People are not at their most dangerous when they’re eating bread crusts and hoping that they won’t die tomorrow. By then they’re broken, not so much individually, but more as a society.
The most dangerous people are the ones who have tasted enough freedom and prosperity to want to keep it. They don’t think their leaders are godlike and they have enough education and competence to think the heretical thought that just about anybody could do the same job as the king, the emperor, the czar or the president. They have experienced enough upward mobility to understand that man’s place in the world isn’t fixed. It can and should be changed. And that is what distinguishes them from the serf. That is what makes them so dangerous.
Authority works best when it isn’t challenged. Ceremony, whether it is that of an emperor or any lesser rank, invests authority with mystical force. Peer pressure and social conformity employ horizontal pressures to keep everyone in their place. Secret police and ranks of informers allow the regime to project an illusion of omnipotent force that seems to be everywhere at once. Reigns of terror create examples to intimidate anyone who might think of challenging the regime.
Pushing back strips away these illusions. The secret police run for cover. The neighbor who rats on everyone sits home and stews in front of the television. And then the regime has no choice but to call on the army and hope that it still retains enough control over the officers and that the officers still have enough control over their men to do the bloody work of winning.
The American middle class can feel itself sinking. Its prosperity has been stagnating and the jobs are drying up. The educational revolution isn’t doing what it was supposed to, for most, instead it saddled much of the country with even more debt. Debt is the watchword of the present, as it was of France before its Revolution. Everything is in debt and mortgaged to the hilt for everything else. International financial systems have made it possible to spread the pain and bury it in complicated financial transactions and speculation, but that just means the debt is bigger and badder than ever.
The college student who owes insane amounts of money to a complex network of financial institutions for a degree of dubious worth and a credit card whose interest rates are more complicated than the subject he or she was studying, is likely to sympathize with OWS’s bank baiting. The small businessman who feels like he spends all day filling out forms in order to get other forms to fill out, while seeing his profits being sucked up by the government and its institutions, also feels a tug.
Pushing back is not easy, until it begins rolling, and then it seems in retrospect as if it was always inevitable.
At first a few people begin to push against the wall, and then more and more, their numbers growing as wall-pushing suddenly becomes the thing to do, and suddenly the sober men and women who never held with it, who put their faith in protests and petitions, join in. The wall shakes and then it falls.
This scenario has played time and time again throughout history…there is nothing new and that wall will come down.