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Sunday, October 31, 2010

 

Political Climate and Recent Rallies/ Protests

The emergence of rallies and protests during this midterm political season coupled with the study of Olson's works has been quite interesting. Although I may have little in terms of historical context to compare the contemporary movements with, I feel as if the unrest and uncertainty is manifesting itself not only in the form of Tea Parties but also as such: Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor Rally," Ed Schultz's "One Nation," and, most recent, Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert's "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear."

Many rallies and protests can be a healthy and peaceful means of expressing one's concern or utter disgust with political economic policy. However, it can also serve as a means or source of divisiveness and the very rational ignorance and irrationality that we should try to avoid. And, as we all have seen over the past year, our economy has been on the brink of collapse. We have discussed during class how Olson has pondered the implications of political and economic stability and its nurturing of the very coalitions who eventually serve only themselves, to the detriment of the very society that caused their existence. Sometimes shaking things up can help diminish the power of the status quo or at least provide an example as to the result of a culture that is fed up with a government and the policies that it pushes. Recently, France has been a shining example of this: many of their citizens have taken to the streets in protest and riot of the seemingly inevitable raising of the retirement age, the result of which has been a near shutting down of the infrastructure and utilities: Trash piles up in the streets, children discard class time in order to participate.

The France issues, as far as I know, have little to nothing to do with special interest groups, at least directly. So, what does this mean if a country like ours has had enough of the special interest groups and the lobbying and the pandering and allowing of rent-seeking by our government? Hopefully nothing similar to the rioting of current France, but even if it were the case, I am not certain that our crippling polarizations would allow us to recognize the very issues that affect our government and, by extension, our entire citizenship.

As Jon Stewart said at the rally this past Saturday, "we can have animus and not be enemies." This made me consider an extension to something we have discussed in class: Can or will our society ever shed its rational irrationality to the degree necessary to come together and do the things, both easy and difficult, vital for our political economy to remain at the forefront of global influence? I think so, but it may take far more communication and compromise than we have seen recently.

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