Thursday, August 29, 2013

Are we powerless in the face of injustice? Really?

Robert Reich
Robert Reich, Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, has become something of an American elder statesman for the Baby Boom, I've been consistently impressed with the quiet wisdom of what he has to say.

This post that appeared on Facebook a few moments ago offers a powerful example. In simple, measured language, Reich unites the sense of powerlessness that so many of us feel as we question the wisdom of a U.S. attack on Syria ("But what can we do to stop it!?") with the memories we shared yesterday upon the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s March on Washington speech ("I have a dream").

Here's Reich's short post ...
 or follow this link to read it on his Facebook page.
One of the hallmarks of our age is a generalized sense of powerlessness. Many of you, in response to my post yesterday questioning the wisdom of a U.S. attack on Syria, said there was nothing you or anyone else could do to avert it, or prevent America from being drawn into another quagmire in the Middle East. Others have responded in similar ways to the scourge of widening inequality in America and the diminishing prospect of equal opportunity: You say you feel powerless to reverse it, because our politics is so corrupted by big money that our democracy has ceased to function.  
I understand your feeling of powerlessness. And yet isn't the March on Washington whose 50th anniversary we celebrated yesterday evidence of the opposite? In that instance, many blacks who at the time lacked even the power to vote came together with others, and with whites morally offended by segregation and Jim Crow, to overcome the powerlessness through peaceful and tenacious mobilizing and organizing -- leading to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965. Or consider the Vietnam War, about which many of you (myself included) made such a ruckus that Johnson had to resign and Nixon was forced to bring it to a close. Yes, those were different times. But in many respects these opposed to change then were more entrenched and powerful than they are now, and the proponents of change less powerful at the start.  
My point is this: Powerlessness can be a self-fulfilling prophesy. There is much that is wrong with America. But it will only be made right only if we force change to occur. Today, for example, low-wage workers in fast-food outlets across the country are going on strike to demand that their meager wages be raised to $15 an hour. They are among the most powerless people in our society. The rest of us should support them -- and also mobilize and organize, and make a ruckus, against an economic machine that continues to disregard of the needs of countless Americans, and an American war machine that appears close to wreaking havoc once again.