Life is full of pleasant things, regularly coming at times when they are least expected. Today just so happened to be one of those days. As I went out to check the mail, I noticed that my edition of The Week magazine had arrived. And there, on the cover, was a splendid picture of people rioting around the idol (i.e. the statue of the bull) in front of the New York Stock Exchange. The people with their fists in the air, shouting at the symbol of swinishness, pulling it down from its pedestal in a way reminiscent of the famous topple of Saddam’s statue, and the words “Populist Uprising” gracing the bottom of the page. The image beautifully captured the sentiment, and the words accurately reflected the image. It was spectacular in the truest sense of the word
Unfortunately, as with many articles of this nature, my joy was quickly and significantly diminished. The story was on page 18 in the Talking Points section and it only consumed the larger part of the upper-half of the page. That aside, the article was concerning to the $500,000 salary cap Obama has issued for all bank CEOs to receive per-annum. While I should have paid more attention to the cover of the magazine (which has the words “the new, $500,000 limit on CEO salaries” as the tag line), I figured that the story would deal with… well, the overall uprising of populism.
It was the earlier portion of January, 2008, when I began speaking more about populism, and in particular what I saw as the rise of populism in
I still stand by my predictions, and I believe most of the indicators are pointing in that direction. Sadly, I don’t see this rising tide lasting too long before it breaches.
People are angry, this much is sure. But they either don’t really know why they are angry or they are taking it out on the wrong things. A casual conversation with Johnny Q. Public will get you an earful of emotionally charged tirades concerning the salaries of CEOs, how Scooter’s Hardware is going out of business because they can’t compete with Wal-Mart, and how the average Joe just can’t make the kind of living he used to with a hard day’s work. In all likelihood, you’ll even hear them talk about the hucksters and swindlers in Washington and Wall Street.
None of this is necessarily problematic. What is problematic is how this tirade is followed up with the same old song and dance that got us here in the first place. The very same person will go to the grave defending state capitalism, quoting “the ole Gipper” by saying “Government is the problem.” This person may be on their way in (or even out!) of Wal-Mart, while Scooter’s is just one mile up the road. He’ll stand by the wage-slave concept, decrying a Living, Family, Just Wage or vocational organizations as socialism. And he’ll probably tell you (depending on how the next few years go) that all we need to do is get more “conservative” Republicans like Sarah Palin in office to begin “taking care of business.”
If you haven’t been formally introduced to this person, or the mass of individuals he happens to represent, you haven’t been in the
This isn’t to deny the ray of light peaking through the clouds. Not at all! It is simply admitting that, as of yet, it is little more than a sunbeam piercing through the clouds of convention tomfoolery. It’s a mere acknowledgment that the masses aren’t as angry with the socio-political apparatus as they are with who may be in control at the time. It’s a blame game, with all their bets being on top-down measures to make all the difference.
Yet even here it is not entirely doom and gloom. This underlying sentiment is real, it is emotional, and it is angry. What is required is good old distributist education. While a large portion of the populace may be experiencing frustration with the status quo, they need to realize that the answer is not found in merely tweaking the status quo, or even crossing their fingers in hope that those on Capitol Hill who just so happened to micromanage the status quo will make all the difference.
Distributists, then, are living in a time of great opportunity. People are dissatisfied, and they are willing to listen to “new” ideas. Better yet, most do not realizing that those “new” ideas are far from being “new.” Capitalists have had their chance. Socialists have had their chance. Now it is time for distributists to have their day in the sunbeam.
How long this uprising lasts is unknown. But it would be foolish not to take advantage of a brilliant opportunity to direct this populist moment towards a more humane political economy.