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Activist Post: Government of the Rich, by the Rich and for the Rich: It’s Time for ‘Militant Nonviolent Resistance’
John W. Whitehead
“[E]verywhere, “time is winding up,” in the words of one of our spirituals, “corruption in the land, people take a stand, time is winding up.”—Martin Luther King Jr.
We now live in a two-tiered system of governance. There are two sets of laws: one set for the government and its corporate allies, and another set for you and me.
The laws which apply to the majority of the population allow the government to do things like sending SWAT teams crashing through your door in the middle of the night, rectally probing you during a roadside stop, or listening in on your phone calls and reading all of your email messages, confiscating your property, or indefinitely detaining you in a military holding cell. These are the laws which are executed every single day against a population which has up until now been blissfully ignorant of the radical shift taking place in American government.
Then there are the laws constructed for the elite, which allow bankers who crash the economy to walk free. They’re the laws which allow police officers to avoid prosecution when they shoot unarmed citizens, strip search non-violent criminals, or taser pregnant women on the side of the road, or pepper spray peaceful protestors. These are the laws of the new age we are entering, an age of neo-feudalism, in which corporate-state rulers dominate the rest of us, where the elite create the laws which can result in a person being jailed for possessing a small amount of marijuana while bankers that launder money for drug cartels walk free. In other words, we have moved into an age where we are the slaves and they are the rulers.
Unfortunately, this two-tiered system of government has been a long time coming. As I detail in my book A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State, the march toward an imperial presidency, to congressional intransigence and impotence, to a corporate takeover of the mechanisms of government, and the division of America into haves and have nots has been building for years.
Thus we now find ourselves at a point where, for the first time in history, Congress is dominated by a majority of millionaires who are, on average, 14 times wealthier than the average American. Making matters worse, as the Center for Responsive Politics reports, “at a time when lawmakers are debating issues like unemployment benefits, food stamps and the minimum wage, which affect people with far fewer resources, as well as considering an overhaul of the tax code,” our so-called representatives are completely out of touch with the daily struggles of most Americans–those who live from paycheck to paycheck and are caught in the exhausting struggle to survive on a day-to-day basis.
Indeed, although America is supposed to be a representative republic, these people– who earn six-figure salaries and inhabit a world exempt from parking tickets, where gym membership is free and health care is second-to-none, where you only have to work two, maybe three days a week and get 32 fully reimbursed road trips home a year, travel to foreign lands, discounts in Capitol Hill tax-free shops and restaurants, free reserved parking at Washington National Airport, free fresh-cut flowers from the Botanic Gardens, and free assistance in the preparation of income taxes–neither represent nor serve the American people. They have instead appointed themselves our masters.
While Congress should be America’s representative body, too many of its members bear little resemblance to those they have been elected to represent. As Dan Eggen reports for The Washington Post: “The new figures underscore a long-standing trend of wealth accumulation in Congress, which is populated overwhelmingly with millionaires and near-millionaires who often own multiple homes and other assets out of reach for most of the voters they represent.”
Many of our politicians live like kings. Chauffeured around in limousines, flying in private jets and eating gourmet meals, all paid for by the American taxpayer, they are far removed from those they are supposed to represent. Such a luxurious lifestyle makes it difficult to identify with the “little guy”–the roofers, plumbers and blue-collar workers who live from paycheck to paycheck and keep the country running with their hard-earned dollars and the sweat of their brows.
The unfortunate but simple fact is that the rich sit perched at the top of the government. As Joseph Stiglitz writes for Vanity Fair:
Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office. By and large, the key executive-branch policymakers on trade and economic policy also come from the top 1 percent. When pharmaceutical companies receive a trillion-dollar gift–through legislation prohibiting the government, the largest buyer of drugs, from bargaining over price–it should not come as cause for wonder. It should not make jaws drop that a tax bill cannot emerge from Congress unless big tax cuts are put in place for the wealthy. Given the power of the top 1 percent, this is the way you would expect the system to work.
Sadly, electoral politics have been so thoroughly corrupted by corporate money that there is little chance, even for a well-meaning person, to affect any real change through Congress. Whether it be the Oval Office or the halls of Congress, the road to the ballot box is an expensive one, and only the wealthy, or those supported by the wealthy, are even able to get to the starting line.
