I think it’s safe to say we are in the beginning throes of what will be THE cultural sea change of the 21st century, but like all such sea changes, we can only detect that it has started, not what final form it will take.
Things As They Were Done In The 20th Century are grinding to a close, and the next generation will be marked by a conflict between those who realize they are in the 21st century and those who want to retreat back to the 1950s (if not the 1850s).
For 70 years war has been on the decline as trade proved it is cheaper to buy what you want than to steal it.
That’s endangered by the fact that capitalism, in order to make more stuff available to more people at cheaper prices, has laid waste to the middle class and the working class of industrial nations, and employs third world nation populations at virtual slave wages.
All around the world are young people (mainly men, though women are well represented as well) who have seen their parents lose their homes, their farms, their businesses, their livelihoods, their self respect and are Angry At Somebody for such things happening.
The question is, who will they ultimately be angry at?
The corporations and oligarchs who did it to them?
Or the scapegoats offered up by the media the corporations and oligarchs own?
Can the reactionary forces win and try to take us back to a non-existent Golden Age?
Sure they can; it’s happened in the past, there’s no reason to assume it can’t happen again in the future.
But historically the reactionaries cannot keep what they take. They achieve their brief idealized utopias but at terrible cost: Civil war, war with neighbors, ultimately collapse either to enraged enemies from without or enraged citizenry from within.
The American South fell during the Civil War, briefly rose again, and is now being relentlessly ground down by demographics.
France overthrew imperious, disdainful nobles who had been warned again and again and again that change was coming and the only way to forestall it was by putting back into the system some of what they had taken out, but did they listen?
Progressive revolution, followed by the Reign Of Terror, followed by Napoleon and his wars that ravaged Europe.
Germany arrived late at the party, tried to nationalize long after everybody had become an established nation, tried to colonize long after all the other European powers realized colonization was a mug’s game, fell to one band of imperious disdainful oligarchs, briefly rose when those oligarchs slipped a right wing reactionary into power in order to hold communism and socialism and unionism at bay, paid a terrible price.
(They don’t get it, the oligarchs. They never get it. They can have all they want so long as everybody else has enough. But they can’t abide the thought of anybody sharing the loot with them. It’s all theirs theirs THEIRS! Suffer and die, peasant: You are unworthy to breed, unworthy to live, unworthy to even eat the food or drink the water or breathe the air that the oligarchs claim to own.)
If a reactionary revolution succeeds, either globally or locally, we can expect brutal suppression of anything that doesn’t fit their idealized utopia: History demonstrates this happening Every Single Time.
This inevitably leads to the push back from those oppressed, domestic and foreign, and the eventual utter collapse of the entire system.
These are nasty, bloody affairs.
If the progressive element wins, there will still be strife as the reactionaries’ tenacious grip is s-l-o-w-l-y pried loose from one cultural stronghold after another.
More strife, more blood, but not as much blood and strife as if the reactionaries win.
Progressive revolutions have a better chance of growing to maturity without causing untold problems for their neighbors.
This is because progressives often (but not always, truth be told) recognize they are entering new territory, and as such are more willing to adapt and change to new circumstances.
But nothing lasts forever, and eventually even the progressives become ossified, and a new generation has to remove them by force or guile.
The old power structures are failing the people of this planet.
Governments show less and less attention to the citizens they govern and more and more to corporations (often international) and oligarchs. Their police stop protecting and serving the population as a whole and start protecting the power structure and what it owns.
Eventually, things snap.
Eventually, the police and the military recognize the other side is going to win, and they switch sides, turning on their former masters.
‘Twas ever thus.
Today in the United States big money interests are distorting the politics of the nation. The citizens have a choice between a bad set of options and a disastrous one, both fully funded by the corporations and the oligarchs.
The middle and working classes have seen their wealth stolen from them, a trillion dollars in savings and real estate value transferred from them to the upper 2% between 1970 and now. They’ve seen their salaries and wages frozen. They’ve seen their jobs and career fields wiped out in pursuit of corporate profit, with no thought given to them despite years of loyal service.
All attempts to rectify this, to prosecute those whole stole the wealth, to protect those at risk, are rebuffed.
Sure, there’s the occasionally sacrificial lamb offered up, usually the most egregiously stupid and greedy and least connected member of the class right below the oligarchs, but those are rarities.
Certainly taxes are not raised, only lowered, on the wealthiest and most powerful.
Certainly vast sums of money find their way into the coffers of the mostly millionaire class of federal level politicians.
The oligarchs own the police, they own the military, they can afford -- or else they are in a position to force the country to pay for -- privileges and luxuries such as adequate food and health care and education that they deny the rest of the country by constantly mucking with the physical and cultural infrastructure of the country.
But the top 2% are not the sole authors of this situation. We ourselves have done this to us. Every time we go to a big box store to buy a cheap piece of imported plastic from China instead of to a local store to purchase a more expensive but more substantial piece of merchandise made by our neighbors, we knocked one more Jenga log out from under our already precarious position.
Karma’s a bear, folks, and karma is patient.
We sought to enrich ourselves at the expense of our neighbors. Instead of spending that extra dime, that extra dollar to buy something that helped our neighbors put a roof over their heads and food in their bellies, we gave it to big corporations (typically owned by a tiny handful of people) who kept most of it and siphoned off only a tiny fraction to their virtual slave labor workforces in other countries.
I hear people scream / kvetch / moan about illegal immigrants, but the truth is those immigrants can’t work for people who will pay the required federal withholdings, only for the slickee boiz who pocket that money instead of putting into the tax and public health and insurance and retirement coffers where it belongs.
You want to bring illegal immigration to a screeching halt, arrest / try / convict / sentence the people who hire the illegal immigrants.
And illegal immigration touches on one of the great bugaboos of this country: Its inherent racism.
Before the Civil War, the Southern oligarchy lulled poor Southern whites into accepting their low status by assuring them that no matter how low they sank, they were at least better than blacks.
Truth be told, they were identical to blacks in the eyes of the oligarchy: Both were sub-human filth unworthy of admission into high society.
But carefully playing off poor Southern whites’ well justified feelings of inferiority, promising them they had at least some social standing in the scheme of things, dangling the farcical claim that someday perhaps they, too, could be among the cream of society, the oligarchy convinced their equivalent of the lumpenproletariat to march off to certain doom against superior forces, dying by the hundreds of thousands in a futile attempt to let the oligarchy own black people just a little bit longer…
Racism is America’s original sin, and we have been haunted by it since before our independence.
(Oh, I know the groans and eyerolls that are starting at this point: “Here come the whiney social justice warriors again / geeze, can’t they let anything go? / that stuff happened years ago!” For your edification, NO, we cannot let it go: It has never let go of us. Until we acknowledge it and recognize it and fncking DEAL WITH IT!!! it will hamper and hinder the American dream. Until we DEAL WITH IT, we are unworthy of that Dream.)
We have lost the privilege of feeling comfortable about ourselves.