Perspectives on the New YearPosted: January 1, 2012 | |
As I woke up this morning and shook off what bourbon was left in my system from last night, I was trying to figure out what I was going to write about today. There’s an almost impossible-to-resist impulse to make predictions or fulminate about how the year’s going to take shape, and as much as I wanted to avoid it, this piece is going to contain a little bit of that, because as artificial as it is the new year always holds some kind of promise of things being different or new.
First, I think the election is going to be a long, spectacle-laden drama with twists and turns that will ultimately change absolutely nothing. The Iowa Caucuses are less than two days away, and they will either anoint Mitt Romney as the GOP nominee or will winnow out several of the marginal candidates, and in either case, the net effect will be the same: the people of the United States will get the opportunity to vote for which member of the ruling class will lead the country for the next four years. For all the money that will get pumped into the election, we’ll get one hell of a story and not much else. If you doubt me, take this test and try to find even the most tepid center-left answers in it. There is literally no alternative as the polity continues an elite-financed rightward shift economically that’s utterly unsupported by the majority of Americans.
Second, I think (and hope) that the Occupy movement continues to march on in gutsy actions that show a cavalier disregard for what a legal system stacked against the average person has to say about it. They are already off to a good start with a big 68-arrest demonstration last night at Zucotti Park, but as I said earlier Occupy has to broaden their scope and start doing things that aren’t just symbolic but effect significant change right off the bat. The bigger Occupy Our Homes gets, the more need there will be to expand into Occupying closed factories and other workplaces. Occupy Harrisburg defending the Satori Farm is a good example of what I am talking about. It’s the next logical step, and it will probably be the one that really sets the cat amongst the pigeons in the elite, because it fundamentally challenges The Way Things Are Done.
Finally, I think the Arab Spring will continue to rage on. It might have been temporarily strangled in Bahrain, and Assad’s doing his level best to drown it in blood in Syria, but people looking to put an end to autocracy and totalitarianism don’t give up easily. The history of Ireland is instructive on this: pretty much once a generation from 1798 onward the Irish rose up against the UK in one way or another. Henry Joy and Wolfe Tone and Edward Fitzgerald set a spark in the tinder, and the British were never able to completely smother it. The 1803 rebellion, the Tithe War, the Fenian Rising, the Land War, the Easter Rising, and the War of Independence were the inevitable results of the UK trying to maintain its grip on Ireland in a most brutal way: no matter how many protestors Assad has mortared and machine-gunned in Homs, he’ll never reach the number of people Victoria starved during the Great Hunger, much less the other famines her empire presided over in India. It won’t be tomorrow, it might not be two weeks, two months, or two years from now, but it will come, and anyone with a conscience will dance on the graves of these tyrants.
In the end, I can only hope that these things come to pass, because while the new year (and maybe the double of bourbon I’m drinking as I write this) implies the chance at new beginnings, it only implies these things and doesn’t guarantee them. It doesn’t mean that all the obstacles that were in the way of genuine systemic change in 2011 are gone. These people and institutions still have their power and their money and they won’t just roll over and die because we hope they will. It’ll take a fight and struggle to change the world, and in the end, I hope it will be worth all the blood, sweat, and tears.