Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Last (Best?) Fanfare for the Common Man

From Tahrir Square to Zuccotti Park,  from the Arab Spring to the American Autumn, the common man is aroused.

In what even the skeptic Chris Hedges hopes will become a movement too big to fail, the common man is speaking out against his oppressors.  He has, Hedges observed, "nothing as weapons but dignity, resilience and courage."  His movement, Jimmy Breslin reports, "is threatening to become historic."

He can achieve great change, this common man, and has done so often in my lifetime alone.  Just in this year of his newest arousal he has overthrown dictators.  But if one form of tyranny is simply replaced by another form of tyranny, he must rise again, and so he has returned to Tahrir Square, where it all began, and where, once again, the real outcome is in doubt.

Can he prevail against the enormous power of tyranny, greed, wealth , bigotry and weaponry in the modern world?  In Egypt or in Libya; in Somalia or Syria or America, can the common man win back his human rights, his freedom, his dignity? Can  he once again secure the blessings of liberty for himself and his posterity?  Can he do so with no weapons save his voice,  his resilience, his yearning to breathe free?

In America, his "Occupy" movement has spread from Zuccotti Park and Wall Street to squares and parks and plazas in cities large and small across the nation.  It has lasted longer and grown larger than even its deepest sympathizer ever dreamed it could. And when the oligarchs who rule us showered money on the New York police to embolden them to suppress the mother movement, reinforcements flocked to Zuccotti Park and, in the dawn of last Friday, the army of repression backed off. For now.

Hedges celebrates this as "the first salvo in a long struggle for justice . .. a step backward by the corporate state in the face of popular pressure."

I want to believe.  Ever so desperately, I want to believe that the revolution has begun, there in Zuccotti Park, where a regiment of common men with brooms and mops stood off the kevlar-clad, mace-wielding, rapid-fire weapon toting army Wall Street had sent to drive them out.

In Egypt, the common man drove out a ruthless dictator only to have him replaced by a ruthless military.

Wall Street is a power far stronger, more ruthless and more evil than Hosni Mubarak.  Yet if somehow the common man prevails over Wall Street, it would be only the second salvo in a long struggle for justice.

For, after all, what  kind of nation would remain?


What kind of nation is it that spends far more to kill enemy combatants and Afghan and Iraqi civilians than it does to help its own citizens who live below the poverty line? What kind of nation is it that permits corporations to hold sick children hostage while their parents frantically bankrupt themselves to save their sons and daughters? What kind of nation is it that tosses its mentally ill onto urban heating grates? What kind of nation is it that abandons its unemployed while it loots its treasury on behalf of speculators? What kind of nation is it that ignores due process to torture and assassinate its own citizens? What kind of nation is it that refuses to halt the destruction of the ecosystem by the fossil fuel industry, dooming our children and our children’s children?

This is the kind of nation that would remain, even if, against such enormous odds, the common man prevailed over Wall Street.

Lurking still in the background, as in Egypt, would be the military -- the strongest element in the trinity of corporate greed, political cowardice and sheer armed force that rules us.  It represents, exponentially, the greatest power the common man has ever undertaken to defy, armed only with his "dignity, resilience and courage."

Perhaps, as the "Occupy" movement gains momentum by the day, the choice at last is thrust upon the rest of us: either we join the common man, or we, too, are the enemy.

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