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America's Streets and Squares Are Waiting, But When Will the People Rise Up to Fill Them?

Originally published at http://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/11/08/americas-streets-and-squares-are-waiting-when-will-people-rise-fill-them


"There also have to be some enlightened billionaires, worried about their country and their descendants, who want to provide the modest amount of money necessary for event organizers and focused political action. "

WTF, Mr. Nader! Isn’t our basic problem billionaires directing our political dialog? I think we should pass.


I’ve been waiting for that to happen for 40 years. I wish I were a charismatic leader. I would start it myself. Unfortunately, I have the charisma of a dead fish. So, I waited and waited for a leader. None has emerged. Except for Gretta. Hopefully, more like her will come forward and lead. Maybe there are a lot of people who will come out of hiding to follow. If not, oh well. Some people say slavery is not that bad.


WTF , yes we can have progressive billionaire fund these protests. I’ve been wondering for years why they haven’t started a progressive radio or tv outlet. Billionaires do not have to be evil greedy sycophants.


The public does not realize the severity of our democracy and climate problems because the six corporations that drive our daily news and some cable do not elaborated on the greedy billionaires as they are them and they love all the monies from fossil fuels.

That’s who they believe and trust in and it is so sad. Most of my friends are them and I am a socialists and our country is the greatest in the world.


We all have a stake in the future of this country, primarily for our youth’s sake.

Be prepared to take to the streets.

Our children are depending on us.


None of the other successful movements in the streets - past and present - have charismatic leaders. Remember what Eugene Debs said: “I would not be a Moses to lead you into the Promised Land, because if I could lead you into it, someone else could lead you out of it.”

Right now, the complete lack of street-level protests in the US is very troubling. And I beleive it is largely due to too much charismatic-leader-worship (notably one named “Bernie Sanders”) and entirely too much faith in electoral politics as a vehicle for transformation.

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“more mass-media-centric.”

You think Chuck Todd is going to give them sympathetic coverage, or Jennifer Palmieri is going to do their PR?

“There also have to be some enlightened billionaires, worried about their country and their descendants, who want to provide…”

You mean like Michael Bloomberg and Tom Steyer? This looks like another Ralphie suck up to big money, a bad habit he’s developed in the last few years.


I think people are more aware than before that the game is rigged. Here are two separate reports seeing this in different ways:

"Exhaustion, hopelessness, the dwindling effectiveness of old ways: these are the themes of politics all across the world."

The demise of the nation state (The Guardian)


"…we have to name and confront the actors and power structures behind them, especially the immense power of corporations. There is overwhelming evidence of their central role in the destruction of the environment, peoples’ rights and democracy."


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We are the most propagandized country in the world. Trained through the school system to stand in line, raise our hand, be a round peg not a square one. Go along and you get along. Stand and salute the flag. Say the pledge of allegiance. Put your kids in the Boy Scouts or organized sports. Take away all critical thinking skills. Teach no history but glorious lies. Teach no economics or civics. Hollywood, the news and local governments pushing lies and neighborhood watch and see something say something.
All of the above and much, much more are why we “aren’t out in the streets”. The fifty percent of the country with nothing are well separated from the fifty percent that have most of it by gates, fences and guards and of course the cops. The poor and working class understand well what happens to those that make too much of a fuss. Things only change here when upper middle class people get the squeeze.
The political class makes sure that they are kept happy. They are told be resentful of immigrants, minorities, the homeless, the poor and working class. I really don’t think you need to ask why there is no one in the streets. To the working class with a high school education it’s pretty obvious. Try a day of work in Walmart, amazon or a UPS facility. It’s not much different than FOXCONN in China or the sweat shops of the early 1900s.
Eventually, a major economic disaster or environmental disaster will take us down. When this happens there will probably not be a place worse than here. Lots of people won’t make it. The most authoritarian undemocratic and ruthless government in the world will squash us like bugs. They have had a lot of practice already.

Bernie 2020
It’s our last chance.


The process of transforming citizens into consumers is now complete.

The RNC is running an ad here in MI against conservaDem Senator Gary Peters. It highlights his support for the Green New Deal (which he doesn’t even support). According to the ad, Peters is going to take your hamburgers and airline flights away. That’s the pathetic level of political discourse circa 2020.


I guess MLK and Ghandi weren’t charismatic.
As for Bernie, “Not me. Us.”


