Sometimes you get a day when the contradictions we face looking at our world are right there as this nation and the world move into an uncertain future. On Sept. 17, I attended, along with over 10,000 others, the campaign appearance by Michelle Obama at UF’s O’Connell Center. The energy was high, even electric. She is as gifted an orator, as is her spouse. That this couple lives in the White House, both coming from working class upbringings, is really quite stunning… This nation has come a long way.
But then that evening I attended the Civic Media Center’s showing of “Inside Job,” the Oscar-winning documentary of the 2008 financial collapse and its roots going back over 20 years, laying fault with both political parties. That Barack Obama chose insiders of Wall Street and the banking industry like Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers makes his administration seriously part of the problem. We are living in a very broken political system, and for all the hope of the afternoon, the evening was a profound counterpoint. And that that day, Sept. 17, was the one-year anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, only underscored the dissonance I was feeling.
There are many levels of discontent bubbling below the surface in this country. There is major consensus that our institutions of government are not serving us well, and who can doubt that when one party declares their goal is to have the other party fail. Likewise, listening to Michelle Obama, I had a feeling that the administration’s gains cited were tactical talking points geared for re-election, and not true efforts at fixing what’s wrong. And truly, given the climate, maybe that’s all they could get. I heard it referred to as “obsessive compromise disorder.”
When I was a kid in the late ‘50s and ‘60s, the big threat to the future was nuclear war. Pollution was just being seen as a problem, but it was not an existential threat except in localized situations like Love Canal. Now we have manifold threats on the environmental front – climate change, ocean fish-stock depletion, agricultural practices that hurt both the land and our health as consumers of the food, deforestation and animal habitat loss, etc., etc.
And then there is the military-industrial complex and corporate power gone wild.
At the quite successful Radical Rush, I was speaking to a UF freshman about the times we are in, and I asked her about what she felt most uneasy about when looking toward her future. She said it was economics, finding meaningful work and a secure life. For me at her age, that would have never entered my mind.
Occupy was the start of a generational statement or resistance of a future being stolen by greed. As important as this election is, it will not fix what is wrong. It will take a revolution in consciousness from below, using the tools available for knowledge, communication and organizing. It will not be easy, but out of the dysfunction of our times we may be able to turn it around.