Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Imagine the Coming Reaction

Icelanders took to the streets recently to vent their anger over the continuing economic collapse of their island nation.

Iceland's politicians forced to flee from angry protesters
by Jill Treanor, The Guardian
Protesters took to the streets of Reykjavik today, forcing MPs to run away from the people they represent as renewed anger about the impact of the financial crisis erupted in Iceland.

The violent protest came amid growing fury at austerity measures being imposed across Europe. Disruption in more than a dozen countries this week included a national strike in Spain and a cement truck driven into the Irish parliament's gates.

Witnesses said up to 2,000 people caused chaos at the state opening of the Icelandic parliament, with politicians forced to race to the back door of the building because of the large number of protesters at the front. Eggs were said to have hit the prime minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, other MPs and the wife of the Icelandic president, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson.

Árni Páll Árnason, the minister of economics affairs, who was caught up in the protests, said: "We have a difficult economic situation and this is something to be expected in a democratic country..."

I want to draw your attention to the bolded sentence from the Guardian story above. At least a segment of the Icelandic political elites, after getting pelted with eggs and shouted down by protesters, just shrugged it off and chalked it up to the cost of doing business as a democracy.

Think for a moment what Congress would have done had the same thing happened here in the Land of the Free. With the exception of Ron Paul, what would the response had been? Mass arrests? A new set of names on the "No Fly List?" Protestors being tasered left and right, flopping like dying fish on beach? Can you imagine members of Congress or Senators just blowing it off, basically saying they understood the anger and it was unfortunate?  Ten bucks says the word "terrorist" would have been used fifty times in the first five minutes of a press conference if a political elite had been struck by an egg.

Little anecdotes like this matter, in my opinion, as they can help forecast the flavor of the times to come. Socionomics gives us the broad strokes and tenor of the times, but individuals and societies still have a choice of how to respond to the mass negative mood.

Iceland has chosen to at least attempt to keep a civil government that is somewhat responsive to the People. In the U.S. we only need look back to 9/11 to see where our choices have landed us.

Imagine a President who came out and, instead of telling the country to be scared and hide and let the military do all the heavy lifting, the President and leadership had hearkened back to the mindset of World War II and told people to be strong, be prepared for hardship and that tough choices would have to be made, especially on things such as our dependency on foreign oil.  And then that President had actually made hard choices - not to kill or invade, but on how we in the U.S. use energy, how we fund out government, how we crush our businesses with regulatory burdens and how we plan to fund the coming Baby Boomer retirements - all of which help inform the decision to stay in the Middle East, which was one of the drivers of that tragedy.

Then imagine that the big playerz in the Federal Reserve had championed austerity and balance sheet repair back in 2001 instead of encouraging people to lever up and go out and buy and SUV?

Imagine that instead of invading Iraq, that $1 trillion had gone into fifty new nuclear power plants, into massive new wind farms and into restructuring the U.S. auto fleet for all-electric or hybrid electric vehicles? Where would we be today?

I realize that wishful thinking and speculation can't overcome the fact that we have the government we deserve and, frankly, probably the government ordained by the precarious position of the waves of social mood that have brought us to this point. While acknowledging that socionomics has a deterministic feel to it, my interpretation remains that individuals can make choices that have significant impacts, not just on your personal lives but on society at large. Your choices and behavior matter, especially in times of stress. Remember that in the days and years to come.

I have a bad feeling we are going to get to see the difference between Icelandic elites faced with protesters and U.S. elites faced with protesters all too soon.

FYI, I will be out on travel for the next couple of weeks. I'll try posting from the road, but no promises.

1 comment:

David said...

When the protests occur in earnest in the USA, Kent State will be but a fond memory.

Protesters, real protesters, will probably receive very close to what Stalin or Lenin meted out in their day. Getting tasered would be the best one could hope for, given how "force protection" combines with the modern Praetorian Guard.