The relative standard of living in America is still too high to drive people into the streets. Yes people got into the streets over Nam but that was mostly because of the draft and involved mostly the baby boomers. Debt won’t drive people into the streets until it drives them into living on the street. Inequality won’t drive people into the streets until it affects them. People won’t go into the streets until there are no more potato chips, Monday night football and they can’t afford a new 4X. The politicians and oligarchs know this…only the people don’t.


Americans do appear to be uniquely lazy, drugged, lobotomied, sheepled, selfish, cowardly, and just plain dumb.
People in countries across the world are out en masse doing general strikes and other protests that terrify the criminal elites and change governments.
But Americans sit on their asses watching television, taking anti-depressants, boozing, wanking off, and otherwise wasting time…instead of doing whatever it takes to get rid of our corrupt government (including Pelosi and other sellout Dems, not just the demonic Trump and GOP) and to shut down the corrupt corporations and industries.
The hippies of the 60s had more fire and courage than Americans today, by far.


Always some snarky person to slag Ralph Nader, a man who did more to create consumer protection laws in American than anyone else.
And these same disrespectful, ungrateful losers still blame him for SCOTUS stealing the election from Gore in 2000, even though Gore himself has explicitly stated that Nader had nothing to do with it!

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As long as most people can manage to pay their bills I do not see people taking to the streets like in Hong Kong. The majority of the people in the streets are the poor homeless and until that happens to the middle class, I do not see much changing.


“When will they rise up?” Good question.

One comment notes that there is a notable lack of leadership. I tend to agree - but more particularly, that there is a notable lack of vision and imagination in those few who have attempted to get people out in the streets & squares of the USA.

Oh, there are all sorts of demonstrations; e.g. against gun violence, police murders of citizens, or for other single-issue purposes. There were the MeToo rallies, and hell, there’s at least some visibility of the so-called “Climate Strike” (not really a strike!)

Yet in their single-issue focus, they tend to be self-marginalizing… they may evoke some sympathies & recognition by others, but after a spell they fade from the attention. And generally, it seems they are not building critical mass.

What I don’t see is: a) any obvious evidence that those who initiate such actions recognize the common basis to their complaint and those of others; b) any effort to build a coalition based on such shared problems; and c) any real strategic planning that goes beyond staging a rally / march much less will result in sustainability and growth.

I’m certainly not an expert in “revolution”. But as a former community organizer, these seem to me to be major lacks.

As an example, Greta Thunberg (et al) inspire “Climate Strikes”. But a strike is intended to be a significant action that forces the power to accede to the demands of those who are striking. The successful labor movement used labor strikes this way… to cause enough economic harm to the power structure that it was forced to yield to the strikers’ demands.

Today, while most people seem wrapped up almost entirely in electoral outcomes, many of us know well from a long history that elections alone can’t protect nor restore democracy or other public interests. This is true irrespective of Party control. For example, climate destabilization was on its terrifying trajectory long before Trump thought about political office; and it proceeded apace through Dem administration that had at least part of the time been accompanied by Dem control of Congress.

For many years now, it’s been my conclusion that the only thing that might change our course to a degree sufficient to stave off the worst catastrophes would be for mass public direct action, using the only really effective power that citizens actually have: i.e. our collective economic powers. Our ability to force institutions to give us what we want is primarily economic in nature. It includes the use (and refusal) of our labor, our purchases, taxes and those other actions which create unwanted economic impacts to those institutions - be they corporations, business sectors, governments, or other powers.

One commenter here says that we rely too much on leaders - saying that movements must be more spontaneous. Yet, while the fire in the belly might indeed seem more apparent with such spontaneity, i don’t see that it accomplishes much. And the confusion in both messaging and strategy seems to be heightened in such eruptions - and the fires eventually quelled. Occupy probably failed to develop any sort of critical mass for that reason.

But I have yet to see anyone, in any group / org at least, planning, leading, coordinating or calling for such action. Also, apparently few seem to recognize, much less articulate, the common basis for our complaints - be they about our destruction of the biosphere, our surrender of democratic principles to moneyed interests, civil injustice, our perpetual state of war and the imperialism that underlies it, the draining of the public treasury or the destruction of the public commons. And without these things, both the building of a broader movement of common interests and the will to coordinate and use our economic powers, there is in my opinion little chance of achieving what these individual movements may seek. At best they will succeed in getting a few pol’s to talk about the issue, and maybe move the ball up-field a few inches every now and then. But any vision they might hold will remain out of reach.


