Nov 6, 2011

The Winds of Change. It Takes a Village (and the right inhabitants)

I've been thinking about social change. In a system where people are free to participate, it takes a wave, a critical mass, to bring about change. Leadership is very important too, because it articulates the need for change. What we're witnessing with OWS is a grass-roots movement that has spread from NYC to the rest of the US and now the globe.

Many people are instinctively conservative, in that they want stability, the prefer the devil they know to the unknown. This is the first hurdle a successful movement has to overcome--that change won't lead to chaos or something worse than the status quo. When people feel threatened or unsure, they don't want change.

But, the OWS without leadership and concrete laid-out proposals for reform has played a crucial role in raising awareness about the unfairness and terrible outcomes of our political-economic system. Most Americans don't know how much the top 10% own but they realize it's "too much." They have experienced the bad effects while the elites are bragging who's got the biggest bonuses--some of which came after their failed companies got a public bailout!

This is a good visual, I found:

Change by Public Consensus
Change also comes when the public moves in certain direction. For example, what was radical a generation ago--same sex marriage, gays in the military, etc--is mainstream today. The political parties usually move to cover the public sentiment. Traditionally, one of our two major parties is more progressive but, up until the mid to late 1980s, the Republican party became more conservative. The reason is the influx of very religious conservatives.

Today, the Tea Party has made the Republican party even more conservative, to the point of extremism. It's extremism, because this is not where the bulk of the country is nor where it's heading. Unfortunately, even the GOP leadership, and now the presidential candidates seem to care more about this extremist element because they think this is where the votes are in the party's primaries.

There have been several polls that demonstrate the increasingly conservative bend of many Republicans today. Here's one by Research 2000:

  • 63% think Obama is a socialist ("not sure" 16%)
  • only 42% believe he was born in US ("not sure" 22%)
  • 39% want Obama impeached.
  • 53% think Sarah Palin is more qualified to be president than Obama
  • 23% want to secede from US
  • 24% believe Barack Obama wants the terrorists to win ("not sure" 33%)
  • 31% believe Barack Obama is a racist who hates White people
  • 73% think gay men and women shouldn't be allowed to teach in public schools
  • 31% want contraceptives outlawed
Note the "unsure" category.

Going Backwards
In other words, if the village wants a witch hunt, the leadership will oblige. Poor John Huntsman who called himself crazy for believing in science, like evolution, climate change, age of the earth, etc. Here's a "reasonable" conservative who can't get any traction. Maybe if the Republicans suffer another big defeat, they'll finally turn their ship around and become a party of the 21st century. It'd be good for the country. Then, hopefully, the Democratic party will become more progressive.