A Plea to Generation Screwed: Let us Take on the Banks

In the wreckage of the once vibrant American anti-war movement lies a hodge-podge of activists ranging from anarchists to paleo-conservatives, wondering “What the hell do we do now!?”

To be an anti-war activist at this moment in American history is to be at an all time low. Never did genuine activists for non-violence have it so bad. Never has a progressive movement ever neutered itself so thoroughly, severed its own fuel source, and engineered its own irrelevance as much as the American anti-war movement between 2003 and now.

The success of the movement in early 2003 seemed destined to significantly alter the course of history. Bush and the neo-con puppeteers faced certain domestic turmoil in the “other superpower”: the dynamic grassroots movements whose lineage ran through Seattle and Chiapas, and now descended upon New York, Chicago and small towns throughout the heartland. Meanwhile, we had Lula in Brazil (before Lula became synonymous with traitor), Chavez in Venezuela, and millions of people emptying out into the streets throughout the world. American social movements were uniting with international grassroots forces to upend the heinous American Empire.

Or so I thought as I finished my undergrad at the University of Illinois-Urbana in 2003. Upon graduation I warily took a position at Peace Action as a “Field Outreach Coordinator” (if you have never worked at a non-profit before, the name of your position means practically nothing). My duties included, among other things, delegitimizing the genuine grassroots elements of the anti-war movement in favor of a bureaucratic, compromised, legislative/electoral approach to “fighting the man.” While Peace Action takes more principled stands than, say, Moveon.org, it is governed by the same logic that sank the whole ship in 2004.

However, most of the blame needs to be placed squarely on two men, whose “movements” completely demobilized this nation’s last great grassroots movement: John Kerry and Barack Obama.

The ascent of these two overlapped. Obama rose from his position in an obscure state congressional seat to become U.S. Senator at the same time that Mr. Kerry swift-boated the anti-war movement into oblivion.

Obama was young, articulate, handsome, well-composed, charming: all of those things we aren’t accustomed to in Chicago. Meanwhile, the rest of the country was equally overwhelmed. We had grown so used to our male specimen being overweight slobs that just the site of Obama made us believe that yes, we could join the civilized world.

Unfortunately, the route to the Promised Land doth not lie through the ballot box. I am not entirely negating the importance of casting a vote, but merely stating that genuinely progressive candidates don’t just pop out of the ether and get elected. Instead, they spring forth from grassroots movements and thus represent the collective consciousness.

In 2004 and 2008, the American liberal left repeated the same mistake by going the easy route of standing on the sidelines and “hoping.” This was an incredible phenomenon: a people, which are willing to be slave-driven in the workplace more so than any other in the Western World, lazed out on their civic responsibility. Instead of maintaining the requisite pressure and momentum, the American progressive fizzled out into irrelevance.

Even in its darkest hour, the American conservative doesn’t dare fizzle. They stick to their guns. So what is wrong with the American progressive?

My answer is that the baby boomers still control too much of the movement. I repeat: the progressive left is STILL organized and orchestrated by cliche P.C., baby booming liberals. They are the enablers of defeatism in American progressivism: those that seek to compromise war with peace, commercialism with socialism, liberty with tyranny. Their over-arching logic is that the status quo is too ingrained to budge. They enter the negotiation process under the precept that victory is unfeasible, and compromise is inevitable. As such, mainstream progressives believe that we must begin with a compromise, and continue to perpetually, until our vaunted “change” is even worse than the status quo.

I am on a few health care reform (single-payer) lists where people have been arguing over whether we should advocate defeat of the current bill in the Congress. I am unable to see how there is any question that we should. People are so steeped in the defeatist logic of unending compromises that they can’t see this ploy for what it is: a bailout of the insurance companies masquerading as “health care reform.” All of this comes after the President and several high ranking congresspersons admitted “Single Payer is probably the best solution, but …” But what!? We Americans are so used to failure, we may as well just keep failing!? Why be as good as the rest of the civilized world!? Let’s just continue to suck ass!

And to keep American minds off of the fact that our shitty health system will continue unabated and freshly charged, Obama announced his long-held plans to deepen our imperial adventure in Afghanistan. Progressives responded with mighty protests: in Chicago, a whole 150 people showed up last Wednesday to stick it to the commander-in-chief. Another rally was held on Saturday, which fared slightly better: that one may have attracted around 200.