I tend to agree that in the U.S., the middle class is comfortable (or comfort-seeking) enough to sit on their asses and let others worry about the growing problems.

Yet there is a wild card in play; and that is growing awareness of climate destabilization and also of the role of concentrated capital in keeping it moving forward and of undermining public goals in general. This awareness is stronger in younger age groups than in others, particularly as it means the future picture becomes more dire for them and any children they might have or wish to have.

Our objectives should include tying these two issues together along with other closely related ones, to build a coalition movement that is both broad enough to develop a critical mass as well as guided by clear enough principles & objectives that can hold it together and present a consistent, cohesive message.


Hi stevewd:
" Some people say that slavery is not that bad."
Those would be the words of the slave owners.
I think that fewer people are on the streets protesting because a lot of them are ex students working 3 jobs to make the rent and pay off their insane college loans . I suppose it sounds hopeless sometimes----but then, the FRENCH REVOLUTION actually happened with people that had even less food or power than Americans have now. As Emily Dickinson wrote: “Hope is the feathered thing which perches in the soul” —and so I think when Trump et al falls, that all those souls will be finally moving forward with success. : )

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Very timely article by Ralph Nader - and with all this coverage via social media of massive demonstrations in other countries.

I’ve wondered about, and discussed with others, for years now, why we as Americans have so much trouble getting out there into the streets in massive numbers the way people in other nations are able to do so.

Some years back, I listened to a discussion on this subject with the organizers from Montreal where they had massive student turn-out over fee hikes. Nothing comes close to the oppression of U.S. students/student loan debtors - - yet like lambs to slaughter, people are so passive about their horrible circumstances … I think the Occupy Movement was the closest to “street resistance” (much was fueled by student debt among other significant issues) … also Bernie Sanders refreshingly is running on canceling the debt in its entirety, and as it should be.

But anyway … the organizers from Montreal commented that their student unions are much more political than the U.S. So this, in their opinion, had a lot to do with it. And I think something similar exists in France in that their labor unions are stronger (here, labor unions have been greatly weakened). Just with the yellow vests, for example, it’s astounding how large the numbers and how persistently so, over the weeks and months, and even in the face of horrific police brutality.

Of course, our news media hasn’t covered it at all - we wouldn’t even know about it if it weren’t for social media. And we all know that if those many, many instance of police brutality were Venezuela or China - CNN, BBC, MSNBC wouldn’t be able to shut up about it. Indeed, the demonstrations might even be fueled and organized via the CIA.

The closest to massive protest that I can remember here in the U.S. - was the women’s march right after Trump was elected. Of course, it was, in one sense, a nice, safe identity issue march. But, considering what a horrible president Trump is - and how many tens of millions feel that way - it’s amazing that the nation has not been rocked by massive demonstrations and outrage for the last couple of years, at least.

And if you ask Americans to turn out in mass to demand their economic rights, forget it. But taking France again, as an example, the yellow vest aren’t the first time France has been this way. The French get out there very rapidly en masse for their social benefits - their health care, wages, taxes, debt, you name it. They are unabashedly, unapologetically, proudly and collectively self-interested. So – no wonder they have, for another example, the number one health care system, globally. They assertively, in large numbers, fight for their rights.

I think there’s also some kind of guilt or shame inbedded in our culture. We are all busy listening to corporate funded media and can’t bear to separate ourselves from their daily mental narcotic injections.We can only demonstrate if billionaires or millionaires are paying for it - and if MSM says that it’s an acceptable protest? (Or the CIA?) And sure enough, they have all kinds of glowing words for massive demonstrations in ‘some’ countries - but not for others - and very rarely in our own. (The women’s march was one of their rare instances - and really, that, for me, was sadly cause for concern. I mean, how many single payer proponents did you see there? If women were really out there demanding guaranteed Medicare for All, student debt cancellation, 20 federal minimum wage, guaranteed liveable minimum in social security for seniors (where women are at high risk for severe poverty - that would be a real women’s march).

Even in terms of the election, so many people seem so dumbed down by MSM coverage. They vote against their own interests. They compromise and give in when they don’t even have to. It’s often like we are a nation of sheep heading mindlessly for the cliff - and to jump off, one by one.

Gil Scott Heron said the revolution won’t be televised. He was right.