Just consider the 2012 presidential election cycle. Both parties spent $1 billion each attempting to get their candidate elected to the presidency. This money came from rich donors and corporate sponsors, intent on getting their candidate in office. Once in office, these already privileged wealthy bureaucrats enter into a life of even greater privilege, unfortunately at the expense of the American taxpayer. It doesn’t even seem to matter whether they’re Democrats or Republicans–they all take full advantage of what one news report described as “a mountain of perks that most Fortune 500 companies couldn’t begin to rival.”
Even President Obama’s closest advisers are millionaires, including those on his 15-member cabinet. It is not unusual for some of them to own vacation homes, such as Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services, who owns a “summer home worth more than a million dollars.”
And then there are the lobbyists, the source of much corruption and exchanging of money in Washington. With an estimated 26 lobbyists per congressman, it should come as no surprise that once elected, even those with the best of intentions seem to find it hard to resist the lure of lobbyist dollars, of which there are plenty to go around.
This lobbying is in turn buoyed by a congressional lifestyle which demands that our representatives spend the majority of their time fund raising for campaigns, rather than responding to the needs of their constituents. In November 2012, the Democratic House leadership offered a model daily schedule to newly elected Democrats which suggests a ten-hour day, five hours of which are dominated by “call time” and “strategic outreach,” including fund raisers and correspondence with potential donors. Three or four hours are for actually doing the job they were elected to do, such as attending committee meetings, voting on legislation, and interacting with constituents.
When half of one’s time is devoted to asking for money from rich individuals and special interests, there is no way that he can respond to the problems which pervade the country. Even well-meaning Congressmen face a Catch-22 where they are pushed to fundraise to secure their seats, but then once in office, it is basically impossible for them to do their jobs. The full ramifications of this are laid out by Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC):
Any member who follows that schedule will be completely controlled by their staff, handed statements that their staff prepared, speaking from talking points they get emailed from leadership… It really does affect how members of Congress behave if the most important thing they think about is fundraising. You end up being nice to people that probably somebody needs to be questioning skeptically… You won’t ask tough questions in hearings that might displease potential contributors, won’t support amendments that might anger them, will tend to vote the way contributors want you to vote.
What we are faced with is a government by oligarchy–in other words, one that is of the rich, by the rich and for the rich. Yet the Constitution’s Preamble states that it is “we the people” who are supposed to be running things. If our so-called “representative government” is to survive, we must first wrest control of our government from the wealthy elite who run it. That is a problem with no easy solutions, and voting is the least of what we should be doing.
“What they don’t want,” noted comedian George Carlin, is “a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interests.”
A population of citizens capable of critical thinking? That’s a good place to start, and it’s a sure-fire way to jumpstart a revolution. As Abraham Lincoln said, “Wise men established these great self-evident truths, that when in the distant future some man, some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that none but rich men, or none but white men, were entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their posterity should look up again at the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their fathers began.”
Inspiring words, but what do they really mean for those of us laboring under the weight of an overreaching, militarized, corrupt government that grows increasingly so with each passing day?
How can we change this state of affairs? The government is too big, too powerful, and its overlords too entrenched to willingly give up any of its power or wealth. The wisest option is to employ the tactics of past protest movements such as the Bonus Army, the Civil Rights Movement, and the 1960s anti-war movement, all of which used sleep-ins, sit-ins and marches to oppose government policies, counter injustice and bring about meaningful change.
For example, in May of 1932, more than 43,000 people, dubbed the Bonus Army—World War I veterans and their families—marched on Washington. Out of work, destitute and with families to feed, more than 10,000 veterans set up tent cities in the nation’s capital and refused to leave until the government agreed to pay the bonuses they had been promised as a reward for their services. The Senate voted against paying them immediately, but the protesters didn’t budge. Congress adjourned for the summer, and still the protesters remained encamped. Finally, on July 28, under orders from President Herbert Hoover, the military descended with tanks and cavalry, beating some protesters senseless and setting their makeshift camps on fire. Still, the protesters returned the following year, and eventually their efforts not only succeeded in securing payment of the bonuses but contributed to the passage of the G.I. Bill of Rights.
Similarly, the Civil Rights Movement mobilized hundreds of thousands of people to strike at the core of an unjust and discriminatory society. Likewise, while the 1960s anti-war movement began with a few thousand perceived radicals, it ended with hundreds of thousands of protesters, spanning all walks of life, demanding the end of American military aggression abroad.
