A cycle? Or an explosion?

I often listen to my own podcast. Might sound strange, but one of my rituals, besides losing most of my nights sleep preparing a podcast, is to listen to it the next day as I ride my bike through town. I listen to try and hear what others might hear; an idea or an experience that teaches me something, gives me a new idea or leads to deeper questions.

Lately I’ve noticed a common thread; through all the podcasts about work, income, quality of life, and history. That common thread is the question of whether or not things are happening as part of a cycle or have we reached some kind of major confrontation.

I’m referring to the strikes but I’m also referring to the inequality in the world. I’ve read the reports, looked at the statistics, and listened to individuals tell their stories and their evaluations about this moment in history. The strikes around the world, pitting people struggling to make a living against companies or governments who also struggle to do what they think is necessary for the future. Pension cuts, job cuts, contract negotiations collapsing, governments against workers, corporations against workers, public opinion against strikers, the conflicts and alliances go on and on.

Of course I’m too young to make some bold statement that this is some unique moment in history. Whenever I ask more experienced people they give me a mix of reactions, that these things happen in cycles and this is just the return of old stuggles as old as time itself.

In a recent interview for a forthcoming podcast, I asked a very excellent journalist who covers labor, if he thinks we’ve reached some climax in the struggle to make ends-meat. He didn’t see it as a climax, yet he did talk about what a huge boom of interest there is for his work now more than ever before. More and more individuals want to know about their rights as working people, and have a clear idea of their wages and benefits and they’re using the internet to find out about these issues.

Still I’m left wondering… is this truly a unique moment in history? Is this more of the same or the return of some age-old cycle?


  1. November 27, 2007

    Part of me thinks it’s a cycle, but a difference of scale. Humans have never had systems this large and interconnected before. The problems remain the same but get hugely inflated.

    But another part of me thinks it’s something else. A real dark, malignancy of greed, shortsightedness, and insanity.

    It’s something best summed up with the current status of Detroit, the city I’m near. It was once the manufacturing powerhouse of the nation, the engine that powered the modern world we inhabit. This region also served as the foundation for the modern labor movement in America, creating and sustaining a strong middle class.

    Today, the city has refocused itself around a “casino-based economy.” There are three giant, Vegas style casinos open or under construction in the midst of urban degredation most Americans and many Europeans cannot imagine.

    Obviously, there’s more to all of it than this. But there you go.

    • bicyclemark
      November 28, 2007

      Chris! I know it sounds lame but in the face of such darkness your existence gives me hope. Detroit may indeed say alot about the state of the world. I should go find some good books about the motorcity.

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