Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japan's Tragedy and the World's Crisis

Along with so many others around the world, my heart goes out to the people of Japan as they face an ongoing tragedy brought about by a devastating earthquake, followed by a tsunami, and subsequently a worsening nuclear disaster. When such horrible things happen to such a sophisticated and cultured society, it reminds us all of our tenuous position on this Earth.

I do not at all want to minimize the trials and tribulations of others around the world who have also been confronted with horrible disasters in recent years -- Haiti, Indonesia, New Orleans, and Iraq come to mind -- but as the third largest economy in the world, and as a technological powerhouse, what's happened in Japan is a reminder that any of us can be devastated at any time. The most advanced engineering can't prevent tragedy, and the most advanced technologies can prove to be the most dangerous.

And it needs to be pointed out that, given Japan's geopolitical & economic status, the tragedy in Japan may prove to bring about crisis around the world. The effects may not be as sudden or shocking as the earthquake which the Japanese people experienced, but the economic ramifications could be equally as tragic for many people across the globe. It feels a little callous to talk of dips to the GDP and the crash of the Nikkei stock market, but international trade has been effected -- and in this interconnected global economy, people's very lives depend on certain aspects of trade. How the terrible events in Japan will effect people in other nations remains to be seen -- but have no doubt that people will be effected in ways precisely unknown at the moment.

Friday, March 11, 2011

On The Continuing Protests In Madison, Wisconsin.

As impressive as the tens of thousands of Wisconsinites have been in protesting the harsh austerity bill being pushed through by Governor Scott Walker, let's not overlook the fact that this battle is just getting started.  Any lulls in protest activity are still punctuated by huge protests on the weekends and literal signs for a general strike are appearing and being carried all over town.  Horns are still blasting around the Capitol building at any given hour and vigils are still being maintained.  There is a sense that the unions, and the rest of the populace, are preparing themselves for the next round.  And as hard as it might be to conceive of these huge recent protests as part of a rope-a-dope strategy... it is the general population that has been playing gently with the Governor thus far.  History has shown us that the masses ultimately have the power, if they are willing to use it, and it doesn't appear that the right-wing has a very thoughtful tactician to guide them through the impending battles. 

That said... the protest movement, particularly insomuch as it is being manipulated by mainstream politicians and self-appointed marshals, could falter.  It will be up to individuals, thinking for themselves and communicating their ideas horizontally, to prevent this movement from becoming too watered-down and compromising.  It should not be misunderstood -- the power at this point is in the hands of the masses of protesters.  Not to put too much of fine point on it, but it's somewhat reminiscent of the scene in Fight Club when Tyler Durden reminds the local politician...
"The people you are after are the people you depend on. We cook your meals, we haul your trash, we connect your calls, we drive your ambulances, we guard you while you sleep. Do not fuck with us."
I'm not suggesting that union members should start fight clubs, and lord knows I wouldn't want to go fisticuffs with a steelworker, but the point is that no one should allow their power or importance in society to be diminished -- especially when considered collectively as part of mutually beneficial organization.  The people hold the real power in this world -- as long as they are willing to use it.  They should not be looking to give concessions -- they should be looking to take them, all of them.  And when the grassroots "leadership" starts talking about giving concessions... their megaphones should be shoved somewhere the sun doesn't shine.  The notion of giving concessions at this point is beyond ridiculous -- unless you're willing to take yet another step towards giving everything away. 

What needs to be understood is that this right-wing putsch by Governor Walker, and it is an attack on far more than worker's rights, was a blunder which must be thoroughly capitalized upon.  Right-wing asses are showing and now is not the time to help them pull up their pants or to offer them your extra pair.  The right-wing putsch has suddenly accelerated the political pendulum -- and we need to take the momentum on the back-swing to topple everything the right-wingers stand for.