Friday, February 18, 2011

Suddenly Wisconsin

There is something inspiring about seeing the people gathering together and their voice being heard. As the story unfolded in Egypt this month, there was a sense of thrill and excitement, but also of trepidation. What if chaos reigns and violence explodes? Then we saw jubilation in those crowds when peaceful protests (without guns and bombs) along with that democratic facilitator of the people – electronic communication – brought an end to 30 years of oppression. I had a similar feeling of exultation years ago when the people of The Philippines gathered en masse to protest the sham elections under Ferdinand Marcos. I’m not sure how much difference that peaceful overthrow made in the ensuing years to the Philippine people, but it showed the world what the voice of the people can do. How things play out in Egypt will be another story (and is yet to be seen).

We have seen, however, the effects of letting that genie out of the bottle: other despotic regimes in the Middle East are in danger of teetering (will twittering lead to more teetering?). Just as the printing press gave more power to the people at the time of our own American Revolution, electronic media may be exponentially increasing the influence of the masses. Whether for good or ill (probably some of both) electronic communications will be shaking up the political landscape.

Now we see the people of Wisconsin coming out en masse to protest attempts by the few (funded by large corporate money) to undo the good of the many. Those union workers, teachers, firemen, and servants of the public are letting their voice be heard. And hear it we must, lest we forget that it was the unions who facilitated child labor laws, safe work environments, the 40-hour work week, pensions and benefits for the working people. The only ones who would benefit by breaking the unions are the corporations who live for profit, not for the people. Their goal is market shares rather than justice and equity.

How will it all play out? Usually political events bring a mixed bag. Most often, when there is progress it will be three steps forward, two steps back. The most important thing may be for all people to realize that they do have a voice, and like so many things in history, that new awareness has come out of Egypt.


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