#344 – Dick Bernard: Part 14. We're witnessing a deadly game in which we're the ultimate victims.

The bizarre drama that is Wisconsin continues to play itself out.
It is a very high stakes and scary game, where an ideological fringe has, for the moment, managed to seize control of the government and is asserting its will. In the end the ultimate victims of this power play, the working middle class, will be the ones relied on to drive a stake through their own heart by allowing a highly financed, amoral and truly vicious political machine to demolish workers rights in favor of big business and the very wealthy.
Wisconsin is the test for all the rest of us.
I believe Wisconsin’s – and our – democracy is still strong enough to self-correct over time. But Wisconsin will be a very major test of the foolishness of our tendency as Americans to make our politics simply a spectator sport or, far worse, make politics into something that is beneath us, mostly because we do not wish to become engaged at any level.
Sometimes I wonder if we are our own worst enemies…that we loathe ourselves…that we don’t deserve fair treatment and good wages and working conditions. We seem to be easily taught to be passive.
There are far more than enough members of the working middle class to turn the tables on the big and very selfish Power interests, but will they? That is an open question. (The poor are unlikely to engage for good reason: their struggle is simply to survive. Their ranks are rapidly increasing.)
Today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune carried an excellent Los Angeles Times column which does a good job of defining some of the issues.
Locally, Steve Berg in the on-line newspaper MinnPost had an equally excellent commentary.
But opinions are just opinions, and in the end analysis it has to be the people – every one of us – who will collectively decide whether they deserve better or worse. We can collectively engage, or choose to stay unengaged, saying “it’s their problem”, etc.

I get the notion that our entire society is victimized by its tendency to engage in what I might call “half thinking”; we are a society which has no vision beyond our own vision for our own moment in time. Cartoonists regularly describe us as Ma and Pa in our easy chairs watching TV and spouting off to each other…. The cartoonists have us nailed.
Watch the debate – or more, the lack of debate. Those of us who are doing okay cannot conceive of the possibility that things will not be okay. We think that somebody else’s government benefit, including his or her employment, is wasteful and should be eliminated; while forgetting that someone else thinks the same about our own benefits, regardless of where those benefits originate. We think things half-way through, or less.
I am constantly amazed at the short-sighted big business attitude, basically dictated by Wall Street these days, which focuses on making the quarterly (three months) “numbers”. Corporate leaders should not only know better, but they have huge organizations where there should be “vision” people who can identify long-term consequences of short term profit oriented benefits. Squeezing profits out of working people’s wages and benefits in the short term inevitably cuts into the corporations profits long term, and there are no alternative markets equal to even come close to the old United States consumer spending engine.
At this writing, it appears that the Republican majority in Wisconsin will “succeed” in the short term, but it will be a Pyrrhic victory for them, even if they stave off recall or election challenges. But everyone will suffer. It is risky business to begin a downward spiral, and that is what is now happening.
Caveat emptor. Get off the couch that is your comfort zone and get engaged.

Postnote: A couple of days ago a very level headed person I’m getting to know, an engineer by training, career corporate employee, quite well known and very actively engaged politically, sent me a note, as follows. In this case we were discussing public education, and he was talking about a report that was issued by a reform-minded special interest group 28 years ago. What he says applies to everything in our public sphere today:
As you said, the intentions have been hijacked by groups who have a different agenda. Only a few people recognize the marketing, the propaganda and the massive attack on public awareness is an intentional strategy developed and funded by incredibly well-organized behind-the-scenes groups. Some of these initiative groups have no personal animosity to the people they damage, but they have no respect for humans either. I read an excellent blog post today. It covers Vallay Varro, the new director of MinnCAN, another shadow group. I agree with him, she has been bought.
We have been conditioned when to pay attention, and when to ignore. How else can we justify, based on a lie, invading a country [Iraq] uninvolved in 9/11, bombing their infrastructure back to the ’50’s and killing more than 100,000 of their innocent citizens? Then we go the church!
Most recently I happened onto the BBC documentary “The Century of the Self”.
I am [getting on in years], and this documentary opened my eyes to things that I suspected and feared, but never thought so true. We in America have been so distracted that our society depends on others making the important evaluations and decisions for us. Watch the video as soon as you can, maybe even twice (as I am doing) and extrapolate it to other mass manipulations done to us, known and unknown.”

NOTE: Part 1 of this uninterrupted series began with a post on February 17, 2011. While the issue is extremely important, other topics will become a more regular feature. Future posts on the topic of Wisconsin and public employment specifically will be labeled Part 15, etc.