On 6 October 2011, President Obama stated that 'the Wall Street protests' express the frustration of the American people, just as he is frustrated that congress is not passing his $447 billion jobs-stimulus bill. If the American people had jobs, they would not be protesting, the president implied in his speech intended to criticize Republicans blocking his bill. Let us consider what the New York-based grass movement that has been spreading throughout urban America is all about.
First, are the protesters merely disgruntled because of Obama's jobs bill not going through congress? Are they after any jobs - minimum wage, part time, seasonal, etc., or are they more broadly concerned about the decline of the social fabric owing to the downward mobility of America, and they fear that the future for them an d for their children is not bright?
Second, is it just jobs so that the president can get reelected next year, or is it that people are very clearly and unequivocally condemning the political economy - this means the entire economic and political system that includes Obama? If the president and so many others agree that the American Dream is rapidly fading, then is the problem much larger than Obama's job's campaign issue?
Third, is it just jobs for the short term with a continued policy direction of strengthening the defense sector and buttressing the welfare state? If people feel no sense of real participation or empowerment that the parliamentary system offers, what will a jobs bill do for them? Even if Republicans pass it, will this alone solve the multiple and complex socioeconomic and political problems that America is facing, unless the politicians address those problems structurally?
Fourth, is it just this specific jobs bill that the Republicans are blocking, or is it a fiscal structure that both political parties have created to cater to the top 10 percent of the country's socioeconomic elites, some of whom belong to the political class as well? How is the life of an unemployed middle-manager from an insurance company in his fifties and debt up to his ears and a family to support, supposed to improve under the existing political economy? How is the life of the unemployed college graduates who cannot find employment in the areas of their training, and with a salary that allows them to feel they can reach the American Dream someday?
Fifth, is the problem a micro economic and as narrowly defined as Obama implied recently in an attempt to appease the protesters and use their movement to hit back at the Republicans, or is the problem loss of confidence in Democracy and its institutions as they have evolved and currently serve a small percentage of the population?
Sixth, is the movement one of disgruntled few, or is it much broader that includes union workers, middle class professionals, college students, unemployed managers, and clerics with a strong social conscience? If it is a broader social non-conformist movement that evidently lacks any allegiance to either of the two main political parties, is it a reaction to the last ten years of the evolving super-state created in the name of security with the ultimate goal of engendering sociopolitical conformity?
Seventh, is the movement a protest focusing on a single institution, namely the stock market, or is it focused on the stock market because it has become the citadel of American democracy and the only institution around which US policy revolves to the neglect of society and in violation of the social contract?
Eight, is this a single-issue protest movement centered in Manhattan, or is it an 'American Spring' grass roots movement that has very deep roots in society, cutting across gender, race, regional, and religious lines, reaching out to raise the awareness of ordinary Americans regarding the usurpation of Democracy by a handful of politicians working to further the very narrow interests of the socioeconomic elites.
Ninth, is this a movement that came out of nowhere, or does it have roots in the 1960s, when a broad segment of the population was protesting everything from foreign policy and capitalist greed to the lack of human rights for blacks, women and minorities? If the movement has roots, and it is broadly focused on societal issues, is its ideological and political orientation the left wing of the Democrat party, given that a number of Democrats have already made attempts to side with the movement and to co-opt it - after all, we have elections next year and this movement could help.
Tenth, is this movement merely a national one, or, as I claimed in a previous posting a few weeks ago, is it part of a broader grass roots movement in Western Civilization facing very serious structural; problems owing to concentration of all power in the hands of the political and socioeconomic elites that are chocking off the rest of society in the same manner that occurs in Third World countries under authoritarian rulers.
The interesting thing about the American Spring, as well as protests throughout Europe is that the countries are under 'democratic' regimes, but in essence it is a regime I would call 'authoritarian light concealed behind a mask of democracy'. The protesters across the US as much as those across Europe have seen the ugly face behind the mask and they know that the authoritarian monster cannot hide, because people always judge it by its actions, not its hollow mask and rhetoric.
It is undeniable that any system that is rooted in chronic injustice, using institutional means that include coercion, while claiming 'freedom and democracy', 'peace and pluralism' as its ideological pillars, is bound to be exposed as a fraud eventually by the gap between its rhetoric and its actions. The contradictions that the system creates to survive are responsible for the grass roots mass movements that will continue to grow in numbers and strength. Eventually, the sociopolitical and economic elites as much in the US as in each country where such mass protests are taking place will have to decide what risks it wishes to take to preserve the system with the least possible structural changes, and what kind of society it wants for the 21st century.