A little over two years ago billionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer wrote an essay for the online magazine Politico in which he argues that “the pitchforks are coming for the plutocrats”. He says that people like himself, Bill Gates and Donald Trump had better heed history and take action to relieve the societal stresses created by wealth inequality and poverty soon or like the French and Russian revolutions the masses will become fed up and take it out on the people who have abused them for so long. Hanauer will tell you he’s not brilliant, he says he was a mediocre student and has no technical background, he just has a higher than average tolerance for risk and a knack for seeing where things are going a little sooner than the other guy.
Hanauer compared revolutions to bankruptcy in that both slowly move toward the cliff and then suddenly occur seemingly without warning. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in a 1966 60 Minutes interview “I think that we've got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that
has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the economic plight of the Negro
poor has worsened over the last few years.” Revolutions are messy and violent
and everyone suffers, most of all those who are already suffering as the few
systems that help them fend off starvation inevitably breakdown.
It’s been argued that acting on insight similar to Hanauer’s is what has held the country together many times over the last 240 years; one example being Teddy Roosevelt and his efforts to restrain the worst excesses of capitalism. Now that a minority of voters has managed to elect Donald Trump I fear that the chances of this nation’s leaders acting on enlightened self-interest to restrain capitalism’s natural tendency toward monopoly and increasing profits at any cost have been dramatically reduced such that we’ll see a return to the strife and violence of the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Efforts to right the ship like Moral Monday protests led by Rev. William Barber in
are modeled after the successes of the Civil Rights era. After this election
many argued that it was successful in that Gov. McCrory was ousted and
therefore a model for further efforts around the nation. Unfortunately the
Republican led legislature there failed to get the message and instead set
about stripping the governor-elect of virtually all power. As Fredrick Douglass
said so eloquently “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and
it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you
have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed
upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or
blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those
whom they oppress.”
As Nick Hanauer pointed out revolution creeps up on you, we don’t know when it will happen or what will appear to be the precipitating event but we seem to be moving ever closer. Isn’t it time for our leaders to behave like Teddy Roosevelt and once again act relieve the pressure before it’s too late?
Published in the Seguin Gazette December 23, 2016