Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Why are Americans such wusses? Threaten the Greeks with job losses and benefit cuts and they tie up Athens, but take away Americans' jobs, 401(k)s, even their homes, and they pretty much roll over.
But there is one thing you can accomplish with guns and coarse threats about using them: You can make people think twice before disagreeing with you. When a congresswoman can be shot in a parking lot and a professor who falls short of Glenn Beck's standards of political correctness can be, however anonymously, targeted for execution, we have moved well beyond democracy -- to a tyranny of the heavily armed.
How these wussie, round heeled types became the tyrannical weapons wielders who stifle free speech is not explained. It's because the article is irredeemably incoherent. It's first grade name-calling masquerading as deep political analysis.
Who is the professor Glenn Beck is mad at? Frances Fox Piven, a old die hard Socialist, who recently wrote in the Nation, calling for mob action and violent riots. You can see for yourself here. This I think is the offensive part.
We'll leave the nonsense about the unemployed striking alone. Clearly, however, she's not just calling for peaceful protest; she's calling for the sort of riots which killed three, injured others and destroyed a lot of property in Athens and Thessaloniki, much of it by Molotov cocktail. To say we need Greek type riots is to call for real and not merely rhetorical violence. Shame on Ms. Piven (and on the ones who threatened her).
The initiatives that would be responsive to the needs of the unemployed will require federal action. Local protests have to accumulate and spread—and become more disruptive—to create serious pressures on national politicians. An effective movement of the unemployed will have to look something like the strikes and riots that have spread across Greece in response to the austerity measures forced on the Greek government by the European Union, or like the student protests that recently spread with lightning speed across England in response to the prospect of greatly increased school fees.
Ms. Ehrenreich kind of downplays the reality of Ms. Piven's call to violent action.
The question [why are Americans wusses] has been raised many times in the last few years, by a variety of scholars and commentators -- this one included -- but when the eminent social scientist Frances Fox Piven brought it up at the end of December in an essay titled "Mobilizing the Jobless," all hell broke loose.Ms. Piven did more than ask why are Americans wusses, just as the Greek rioters did more than "tie up Athens." Ms. Piven deserves the criticism she has received (but not the threats--almost all calls for violence are bad, even if, as in 1776, and 1861, they ultimately achieve good).
Somebody needs to remind me why Barbara Ehrenreich is worth reading. I'm not seeing it.
UPDATE: steiff at RedState posts on the same op ed, focusing on Ehrenreich's distortion of history. Well worth reading. Here's a taste.
In truth, Piven’s essay was nothing more that the masturbatory fantasy of an aging communist who has lived to see her entire life’s work repudiated. She’s bitter at the idiots who failed denied the Dictatorship of the Proletariat and she’s can’t understand why people with families have better things to do that riot their way to Marxism. There is no evidence, real or anecdotal, that there is a mass movement in favor of more government out there held in check by Joe Six Pack and his SIG Sauer. The real mass movement, which was carried out 100% non-violently, was the Tea Party Movement which seems to have escaped the attention of both Piven and Ehrenreich.
UPDATE 2: James Taranto does even more damage here. Money quote:
Ehrenreich's explanation is America has become "a tyranny of the heavily armed." Americans don't get politically involved because they're afraid of getting shot. The implication is that if only the government would take away Americans' guns, Americans would be able to grab their Molotov cocktails and rise up against the government, or for the government, or something.
But wait. How has it escaped Ehrenreich's notice that the past two years have seen the greatest flowering of grass-roots democracy in America since the civil rights movement? We refer, of course, to the Tea Party movement. To be sure, you won't see any Molotov cocktails at a Tea Party gathering. You may see some guns--a normal part of life in most of America--but they will be borne lawfully and not used violently.
Since the Tea Party advocates individualism and not socialism, we may assume that Ehrenreich strongly disapproves of it (as does her pal Piven). But to bemoan the dearth of grass-roots activism in America without even acknowledging the Tea Party's existence suggests a detachment from reality bordering on the clinical.