all been so damn good for business. For big, greedy, multinational, predatory business. Short-term only, but no one gives a shit about the “distant” (beyond day after tomorrow) future. Except for us — we have nowhere else to go.

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About l. l. frederick

I'm pretty ordinary, so I find any number of things in the world interesting, among them: books, music, flowers, food, social justice, politics and (sometimes!) people. As for my writing, I've decided that I can be subtle and tasteful when our only problems are esthetic ones. Or when I'm dead, whichever comes first. In the meantime, read at your own risk.
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7 Responses to Silence. Golden … Or Deadly?

  1. “No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots.” –Barbara Ehrenreich

    I can get behind THIS one for sure!! Especially the hell-raising part, I think I’ve got that down pat and then some!

    Linda, many people cannot seem to grasp the concept that unless you speak up and speak out, nothing is going to change. I am not bragging, but my sheer unwillingness to give up and accept defeat has not only paved my way through this ruthless ass world, but I have managed to get more accomplished for others by simply NEVER GIVING UP, than all the poems that I will ever write could accomplish. I have stopped health care facilities for the homeless from becoming parks for the affluent. I have gone into homeless shelters and contacted the media, held press conferences and led marches to city council that overflowed the council chambers. I have stood beside the governor in the state of Maryland(when I lived there) while he announced that he was appropriating more money for homeless services. I have given speeches at seminars and held classes about what is needed in order to change the status quo. I have located housing for ex-felons, I have intervened on behalf of the incarcerated and have gotten them representation and they are free now.

    I have helped house homeless people. I have stood in line serving lunch to hungry people and I have advocated for drug rehabilitation as opposed to incarceration. So, I don’t just pen a poem, that isn’t going to get anything done. But people need to understand that there has just got to be MORE people who are willing to take a stand and to keep at it. If at first you get hung up on, call back. Leave message after message. Refuse to give up! Keep at it until you set up a meeting to get the point across. That is what fuels change, not apathy and complacency and a “‘woe is me’ and I’m f***ked attitude, so let me find a box and locate an underpass.” That is a defeatist attitude and will solve nothing! And that is why I exhibit so much frustration because I know what can be done with just a bit of effort. But to get people to see that is the problem.

    I realize that many are just striving to survive, but to change that, it has to begin with each and every one of us. It really does.

    People need to wake up, speak up and stand up and NEVER sit back down. Never shut up. Like I said before, “F**k IT Up!”

    Thank you for posting this Linda! It certainly resonates with me!

    • Shelby – Hell-raising? Absolutely, why the hell not? It’s not like we can hang onto the pitiful crumbs they’ve left us if they ever want those too. Not without a fight, not without constant struggle. Fear is how they win, how they get us to wear our chains, how they get us to pay for the privilege, and even get us to thank them for their generosity. Bah!

      Thanks for your own hell-raising, and your fine comment. – Linda

  2. Oh and one more thing, ‘silence’?, yeah, it’s deadly!

  3. Jeff Nguyen says:

    I get tired of “experts” calling any assigning of blame a “giant conspiracy”. These events would not have “unfolded” in the first place if the elite had not laid the groundwork decades ago for all of it in the first place. Austerity did not happen by accident but by design. Linda, I’m sure you’re familiar with Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”. I’m no econ major but even I could follow the bouncing ball she employed.

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