We have this habit of slicing and dicing our complex and confusing world into bite-size pieces. Easier to sort through. We intuitively break down big thoughts and complex ideologies into handy labels, headlines, soundbites. It’s like living on cliff-notes…! Learning by little-izing…!
While short-cutting and cutting short is hardly the wisest way to understand a complex world, we do it anyway. And quite often into just two easy-to-manage halves. You know — it’s either good or bad, right or wrong, my way or the highway. OK, If we insist on this arrangement, then lets consider for a moment the most basic, simplistic, un-nuanced of all half-and-half slices: On one hand the powerful, on the other the powerless.
Simple. Basic. Neat. Historically and painfully accurate, because there hasn’t been a time or a people that can’t be so divided. Oh sure, the names change, but the slice-down-the-middle doesn’t. Kings and peasants…Lords and serfs…Upstairs and Downstairs…Owners and workers…Wall Street and Main Street.
Take that last one: Wall Street/Main Street. Nothing is that simple, but right now a dazed and angry people are struggling to keep it just that simple so they can focus their many diverse feelings into one non-complicated-passion. As the demonstrators along Wall Street are chanting: You’re the 1%, we’re the 99%. And when some of the high-rollers were spotted the other day looking down at the street protests while sipping champagne — well, that one picture said it all. You were almost waiting for one of the imperious hedge fund managers to shout out Marie Antoinette’s infamous 18th C taunt to the powerless rebels of her times: “Let them eat cake…!”
In 21st C America everyone is quick to say it. Our nation is divided in half. Right down the middle. Which is why nothing is getting down. Compromise and consensus have disappeared as the ship of state seems to be twisting and struggling against the headwinds of history. Winds that have, since our post-WWII domination, shifted sharply against us at exactly the wrong time.
Now the powerless could study the history of the Great Depression. Or examine the pounds of pages gorging out of the Federal Reserve, Congress an the White House. But that’s too complicated and time consuming. Especially for powerless little people — from the angry streets of New York to the parched farms of Texas to the evangelical congregations of the Bible Belt. The anger is now….the frustration is real….the passions are looking for a person or persons to hoist on a cross.
When the time comes for the powerless to start saying to the powerful “Time is up!” then the time for reasoned debate and rational dialog is slipping fast away. Talking about breaking things down to their basic halves, what we have here then may be another fork in the road of our history: A bold new leadership or one more mesmerizing demagogue. Are you listening, Wall Street….?
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