Violence erupted throughout Europe in 1848, a time that was later dubbed the “year of revolution.” Though the motives and perpetrators varied from country to country and even from region to region, the frequently violent protests sought major changes in the status quo, to include political emancipation and economic reform. The revolutionaries were eventually suppressed by use of military force, but the ideas of national rebirth and political change lived on to resurface in Italy, Germany, and France later in the century.
What drove the revolutionaries was the principle that the old system that had for centuries regulated the lives of Europeans was broken beyond repair. The old land-based economy had produced starvation and the control of the political structure by what amounted to oligarchies in most countries meant that few felt any kind of connection to the state, which was increasingly seen as a taxation machine backed up by the brute force of soldiers. Alexis de Tocqueville described the turmoil in his native France as "society was cut in two: those who had nothing united in common envy, and those who had anything united in common terror."
How much different will 2011 be? The world’s economies are in danger of sinking, dragged down by a US economy which is on the verge of insolvency. President Barack Obama and his cheerleaders boast of the Administration’s successes, but apart from a badly needed START treaty with Russia, which was clearly in the national interest, there is little enough to show. The US is failing to produce jobs for its people, is awash with debt, and is mired down in two wars that it cannot and will not be able to finish with a third and larger conflict waiting in the wings.
As in 1848, there is a clear division between the people and their leaders. In Europe, opinion polls indicate that the voters want nothing to do with wars like Afghanistan, but the respective governments continue in their folly, even when they recognize that the conflict is unwinnable. In the United States, support for the wars being fought by the White House and Congress is both low and sinking, but no voters had a chance to express dissatisfaction in the November elections because war was not on the ballot and few candidates even bothered to mention it. The media, which should be exposing the lemming-like march over a cliff, is instead a cheerleader for the catastrophe, fully embracing the concept that the United States has some kind of God-given obligation to intervene everywhere in the world and at any time for the good of mankind.
And then there are what Lenin used to describe as the “useful idiots” who grease the wheels of the official narrative machine. Sarah Palin recently paused in her campaign to amass as much money in as short a time as possible to inveigh against Iran in December 23rd’s USA Today. Mamma Grizzly, who in all probability had the article written for her by some neocon hack like Bill Kristol, opens up with “Iran continues to defy the international community in its drive to acquire nuclear weapons” and goes downhill from there. “Israel would face the gravest threat to its existence…Iran’s leaders have repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction”…“a second Holocaust”…“Iran has provided arms used to kill American soldiers”…she is the “biggest state sponsor of terrorism.” Palin advocates crippling sanctions and encouraging the Iranian people to rise up against their leaders.
Puhleeze, Sarah. Everything you write is nonsense. Iran is hardly a role model for the rest of the world, but there is no evidence that it has a weapons program, its leaders have not threatened to destroy Israel, and there is no reliable information indicating that it has colluded to kill American soldiers. Its support of terrorism is pretty much limited to Hezbollah and Hamas, which many would regard as national liberation groups, and neither of which actually threatens the United States in any way, only Israel. Crippling sanctions, including a cut off of refined petroleum products which Palin recommends, would only devastate the economy and hurt the Iranian people while not bringing about regime change. In all likelihood it would actually strengthen the government. There is no evidence that the Iranian people are about to rise up against their leaders and to invite such action would undoubtedly result in a blood bath. Leave it alone, Sarah, we all know you are a shill for Israel but we have been hearing this song for a long time and it hasn’t gotten any better.
And then there is the Washington Post’s house enabler, David Ignatius. Ignatius is as much a part of the know-nothing establishment as Palin, but at least he majored in something serious in college and writes his own stuff. He is now a born again enthusiast for the Obama foreign policy, asserting that it has been a “bracing” holiday season as the President has been able to “rally support at home and abroad for a strong foreign policy.” It makes one wonder what Ignatius has been using to spike his eggnog. What does he see? “Strengthening key alliances” and “firmness…in contingency plans for North Korea.” Throw into the hopper a trip to India that was not embarrassing, a trade pact with South Korea that did little for US manufacturers, a timetable for leaving Afghanistan in 2014, “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and the formation of an Iraqi government. Some success – Obama once promised to leave Afghanistan in 2011. On the Middle East Ignatius notes a policy that was “Sadly…undone partly by his growing political weakness.” Meaning that Obama cannot confront the Israel Lobby, though Ignatius is not about to say that in so many words.
Palin and Ignatius are today’s oligarchs and the system they support is every bit as corrupt as any rotten borough in Georgian England. When governments do all the wrong things and then dissemble and rely on a fictitious narrative bolstered by their fellow travelers in the media that has no connection with reality and that is actually hurting the people, isn’t it time for a little revolution? If the peasants and workers of 1848, relatively powerless against heavily armed governments, could do it, so can we. Thomas Jefferson believed that every generation needed a new revolution which he described admiringly as “the spirit of resistance to government,” arguing that “Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms (of government) those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.”
Can it be that Obama is a tyrant on the order of the kings and princes of the nineteenth century? He is in fact worse, far worse, because he has the technology and means to monitor and punish every citizen through an acquiescent judiciary and congress, national security letters, military commissions, and Patriot Acts. Guantánamo is still open and Attorney General Holder will undoubtedly be sending more prisoners there in the new year, possibly to include Julian Assange of WikiLeaks fame. If you want to travel on an airplane President Obama even has a machine that can see you naked and if you reject the treatment don’t try to leave the airport because you can be arrested. And when the president imprisons the innocent or strips someone of his or her rights he can cover up the crime, not through citation of the divine right of kings, but through the state secrets privilege. The United States badly need a change of course, and 2011 will be a good opportunity to see if the American people will take up the challenge and march to the barricades. If they do not, there is evil in the air and we have a long and dreary future ahead of us.