Popular movements, even in the age of concentrated wealth, money as speech, and corporate personhood, can still be a major force for change.
The major media outlets, of course, will never let you know that grass-roots progress is being made.
Fox News and CNN, among others, will not acknowledge the core messages of movements like Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, and Fight for 15, among many others; instead, they will denigrate the individuals involved, chastise the attire, hygiene, or general conduct of those fighting for change, ensuring that their messages are buried deep beneath nonsensical propaganda and fear-mongering.
And we shouldn’t expect them to play nice with these movements, as they are fighting against the very institutions which lay the groundwork for the system in which the mainstream media functions.
Corporate-bought institutions like the media will not admit defeat, and they will not hand over their power without a fight.
As Noam Chomsky observes,
Constructive efforts to overcome misery and oppression will naturally be blocked by those who benefit from their persistence, the great ongoing tragedy of the modern era.
Nevertheless, despite the concentration of political power at the top of the income bracket along with the ruthless distortion of their character and goals, popular movements are creating significant change and winning meaningful battles.
The Associated Press has just reported that, as a result of national outrage over police killings and brutality throughout the United States,
Twenty-four states have passed at least 40 new measures addressing such things as officer-worn cameras, training about racial bias, independent investigations when police use force and new limits on the flow of surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies.
The AP analysis of legislation passed in all 50 states found the greatest interest in officer cameras that can capture what transpires between police and civilians. Sixteen states passed body-camera measures this year, ranging from resolutions merely creating study panels to state grants subsidizing cameras and new laws on how they can be used. Numerous cities from coast-to-coast, including Ferguson, also began using the cameras without waiting for legislative direction.
These measures are not enough, though, we are told by activists fighting for institutional change.
They are right.
They are right to say that we must address institutionalized racism, mass incarceration, and the “War on Drugs”; all interrelated issues that have imprisoned poor minorities at an astonishing rate, confining them to lives of perpetual insecurity, hardship, poverty, and the bitter cycle of imprisonment.
They are right when they say that we have to create a more just system from the ground up, that the current system is inhuman and intolerable, that measures which hold police officers accountable are not enough to stop them from committing acts of violence and oppression.
However, it is not inconsistent to fight for meaningful change within the system, while also fighting to dismantle that same system and rebuild it from the ground up.
We have to act in the real world, not in a utopian fantasy.
The changes to the current system, like the 40 new measures enacted by two dozen states for the purpose of holding police officers accountable for their actions, will undoubtedly save many lives, rescuing families from the grief already experienced by many others in recent weeks.
There is still much work to be done, to be sure, and systemic problems must be addressed.
But the progress noted above will, to reiterate a most important point, save lives, and hopefully create momentum for more progress in the future. That is something to be proud of.
Negativity about the long road ahead can be a movement killer. Celebrating victories, while still acknowledging that there is a long way to go, seems to be the best way to strike a balance.