And it is the same damn 150-200 people that show up to everything. The rest of the city is still hanging out in the trenches, “hoping” for something to go right. I am sure this is repeated verbatim throughout the country. The anti-war movement is down to its nuts and bolts: just the hard -core activists.

So how do we energize the grassroots again? How do we turn the clock back to 2003, while this country is so devastated and demoralized?

My answer is that the focus needs to shift to the banks: those insidious institutions of avidity and fraud that created our economic recession and then ran away with trillions of dollars in bailout guarantees. The big, corporate banks finance wars and war-makers, steal from working communities, prey on vulnerable members of the working and middle-classes, and have no sense of social responsibility or civic duty.

Socialism for the rich, Capitalism for the poor. The CEO’s get their bonuses, the working people get ATM fees and overdraft fees. The billionaire swindlers get TARP funds, the working men and women get bad mortgages, a dissolution of their retirement portfolios, decreasing medical coverage and increasing education costs.

Meanwhile, my generation, the baby boomers’ children of 30 years or younger, have seen their unemployment rate rise to nearly 25%. This rate is much higher if you count those who have ceased looking for work, or those that are partially employed or perpetually stuck in a temp agency.

I had the latter problem while in Seattle last year. I was hired by Nintendo of America as a French Customer Service rep through an intermediary known as Parker Services. These are the same bastards that run the “temp agency” racket at Microsoft, down the street in Redmond (suburb of Seattle). The idea is that you will never work directly for the company you pretend to represent on the phone, unless you gleefully slave away under precarious conditions for a few years with no benefits, leave time or health insurance. I couldn’t even realistically take a sick day without putting my job in jeopardy, and eventually stormed out in an angry rampage when told that I had to work with a 102 degree fever.

A majority of under 30 year olds are living in a state of utter despair: the baby boomers left us no health care, no decent employment, no living wage, no comprehensive system of free higher education, no ethic of brotherhood and sisterhood: a country in absolute ruin. Our older siblings and cousins were labeled “Generation X,” us “Generation Y” or “Generation ADHD,” but it may as well be “Generation Screwed.”

Socialism for the rich, Capitalism for the poor. Handouts, big trillion dollar handouts for the criminal business elite, and savage, barbaric Capitalism for the rest of us. We battle over scarce resources, and play trivial, insipid games so as to obtain frivolous employment, with no guarantees of security and health coverage. Our grandparents had good union jobs, and provided our parents with high quality education and health care at an affordable rate. We were never so lucky.

The war in the Middle East is the external manifestation of the war on young adults here at home. The relationship between the baby boomers and their children has always been antagonistic. The former has never wanted to grow up, while the latter has strived to mature. To quote the late George Carlin, the baby boomers “went from cocaine to Rogaine,” refusing ever to age and seriously confront the great responsibility of running a country. Their record, across the political spectrum, has been disastrous. From right wing zealots to imperialists posing as “peoples’ candidates” to left-wing movements weighted down by the baggage of “cultural revolution.” In the baby boomers world, “left” and “right” became inane cultural points of reference, as political discourse made like an Amtrak and de-railed.

This unraveled as our presidents and congress-people drifted steadily rightward. There once was smattering of populists in the Congress, and the occasional bone thrown at progressives by even Republican presidents. However, our posture gradually descended to the point that “we” have the White House, “60 seats in the Senate,” and a strong majority in the Congress, and right wing America still runs the damn country!

This dire state is unsustainable. As such, I ask fellow members of Generation Screwed to join me in taking charge of the despair before us. Let us reconstruct an America that is built on the principles of brotherhood and sisterhood: an understanding that we have a debt to our fellow American. The creation of these monolithic criminal banks and their corporate doppelgangers is entirely the doing of the baby boomers, who supported the Reagans and Clintons that deregulated like mad animals. They took any progressive tendency in this country and demeaned and disparaged it, leaving us with Kennedys, Kerrys, and, at best, Kucinichs. We can do much better.

We, the members of Generation Screwed, have no room for compromise. Our life depends on great progressive victory and it begins with taking the banks head on.

Matt Reichel is a writer currently living in New Orleans. He can be reached at: mereichel@gmail.com. Read other articles by Matt, or visit Matt's website.

