How useful are political movements? Should we need them at all, if the so-called system worked? We would be taking substantial action on climate change, for example (aside: a useful analog to climate change is to think of discovering an asteroid was going to hit the earth in 100 years; we’d take action, hard and fast (and even then, there would be some denying the existence of the asteroid, its trajectory, etc.)). But the system is broken, badly. As such, it will likely take a movement to get the badly needed action.
What if the system worked? Would we still need movements? Take the idea of a union for CEOs (i.e., a union for those whom the system already works). Call it United Federation of Overseers or the UFO. Would the UFO ever need to exist? Would it negotiate for the golden parachutes (often mistaken for UFOs) and chair-throwing quotas (ditto)?
Some such organizations do exist. Some are social clubs, which provide networking opportunities. Others may promote continuing education. And some exist to promote more broken laws. One such organization is ALEC, or the American Legislative Exchange Council. ALEC is devoted to “Limited Government, Free Markets, Federalism.” Yet the result of their effort could be better described as “Wealth Concentration, Closed Markets, Oligarchy.”
The other big name in organizations by, of, and for those whom the system works is called the United States Congress. Founded in 1789, it has a lengthy history of promoting a broken system. It has, on occasion, deviated from that charter, but it has seen a revival in the past 20 years. It is the golden age of dysfunctional politics.
Even if the system worked, we might still need movements to bring attention. Say we found out that American Football was concussing the daylights out of its players. If the system worked, would we still need to have a movement to fix that? Or would the concern naturally bubble up to the league heads and they would step in immediately?
American Football had this problem before. In 1905, legend has it, a total of 19 souls were dispatched to the beyond from the gridiron. Talk about playing your heart out (insert the old fogey rap about how easy people have it today). It came to the national attention and over the subsequent decade a number of reforms were adopted.
On the other hand, we have groups like the Envelope Manufacturers Association pushing the government to keep so-called paper options around in the digital age. They did so under the guise of a group called “Consumers for Paper Options.” We have groups lobbying to keep their business thriving in an age when we don’t necessarily need it.
Paul Ryan made his annual pilgrimage to the photocopier to deliver his redundant, ridiculous budget once more. Maybe he needs a grassroots campaign for the passage of his master plan. Alas, not even ALEC and the NRA have the sort of funds needed to pull that much wool over the eyes of the people. (Or maybe the whole annual futile budget effort is the result of lobbying efforts by Big Paper.)
But it still gets media coverage. Akin to covering a cult group that believes the world will end tomorrow (literally, they believe that the world ends when time breaks and we move from the eternal today into the always-future tomorrow). So we have two broken institutions: the government and the media. And we have association media, activist media, organizational media, to try to influence and supplement the mainstream media.
At some point we have the full makings of alternate realities. Some in the deeper religious and political niches have already collected their whole set. The wealthy have an easier time of burrowing into another reality, with all the Yes men telling them, “of course that’s true sir, but only because you say so.”
But, at some other point, we will see an Alliance of Actual Reality, a Voltron-style amalgamation of environmentalists, prison reformers, etc. Then it will be Monster versus Robot, Godzilla style (or if you’re too young, Pacific Rim style). The AAR will put down the invaders from the alternate realities (represented by the Association for Alternate Realities, also called the AAR, but with the accent on the second A). At some point.
But then, as the dust settles, we will realize that we were fighting ourselves, again. That we were really fighting our own ignorance, the only enemy we really have.
Yea, the rich will be poor; the old young; the many will count themselves few. If we could do that without all the stupid fighting to try to salvage things like the fossil fuel industry or the buggy-whip industry, we would be very much better off.