The other day I was passing through a coffee shop whose entrance adjoins the entrance to my office building. The entrance to the building was blocked by construction, so I naturally pass through the closest available public access - the coffee shop. A common, banal act that should never pose a problem for any citizen exercising his or her Right of passage and liberty of movement - or so I thought.
As I was attempting to pass from the coffee shop to the building, the manager physically blocked my right of passage. I questioned his action, and then denounced his right to prevent me from exercising my rights in a public place. But in order to avoid an altercation (and lower myself to his level of ridiculousness), I left the coffee shop, accessed the building through another entrance, and filed a complaint with the building management.
The next morning, as I entered the building (by the 'non-offensive' entrance), I kindly called attention to my efforts towards keeping "peace and harmony" by utilizing this entrance, and not creating further issue with the coffee shop manager. But, that I did so under "Protest!" as is my CIVIC RIGHT and DUTY. Considering the case closed, I did not give it further thought. (If you follow my blogs, you know I have bigger fish to fry -- and they are up on the hill.)
A few days later, I was shocked to learn that the coffee shop manager and building management had taken contention over my right to protest, and my right to denounce the incident in my blogs, or on the Internet. I further learned that they were initiating bullying tactics to prevent me from exercising my right to freedom of speech. But, what shocked me even more was the reaction of people who jumped at the chance to rationalize why I might have acted in a way that created, or inflamed, the situation. That I, the victim of clearly inappropriate, if not illegal, behavior was guilty of the altercation - 'pushed buttons' in me that were better left untouched.
The 'freedom of movement' and 'freedom of speech' are quintessential in any democracy, and while the legality/illegality of what the manager did is dubious under today's political climate - I know for a fact it was illegal 30 years ago. The degradation of rights in this country, and particularly in DC, has occurred for the simple reason that it has not been challenged by the legal or civil and human rights community (and press), domestically or abroad. Greenwald explains the dangers in this type of political climate in How Would a Patriot Act? "Ultimately, people will get the government they deserve. And our system of government and the individual liberties it so brilliantly guarantees will endure only if Americans, who are the beneficiaries of those liberties, take a stand for them and are willing to defend them when they are under assault."
Robert Reich re-iterates this same sentiment, in his blog, A Crisis of Public Morality, Not Private Morality, "At a time many Republican presidential candidates and state legislators are furiously focusing on private morality - what people do in their bedrooms, contraception, abortion, gay marriage - America is experiencing a far more significant crisis in public morality...."
I was 'floored!' -- Putting pressure on me to "recognize" my guilt, so that the abusive and offending party's 'reputation' and/or 'pride' might be 'restored.' C'est le monde á l'envers! The very people who should be bending over backwards to diffuse the situation, and hope that I would just 'walk-away,' were doing everything to call me out for a "Duel!"
This was like when the British asked John Paul Jones (my great-great-great.... grand uncle) to surrender in the battle between Serapis and Bonhomme Richard - calling attention to the fact that his response to this type of bullying was "Surrender be dammed, I have not begun to fight!" - see About Us of Global Expats.
What these people are doing here, are exactly the same bullying tactics I have been confronting in the Spanish judicial system for the past decade, with the Spanish government utilizing the same rationalization to justify their illegal action - "It's their Right because they can. No one is stopping them, so why not!" -- This is the mentality that reigns in our societies today, and why the world is in such dire straits.
While journalists, it appear have woken-up to the hypocrisy, double-standards, and corruption amongst elected-officials in the legislative and executive branches, they have not yet woken up to the fact that the same phenomenon exists within our judicial branches - at rate of 75-95% in Europe and North America. This means that not only are 75-95% of criminals set free to roam our street and continue their crime sprees in these countries, but the people incarcerated in their place (with the numbers in the tens of millions) are being locked up and tortured for nothing.
And, guess what for anyone who gets in a civil suit these days - including business deals and contracts. You too are exposed to this elevated negligence of the courts, and extortionist tactics of lawyers -- and judges.
The world is truly at a cross-road of humanity, and unless the legal and human rights community, as well as the mainstream media, begin to take an interest in, and become implicated in the issues with real live cases, rather than empty-rhetoric, false promises, and hot-air speeches - our democracies will continue to be under attack from global, right-wing extremism and terrorism.
In the case at hand, the coffee shop and building management are very aware of the fact that I have no legal recourse within American courts today - and even less, the laughable better business bureaus, and consumer protection agencies. In his book, With Liberty and Justice for Some, Greenwald exposes how this multi-layered 'justice' system functions - "separat[ion of] elites from ordinary Americans intensifies as one moves down the rungs of power and privilege. The rich and powerful are able to commit crimes with impunity far more easily than middle-class Americans; but similarly, middle-class criminals are far more likely to escape unpunished than the poorest among us."
