(Un)Civil War 2.0 (part 1)

There have been several points since the “Civil War” (in Axl’s words “What’s so civil ’bout war, anyway?”) when the country seemed poised on the precipice, ready to enter a conflict pitting American against American. While historians and other groups dispute how close we came, the simple fact is that we’ve been right on the edge. Whether it would pit race against race or class against class, the concept of civil war has followed the American people for the past 150 years. Each time it was averted.

The last time the country was this riled, this divided, this awake was the civil rights and Vietnam movements of the late 1960’s. Again, historians and other learned authors have debated just how close we were. But mass riots and cities burning speak louder than the words of those who were toddlers during those years ever could. And there were certainly riots. And certainly cities on fire. Of all the times, that period pitted the most diverse groups against each other. On one side, the “establishment”, on the other, just about everyone under 30.

Of course, anytime someone makes a statement like that, they instantly prove themselves wrong. The two groups referred to in the last example were nowhere near that clear cut. There were many young people appalled at the actions of their peers. There were large groups of disaffected “older folks”, that is, anyone OVER 30 who had been dissenters to the direction of the country – and thus the establishment – long before (and for other reasons) the civil rights movement. The point, however, is made.

The Peace Disrupted

We’ve had two, perhaps three, decades of relative quiet in America. Yes, even with 9/11. Even with Oil Conflict 1.0 of the early 90’s. Even with the years of runaway inflation, interest rates and corporatism. Not that there wasn’t an undercurrent of dissent. Even the Swiss have their malcontents and to all appearances, they live in (a slightly cooler version of) heaven. Why? Because of the economy, stupid. No matter the complaints, enough of our countrymen were advancing in economic terms. They were, in very cliched terms, living the American Dream.

That was all brought crashing down by the economic destruction of 2008. The reasons for the event fill hundreds of books and thousands of blogs and its effects were not constrained ‘from sea to shining sea’ and it’s safe to say that many countries fared far worse than our own US. The basis for the entire thing was the desire to finance US debt at next to zero rates. What happened from there is classic (and expected) a case of unintended consequences fueled by ingenuity and greed. The result is a world ripe for – change.

Since the Meltdown, no less than a perfect storm of circumstances have brought us to the precipice again. This time the lines are along several lines. Racial, class, just about every distinction is represented. While most Americans have very, very short memories particularly when bad memories are involved, the fact is that things are ripe for, as Jefferson put it ‘the tree of liberty’ to be watered with ‘the blood’ of combatants. Sure, butchered and paraphrased, but the truth. The Meltdown has been felt in most every household – worldwide. Subsistence farmers aside, just about every modern family living below the billionaire status, has felt the effects.

Very few modern people have any desire to go through the hell of war in a foreign land, even fewer to participate in the destruction of their own way of life. Yet that seems entirely within the realm of the possible. Since so few Americans have memories (or any idea of what happens outside their own little worlds), few remember that, in the early 70’s, Americans were experiencing and exploding as many as five bombs a day – in America. Don’t remember that? Point made. What has kept full-fledged civil war from becoming a reality was the economy and the American Promise: that each generation would live better than each previous one. That’s not been the case for a couple of generations now.

The Promise and The Dream – Shattered

Americans have been kept in line with decent jobs, lots of beer and entertainment and fast food. Argue if you will, but that’s the long and short of it. The 80% that keep a country going ask not much more. Throw in that aforementioned ‘American Dream’ (which differs from the “Promise” by mostly being a hope rather than an expectation) of good retirement, white picket fenced house and 2.1 kids and most folks don’t want to upset the apple cart. The Meltdown began the undoing. What has happened since has nearly completed it.

Economically, the Dream has largely been shattered. Most good middle class jobs, those involving a decent life in exchange for 8-10 hours a day of hard work, have been outsourced. It’s expensive to provide people with security – not impossible, just expensive. The Dream and Promise involve two largely incompatible things: a good middle class life (Dream) and living better than your folks (Promise). To keep prices down to allow for the Promise, the Dream has been sacrificed. It turns out that it was the more important of the two. There are very very few secure middle class jobs anymore. Some small, highly encapsulated and jealously controlled industries remain and in truth, automation and outsourcing are destroying even those last bastions of security.

Perhaps it is Franklin’s words come to life: ”Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither.”

The Meltdown has allowed differences that slowly simmered under the lid of Dreams and Promises to boil over. Racial tensions. Political Correctness. Authority. The Occupy movement brought it to the surface for a moment. Snowden’s revelations have pushed the lid up and got it rattling. The events in Ferguson, New York, Boston and Nevada have pushed the liquid out onto the stove.

The actions of the ‘Establishment’, which now instead of all those over 30, is comprised of the Government and the wealthy (or the 1%). The news media, an endangered and desperate group, are fanning the flames under that melting pot by insisting that individual events like those in Ferguson, are representative of the overall situation in the country. (This could be true, too.) They tell us every night about the numbers of “inequality”. The amount of the income disparity. The growing influence of the 1%. The growing dissatisfaction and reduction of influence and importance of the 99%. This is true, too.

But these aren’t new events. These are issues that have been present, front and center, all along the American experience. Promises and Dreams kept the truth hidden. Promises and Dreams kept those in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s working and believing until they were no longer important – over 50. Once there, those people both realize that the Promise and the Dream were lies – but they are too worried and focused on the rest of their lives, along with being marginalized by the youth-centric and focused media – to do anything. No 60 year old wants to ‘disrupt’ the world to ensure the 20 year olds get a fairer shake. That has kept the masses quiet.

More and more, however, the 20-40 group isn’t believing. Therein lies the foundation for the new civil war.

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~ by Mad Prophet on March 12, 2015.

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