As a youngish person – perhaps defined as a “Millenial” – I don’t think one has to look much beyond the immediate circles of friends and family to conclude that the social contract has been shattered in the United States. It is truly a contract – and it used to say something like “work hard, get an education, follow the rules, and you have a high probability of being successful in your pursuit of happiness.” But in relative terms, I think the promises of success and happiness are no longer valid…or at least not as valid as they were for our parents and their parents before them, and members of their various generations.
Nowadays, many people my age pursue higher education and work hard. Yet they emerge from their University, Law School, or Business School with little more than limited prospects and a massive, crushing debt that hangs like a noose around their collective necks. They find that the deck has been stacked against them. Among the worst of their corporate shackles are taxation and banking systems that protect the wealthy while exacting out-of-scale income taxes and interest payments from people struggling to join the middle class.
Many young Americans will soon become aware of the fact that their plight is directly linked to a broken political system that no longer represents common interests. Instead, it is carving out special-interest protections in the tax code and regulatory frameworks. Its efforts bleed valuable social programs and allow monied interests to subject the citizenry to wage slavery, poke Swiss cheese-like holes in the social safety net, and destroy our air, land, and water with oversight-free natural resource extraction.
Normally we look to our political representatives to protect us and pass legislation that favors our interests and contributes to the common good. But in an environment of outsized corporate speech powered by unregulated and massive campaign contributions and lobbying akin to political anabolic steroids, this former bastion of protection for citizen interests is crippled, and unfit for being tasked with righting the ship.
Faced with conditions like this – whether in the the American Colonies, the Deep South before the Civil Rights Era, apartheid-ridden South Africa, the interior of the Iron Curtain, and, most recently, the Middle East and North Africa – people universally resort to popular action in the form of protest, civil disobedience, and popular action. Americans, blessed with generations of prosperity and a relatively effective representative democracy, have found it unnecessary to resort to such action, for the most part.
But the inescapable conclusion is that this existence is ending or has already ended. Left without traditional recourse, the paradigm must shift. In the face of corporate-dominated, special interest-beholden government, the only real solution is popular demonstration and protest aimed at marginalizing corrupt elements in our institutions, once and for all.
When will this position emerge as the consensus? I think the glaring erosion of our quality-of-life, opportunity, and overall happiness and well-being will soon tilt sleeping citizenry into popular action. It is true that our citizens naturally believe in our country, its democracy, and the promise of the American Dream. That’s why they traditionally look to the political system for recourse. But human history tells us that such beliefs are not perpetual. Confidence in the inherent good and benevolence of our democratic institutions will gradually melt away as individual liberty and economic freedom are destroyed and replaced with corporate oligarchy and economic serfdom.
The only question we’re left with is this: exactly how much humanity are we willing to sacrifice while we hold out for relief by our neutered political representatives and agents from our largely-compromised social and cultural infrastructure? That is anyone’s guess…but hopefully not too much, so that justice comes sooner, rather than later.