You Want Reform? Will You Take Revolution?

We have been told this is our moment
And so we come to the table
With our pent-up agenda,
Eager to load our cafeteria trays,
While the raging, wounded bull
Standing in the doorway
Could be ours for the taking
And all our people could be fed.

It is time to ask ourselves,
Are we progressives for
Sentimental and marketing reasons?
Or do we deeply understand
The world’s present predicament
And our opportunity to fix it?

Friends, there are words we need to know
And use openly, fearlessly:
Finance capital, oligarchy,
And revolution.

Progressive means having the undaunted character
To pursue reform through the existing system,
But to be willing and able
When a crisis gives us the chance,
Perhaps once in our lifetimes,
To be revolutionaries and change things utterly.

Revolution could mean a fundamental shift
In the balance of power between the people,
Represented by our democratically-elected government,
And the oligarchy of wealth led by the finance capitalists.

Without it, leaving the oligarchy in place,
Our reforms are at best mild and temporary,
At worst dead on arrival.

With it, the heavy hand of finance capital in check,
The prospects for reform for the rest of us
Are vastly improved.

Sons born after Japan surrendered,
Daughters born after Nixon resigned,
Our country is ready for you
To take this matter in hand.

The finance capitalists:

Also known as Wall Street,
The big banks,
The economic royalists,
The elite of the power elite.

Titans whose money is made
From money itself.

These are the people that Bill Moyers,
Simon Johnson, Dean Baker,
Naomi Klein, and Richard Posner
Have been trying to tell us about.

They sit astride the global business system,
The dominant institution
On the planet
In this century.

They form an oligarchy of wealth
More powerful than any nation
Or government.

They shape the choices and
Dictate the terms that
Mere public servants must follow.

They blackmail us with threats
Of worse financial ruin
If they don’t get their way.

Claim to be too big to fail.
Do what they can get away with.

They demand to be protected from
The dynamics of free enterprise and competition,
That would reward honesty and care with success,
Recklessness and fraud with failure.

They have angered the public
On all sides,
With their bailouts and
Bonuses and attitude of
Entitlement to hard-earned
Taxpayer money.

These titans caused this economic meltdown,
Yet expect to remain in charge of the recovery.

They expect — and get –
Supreme deference.

They have committed crimes
For which they should be prosecuted.

They have built a financial sector in our country
Twice as big as it ought to be,
As Kevin Phillips, George Soros, and others have told us.

They are planning, even now,
To re-enrich themselves,
Buy up the devalued assets,
Of those they frightened
Out of the marketplace.

These oligarchs are the largest bloc of donors
To congressional election campaigns.

With the power to block most of the reforms
Obama has proposed for
Student loans,
Foreclosure relief,
Individual bankruptcy,
And anything else that touches their empire.

They “own this place,”
Says Senator Richard Durbin.

They have us hooked on borrowing and spending
On things,
When we should be saving and sustaining
Our spirits.

Today, they are in the news,
Their sins and stupidities
For all to see.

We will learn their dismal science.
Take them on. Pull out all the stops.

Break them up into smaller units,
Under new and stronger anti-trust laws
To curb their monopoly power.

Hold them accountable
To their own stockholders, and
To the republic that gave them life.

Make them prove their drugs aren’t toxic
Before they go to market.

Regulate them down to their socks.
Bring them to heel.

Revolution, according to Gary Hart, requires
1. a crisis (yep),
2. a charismatic leader (uh huh), and
3. a manifesto (uh….working on that).

Don’t worry, Aunt Betty. It will not mean
A violent overthrow of the government.
We will prove Marx wrong on that.
It will be a peaceful uprising of democratic power
That breaks the grip of the dictatorship of wealth
And lets our freely-elected officials
Govern our republic.

This time, the pitchforks are symbolic.
The anger and commitment is real.
The weapons are the ones we’ve used
Since Montgomery and Selma,
Since McCarthy in New Hampshire,
Since Watergate,
Since Obama in Iowa.

The revolution will not be televised
as Gil Scott-Heron sang,
(before Al Gore invented the internet).

Don’t start it without me
Says Jesse Ventura, surfing,
Living off the grid in Baja.

Revolution is about remaking our social contract
For the twenty-first century.

It is a word many of us
Grew up believing in
And do not fear.

Progressive is not a station on the political dial
Between liberal and conservative,
Left and right, but
A restless voice calling us
To transform our society.

Progressive is not a substitute for the word liberal.
We answer to liberal because we are inclined
To trust in the goodness of human nature.
We differ with the conservative doctrine
That mistrusts and fears the people,
As Jefferson said.

They say, “Sink or swim.”
We say, “We are all in this together.”

We are liberal, and more.
We are here to resolve the paradoxes of left and right.
We are for the upward movement of bold policies
To resolve old partisan debates
About immigration,
Global warming,
How we get our energy,
Health care,
Progressive taxation,
Foreign affairs,
All of that,
And place our nation on a new footing
With the consent of the governed
And a decent respect for the rest of the world.

A joinder of people of good faith,
Broader than we ever imagined,
Liberals to trust,
Conservatives to verify.

We are linked by history to
Our brave progressive ancestors
At the dawn of the twentieth century,
Who busted the trusts,
Ended child labor,
Enacted the 8-hour day,
Established national parks,
Gave women the right to vote,
And tried to institute a mixed system of government
That the industrial class could not always dominate.

Now, it is our turn to talk and make
Our revolution.

It may escape our grasp, though,
If we do not start to seize it
Before the Dow hits 10,000 again.

The revolution will not be right back after a message
About a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
Bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver’s seat.

— Gil Scott-Heron, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

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