Because we are such slow learners and so forgetful. Throughout recorded history our Elite have used the less fortunate to cause billions of fellow less-fortunate humans to suffer and die to enhance Elite interests. Humans can take only so much of this before rebellion leads to results that benefit no one. Today, the stakes are much, much higher and fraught with dangers that could lead to the demise of our civilization. But, how much of the blame must be accepted by non-elites?
How democratic is a society where the loser in an election gets the majority of the popular vote but concedes to the winner who tallies the most in something called an electoral college?
So, what dangers lurk in such a divided country? There are armed militia groups that numbered 149 but rose to 1,360 when Obama was elected and have since fallen to 1,096. They are lightly armed and are outnumbered 10-1 by the National Guard.
But the US gun lobby ensures there are some 310 million individually-owned firearms in the country. From the assassination of President Kennedy in 1968 to 2015, 1,516,863 have been killed by firearms compared to 1,396,733 in all wars from The America Revolution to Iraq and Afghanistan. This distributes the blame.
For background, we need consider only a few similarities from our more-recent upheavals: Wat Tyler in England in 1381, the French Revolution of 1791-96, WWI 1914-1919, and the current Brexit and US election.
In 1381, after the sufferings of the 1340 Black Death and the 12-pence poll tax to pay for the war with France, plus the preachings of John Ball, the Bernie Sanders of the time, who sought the end of serfdom, unrest was simmering throughout Britain. The spark came when a tax collector raped Wat Tyler’s daughter in Kent. Wat led a rebellion that attacked London, killing the Lord Chancellor, the Lord High Treasurer, then spread to attacks on the University of Cambridge. Wat was killed in a skirmish with royal troops. King Richard II, only 14, bravely rode in to meet the Tyler insurgents, promising to be their saviour, but this ploy was used to provide time to muster 4,000 other serfs who quelled the rebellion, executed its leaders, while killing 1,500 rebels. Democracy was postponed.
Four words “Let them eat cake” express the ignorance of the Elite and are attributed to the wife of Louis XVI, Austrian Marie-Antoinette, who was the Hillary Clinton of the French Revolution and attacked by the Donald Trumps of the day. She never spoke these words. She supported charities and showed concern for the poor. But, she was a powerful and extravagant women resented by the male chauvinists. Resentment of the status quo, including the attempt to raise 300,000 men to fight Austria, led to a reign of terror that took over 40,000 lives including Marie-Antoinette, Louis XVI, several notable scientists, and other elites. Finally, the revolution turned on itself, sending leaders like Danton and Robespierre to the guillotine. The slogan “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” had to be postponed until after Napoleon left the stage.
In the horrendous slaughter of the totally-unnecessary Great War (WWI), German troops, totally fed up with fighting the British in the mud of Belgium, initiated truces culminating in the Christmas 1914 emergence of unarmed German troops from their trenches thus encouraging the British to do the same. A football game, comraderie, exchange of gifts and uniform parts spread along the line until 100,000 men were involved. Subsequently other truces occurred on the Western front as well as the Eastern Front between Austrians and Russians. There was great hope by the men, condemned to fighting the war, that it could end, but the media back home largely ignored this peace attempt. The brass, as well as young Charles de Gaulle, considered it treason so ordered artillery barrages to forestall peace. The slaughter and bitterness escalated.
Another WWI fact we need to remember: Only 4 nations emerged from WWI as creditor nations: the UK was owed the most, followed by the US, Canada, and Argentina. The UK and Canada argued debts had to be cancelled. Britain had prospered by forgiving debts after the Napoleonic wars. US Republicans shunned Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points and his League of Nations to bring Germany back into the family of Nations. They refused the coal the UK and France offered to pay off what they owed the US. US Republicans forced them to put the screws on Germany, no more guilty of starting the war than the others, stripping it of its assets in reparations which created a severe depression and the complete destruction of its currency thus paving the way for the rise of Hitler. It can be argued that Republicans should be blamed for WWII.
The Elite considered Brexit to be so economically and politically unwise that it failed to address legitimate grievances that Brussels had become too autocratic and bureaucratic thus harming national aspirations. It was a shock to the world when the voters actually forced it into law that will harm everyone. Successful voters are now getting many thorns among their roses.
All of these preambles fade into irrelevance when compared to today’s problems and possible repercussions of the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States which, at the moment, is the world’s top dog with the world’s largest military and history’s largest interference in other countries. Its frightening nuclear capability that could destroy our civilization many times over is promised even further enlargement, forcing others into trying to catch up even though economically disastrous. The bitterness of the recent election reveals the US is too large and too dangerous to allow this dominance to continue. Even so, over-population, greed, and human-created global warming can surpass the threat of nuclear exterminations.
Putin and Netanyahu were among the first to express joy at the victory of Trump whose conciliatory post-election words offer a glimmer of compromise and empathy. A Vladimir-Benjamin-Donald love fest may be good for world peace but is it acceptable to Syrians, Palestinians, or to an Iran that we have harmed far more than it has ever harmed us?
The stark reality of the Oval Office can be quite sobering but is it enough to soften Trump’s boasted claims of disdain for the environment, non-US peoples and interests, women, other Republicans, immigrants, truth, the supreme court, his own workers and investors, and so on? His “Making America Great Again” includes giving the Military-Industrial complex all it wants is considerably more hawkish that what we consider Hillary to be. And, who pays for it when Trump promises massive tax cuts for the wealthy? And who dictates US foreign policy when munition firms can make sinful profits?
But, are we not all to blame for the malaise that now infects us? Stand on any street corner in any city. The endless stream of pollution-emitting vehicles implies widespread prosperity. Jump into these cars and you will choke on stress and anxiety as occupants struggle to cope with a lifestyle far removed from their lengthy tribal backgrounds. Few today know that, when European settlers were stealing the Americas, thousands of them chose to abandon European lifestyles and join tribal groups as friendlier and less stressful.
And, we have to stop blaming others when the fault lies with us. Canada delayed, as long as it could, offered-independence from Britain because Ottawa politicians benefited as long as they could blame London when necessary but unpopular legislation had to be passed.
Perhaps we have no other workable choice but to continue on as though nothing is amiss. After all, our relatively-immortal atoms, 40 trillion bacterial and 30 trillion human cells according to 2016 research, have no choice as to when they enter or leave this planet. Yet, for the sake of what we call a conscience, is it not imperative that each of us takes the time to glean a fraction of the enormous Truths out there in order to share empathy with other living things? We are all in the same leaky boat.
We have given Donald Trump enormous responsibilities and he does need guidance from you and me. Hillary and Barrack are being quite helpful but sorely need your help and mine (and Bernie’s) to transform Donald into something we can be proud of. Our survival is at stake. So let us improve Rudyard Kipling’s advice:
Take up the Human burden -
The savage wars of peace
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when you goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Prevent sloth and human Folly
Bringing all your hopes to nought.