18 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on December 11th, 2009 at 9:33am #

    It is nice to learn that matt is green party member. In canada wife and i vote for socialist New Dem’c Party to which decades ago instituted medicare in the province of manitoba.

    Canada just like US had been governed by one party. And both evil empires are still ruled by fascists. That’s why we are in afpak killing totally innocent children and civilians.
    Folks, have a party in a second Party; u cannot partie anywhere else. tnx

  2. Leslie Ann Jones said on December 11th, 2009 at 10:56am #

    Matt,

    I think this is a very wise approach. This re-evaluationof agendas and approaches is something feminists of Gen X and Y have to do in answer to the dismal failure of the “Sexual Revolution” of the booomer generation-who still needs to look as “hot, young and sexy” as possible. Astute George!

    It might sound like a contradiction for the, anti-war movent to focus on the working of captialism but money and poer are the reasons for war. It’s makes perfect sence.

    If yioou keep the larger moral/humane/compassionate goals in mind, then it’s adoptign the same strategy as warr mongers who sneak wars up on us like sending drones first, and before you know it it become a police action, avoiding the ugly word war as long as possible.

    You don’t want to have Peace..you want to Audit the Fed. ha!

    I’d imagine the hard core Obama supports are starting to feel like they’ve woken up from his big party to discover “Hope” and “Change were actually spiked drinks from the ame catering service as that last party.
    That Nobel Committee must have a terrible hangover. ha!

    Good luck!

    Bozh,
    I’m a Canadian as well and it’s not that I debate the crux of your statement, but I’d like to think on a global scale, we haven’t quite lost our PeaceKeeping reputation.
    I think Canada could do things that could make a very large statement without being blatantly adversarial with our bullying “brother”
    (although in many ways closer to the European distant cousins)
    like demandign Canadian citizens get released from Gitmo.
    We stand up time and again to the States on issues that affect or monies/ecomony but rarely take a strong moral stand. I don’t like that.

    However, all through the fallout from 9/11 I noticed that my American friends just weren’t getting the same information as we get in Canada. They could find facts if they hunted for them, but the main stream press was definitely “withholding” more.

    One the issue of fascist…well..maybe it is a smaller scale version in some ways but I’ve had a working class uncle in a near fatal car accident and an eldery grandmother who either wouldn’t be alive and safe or would be in debt for life, or dying bankrupt without our health care system and in the United States. Its damn near a third world country that way and it needs to change. It’s too bad the Kennedy dream is turning into asuch a fiasco-same game same players.

    But then, I was born here and most of my family has been here at least three generations. I might be a bit biased, but certainly not patriotic.

  3. bozh said on December 11th, 2009 at 12:52pm #

    Leslie, thanks for ur comment,
    Canadian media is as much privately owned as US msm; thus, one get’s a private product. I see no difference whatever btwn the two msm.
    And canada had attacked korea solely basing the aggression on ideating, rationalizations, supremacistic ideology [i am always right]
    I only recognize only two structures of society: socialist and antisocialist or fascist. And we were governed by fascists since at least 10 k yrs.
    Natch, not each fascist structure is fascist in the same degree. Neither is socialism in venezuela ’05 socialism in V. ’09. And socialism 09 won’t be socialism 2108.
    US had developed by far the best fascist governance to date. It abhors socialism in any stage of development more than any other country and has the will and means to actually destroy a socialism as fall of USSR proves.
    Now, that is fascism to me! tnx

  4. dan e said on December 11th, 2009 at 4:56pm #

    Matt, your post is very encouraging. As a Depression Baby to whom the Baby Boomers are “the younger generation”, I’m glad to see you focus so quickly on the Banking System, aka the Apex of Capitalism. Who decides at the Federal Reserve? And who decided that the answer to capitalist crises was a privately controlled for-profit Central Bank ?

    Also glad to see you’ve seen through both Obummer and Kerry, through all the Demo Pty bs. I have serious problems with some of the traditional Green Pty positions/rhetoric, which seems to me mired in Liberalism — but that didn’t keep me from doing all I could to bring attn to Cynthia McKinney for President 2008.

    You’re right, it will take more than votes in a capitalist-controlled election farce to really change things. But IMHO there is a place in the overall Resistance process for activism in the Electoral Arena, for several reasons.

