Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Second Guilded Age

It has become difficult not recognize that we are firmly in the grip of a second Gilded Age. Not only is this return obvious in the homage - if not hysteria - that marks a return to the dreamworlds of consumption, commodification and a survival-of-the-fittest ethic, but also in the actions of right-wing politicians who want to initiate policies that take the country back to the late 19th century - a time in which the reforms of the New Deal, the Great Society and the Progressive Era did not exist.

This was a period in which robber barons, railroad magnates and the super-rich spread their corrupting influence throughout the political, economic and cultural landscapes - without having to deal with irritating social reforms such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, child labor laws, environmental protections, affirmative action, civil rights, union rights, antitrust laws, a progressive income tax and a host of other reforms. This was a period when money flowed and privilege shaped practically all aspects of American life, making a mockery out of democracy and imposing massive amounts of suffering on the vast majority of Americans. Women could not vote and were seen as second-class citizens, blacks were treated harshly by Jim Crow policies, young people were exploited through harsh labor, education was limited to the elite, inequality in wealth and income reached extreme disparities, slums festered, and politics was corrupted by the moneyed classes.

In time, protests emerged among students, workers, unions, women, people of color and others to address these injustices. Labor became a potent force in the first half of the 20th century. Then blacks mobilized a formidable civil rights movement, women’s groups organized to address a range of injustices, students infused new life into the drive for democracy both within and outside of higher education. Gay, lesbian and transgender groups - along with a number of other marginalized and oppressed groups - fought to gain basic civil rights. But these movements not only produced notable victories in deepening and expanding the promise and possibilities of a substantive democracy, they also were the object of a powerfully organized backlash on the part of conservatives, who organized a right-wing cultural revolution that successfully rolled back many of the progressive gains that emerged in the first and second half of the 20th century.

The conservative backlash and war against equality, justice and human rights has been reinforced in the last 30 years by the consolidation of the media into the hands of the corporate elite. There are precious few news outlets left that still speak truth to power... not only fighting the corporate propaganda trend, but showcasing a variety of writers and academics who take seriously the role of the Journalism in a Democracy. Journalists that fight for the truth, give voice to those who are powerless report more than the gossip and scripts redlined by executive producers and address issues that are ignored in the dominant and mainstream corporate media.

Please refuse to support the politicians, think tanks, media and anti-public intellectuals who are pushing to create a second Gilded Age. Our Democratic Republic matters to more than the people inhabiting the United States of America.. our policy, programs and newly made corporate citizens are hurting plant, animal and people alike all around this planet. We are the only ones in a position to lead the fight. Our Vote is our weapon to fight for a formative culture that demands we not only retain but improve the social contracts won by blood, sweat and tears of our elders throughout the last century.