The Blood of Patriots and Tyrants: Society, Revolution and Occupy Wall Street


By Tim Lawrence

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.” Thomas Jefferson wrote this in a letter from France back to America in 1789.

Jefferson is writing just a few years after the Revolutionary War, the rebellion in US history, apart from the secessionist. Yet, a man of the people, fearful of tyranny of the few, he knows and purports the importance of keeping one’s government in check.

Nearly 200 years later, Edward Abbey wrote, “Society is like a stew. If you don’t stir it up every once and a while then a layer of scum floats to the top.” Nobody likes scum.

Societies and governments often change on their own terms. But there are times when society needs a renewal towards a new foundation and a new direction.

Today, there is a movement whose name is self-explanatory. It is Occupy Wall Street. Although they have no leadership, vague goals at best and smell pretty bad, they are making their displeasure at the current status quo of society known.

Corporations are growing to dominate our country and leadership. All of television is owned by four companies. You can buy a whole week’s worth of “square” meals and only purchase products from Pepsico. A corporation has the same rights as a citizen, but they are not criminally liable, only civically. Money equals freedom of speech.

Conservatives are in a strongly defensible position, generally needing and wanting only to keep things as they are now. They need not engage in dialogue, let alone conversation.

With the Tea Party Movement, we have witnessed the radicalization of the conservative right. Its members shouting contradictory catch phrases (“Cut Taxes!” “Lower the Deficit!” “Do Not Touch Military Spending!”) and invoking patriotic symbols merely to enliven voters.

Conservatives have made ‘liberal’ a dirty word. As liberals, as free and critical thinking Americans, we need to take the power back. For too long we have been cynical toward and ashamed of our country’s political climate, of our ‘liberal’ representatives.

But change can go further than that.

Does it not seem strange that the health of an economy is based on the rate at which it grows? How then can all countries, at all times have healthy economies? Finite resources cannot handle growth infinitely.

Does it not seem strange that basketball players, football players, golfers and other professional athletes get paid millions of dollars to play a game and cause scandal (Kobe Bryant, Ben Roethlisberger, Tiger Woods) while teachers in areas where they are most needed, are paid in peanuts?

Does it not seem strange that we continue to fight two wars, each started nearly a decade ago, in places historically known for military stagnation? That we continue to neglect schools, healthcare and infrastructure in order to conduct these wars?

Let us take our mild distaste, our adherence to outdated virtues and tired wisdom, our passive acceptance of our labor filled future, and change them.

History is made with action. We all know the problems in our society. Let us do something about it now. The problem is setting direction, setting goals, and setting forth. Occupy Wall Street can fizzle out, or it can be the beginning to the changes we wish to see.



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