    One caution: everything most people think they know about pre-Yeltsin USSR or pre-Deng Xiao Bing China they acquired from our pro-rich, Zionist-controlled “mainstream media”. So don’t assume you know anything about the “Cultural Revolution” or other aspects of “Godless Comminism” unless you’ve really studied, checked out a variety of sources coming from different angles.

    “Assume Nothing”, and

    Don’t Believe Everything You Think:)

  5. anthony innes said on December 11th, 2009 at 6:46pm #

    This was denied and buried with indecent haste here in Australia.But it got national coverage first.
    http://blacklistednews.com/news-…-0-13-13– .html
    The government is clearly behind the curve.
    It was explained to me as a young fool that revolution is when other people have the money.
    Runaway inflation is provoking a war to see which fiat currencies will dominate.The UK/USA have cashed in their chips and are not welcome at the table.
    The generations that do not understand this risk becoming irrelevant when the rest of the world is getting that the BRIC/SCO/BIS allignment is calling the shots in what is now an open world market.
    Sniveling about your working conditions is my proof that you need to out the BIS (Bank for International Settlements) who are responsible for the Financial order.

  6. Ronalda McRaygun said on December 12th, 2009 at 5:28am #

    Hey little brother, going after the bankers is a capital idea.
    Here’s a *hug*
    but I’ll have to tell you, Gen X is as screwed, blued and tattooed as you.
    I can’t even get a job! And I’m starting to get sick….you know ….inside (don’t tell the rest of my body, maybe it won’t notice)
    I have a little 3 year old boy – who can’t talk for whatever reason. And who doesn’t have any support system to speak of.
    If you guys get to be Generation Screwed, whatever will we call HIS gen?
    Generation DOA?
    I’ll go get the tar and the feathers (and the rope) and meet you on Wall St.

  7. Charlie said on December 12th, 2009 at 8:54am #

    As a baby boomer, I was both annoyed and amused by this article. I love it when people who think Reagan is ancient history try to explain activism to me, a veteran of the Stonewall Riots, the ’68 Dem Convention in Chicago, and several fiery anti-war protests in the streets of major U.S. cities.

    So my generation has failed its children and the anti-war movement? Really?

    What has Generation Screwed (aka Generation Crybaby Whines-a-lot)) accomplished? The situation you describe in this article is somewhat similar to the conditions that surrounded my generation: unresponsive and corrupt politicians, an unpopular war, misplaced social priorities, civil injustice, a previous generation that loved the status quo more than anything, and so on.

    So what did we do? We took to the streets. We banded together in groups, we protested, we organized, we went into the places where injustice was ugliest and fought for change. We used the courts. We used the voting booth. We used whatever we could to be heard, and we didn’t wait for our parents to do it for us. As a result, things you take for granted were made possible by my generation–Can you imagine, for instance, a “Whites Only” drinking fountain? I can. I lived with them until my generation made them disappear.

    Now you fault us for not rioting for 40 more years. But your generation, instead of continuing the significant changes my generation started, found it easier to pursue personal comfort rather than social justice. We passed the torch, but you blew it out. Notice how your article is a personal lament about how badly YOU, as a representative of your generation, have been treated. Yes, your generation is getting screwed, but much of the blame for that situation falls on your inaction, not my generation. In addition, your generation put your political faith in the two major parties instead of listening to those of us who knew better.

    I am not in total disagreement with the ideas you raise. I’m not an old hippie, lovingly replaying false memories of an idyllic past. My generation did fail the next one in some ways. I wish we could have done better passing along our passion and determination. We failed you there. I wish we could have handed down our deeply held belief that we could, in one generation, change the world. We failed you there too. Most of all, I wish we could have passed along our knowledge and understanding of human nature. Perhaps if we had given you that, you would understand us better now.

    If it’s any comfort to you, the Old Guard liberals like me were never fooled by Obama. We were not those people you refer to as waiting and hoping. None of my Old Guard friends can stand him, and we didn’t vote for him. You “progressives,” especially the ones your age, adored him and fell for his snake oil sales pitch. (As an aside, I’ll mention that I was recently asked the difference between a liberal and a progressive. “A progressive,” I replied, “is a fake liberal with no guts.”)

