Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cliches of Power

The human tragicomedy has certain themes that recur with appalling frequency. Some of these involve the tactics of the powerful. One that is playing itself out in the sad nation of Iran is the repression game.

Human beings, as we all know, are susceptible to corrupt behavior and, as we all know, power corrupts. However, it is well established that human beings also have a profound distaste for being treated unfairly. So, when the corrupt leaders treat the populace too unfairly, opposition develops. How do the leaders deal with opposition? Well they don't want to give up their privileged positions so they try, for awhile, to lie and to spin and to discredit the opposition. This won't work forever (although it may seem like forever to some). Eventually, they will resort to methods of physical repression: clubs, water cannon, noxious gases, imprisonment, torture, and even bullets and bombs. At this tipping point, they are not likely to reverse course; he who rides a tiger fears to get off. This will play itself out in bloody conflict and with uncertain consequences.

A different game is in play in the USA. The Obama administration, having campaigned for change, seems to be opting for very moderate change. It is competent but centrist and very non-confrontational. Given the considerably greater expectations of its base, the administration is beginning to resort to some of the traditional tactics of power, including spin and secrecy. There would be less need for this if the opposition were inclined to go along with moderate change but that is not the case. The banksters and the insurance execs are unwilling to stop their traditional fleecing of the public and they have the money, the lobbyists, the obedient legislators, virtually the entire Republican Party, Fox News, numerous radio gurus, and enough easily manipulated crazies to be very troublesome.

How this situation will resolve itself is unclear. I am inclined to believe that there will have to be a hard fight at some point to minimize corrupt behavior and to restore the equality of opportunity and the social mobility for which this nation was created (well, sort of). Will Obama become a leader for reform or will the Democratic Party be split within the next few years? Boardrooms and four or five star hotels can be very seductive. Many of our senators are good examples of it.

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