Old Meets New

February 26, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Activism, Society, Web

Last December, workers from the Republic Windows and Doors factory on Chicago’s West Side staged a factory takeover when denied over one million dollars in benefits when the factory closed its doors.  This was the first union factory takeover in over fifty years, the beginning of an imminent reformation of American unions, an old song rearranged.

This shutdown was preceded in November by the proliferation of spontaneous Facebook demonstrations across the country.  The gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender/transsexual (GLBT) community and sympathetic activists protested the passage of Proposition 8 in California by taking to the streets.  Crowds were created with online social networking tools, mostly Facebook.

The old Left and new Left are finding that old and new tactics are both appropriate in the current deteriorating economic environment.  The Obama campaign guided 14 million people on the use of online tools.  Many of these people are feeling empowered.  Many others, like the unions, GLBT communities and countless other communities, are feeling angry.

Collapsing economy, meet new tech.

Over the next few months, observe the oldest community in the Left, the unions, learning to use the newest tactic, online and cell phone technology social networking intervention.  At first, unions will view new tech, such as social networking, as only tools.  They will seek a way to make them do what the unions want to accomplish.  As the unions’ younger members and the children of these ancient organizers consult with their dads and moms, the unions will jump 70 years.  Control will be wrestled from the leadership and placed in the hands of the rank and file.  Another hierarchy coming down.

Collapsing hierarchy is starting to become visible several places at once.  Financial services have lost control of asset distribution.  Small businesses are loaning money, mostly by allowing credit, to other small businesses.  Barter is emerging.

Chain stores are beginning to close their doors.  Flea markets will take their place.  As auto dealerships close, we will fix our older and older cars with a trusted, often out-of-work, mechanic.

As advertising dollars disappear, the influence of corporations on mass media will withdraw.  A new media story line is emerging of economic problems being corporations’ fault.  It began with the late November media observation that all three carmakers flew to Washington on private planes.  All those car commercials weren’t keeping pundits from making news by observing corporate incongruity and hypocrisy.  This was not the case even a year ago.

This is more than a class war.  This is not just about a battle between the resource-less and resource-more.  In other words, this is not just a resource war.  Seventy years ago, it was union hierarchy against corporate hierarchy.  Not now.

This time it’s organized anarchy against hierarchy.  Old style unions and corporations are both coming down.

As the accordion of our economy collapses, the music made is quite different from when two hands drew the instrument apart.  The melody and harmony are no longer about just independence and freedom.  The music now is about independence and freedom within the context of community and interdependence.  As the music changes, all fall down.

To where each can see eye to eye.


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