Originally posted at The Des Moines Register, Political Insider Blog.
My regular job, the one that pays the bills, has had me very busy lately and I expect it to remain so for some time, so sadly, posting will remain erratic. And between work and all the crazy stuff happening in the world, it really has been kind of hard to gather one’s thoughts as it seems the globe lurches from crisis to crisis.
Last week I gave a presentation to a gathering of health care executives about the impact of social media on marketing and brand management. I started it off with this amazing video by Dan Pink and the premise, “In times of profound change you need to re-examine your assumptions about how the world works.”
Certainly the first three months of 2011 make it seem like all the subtle changes in our economies and societies that have been slowly happening underfoot have suddenly let go, just like the pressure along a fault line can release decades of pressure in a few minutes. But despite all of this, I’m feeling optimistic. I’ll get to why in a minute, but first let’s review some news.
Let’s start close by in Wisconsin. Anyone who has been involved in GOP politics for any length of time knows that one of the great goals of the party is to destroy the labor movement in America. Not only is organized labor one of the only organizational and financial counterbalances to the moneyed corporate interests that support the GOP, but labor also stands in the way of turning the clock back on worker’s rights, a cherished goal of those same corporate interests. These goals are rarely stated out loud outside of the confined of the most rarefied party leadership meetings however. If they were widely expressed it would, as they say, “scare the straights,” and make non-partisan voters understandably a bit jittery.
But last month, emboldened by huge electoral victories that installed majorities in both legislative houses and put a Tea Party favorite in the Governor’s Mansion, Republicans indulged in a little wish-fulfillment. We got to see what happens when a political party fueled with a religious-like righteous sureness of cause completely unmoors itself from reality, reason and scruples. The result is exactly as , the tyranny of the majority:
A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party.
Unmoored from reality as they were, the GOP perhaps had convinced itself that these policies would be supported by the majority of the population, or at least a workable electoral majority. The counterbalance to this wild-eyed overreach by the GOP in Wisconsin, Ohio and elsewhere was mobilization of the people to oppose this. And lurking behind that organization effort, as it is lurking behind almost every one of the major events occurring today, are networks, social media and the movement towards radical transparency.
It has been everywhere, the punking of Governor Walker and subsequent release of the tape on the Internet; the mobilization of his opposition; the central position of social networks in the revolutions in the Middle East; the use of Twitter in getting updates out of Japan; and everywhere WikiLeaks and those damned diplomatic cables.
There are the cables cables foreshadowing Egypt’s revolution, a cable outlining the dangers posed to Japan by older nuclear reactors in an eqarthquake as well as the Japanese nuclear regulatory agency’s lax attitude. And even today, the US Ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Pascual’s has been forced to resign after his criticisms of the Mexican government’s war on drugs cause a rift with President Calderon.
Meanwhile, Bradley Manning, the US Army private who is charged — only charged mind you — continues to be held degrading and inhumane conditions in the brig months after his arrest. The State Department Chief Spokesman, P. J. Crowley was forced to resign last week after suggesting that Pvt. Manning’s treatment was wrong.
It is because of all this that I am feeling a bit optimistic in spite of all the apparent chaos. This is because what is emerging out of all of this chaos is the light of knowledge. We are now seeing exposed to the light of truth so much that used to happen in the shadows. From the shabby motivations and loyalties of a fake prairie populist to the rather astute observations of the professional foreign service employees of the United States, the previously only suspected (and even then with a sense that is might all be “just conspiracy talk”) is confirmed to be real.
But the truth does nobody any good if it remains an orphan, un-loved and un-embraced. If the arc of history is indeed, as Gandhi said, to “bend in the direction of justice,” then we need to start embracing these dirty little truths and acting on them.