In essence, court systems work much like our lotteries and financial markets; it's a pay-to-play game with winner take all, and the cards stack in favor of the rich-n-ruthless! - And, for the poor schmucks at the bottom of the totem pole, there is always solace in the 'trickle-up' reality that yacht-makers and the like, will never be un-employed. Or, as Matt Taibbi puts it in Gritopia,
What voters don't realize, or don't want to realize, is that [the American Dream] was abandoned long ago by this country's leaders, who know the more prosaic reality and are looking beyond the fantasy, into the future, at an America plummeted into third world status... These leaders are like the drug lords who ruled America's ghettos in the crack age, men (and some women) interested in just two things: staying in power, and hoovering up enough of what's left of the cash on their blocks to drive around in an Escalade or 633i for however long they have left. Our leaders know we're turning into a giant ghetto and they are taking every last hubcap they can get their hands on before the rest of us wake up and realize what's happened.
But, perhaps there is poetic justice to my story, and karma wins out in the end - I live in hope, at least!
Since, consumer protectionism is an oxymoron in today's world, with expatriates particularly exposed to abusive practices of retailers, and the problem of nowhere to turn for justice (and do not expect any assistance from your Consulates). The inter-active, yellow-pages business model (now called local-search directories) that I was creating almost a decade ago is now one of the most successful social media business models on the Internet. My silly altercation with the coffee shop manager just demonstrates the dire need for a website such as www.global-xpats.com.
This banal story, is also once more proof as to how all too many people in our society today, given a little power, will use it to manipulate, harass and bully people, rather than help, assist, and support others. Instead of wasting his time bullying potential clients, this coffee shop should have taken advantage of the fact that they had traffic being literally forced through it. Instead of wasting his energy on negative vibes and chasing away potential customers, the coffee shop should have concentrated on raising sales, and capturing clientele from their competitors across the street and around the corner -- Karma! n'est pas!?
What is truly revealing here is that the building management was not in the least concerned with the violation of my rights, or even about informing themselves as to the real facts of the altercation. Their only concern was that I might post a negative review on the Internet -a public shaming for the world to see. It was no longer the threat of a civil rights law-suit that intimidated this retailer or building manager - as was the case 30 years ago. These days special interest, in-bed-with-lobbyists, civil right orgs are a dime-a-dozen in DC -- with their primary function, it appears, to keep property prices up in Dupont Circle! (I've been knocking on these doors for 6 years, and they are all just part of the façade.)
Unfortunately, due to run-away corruption in the courts, the only recourse for citizens and consumers, apart from mob rule, is on local-search directories, like www.global-xpats.com. As Jennifer Jacquet explains in Is Shame Necessary? New Uses for an Old Tool, "Exposure is the essence of shaming, and a feeling of exposure is also one of shame's (the emotion) most distinct ingredients and intimately links shame to reputation.... But shame can also improve behavior..."
The competitive edge Expat Moms around the world have in confronting the present global economic and political crisis is that Expat Moms control about $10 TRILLION usd in global, consumer-spending, annually - noting that $10 Trillion is almost half the GDP of Europe, half the GDP of the USA, and the total GDP of China. Now that a lot of power - in countries that need a lot of change!!
Women 'United,' (particularly expats) have the potential to become a formidable economic, and therefore, political force - they just need leadership and direction. No other group of consumers hold the economic, and therefore, political power that mothers & homemakers hold in today's world, and it is high time that we start exercising and utilizing that power to create a new more peaceful, harmonious planet.
As the Managing Director of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, stated in her speech, Daring the Difference: The 3 L's of Women's Empowerment, "Remember, women control the purse strings. They account for over 70% of global consumer spending. So if we want more spending and more economic growth, then we need to empower more women as agents of aggregate demand."
I don't know if my altercation with this coffee shop manager is a sign from God, karma, or just a funky-funny coincidence - but after almost a decade of tilting at windmills and filibustering the State Department and White House with my incessant letters, I am starting to feel a shift in the 'Winds of 'War'....
Perhaps in the upcoming presidential elections we'll start to see some REAL discussion on the REAL issues facing this country and world, rather than a bunch of back-stabbing, back-scratching manipulations from a bunch of empty-headed, bullies. We have enough of that on every street corner & coffee shop in This Town - thank you very much!