The American Spring

A collection of ideas about the social upheaval in American society.

The American Spring

In order to broaden the understanding behind the tension in American society, one must first get a clearer understanding of what sort of society the United States is. In order to do so, let’s look at a few statistics that I’d consider important with their importance largely revolving around their impact on society.

In 2014 Business Insider reported that about 2.4 million people live behind bars in America, the highest number in the world. That’s roughly 700 people per 100,000 and slightly over 0.7% of the population. That’s bigger than the entire working population of Ireland that is in prison. An article by the Economist, from May 2014 which cites a report regarding prison population cites another shocking figure. Between July 1st 2011 and June 30th 2012, a total of 11.6m were admitted. Here’s another horrifying statistics, all the way back from 2007 – 2270 prisoners who were sentenced to life without parole as children.

Already from simply reading how many people the prison system administrates in the US one can come to the conclusion that the federal and state structures are quite rigid, harsh and very easily provoked into long sentences. This sort of “social system” is controlling and can most certainly be characterized as oppressive. But I do not believe that this information can paint an adequate picture of why there’s mass tension in America, let’s go further.

The Guardian had a very interesting and informative opinion piece about the deepening crisis of wealth inequality in the US, outlining specifically that not since the Great Depression has there been a huge concentration of wealth in the hands of so few. Specifically, as mentioned in the article among the “elite” of American society who constitute 0.1% of the population but have the same share of wealth as 90% of the population.

One can quickly see why there’s tension in the air, though at the same time not a lot of Americans are actually accurately aware of some of these figures. There’s a reason to that as well. It would categorically not benefit the ruling elite to educate the 90% and in any shape or form encourage a change of the system. The wealthy and powerful did not become so by “sharing” or “re-distributing” resources; but in amassing more for themselves to maintain and empower their position.

But I’m not going to lie or pretend I know American society extremely well, that would be posturing and unfair. Data and numbers however are as objective as they come and they paint quite a scary picture. But these are issues that only touch upon people in critical moments and for the most part they aren’t coherently expressed in strikes, protests or even riots.  These issues however are not the key feature to the current on-going social unrest, but eerily loom over the population, threatening to spill out.

But every uprising, revolution and social movement requires a spark and the death of Michael Brown on the 9th of August. The citizens of Ferguson deemed his shooting en masse and the secrecy surrounding the police officer that later shot him along with the crackdown by the police on the people continued to infuriate the people involved in the event.

A Washington Post article dated to the 10th of October highlights the fact that “hundreds of protesters have been arrested since August for violating unwritten rules and committing minor offenses”. These actions only seem to highlight the repressive methodology adopted by law enforcement agencies in the US. An article by the Washington Post again from the 18th of August states: “Overnight, several journalists reported being detained, threatened or otherwise prevented from covering the unfolding story. The arrest, late Sunday night of three reporters – Robert Klemko of Sports illustrated, Chicago-based Financial Times reporter Neil Munshi and Rob Crilly, a foreign correspondent for the Telegraph (and no stranger to war zones). – Reportedly came as the journalists attempted to gather more information while police faced off with protesters.

These events, backed with the initially provided statistics only confirm a stark reality regarding the US. It is anything but a free society, but in fact it is an incredibly restricted, monitored and controlled society. It’s no surprise that the US dropped fourteen positions in the Reporters without Borders index, all the way to position 46, right under Romania. Out of 180 countries the US is in position 46!

Now take everything into consideration and muse upon it – I think it’s pretty easy to see what sort of backlash is going to come from society and what sort of fury people have. Now, these are only a few statistics of very specific things, if one looks into college debt, unemployment, salary inequality between management and worker, the amount of police routinely killed by police annually you’ll find numbers that are terrifying.

For a society that advocates its freedom and pretends to stand on a pedestal of democracy it truly is not. So let me bring this wee article back to the title and conclude it up. When a society is consistently repressed, abused and mistreated it begins to seek for change; when the French aristocracy abused their people the people rose up; when the Russian tsars built palaces of gold, the people rose up; when the people of Ireland, horrified by the executions of the 1916 revolutionaries voted for Sinn Fein, they made a determination; it is better to die fighting than live a slave to the whims of others.

2015 is going to be a year of change for the American community, or it will in the least have a spark to start the great fire of revolution.

“The day has passed for patching up the capitalist system; it must go. And in the work of abolishing it the Catholic and the Protestant, the Catholic and the Jew, the Catholic and the Freethinker, the Catholic and the Buddhist, the Catholic and the Mahometan will co-operate together, knowing no rivalry but the rivalry of endeavour toward an end beneficial to all. For, as we have said elsewhere, socialism is neither Protestant nor Catholic, Christian nor Freethinker, Buddhist, Mahometan, nor Jew; it is only Human. We of the socialist working class realise that as we suffer together we must work together that we may enjoy together. We reject the firebrand of capitalist warfare and offer you the olive leaf of brotherhood and justice to and for all.” – Labour, Nationality and Religion, in response to Father Robert Kane’s lectures denouncing socialism, James Connolly.

Further reading

US Wealth Inequality: http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/nov/13/us-wealth-inequality-top-01-worth-as-much-as-the-bottom-90

US Prison incarceration: http://www.businessinsider.com/world-map-of-incarceration-rates-2014-1?IR=T

http://www.economist.com/blogs/democracyinamerica/2014/03/americas-prison-population

Ferguson: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/ferguson-police-continued-crackdown-on-protesters-after-federal-state-interventions/2014/10/09/15df8a2a-4e40-11e4-aa5e-7153e466a02d_story.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2014/08/18/police-in-ferguson-arrest-and-threaten-more-journalists/

http://edition.cnn.com/2014/08/19/us/ferguson-journalists-arrested/

The US is an oligarchy: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/10769041/The-US-is-an-oligarchy-study-concludes.html

http://www.businessinsider.com/major-study-finds-that-the-us-is-an-oligarchy-2014-4?IR=T

US law enforcement killing people:

http://www.businessinsider.com/why-do-us-police-kill-so-many-people-2014-8?IR=T

http://gawker.com/what-ive-learned-from-two-years-collecting-data-on-poli-1625472836

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