    As a final word, I’ll mention this: Just wait ’til your kids grow up. They’ll speak of you the same way you speak of my generation. And you’ll respond the same way I have here. Ha, ha, ha. History’s a bitch, ain’t it?

  8. russell olausen said on December 12th, 2009 at 12:13pm #

    Pray you don’t have any Abbe Hoffman’s in your generation but us cynics know you do. Make your leaders sign a blood pledge they won’t recast themselves when a more lucrative image beckons. Jane Fonda fits and just guessing B. Obama from a more recent “War is Peace” mold.

  9. kalidas said on December 12th, 2009 at 12:53pm #

    And let’s not forget Jane’s ex husband Tom (“i was a dupe for israel”) Hayden and all the many many others who are also (then and now) dupes for Israel and all things tribal$$$

    Hayden and Fonda are among the rare few leaders who weren’t members to begin with.

    Like Lenin said… “if you want to control the opposition, then lead it.”

  10. Jeffersonian-Socialist said on December 12th, 2009 at 9:50pm #

    The US troops are fascist buttlickers who gladly serve the capitalist wealthy corporations to exploit and murder vulnerable civilian populations overseas. The Iraqi and Afghani Freedom Fighters are doing the world a HUGE FAVOR by killing them.

    You will never change the fascist US government with peaceful demonstrations or the electoral process. The harder you try, the more violent the government response will be. Remember Kent State. The peaceniks who didn’t experience the sixties need to learn some hard lessons in the form of their own personal Kent State-type events.

    Then perhaps the current generation of peaceniks will wake up to the fact that the only way to overcome US fascism and weed it out of the US government and US society is with an all-out, Bolshevik-style, violent and bloody Revolution, complete with many thousands of public executions on the Washington Mall.

    You cannot use democracy to restore democracy in a nation that is no longer a democracy

    The USA has killed 20 million people throughout the world during the past 60 years. The USA armed and supported the murderous Khmer Rouge.

    US foreign policy is profoundly fascist, and as the likes of Panmearbig, Deep Red, and Kcuck have repeatedly pointed out to us, our US taxes go directly to fund genocide and fascism throughout the world.

    It’s way past time for us to put a stop to it.

    The real heroes are the Iraqi, Afghani, and Palestinian Freedom Fighters. The US, British, and Israeli troops are fascist butt-kissers.

    The only US military vets I respect are the ones who have thoroughly renounced the uniform, the service, and the government of the USA.

    We do not need or want help from loyalist veterans during the next American Revolution. Since they gladly served the cause of fascism, they cannot be trusted.

    A new Chevy Malibu is priced around $23,000.00. Add to this 8 percent sales tax, insurance, and another $1,000 in the city for plates and you have yourself one luxury automobile. The problem is that 50 percent of the people in the USA do not make $9.50/hour.

    The median income is $18,000. A decent home is $130,000. If your weekly pay should be your house payment, then a single-income family would be living in a $40,000 home. Houses are not $40,000 or even $80,000 in most cities in America.

    Without a resurgence of union wages and union membership and union power americans will have decades of poverty ahead. Perhaps a long, hard, cold winter will get the american people out in the streets to overthrow the capitalist system. Something has to give.

    .

  11. Jeffersonian-Socialist said on December 12th, 2009 at 9:55pm #

    Ronalda said:

    “I can’t even get a job! And I’m starting to get sick….you know ….inside (don’t tell the rest of my body, maybe it won’t notice). I have a little 3 year old boy – who can’t talk for whatever reason. And who doesn’t have any support system to speak of.”

    Damn, what a painful situation, if i was rich i would you send you some money. Because a real socialist should be like Jesus Christ, not only preach socialism but also share part of his wealth. But i am poor like you, i am not sick now but i am affraid of getting sick in this system because getting sick in America is too expensive. Only a United Front in America against corporate rulers can cure this situation but since americans are so divided, we won’t see a change any time soon

  12. onecansay said on December 13th, 2009 at 8:34am #

    Well, looking back on recent history, the only revolution that did acquire a better life style was the French Revolution. This worked for the fact their was no underlying agenda of population displacement. The Bolshevik were led by the great ruthless leader Lenin. Nowhere was there going to be equality. That type of society is nothing more than a dream condition of the oppressed whom fought for that very ideal only to be greatly disappointed once again. France may not have been perfect, and is slowly coming apart at the seams, but that revolution has outlasted the Bolshevik one. At least the French population had a good idea of whom the enemy was. Today the enemy is everywhere and nowhere. That is was the “War on Terror” is all about. Maybe bad dreams should be hanged in the “mall”. Do these dreams not also “terrorize” the population?