What these movements had was a coherent message, the mass mobilization of a large cross section of American society, what Martin Luther King Jr. called a philosophy of “militant nonviolent resistance” and an eventual convergence on the nation’s seat of power—Washington, DC—the staging ground for the corporate coup, where the shady deals are cut, where lobbyists and politicians meet, and where corporate interests are considered above all else.
It is no coincidence that just prior to his assassination in April 1968, King was plotting “to build a shantytown in Washington, patterned after the bonus marches of the thirties, to dramatize how many people have to live in slums in our nation.”
King’s advice still rings true: “We need to put pressure on Congress to get things done. We will do this with First Amendment activity. If Congress is unresponsive, we’ll have to escalate in order to keep the issue alive and before it. This action may take on disruptive dimensions, but not violent in the sense of destroying life or property: it will be militant nonviolence.”
The balance of power that was once a hallmark of our republic no longer exists. James Madison’s warning that “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elected, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny” has, regrettably come to pass.
Clearly, it’s time for a mass movement dedicated to change through “militant nonviolence.” If not, the shadow of tyranny that now hangs over us will eventually destroy every last semblance of freedom.
“We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor,” Martin Luther King Jr. warned in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” “It must be demanded by the oppressed.”
This article was written by Wendy McElroy and originally published at The Daily Bell
I believe America’s political institutions are beyond redemption. The hope for America lies with individuals who live freedom rather than talk about it or pursue it through authorized means. Freedom now rests with individuals who say “no,” in combination or alone.
But the issue of where America falls on the spectrum between “free” and “totalitarian” is important to air for at least two reasons. First, there is a key difference between America and most police states. In East Germany, the average person knew he lived under tyranny and he did not expect justice to result from petitioning the tyrant. In America, many if not most people still trust the government enough to believe in reform rather than in the quiet revolution of saying “no.” They still listen to the mainstream media, no matter how bitterly they complain about it. Nothing else can explain why people surrender their liberty and money in return for broken and retreaded promises.
Secondly, even if America is a police state, it’s not intuitively obvious how far the process has progressed. North Korea and the United States exist at different points on a sliding scale of totalitarianism, and merely pointing to rights violations by the U.S. proves little. All states violate rights. When does one become totalitarian?
What is a Police State?
The Oxford English Dictionary says the term “police state” can be traced back to 1851 but the German word Polizeistaat popularized it in the 1930s as a way to describe the rise of fascism in Europe. A police state is generally defined as one that exerts extreme social, political and economic control over peaceful citizens. The control is maintained by widespread surveillance, through campaigns of fear, via a vast array of laws and the draconian enforcement of them. There is a standing political police force, such as the Stasi or KGB, that operates with no transparency and few restraints. The sole purpose of the political police force is to exert social control and act as an enforcement arm of the state.
There are several ways to estimate how far America has gone down the road toward a police state. One of them: Compare the current situation to the above description. Surveillance is close to total. Public fear is stoked through the engineered hysteria known as the war on terrorism, which has kept Americans on battlefields for 12 years. A myriad of laws now dictate the minutia of daily life and their enforcement is draconian. Police departments resemble military units thanks partly to a little known program called “1033 ” through which the Defense Department gives surplus military equipment to the local police forces. Meanwhile, the standing political police force called the Department of Homeland Security functions without transparency or accountability; its purpose is to enforce social control.
Another way to judge the extent to which a police state exists is to ask yourself four questions.
1. How many peaceful activities would make you a criminal if you did them?
In his book, Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent, civil rights attorney Harvey Silverglate argues convincingly: “The average professional in this country wakes up in the morning, goes to work, comes home, eats dinner, and then goes to sleep, unaware that he or she has likely committed several federal crimes that day. Why? The answer lies in the very nature of modern federal criminal laws, which have exploded in number but also become impossibly broad and vague.” It is not merely that laws and regulations have vastly multiplied. They are now so nonspecific that almost any activity can be criminalized. Consider “obstruction of justice.” This criminal offense involves interfering with the operation of a court or a law enforcement officer. The ‘interference’ could be actions, words or even a facial expression that an officer finds disrespectful.
