Why We Fight

Some people probably still favor union. "Union" used to be the watchword of republican government. In our constitution we don't refer to the USA as a nation but as a union. Lincoln waged war with other Americans to save the union. But today, we break unions. The American Federation of Labor, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Yugoslavia, all busted by the USA. Iraq, Syria, China: let's break them up, too.

As for unity here in the states, there's not much to unite us. People who earn enough to get by don't seem much concerned about the plight of people who don't. The people who polluted the planet incessantly for the last 40 years, knowing it was dangerous, aren't issuing any apologies to their offspring, who are expected to clean up their lethal mess. Leaders and would-be leaders like Trump and Biden amplify enmities, usually for material advantage, and ordinary people are forced to play along.

Union is definitely in decline. We still have a "State of the Union" speech every year, but the title is mere lip service. Congress, to whom the speech is addressed, does not favor union. United, we people gain the power to resist corrupt authority, and members of Congress aren't permitted to tolerate that sort of thing.

As seems to be evident from recent events, there is, despite widespread dissapproval of unifying forces, a growing dissident movement whose strength lies in its apparent unity. It's a union of young and old, light-skinned and dark-skinned, poor and comfortable, all organized around opposition to what our opinion leaders call "white supremacy" or "systemic racism." Feminists, environmentalists, consumer advocates, pacifists, and general-pupose activists must be shaking their heads, even as they march against racism, wondering why the hell they can't raise a decent-sized mob.

It's probably true that most feminists are deeply concerned about sudden climate change, and most cosumer advocates would concede that we live under the dominion of light skinned people and are the beneficiaries of generations of slave-holders and colonizers and invaders. But those concerns and concessions don't bring us union. We're so much weaker than we could be if feminists and environmentalists and victims of bigotry and unemployed workers and other discarded people could all unite behind a unifying principle.

The problem may be purely semantic. It may be that what is missing is a phrase. A single, consensual description of what it is that all of us want and don't want. "Freedom" used to work, and before that, "Liberty." But freedom allows the owner of the Washington Post--one guy--to be so rich that he controls the lives of more people than any emperor in the history of the world ever has. "Justice" may be an approximation of what we want, but it's difficult to see how it can be achieved. It's an aspiration, not an end or a means to an end. And demanding justice doesn't really define a target. After all, it's grievance that motivates this protest and every protest, and justice is an objective that only indirectly targets the grievance.

In the protesters' classic call and response, the shout, "What do we want?" is heard over and over. That could be the wrong question. "What don't we want?" might come closer to a unifying call. Because there is one thing all of us don't want. If we think about it, the grievance of today's human rights protesters, as well as faminists, enviromentalists, poor people, pacifists, even conspiracy theorists and meat-eaters and gun collectors, is corrupt authority. Corrupt authority promotes racial division and discrimination, violence, male supremacy, pollution, material inequality, war, waste, curtailment of human rights, unsafe food, oligarchy and bad taste, among other human failings. Without corrupt authority, it's difficult to sustain any of these social problems for long.

It's corrupt authority that empowers police to kill with impunity. Corrupt authority in business, the media and politics makes it possible for sexually predatory men to be elevated to the highest offices in the land. Corrupt authority in business, the media and politics sustains a permanent state of warfare for no other reason than to enrich those who supply the bombs and bullets. It's corrupt authority in business, the media and politics that used an epidemic of contagious disease to put trillions of dollars into the hands of repacious gamblers to make capital appear sound. It is corrupt authority in business, the media, and government that has kept people from understanding the lethal consequences of environmental pollution. In one recent, covered-up scandal, corrupt authority allowed Boeing and airlines all over the world to fly a defective airplane, costing hundreds of lives. Without corrupt authority there could be no Donald Trump or Joseph Biden or Wolf Blitzer or Jeffrey Bezos.

Whether or not you want to "defund" the police or rename Jackson Street, it's a near certainty that you want to hold corruption at bay and bring corrupt officials to account. If there is a single focus that could unite hundreds of millions of us, it may not be "Black Lives Matter" or "Me Too" or "Green New Deal" or "Occupy" or "BDS," but something that focuses on the struggle against corrupt authority. By any means necessary.

With most property now in the control of a tiny minority of rich people, property damage in the course of the struggle isn't much of a worry. The property, after all, is likely to have been acquired with the help of corrupt authority. If it's violence against persons that worries us, at least we can be assured that the struggle is legitimate and the enemy pretty clearly defined. If it's the prospect of defeat in the face of a heavily armed and ruthless enemy, fear and loathing could spur us to adapt our tactics and strategies to take optimum advantage of our numbers.

There is a dissident movement growing among us, and it has the potential to update the social contract. We've created circumstances that are sure to hinder our kids and grandkids in their pursuit of happiness. We can adapt, but not without conquering corrupt authority, and that task may be the force that unifies and strengthens our movement.