Imagine that you’re negotiating around a table. Five people say, working out a thorny issue, together. Things get a bit heated and one of the parties, lays a pistol on the table. Changes things wouldn’t you say? Conversation, bonhomie, good-will, and deliberation end at the moment the threat of force is introduced.
Most contemporary political discussions remind me of this metaphoric table before the pistol has appeared. All opinions are more or less equally weighted, backed up by the personal power or authority of the participants. Then the gun appears.
In our political system, the gun on the table is money. It is a political weapon. If the caliber is large enough and pointed in the right direction, it changes the terms of debate and skews the balance of power. Governor Cuomo in NY, for instance, has recently released draft regulations to govern fracking. He issued his report just ahead of the pending release of medical studies demonstrating the dangers to human health from fracking, documented in Texas, Wyoming, Louisiana, North Dakota and Pennsylvania. For all his pronouncements about allowing ‘science’ to dictate his policy decisions, the gun got pointed and everything became ‘pliable.’
It’s the same dynamic with Wall Street regulation; drastically unequal distribution of wealth and services in the US, safety standards on food and medicine, and the endless palaver about “the fiscal cliff.” It doesn’t matter what science and good sense say, when there are guys in the room prepared arm-up, “discussion” is a fiction. That’s the point where you we have to ask ourselves, “Is my point-of-view important enough to me to kill or die for; to make a higher priority than my own safety and comfort?” If it’s not, we should shut-up, or accept that we like whining and complaining, but admit that we are engaged in a schoolboy's meaningless exercise which has far more to do with posturing and being “heard” than being effective.
Until we remove private money from public elections; until we remove the ability of money to control the debate (paid ads, bought air-time); until we change the dynamic whereby our political class can gain re-election by attending to their richest (corporate) sponsors and ignoring the broad mass of people, our elections will continue to be dumb-shows for suckers, and our paltry excuses for public policy will remain exercises in humiliation, exacerbated by the fact that the only planet we have is crumbling and dying before our eyes.
I’m not suggesting shooting the entire Congress, (though I’ve entertained such whimsies, deluding myself that one could kill an idea) but I am asserting that the time is overdue to decide what we are willing to die or kill for and then up the ante on public debate. The corporate sector has been anticipating popular blow-back for some time, and under cover of “fighting terrorism” has created frameworks in the law to allow mass incarcerations, nullify habeus corpus, institute warrantless wiretaps etc. to be ready for the day when “the people” have had enough of being disenfranchised and impoverished and begin to fight back.
How are we going to insist that the money be taken out of the political system and that it be paid for by the people? How are we going to insist on attracting public servants to Washington instead of self-interested, well-groomed narcissists pursuing their self-interest before ours? How will we lay our own “guns” on the table (to match theirs) and declare that the “game” of politics as presently constituted is corrupt and life destroying. In short I am asking how we can go about changing our status from impassioned losers to warriors? This seems like a discussion worth having. The rest feels like marking time.