2. How much of life do you spend working to pay taxes, fees and meeting other government requirements?
According to the watchdog Tax Foundation, Tax Freedom Day will occur on April 18. The rough date is estimated by dividing the total of federal, state, and local taxes by the total American income. In 2013, Americans will pay $4.22 trillion in various taxes, or 29.4 percent of their income. April 18 represents 29.4 percent of the year or 108 days. Factoring in the federal deficit, the Foundation concludes, “If we include this annual federal borrowing, which represents future taxes owed, Tax Freedom Day would occur on May 9, 21 days later.” The figure hardly captures the scope of economic plunder. It is not merely the taxes that consume a third of life, it is also the less visible expenses. For example, compliance with labyrinthine regulations costs small to middle-sized business an estimated 1 in every 3 dollars earned. The expense gets eaten by producers or passed along to consumers; the benefit goes to government.
3. How freely can you relocate your assets and person outside the state’s jurisdiction?
Consider what should be the easiest asset to move – money. There are at least three stages in such a relocation. The first hurdle is finding a foreign bank that still accepts American customers. In the wake of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, Americans have become financial pariahs. The second stage is getting your own money back. In an article entitled “Get Your Assets Out of the U.S. Now,” a relocation expert warns that an American bank will “make a federal case out of it. Literally.” You will wait from five to ten days for the transaction to clear. The manager will “begin to ask you a lot of questions. She’s required to do it.” He adds: “Here’s the scary part. When you tell them you want to withdraw $100,000 in cash or wire it to a foreign bank, they are REQUIRED to file a SAR. They are PROHIBITED from telling you that they are filing it….They can freeze your account until they are satisfied that what you want to do with YOUR money is legitimate.” Those are just some of the problems arising at what should be the simplest part of relocating assets. As much as possible, the U.S. Government is trapping money within its borders so that wealth cannot escape.
4. How freely can you use your assets and person within the state’s jurisdiction?
This varies from individual to individual and much depends on personal circumstances such as lifestyle. But one factor is indicative of how freely Americans can live. America has by far the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Since 1980, the rate has soared from 220 per 100,000 population to over 700 per 100,000. The increase is due almost entirely to the imprisonment of non-violent ‘criminals,’ especially in relationship to drugs. Breitbart reported (Sept. 21, 2013), “According toFBI statistics, there were 1.9 million violent crimes committed in 1992 versus 1.2 million in 2011, even though the US population increased by almost 70 million.” And, yet, imprisonment has soared to the point that approximately 25 percent of the world’s population of prisoners is housed in America. The current prison system is estimated to hold over two million inmates with 6 million people in total falling under penal supervision of one sort or another. By contrast, the Gulag labor camps in the Soviet Union are estimated to have held about 14 million people from 1929 to 1953.
I am convinced America is a police state and that we have only seen the tip of what will develop. The NSA revelations shocked the public by revealing how pervasive state surveillance had become. Before the stone-hard evidence of malfeasance emerged, most people would have scoffed at the idea of the state collecting every email written in America. Oddly, the same people would still scoff at the suggestion that other agencies are every bit as totalitarian.
People dismiss America’s drift into totalitarianism for several reasons. One of them is how thoroughly Americans have come to identify freedom with political procedures, like the ‘right’ to vote, to run for office or to petition a congressman. But these alleged freedoms still exist because they serve the state and not the individual. The state relies upon people’s participation for its legitimacy. These faux freedoms only keep people from demanding the real thing. Freedom does not rest upon access to the state; it rests on the word “no,” spoken by individuals.
This article was written by Eric Blair and originally published at Activist Post
I’m bordering on hating the police state, and I’m the type of person who wishes away all forms of hate. It seems like there’s a new police abuse story everyday worse than the last.
It’s gotten to where I despise watching, posting, and sharing police brutality videos. I may stop clicking on them altogether for the same reason I don’t watch horror movies: you can’t un-see something, and I don’t enjoy knowingly exposing myself to fear or hate.
In one sense I feel a duty to inform people of the growing tyranny, but in another sense I think it feeds exactly what the establishment wants — outrage and retaliatory violence — to justify its own brutality. The swelling police state is like a fat bully on the playground who pokes you over and over again with a stick until you’ve finally had enough and rip the stick out of his hand and beat the shit out of him with it. The government seems to be bullying citizens into responding in kind.
