Thursday, October 18, 2007

An Observation from poet/activist Jake Berry

It is worth remembering that although the Greeks invented democracy. They couldn't hold on to it. It kept sliding into tyranny. It had the effect of turning Plato against it. The Romans made it work for a while, but that was before they became an empire. Empires are wealthy but unwieldy. Difficult to control. So many people scattered across so much space. It's impossible to know what is happening, especially with a democratic form of government. The drift is toward greater centralization of power. China is discovering that along with greater autonomy comes broader, and more clandestine, forms of corruption. They have tried dictatorship and now free markets. Either way the country is too big to manage very efficiently. During Mao's campaigns of terror and during the Bush regime's crackdown on civil rights post 9/11 there were brief periods where the oppositions were silenced. Very quickly, however, the voice of dissent begins to rise again.

In a small state, a city state say, the voice of dissent can be expressed directly in the form of town meetings. The debate is open and free. As long as there is no shortage of essential resources all is well, but when shortages come, and they always will, people abandon equanimity. Wealth concentrates. Under a series of administrations where false shortages generated by large scale capitalism have not been called to task a sense of desperation permeates the entire culture. A philosophy of immediate consumption becomes the driving ethic of the entire society. Grab what you can now because tomorrow it will all be gone. Becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy? Or the secret fear that it will do so fans the flames of desperation. Under these circumstances it is easy to convince the populace that wars must be fought, resources must be secured at any cost. Empire. In the end the people wish they'd left the whole thing alone. The earth is plentiful, but can not bear the imposition of global empires and those that lie outside the empire will strike out against it. We may protest from inside, but it will do no good until the protest reaches all levels of society, even those with enormous wealth. There is a bit of protest on that level, a shadow of it in that Obama has been able to raise so much money, but even if he had a chance to win he's already made so many compromises that he'd would walk into the job as empire maintenance and nothing more.

- Jake Berry

No comments: