16th November 2011
Though Americans pay lip service to the idea that "all men are created equal," as Jefferson put it in the Declaration of Independence, we have always taken huge inequalities for granted. Obviously, some of us are smarter, stronger and prettier than others. Jefferson's point is that the playing fields of society should be level enough for us all to participate in games that are essentially fair.
Now, again, the shock waves from the contradiction between our ideals and our practice are destabilizing our world. The Occupy Wall Street movement calls attention to the "1 percent" who control 40 percent of our wealth, and a rigged political system that protects their interests. The other "99 percent" include not just the unemployed, the marginal and the ill but the whole middle class.
In America protests are spreading to other cities and college campuses. But the issue is worldwide. In the UK, demonstrators call attention to the disparity between the support government has given bankers and the drastic cuts in social benefits for students, workers and ordinary citizens. The Arab world is marked by challenges to the hegemonic power of its ruling class. In Spain, the "indignatos" have taken to the streets. Israelis are camping out in Tel Aviv. Indians protest corruption in Dehli. Dozens of protests are erupting.