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The Right and Neoliberals Get Away With Murder Because They Can

Photo Source Becker1999 | CC BY 2.0

Every time that the Trump administration or the Congress take another egregious position, or enact some inhumane new distortion of what it means to inhabit a livable world, the emails and text messages arrive in masses.

And here’s the kicker, readers: It all has made such a small difference that it appears to those who still hold on to the crumbs of rationality and reason like a grand waste of time. The Internet gives the impression that by signing some petition, or belonging to some Internet-based groups, that change can actually come about. Defeat follows upon the heels of yet another defeat and a new batch of online petitions appear. What an absolute delusion!

As for mass demonstrations, they achieve just about the same results. Look at the recent debacle of the Supreme Court. Millions marched on the streets for women’s rights and the result is just about less than nothing. Misogyny is accepted by a significant number of people. No one marches anymore for peace, except small groups of atomized people, and we get an annual military budget exceeding $700 billion. The war in Afghanistan is now 17-years-old and it has all of the trappings of privatization on its doorstep and on its land. Erik Prince, the founder of the mercenary company formally known as Blackwater, has a presence in this war that largely goes unreported in the mass media. When Barack Obama ordered a drone strike that killed 16-year-old American citizen, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, in Yemen while he was eating dinner, almost nobody gave a damn. The environment, the single greatest existential threat, similarity attracts small groups that will take great risks to their freedom, and the result is that the entire ecosystem is tanking. The lists do go on. The antinuclear group Plowshares takes demonstrative action against the obscenity of nuclear proliferation (including the so-called modernization of nuclear weapons arsenals) and the sentences handed down to protesters are draconian.  The message: Don’t mess with profits, private property, or endless wars. Those folks, the protesters, survive only because they have a community from which to seek and receive sustenance, while the rest of us have shopping malls and the Internet.

Once, during the Vietnam antiwar movement, people took big risks to fight for freedom. Most were young, and although self-interest played some part in our actions on the streets, we had youth and ideals on our side. Even though public opinion was always against us, we brought a hideous war of mass aggression and mass murder to an end.

Now, despite huge rallies for popular liberal candidates for office, many of the young don’t even bother to go out and vote. Voting, in and of  itself, is only one way to bring about some limited measure of change. Here are the Census Bureau’s May 2017 statistics about who voted in 2016 (“Voting in America: A Look at the 2016 Presidential Election”):

Voting rates have also historically varied according to age, with older Americans generally voting at higher rates than younger Americans. In 2016, this was once again the case, as citizens 65 years and older reported higher turnout (70.9 percent) than 45- to 64-year-olds (66.6 percent), 30- to 44-year-olds (58.7 percent) and 18- to 29-year-olds (46.1 percent). However, in 2016, young voters ages 18 to 29 were the only age group to report increased turnout compared to 2012, with a reported turnout increase of 1.1 percent. All older age groups either reported small yet statistically significant turnout decreases (45- to 64-year-olds and those age 65 and older) or turnout rates not statistically different from 2012 (30- to 44-year-olds).

While 46.1 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds voted in 2016, a slight increase from the 2012 election, they are at the lowest end of all voting age groups, so while it appears that they turn out in great numbers at political rallies, etc., when the shoe leather meets the ground in various ways, they’re just not there and if the young are not there to force change at a critical mass, then the show is over. Seventy-year-olds don’t generally make revolutions, and if people cannot even be relied upon to do something as simple as voting, then what will those same people demand and how will they make demands in the face of catastrophes of all kinds

An appeal to the young is not simply ageism in reverse, but a recognition of the essential fact that only some of those who are young have more energy and ideals.

Readers may want to take part in some simple action research next time they are on the streets, or on a campus, or in an elevator (a great place to view human behavior). It is the exception to find anyone in these situations without a cell phone in hand and head bowed in awe of the Internet.

Individual and group rights have been so diminished since 2001 that most don’t even know that a citizen of the U.S. can be killed without due process and the organized pushback against egregious violations of rights is weak.

It’s symbolically past midnight and we’re standing on the deck of the Titanic. It’s all so damn depressing! 

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Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

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