October 26, 2011

The Impending Chaos and an Internet Scent of Fear

I'm old enough to remember much of the civil rights movement. I'm definitely old enough to vividly remember the peak years of the Vietnam war.

In the decades since, the U.S. and the world have weathered numerous crises, many of our own making, but we've usually pulled through one way or another, often at the loss of lives and great amounts of money squandered.

But never in my life have I felt the rising tide of incipient social upheaval and possible chaos that we can easily sense today, like Edgar Allan Poe's Red Death contagion spreading at a touch, a breath, a glance.

Fundamentally, the civil rights movement mainly affected blacks, and Vietnam was (in this country) largely of most concern to young males (including me) who were vulnerable to armed forces induction. If you were black and of draft age, you were twice behind the eight ball.

But today, so much is going wrong, along so many different avenues and vectors, that virtually everybody around the entire world is likely to be affected.

There is a sense that economic inequities across the planet, in absolute and relative terms sufficient to drive both desperation and anger, are going rapidly out of control.

The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement and its offshoots here in the U.S. and in other countries, despite their often amateurish tactics, sometimes misguided targeting, and frequently substantial lack of practical demands, are the understandably direct result of unacceptable conditions that have been allowed to fester to the benefit of the very few, and the detriment of the great many.

The risks of these protests -- now or in the future -- spinning out of control in response to aggressive police actions are very real. Word comes today of an Iraq war veteran in critical condition after his skull was apparently struck by a police tear gas grenade or rubber bullet in the Oakland protests. Another sign of gathering chaos.

The list is long enough here in this country. Lack of decent health care. The housing crisis. The job crisis. Dramatic and rapidly growing income and wealth disparities. Crackdowns on liberty and communications. Government censorship. Surveillance and secret information gathering techniques by law enforcement that would seem familiar in any police state. The list goes on. And on. And on.

Much of the rest of the world is in even worse shape, and the European Union still totters on the brink of an economic disaster that could drag the entire planet down with it.

What's different now is not only that there's something real and tangible for almost all of use to increasingly fear in these respects, but in contrast to past times of crises in my lifetime, there is no sense now that our political leaders are up to the task of making things better.

In fact, there is every indication that many of them are personally and politically motivated to make things worse, even if that means everyone below that still happy top 1% ends up crushed like bugs.

Congress' approval rating, apparently for the first time since polls have ever been taken, has just come in at under 10%. That means more than 9 out of 10 people disapprove of what Congress is doing. Congress is of course a creature of our own votes, and the vast move farther to the "no compromise" right on the GOP/Tea Party side, and to a lesser extent on the left as well, have created a situation where politicians are much more an escalating part of the problems than of solutions. Compromise is often the only way out of such dilemmas, and compromise has now become a dirty word.

This means escalating issues, escalating fear, a positive feedback loop that could drag us all into the abyss.

And there's another factor as well. The Internet and mobile technologies allow us to communicate as individuals to each other, and to the world, in manners that never were possible before in human history. Our eyes are open such as was unimaginable before the wide deployment of these technologies.

Government in general, politicians, and law enforcement have been slow to understand the ramifications of this fact. Not only are we now able to see and discuss inequities and abuses unfiltered by media, but we can organize in ways that strike fear in the hearts of those who have traditionally been -- in various guises -- our masters and overlords.

No wonder governments around the world -- including here in the U.S. -- are rushing to try pass draconian laws to restrict the Internet, to control it, to try coerce it -- or if necessary beat it -- into submission in the manner of traditional media and mass communications.

And they may succeed. As vast as the Internet appears, in reality around the world (especially in but not limited to here in the U.S.) a relatively few large corporations and entities serve the vast majority of Internet users. We can be reasonably sure that plans are already in place to assert governmental control in case of civil disorder or other perceived threats to the social fabric and the status quo.

Have you sensed the rising chaos? Perhaps a throbbing in your head that doesn't seem to quit. A shortness of breath that's hard to shake. A twinge of a panicky feeling when reading the news.

We have allowed our leaders and the financial community at large to herd us like sheep to the edge of the precipice.

But it is ultimately our fault, our failings, our poor judgments, that have taken us to this place, for we have figuratively allowed ourselves to be leashed like dogs and branded like cattle.

The question is, with our politicians obviously unable or unwilling to tackle these issues for our benefit, how can we divert from the current race towards what could be a calamity? How can we make the situation better, when our emotions are pushing us in directions that will almost certainly make matters worse?

The first step is to clearly understand what's really going on.

I fervently hope that we can find the next steps, before chaos engulfs us all.


Posted by Lauren at October 26, 2011 07:42 PM | Permalink
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