  13. kalidas said on December 13th, 2009 at 9:23am #

    The Bolsheviks are alive and well.
    That’s only one alias, don’t you know.

  14. Jeffersonian-Socialist said on December 13th, 2009 at 9:29am #

    One: you are wrong. Lenin was real good and the negation of fascism. The ones who fucked the Russian-Revolution were The Mensheviks and Stalin. So please read books about The Russian Revolution before commenting about it. That’s the problem of Americans. Americans love to give opinions about every thing without being informed first. For real information about The Russian Revolution of 1917 go to trotsky.net

    .

  15. kalidas said on December 13th, 2009 at 11:58am #

    So, my grandparents opinions, though they were born and raised there, were just chopped liver?

  16. bozh said on December 13th, 2009 at 1:47pm #

    Dan e,
    To me, it is better to make as many assumptions as possible, but i just need be aware that i am assuming, thinking, ideating, conjecturing, expecting, etc.

    Believing; i.e., guessing, is also OK as long as one knows [not believes, but knows] that believing is not seeing and thus not knowing.
    So, i suggest never fear your guessing-expecting and other thinking. So, expect or guess there is going to be nuclear attack on pashtuns any moment from now.
    Remeber that possibly not one human being, save truman et al, expected that hiroshima and nagasaki wld be a-bombed.
    Expect that US will be more fascist tomorrow than today. And not just US! Of course, one cld expect that america will be more democratic tomorrow than today.
    But there is one thing i do not expect: that i won’t be more stupid tomorrow than today. I am 78, thus losing cells daily. That’s not a political promise; it is a real life promise.
    tnx
    In short, dismiss nothing instantly; leave no stone unturned, etc. tnx

  17. Oregoncharles said on December 13th, 2009 at 2:17pm #

    As one of those baby-boomers, I absolutely agree with Matt: the biggest problem with the anti-war movement, and progressives in general, is too much gray hair (if they have hair) in the battle lines. For the fight ahead of us, we desperately need the energy and impatience of youth; after all, they have the most to lose. It’s really still the same people doing the work as in the 60’s. We’re getting tired and discouraged,

    especially when we see how few people of Matt’s generation are joining the fight. We’re ready to hand over the baton; who is there to take it?

    So I, too, am delighted to see that Matt is a Green Party candidate for office. More power to him, good luck in the election, and may you bring along plenty of your compeers. Obama has now lured millions of them into the political world and then betrayed them. Somebody has to give them a better option, or they (you) will be a lost generation.

    I also agree with his focus on the banks. For my generation it was the draft; for his, it’s debt. We’d be a lot better off without Wall Street; they’re parasites. Leaving them standing was FDR’s biggest mistake. If possible, take your money out of the bank and join your local credit union. It’s a much better deal and a socially responsible investment.

  18. Deadbeat said on December 13th, 2009 at 5:51pm #

    Here is a much better analysis of the situation. It’s an analysis of the crisis without the secularistic divisiveness that Matt engages with his.

    While Matt focus on the banks is good focusing solely in the banks minimizes the source of the crisist. Baby boomers, Gen X, Y, Z all got “screwed”. In other words the American WORKING CLASS got screwed primarily because since 1973 real incomes was held flat while the ruling class captured the profits from all the productivity gains. Those windfall profits in private hands was used against the working class and to take control of the political system.

    Unfortuantely the Green Party fails to examine that dynamic. Also Matt failure to examine Zionism and the role it played in the diffusion of the anti-war movement. Matt also fails to examine the real attack on the Left by the government in the late 60’s and early 70’s. The assination of MLK and Fred Hamption silenced Left-wing and radical voices leaving a vacuum for the kind of “Chomskyism” (phony leftism) that came in its place. Blaming Kerry and Obama for the currently situation fails to examine how the Left demobilize itself which created the vacuum filled by Obama.

    If Matt doesn’t realize the fallacies in his analysis his efforts will only lead to frustration and failure.