This post is an excerpt from a longer article written by Paul Cienfuegos available at his website.
Over the past few days, I’ve gathered the following quotations from Tunisia and Egypt which feel uncannily like they apply to America as well:
“People have grown tired of corrupt institutions and a stagnant political order. They are demanding reforms to make their governments more effective, more responsive, and more open.”
—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, issuing a warning to Arab rulers just as the Tunisian uprising was beginning, on NPR’s Morning Edition, 1/28/2011
“These are really local conditions driving this. You have poverty. You have issues of access. You have young professionals, middle class, educated people complaining bitterly about a lack of opportunity.”
—Former Rep. Harold Ford Jr. of Tennessee, on Meet the Press, 1/30/2011
“Young people want to feel that they are participating: not only in their economic future, but participating in how they’re governed, participating in their future.”
—Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman, on NPR’s Morning Edition, 1/28/2011
It’s surreal how well these quotes describe our situation in America. For example, the gap between the rich and the poor is wider here in the U.S. than in almost any other country in the world, including Tunisia and Egypt. And it’s growing wider by the day. The blossoming of authentic democratic structures in Egypt has been blocked for many years by a dictator calling himself a President. The blossoming of authentic democratic structures in the United States has been blocked for many years by an ongoing corporate coup, aided and abetted by the U.S. Supreme Court. Our mainstream press is almost entirely owned or controlled by a handful of giant corporations (including, tragically, PBS and NPR). Almost all of the key societal decisions are now made behind closed doors by corporate boards of directors, which have become the primary constituents of government and whose members now run most of our government agencies. Many of these outrages are legal only because We the People allow our corporate creations to exercise Constitutional “rights” as if they were real flesh and blood people.
It is truly scary as an American to admit that the U.S. isn’t really a democratic society at all.
Just two weeks ago, most Egyptians would have told you that they felt isolated from each other and scared to stand up for their beliefs. Then the people of Tunisia rose up in enormous numbers, (partially due to leaked U.S. Embassy cables from WikiLeaks), and their dictator fled. Young Egyptians started mobilizing themselves via Twitter and Facebook. And one week later, two million Egyptians burst out into the streets. The Egyptian dictator’s days are now numbered. And peaceful demonstrations are taking place in Jordan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia and Syria.
From peak oil and climate destabilization to the real possibility of widespread economic collapse, There are so many crises facing us that require urgent attention. We need responsive governing institutions freed from corporate interference if we are going to have any chance of negotiating a sane, sustainable future. Do We the People of these United States trust ourselves enough to act as boldly as our Egyptian brothers and sisters? Do we really even have the choice?
At last we’re in Winter. It’s the year 2047. A worn scrapbook from the future arrives in your lap. It offers a stunning global vision, a warning to the next generations, a repository of practical wisdom, and an invaluable roadmap which you need to navigate the dark times, and the opportunities, which lie ahead.