I wrote this some time ago:
Snowden isn’t the first person governments have refused to value sufficiently, because those who do the valuing are less brainy.
Nor will he be the last.
And so this is why it’s time we should begin to complain, demonstrate and act in the strongest terms.
Not because war is immoral. Not because invading privacy is wrong. Not because punishing the poor for the evidence-free consequences of the rich is an unnatural and unacceptable turning over of justice and law.
No. Why we should begin to complain, demonstrate and act in those strongest terms I mention is because these second-rate behaviours are bloody inefficient! Bloody inefficient – and, ultimately, dangerous for the very survival of our species.
As an empire on the planet, all of a sudden we are in retreat.
Is that really what we wanted; really what we needed; really what we expected of the century?
But the problem isn’t that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.
And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won’t last.
If we don’t do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn’t eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It’s not if, it’s when.
It’s well put; there’s a lot more behind the link above; and I strongly suggest that for the benefit and understanding of the rest of us, who live outside these “gated bubble worlds”, that you go ahead and read it all.
When you have, I’ll conclude my post for today.
Thinking on the analogies the ultra-rich businessperson in question uses, we feel – almost smell – the furious physicality of what’s being suggested: the French revolution; the inequality; feudal times; in particular, of course, the pitchforks themselves.
And when he says “You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising [...]“, we maybe can see with a clearer perspective what’s been happening in the first case my post today mentions: that of Snowden. When we think about revolution, we think about swords, muskets, those blessed pitchforks and puddles of scrappy bloody battle. But what if the aforementioned miscreant of secret information – a thought leader for many, I shouldn’t be surprised – is the template for future human pitchforking activity?
Such individuals wouldn’t form a revolution out of the traditional tools of Bolshevik uprising. After all, we already have one of the most efficient police states in history – and all this under what is really a rather shady cloak of democracy (a cloak only ever hides). Yet, even so, even now, it still obeys certain legal minimums as we attempt – despite ourselves – to maintain a semblance of free speech.
So a third option exists, quite apart from full-blown police state or bloody uprising: being as the battleground of tyranny in Western society is not so much one of physical imposition but of intellectual and constitutional code (requiring intelligence far more than brute force or revolutionary brawn to function correctly), what if we propose instead to understand the encroaching future of “not if, but when” in terms of the potential for a broad expansion of virtual pitchforks – pitchforks which may one day serve to destroy those at the top of the hierarchies encouraging all this grossly unsustainable inequality?
Virtual pitchforks? How so? Snowden is arguably one of the first to show the dangers for current hierarchies. And when I say “current hierarchies”, I include all of us who benefit as well as all of us who suffer. Just imagine such a future: a veritable coordinated swarm of puncturing points of action on a body politic, unable to sustain itself in the light of both present misdeeds and unravelling past practice.
Thus the surveillance state we now live in. The terrorism from without exists, that is true. And we shouldn’t underestimate its malevolence. But the surveillance state which aims to protect the massive majority from the minute minority is a double-edged sword if there ever was one.
Or maybe, just maybe, that’s a double-edged provoker of pitchforks, the like of which we’ve never seen before.