According to a new report, “Since 9/11, about 5,000 Americans have been killed by U.S. police officers, which is almost equivalent to the number of U.S. soldiers who have been killed in the line of duty in Iraq.”
At this point, I could really spice up this article with individual examples of police abuse and some explicit videos, but I’m not going to. If you are reading this then you already know they’re out there including on this site. Most importantly, you understand it is a top-down vision that guides the abuse, not a few bad apples. Not anymore.
When faced with a “threat” the shoot-first, shoot-to-kill policy is now taught to police and other national law enforcement. Do you remember all the old war movies and cop shows? Marching orders were always “do not fire unless fired upon” to position themselves as noble good guys hoping to avoid killing, but ready to defend.
We should return the country’s lawmen to this policy. You take fire, you can fire back. If not, keep the safety on. Call it gun control for law enforcement. All it would take is a very simple law or even just the vision to implement this through public pressure.
In our current court system, the police are always given the benefit of the doubt in any mistaken shooting case. After all, they’re supposed to be the good guys. But, remember, good guys don’t shoot first even if “threatened”. Who said being a cop wasn’t dangerous? Sorry, cops, but that’s the sacrifice you must make for the honor to patrol a civilized society at our expense. You may one day take a bullet, although it’s highly unlikely, but you will still be the good guy. Probable cause, a warrant, and even a threat of deadly force is not enough reason to strike first.
If you’re like me, you’re past the outrage phase of the police state but don’t know what else to do for solutions besides informing people of what’s happening. Petitions and politics are almost useless. However, all campaigns can be used to inform people so they’re never futile.
I propose that we turn our rage into crowdsourcing a simple law that would prohibit domestic law enforcement from firing the first bullet in any dispute. We, the people, write the actual law and lobby for it. Pressure someone like Rep Justin Amash to introduce it in Congress to bring some publicity to it.
I don’t necessarily care if it ever becomes a “law,” I just want to make enough noise so the first thing everyone thinks when they watch a police abuse video is “cops should never be allowed to strike first” in any situation. Police should not be a strike force. Those that are should be shunned and replaced.
As Americans, we were promised the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. The pursuit to Happiness is largely subjective, but the root and mechanics to success have largely eroded this right. Meanwhile, there are very few individual Liberties remaining. But you would think we can must up some energy to preserve our right to Life for goodness sake.
Something must be done to stop police abuse or it will boil over into more violence. At this point I’m willing to try anything to peacefully end the police state.
Let me know your thoughts and how you would write this law.
Oh, for those of you not aware of or outraged by the police state yet, go watch this video and come back to comment your ideas to stop this.
- Obama Awarding Armored Tanks In Preparation Of Police State (ncrenegade.com)
- Are Americans Living in a Police State? (canadafreepress.com)
- Nanny State Control Freaks & Police State helpers (charlescarrollsociety.com)
- Striking Back at Police State Amerika (libertyfirewall.com)
- The NSA-DEA police state tango – Salon.com (salon.com)
- Obama Awarding Armored Tanks In Preparation Of Police State (ncrenegade.com)
- Police State: Ten Secrets The Police Don’t Want You To Know ! – (How To Survive Police Encounters!) (bikersofamerica.blogspot.com)
- Obama Awarding Armored Tanks In Preparation Of Police State (12160.info)
- Is Your State A Police State? (sgtreport.com)
- The Police State is You (new-aesthetic.tumblr.com)
- Police State In America: Documented With A Camera (govtslaves.info)
- Shock Police State Video: “You Have No Right To Be In Here! You Have No Right to Be In Here!” (dprogram.net)
- Victims of Boston lockdown speak out against police state tyranny (davidicke.com)
- Boston Tried a Police State and it Failed (sgtreport.com)
See OLDUVAI for information on my novel.
It is a fictional tale that examines the various problems humans are encountering: rising police states; environmental degradation; economic uncertainty; and, surviving in a world of unexpected social fallout due to the ‘perfect storm’ of unintended consequences from our ‘exponential growth culture’.
- Signs of Collapse ” olduvaiblog (olduvaiblog.wordpress.com)
- Gorbachev: Environmental Degradation Threatens Planet (voanews.com)
- Survival: The Ultimate Form of Resistance (lissakr11humane.com)
- Benefits versus attendant costs and Environmental degradation associated with foreign direct investment. (globalnewzletters.wordpress.com)