I assume most are familiar with the parable of the boiled frog. Briefly, just to refresh your memory, a frog placed in a cool and comfortable body of water that is continually rising in temperature will not sense the incremental temperature change from the immediate past to present moment and remain in the water until death. However, the same frog, placed in a body of water that is too hot for survival will immediately leap out.
For more than 30 years there has been a downward trend in the household income of the vast majority of people (yes the 99%) while the income of the remaining 1% trended upward. Fortunately for the remaining 1% benefiting from this widening income gap, the gradual decline (i.e. year-to-year incremental change) in real income among the majority of citizens went largely undetected—people don’t realize how hot the water is getting.
Gradualism Abruptly Ended
However the greed among the 1% who created the mortgage-based casino game to feed their addiction to ever increasing monetary gain led to the disastrous 2008 financial collapse. It punctuated what had been an insidious trend. Accordingly what had been previously tolerated and/or unnoticed was now brought to the conscious awareness of a sizable portion of the 99%–all of a sudden it got a lot hotter.
Because of capitalism’s grounding in material self-interest maximization, this situation and situations like this are inevitable. The insatiability of material gain—one can never have enough—and the auto-correlative nature of competition—winners are most likely to win next time—make for the perfect storm. This is especially the case in a society wherein the wealthy has the greater voice.
Since the 1% really needs the cooperation of the 99% for their game playing to continue, it is now up to the frog. Does the frog continue in the same body of water—continue cooperating in the same system—with only the promise from those—the 1% winners—in control of the temperature that they won’t do it again? Does the frog demand that those in control of the temperature be constrained in the changes that can be made to the temperature? Does the frog demand that the control of the temperature be taken out of the hands of the 1%? Does the frog demand that a different body of water—a different system—be provided that would ensure a livable environment for all to enjoy?
Truth, of course.
For a long time, the constituents of the system could have seen “taxation without representation” at work. Sound familiar? Freedom comes with responsibility… but so does the role of elected. Ultimately however, they choose to favor those with money and power also… the winners collaborate to build even more advantage. (Perhaps the right word is conspire.)
But how do you get a nation thats a bit too comfortable to rally together against such a system. Would tossing all incumbents be sufficient? With the media so manipulated or just useless, also caught up in the money over the responsibility… Do we have any tools that we could truly use effectively?
The Tea Party and the Occupy movements both come from this realization and this anger. I watch the presidential debates… and they are tripping over themselves to win. Its embarassing to watch or even acknowledge, that our great nation has come to this.
Perhaps it is human nature and nations really can’t endure for long without foundational upset. Perhaps failing to collapse the system, the powerful always bolster their position at our expense. Our own disfunction seems to also exist in other parts of the work. We consume resources as if their is no limit and no consequence and we rationalize for how we have been so selfish.
We have as a populace abdicated… but perhaps this is something that can almost be banked on. But our leaders have abdicated more and they are ultimately charged by us to act in our interests. The large corporate interests need to lose their voice and we need to insist on it. The only path I see is holding our elected leaders accountable.
My own thoughts… we put them on a timetable. Elections happen later this year. The deadline to do a right thing… putting some bank execs in jail… whatever… but something reasonable. Maybe the Tea Party and Occupy movement could collaborate instead of belittle each other. And maybe we can find some new leaders among the people – instead of the firmly entrenched.
In project runaways or organizational turnarounds, the effective leaders disrupts the pattern… in major ways. They shake the system to see what falls out. What an idea!
I don’t have much sympathy for the frog in the “Boiled Frog” metaphor. The frog is a metaphor for a society that is slow, stupid, mean, and infatuated with its own superiority.
In the past 30 years there have been segments of American society that have been falling into the abyss. This trend was met with the misplaced enthusiasm of “social Darwinisim”, and an idea that the survivors (the upper, and the shrinking middle class) were just more deserving than the poor, the black, the undocumented, etc.
So, back to the boiling frog. If the frog was too stupid to deal with the rising temperature, what guarantee is there that the frog will even be able to make the correct decision? I say, the boiling frog really has no choice but to ask a frog that has already jumped out of the pan for guidance.
As a metaphorical frog, I jumped out of the pan 20 years ago – so what does that tell you.
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