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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Alienation

Monday evening 27 April 2015, the Maryland governor declared an emergency in Baltimore and activated the National Guard. A new wave of alienation has hit the USA. African Americans do not longer accept their role in U.S. society. Perhaps Barack Obama showed them – albeit subconsciously - that they are Americans too rather than African immigrants doomed to poverty.

The USA has a long history of alienating people: its citizens (indigenous Indian population, African Americans), its neighbours Canada and Mexico, and other countries like China, Europe, Latin America and Russia. The USA has alienated too many people to receive any serious sympathy.

The African American protests do not seem random any longer. Neither do the killings of African Americans by the police feel random. These protests feel like a stepping stone towards some kind of “social revolution”. It feels very different than the 1954-68 protests organised by the civil rights movement. It feels much more like the mobilisation of the ”have nots”. Unlike other protests, this one lacks (political) ideology. Considering the enormous inequality in nearly every city, town or village, there is a huge pool of potential additional protesters.

The lack of formal organisation of the current protests makes it very difficult for the authorities to address it. The protests are unpredictable and could easily explode in domestic violence on a scale unknown to the USA. The authorities are likely to use an aggressive stance towards this unknown opponent. Such aggression could become the spark for a nationwide protest and could humiliate the USA to the bone. The USA may never be the same again.

The American Dream hasn't existed since decades. Any society without a middle class is doomed. The existence of a middle class is required for keeping the Dream alive. A society based on a few haves and many have nots cannot sustain itself on a permanent basis. A small majority of US millionaires does realise this. CNBC's first-ever Millionaire Survey reveals that 51 percent of American millionaires believe inequality is a "major problem" for the U.S., and of those, nearly two-thirds support higher taxes on the wealthy and a higher minimum wage as ways to narrow the wealth gap. (link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4)

However, it's US politics that has fully alienated itself from the US population. The New York Times reckons that the son of a governor is 6,000 times more likely than the average American male baby-boomer to become a governor himself, and the son of a senator is 8,500 times more likely to become a senator. The concentration of power and wealth in a small elite raises questions about legitimacy. (Economist, NYT) The historic trust in US government is well illustrated by this Gallup poll.

It’s a pity that these protests may one day overshadow Barack Obama’s presidency. Yet, his Presidential elections gave back some dignity to the African American population. Dignity to strive for more than just continued poverty. “Yes we can” gets a new meaning.

"And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." Martin Luther King.