When I started writing blogs I was determined to avoid politics and religion. Belief systems in these areas are so deeply rooted that debate is not possible. Besides, I have only my personal opinions in these areas and little expertise. However, I would like to share some thoughts regarding recent political events. Elders have the luxury of having observed the past and are able to make comparisons between past events with those occurring in the present. Nowadays the world is experiencing a outpouring of discontent, mostly by the youth who seem prone to live in the moment. Because they are immortal, time and consequence have less relevance to them. As existentialists they demand extensive societal changes and demand those changes right now.
Social demonstrations and uprisings are able to bring change. Many times the change is not in the greater good of the populace. The overthrow of the Tsar brought communism to Russia. The ruling commissars instituted a totalitarian police state as cruel or even more cruel as that of the ruling Romanoffs. Riding a wave of discontent and poverty, Hitler brought great change to Germany. We are well aware how that turned out. I recall how many Americans celebrated the Fall of the Shah of Iran. We were led to believe that he was a bad man. However, the mullahs who seized the throne appear to be far more cruel and dictatorial than the Shah ever was. Have the changes instituted by the Castro revolution advanced the long term welfare of the Cuban people? Are the Zimbabwean people better off under Mugabe? I am only posing these questions to suggest that political upheavals often do not bode well for the populace. Strong men or strong belief systems move in to fill the void left by previous rulers. New leaders promise utopias. When they are unable to carry out their promises, they are forced to resort to harsh repression.
Now we are witnessing the Arab Spring and the Occupy Wall Street movements. Overthrow of the existing governments in the near East fail to address the basic problems confronting those nations. For example, Egypt is overpopulated with a majority of young, functionally illiterate and unemployed youth. Jobs are not available. The country has limited natural resources, limited food production and limited manufacturing capacity. This is true of many of the countries in the Arabic world where popular uprisings are taking place. Historically this has been a recipe for the emergence of new dictatorships promising to do the impossible.
I am more puzzled by the Occupy Wall Street movement. Certainly the goals are noble. Who is not for justice and equality? To oppose such goals is almost like being against Mom and apple pie. Thus far there has been a notorious lack of specificity as how these noble goals should be accomplished. As a psychiatrist I have often told patients that without a plan to actuate their goals their goals were not worth a bucket of warm spit.
I am fully aware of the tremendous disparity in the distribution of wealth. Some executive salaries and bonuses appear to be obscene to the average person. Also, I am also in agreement that this is an important issue that shoul be addressed. However, I also also must confess that blaming one percent of the population (the rich) for the ills of the remainder of society seems illogical. Our social structure seems too complex to be explained away by a single factor. Where do the roles of globalization, mechanization of labor, over population, governmental fiscal irresponsibility, excesses of world manufacturing capacity and the effects of climate change figure in?
Many Americans are accustomed to living beyond their means. When they have to pay the Piper they seek out someone to blame. The rich seem to be a logical choice. Envy rears its ugly head. Psychologically envy is accompanied by a wish to destroy the object of the envy. Is that what the demonstrators want? Would destroying the rich truly be in the best interest of the poor? These are rhetorical questions that each reader must decide for himself.
As a disclaimer, I must note that I am just an aging pensioner and definitely not rich.