Americans love sports. They love watching football and baseball games. I live in the SF Bay Area and I depend on BART rail transit almost everywhere I go. Even though I have no interest in sports and don’t know much about them, I know when the games are on as I experience immediate changes in the familiar scenery of my commute.
Whenever there is a game the station is transformed into a kind of zoo, or maybe like a shopping mall. The train is packed with people wearing uniforms and Giants hats. They are filled with excitement, finding kindred spirits sharing cheers for their team.
I must say this is a rare time for me to see this kind of passion in American people. Other than at sports events, people are rather subdued. Most Americans I know don’t seem to pay too much attention to what is happening in Washington. With massive bailouts going to Wall Street and harsh budget cuts, many don’t seem to care or even know how those policies impact their lives.
American people have passion. I see it. They get up out of their couch to go watch the game and support their teams. I wondered what would happen if this zest that I see was directed into the civic arena. What would be possible if all those people that jammed the train go out to the street and express grievances toward the actions of their government?
Perhaps something might change. Grumbling of the masses on the street could break down the elitist walls of Capital hill and force Congress and the President to finally hear the voices of the people. I cannot foresee the future and I have yet to see this passion for sports be translated to real civic action, to demand fundamental system change. Yet, I must admit there was one time I saw excitement toward politics got closer to matching the rabid sports fever.
With the chants of “hope and change” and flags of “Yes we can”, something similar to American’s love for sports was called forth during the 2008 presidential election. It was as if the whole country was transformed into a football stadium, with people waving red or blue flags cheering their favorite quarterback.
The presidential candidates are like football players with powerful and fashionable uniforms designed by Nike, Exxon, Starbucks and Monsanto, dressed up by millions of campaign donations from the moneyed elite as they enter the stadium. The name of the game is “American Democracy”, where each party puts on a show to prove how strong and fast they are to score points to win the game.
But nothing seems to change when the government playoff win goes to a different team. People are simply watching the game and never actually participate in it. Indeed the stadium is closed and the game appears somewhat rigged. Behind the gate, we are given the role to cheer and watch. It is not a fair game and really like a show between the two parties as no other colors are allowed to play, despite the fact that participation by other parties would not technically be breaking the official rules by entering the stadium.
The whole logic behind this exclusion from the game is the idea of ‘representative democracy’. One has to be qualified to be ‘chosen’ to represent people. The idea simply is “You are not capable enough, we will play it for you”.
But the truth is those players do not represent people. The game is a kind of show business sponsored by corporations. What the taxpayers got are wars for profit and oil during the Bush administration and the largest transfer of wealth ever from the poor to Wall Street and banks under the current Obama presidency along with even more wars.
After being exiled from the field, the domesticated masses obediently watch the game and wave flags. Most people never dare to think of participating in the game or calling the whole arrangement into question. Anyone that doesn’t toe the line is dismissed as a pariah or spoiler like Ralph Nader, is called irrelevant like Ron Paul, or too naive and uneducated like idealistic youth.
In the middle of 2010, audience madly cheered for ‘hope and change’. Soon the euphoria wore off and many were feeling betrayed by that new quarterback that had promised to tackle and fight for them. Then something happened.
A little known organization called WikiLeaks suddenly emerged into the stadium and grabbed the teams and the audience’s attention. The WikiLeaks founder, a white-haired mysterious dude managed to enter the field and interrupted the game. He is no Goldman Sachs, no Obama-like charismatic politician, no Uncle Tom for the Ivy League elite. He was not a powerful manufactured celebrity groomed for consumption (Heck, he was even homeless!).
But this happened before our very eyes. He got hold of the ball and ran in a totally different direction. The Collateral Murder video showed what modern war really looks like on the ground. People worldwide began to see a new horizon; the goal was justice and to reveal the true enemy that stands in the way of this goal.
The real awakening with WikiLeaks was that ordinary people can enter the stadium of the media and politics and even change the game. Many simply realized that the gate to the field is broken down with transparency. They saw the goal on the citizen side wide open. No one had been protecting it and corporations had an open field.
Julian Assange threw the ball in the air. Now the ball passed the midfield. Security guards for the apologists for power such as the US officials, the New York Times and the Guardian are trying to tackle him and get him out.
Attempts to prosecute and silence WikiLeaks have continued. Assange is now under house arrest in London without charges. Alleged whistle-blower Bradley Manning has been in jail without trial as if those who control the game are trying to intimidate the audience. There is clear desperation in the attempts to hide the fact that the gate is now open. The message is –“Look at what happened to those who dare to enter the field, you will be next”.
But it seems the rules of the game have changed. No matter how the establishment tries to put on a facade of control by attacking those who are now in the stadium, the gate is already opened. More people are finding their way into the public arena.
This generation is burning the mass media to the ground. We’re reclaiming our rights to old history. We are ripping open secret archives from Washington to Cairo. We are reclaiming our rights to share ourselves and our times with each other, to be the agents and writers of our own history. We don’t know yet exactly where we are but we can see where we’re going. – Julian Assange
The online collective Anonymous and its affiliates are catching the ball that is still in the air. These actions are changing the rules of the game. In spite of this, many people are still behind the gates like sheep eating grass in a familiar comfortable lawn, not realizing that the cage is open and they are free to move.
Others feel the excitement of this newly acquired freedom and wonder what to do from here. WikiLeaks invited all who feel shut out from democracy into the stadium. They showed the real game that is yet to be played, the battle for Democracy between Corporations VS United Citizens around the world.
The economic and political events seem to be saying outwardly that justice is losing and greed and abuse of power is winning. Is it too late? -too early to say. WikiLeaks released material pushing the ball across the center-line. We need to move it forward. First those who are willing to do the research and journalistic work need to do the heavy lifting of the material to tell the stories. Then lawyers and those who are driven by justice need to dig into the evidence of crimes and create a case. All the while artists around the world sing and speak freely to enliven the cultural sphere, cultivating compassion that makes it possible for us to share the suffering of the world. All this together can bring justice into the court of public opinion.
“We have it in our power to begin the world over again.” – Thomas Paine
With social media networks like twitter, citizens around the globe now can pass the ball of justice and collaboratively move toward a shared goal. The world has already changed. The force to build a true democracy cannot be stopped.