You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip. Skip out for beer during commercials. Because the revolution will not be televised.” So said the late poet, musician and author Gil …
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You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip. Skip out for beer during commercials. Because the revolution will not be televised.”
So said the late poet, musician and author Gil Scott-Heron in his riveting 1970 song/poem The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. It was Scott-Heron’s view that the conglomerate-owned media had a vested interest in maintaining the socio-economic status quo in America, and thus could not be trusted or expected to foster “truths” that would inspire a people’s revolution wresting economic control from society’s upper crust and spreading it – along with a heaping dose of social justice – more evenly amongst the masses.
Scott-Heron was undoubtedly correct that “The revolution will not go better with Coke,” and “Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville Junction will no longer be so damned relevant.” And he may have been spot-on that “women will not care if Dick finally gets down with Jane on Search for Tomorrow.” However, I’m thinking it may turn out that The Revolution will, in fact, be televised.
As a matter of fact, I’m thinking it’s entirely possible you’ll be watching it unfold this very evening on the nightly news. And reading about it online and in what’s left of America’s daily newspapers. Not because the afore-mentioned conglomerate-owned media is any more generous, but because the revolution has not yet shown itself as one, and the need to hide it hasn’t yet been felt.
Scott-Heron’s ode envisioned a scenario where “Black people will be in the street looking for a brighter day.” And, in the ‘60s and ‘70s there were black people in the street looking for a brighter day, with a dedicated cadre of white, red, brown and yellow brothers and sisters walking alongside in that search. Unfortunately, the numbers were insufficient to cause the scales of social justice to shift the balance of power to a truly significant extent.
I’ve spoken here before of my old civics professor Charlie Rose, telling me in 1967 that “A revolution does not occur, Mr. Kashmann, when 15 percent of the people are upset. A revolution can occur when 70 or 80 percent of the population is angry. A revolution in this country will only come if and when the middle class is fed up.”
There were many in the middle classes who sympathized with the struggles of the poor and the disenfranchised “back in the day,” and rode buses to Washington, D.C., to raise their voices. They marched, wrote letters and carried banners, but there was a limit to their outrage.
It’s hard to truly feel the pain in your gut when there’s money in the bank and it’s someone else who is hungry. It’s hard to really feel the hopelessness and fear when it’s someone else who can’t find work. It’s difficult to really comprehend the terror of life on the street, and the debilitating loss of self esteem that eviction brings when it’s someone else who loses their home, and you and your children are tucked comfortably in your beds.
In the 1960s every draftable young American male was potential cannon fodder for the war in Vietnam. This got the focused attention of millions of American families, and millions marched in the streets. Today, our country is defended by a volunteer military, and the voice of the anti-war movement is barely audible.
When America’s financial institutions led us into our current economic mess a few years back, a unique situation unfolded. Fear and uncertainty found its way into almost every household in America.
If you had any money in traditional investments – from real estate to Wall Street – you took a big hit. Retirement plans were scrapped or put on hold. College funds were decimated.
As folks realized this was not to be a short-term problem, fears were exacerbated and families and companies from coast to coast tightened their belts. If it wasn’t essential it didn’t get bought. And that belt-tightening began to choke off the blood supply that kept businesses and jobs alive.
Today, it is the rare family that has not been impacted by the recession. If the parents have survived unscathed, their children may not be as lucky. Stories are legion of college graduates facing tens of thousands of dollars in student loans and unable to find a job. Interest rates paid on savings are miniscule, leaving retirees struggling to make ends meet.
Few families live on a block that has not been hit by foreclosure. Few do not know someone who – after decades of loyal servitude to an employer – is out of a job at 50-60 years of age, facing a job market most kindly dubbed as “brutal and unforgiving.”
So, as a nation, in a time that fits any definition of a national emergency, we turn to those we have elected to lead, and ask them to do just that. Lead us. Guide us through this crisis and restore our hope, and our foundation for a more prosperous future. And our leaders have failed.
At this singular point in time, when Americans are begging for jobs and the dollars they can bring, Congress has magically decided that we have reached a level of debt that can rise no more, and spending shall stop unless they can save the equivalent somewhere else.
When was the last time you spoke to someone who was just thrilled to be either a Republican or a Democrat? Recent polls show that a majority of Americans would throw the entire population of Congress out on their ears and start over fresh.
Legions of Democrats are balanced on a razor’s edge as to whether or not they will support President Obama for a second term. Republicans have a baker’s dozen of announced options, and are still searching under rocks for someone who might ignite their passion.
Voters are avoiding elections in droves. As one bit of D.C. highway graffiti urged recently, “Don’t vote – you’ll only encourage them!”
The hope of securing a piece of the American dream has for many people degenerated into a prayer that they might survive the American nightmare.
We’ll need to travel a far piece farther down the road to get enough hindsight to know if we are now in the earliest moments of a real American revolution, or if our current mess is but a brief diversion that will level out into the same familiar pathway leading us toward the same familiar destination.
It’s anybody’s guess. It just seems to me that an awful lot of people are pissed off. And like Professor Rose said ...
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