Ralph Nader’s new novel, “Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us,” offers an inspired and practical solution to our national and global problems. The story begins right after Katrina when Warren Buffett goes to New Orleans and spends a chunk of his fortune to help out. Fresh from that experience he convenes a meeting of other progressive-leaning and super-rich folk, including Ted Turner,Â George Soros, Ross Perot, Yoko Ono, William Gates Sr., Barry Diller, Bill Cosby, and Phil Donahue, Â toÂ “address the enormous mismatch of resources between citizen groups and the corporate supremacists.”
Nader makes his case in the most practical terms: many of the super-rich are decent people who want very much to do the right thing and use their wealth to make a better world. If they were band together, they would not only have enough money to take on huge tasks, they would not have to go through the solution-sapping politics of America’s demented “democratic process.”
But Nader didn’t have to write a whole book; he had me with the title. I’ve long believed that the real power to change our world would not come from the bottom up — though people-power, grassroots movements, and community activism will always be important.
The problem is that when populist movements try to usher in great reforms they invariably take on some of the traits and tactics of the ruling elites. The American revolutionaries create a system of white male privilege that engages in slavery and genocide. The French revolutionaries unleash a wave of terrible violence, worse than the royalty they revolted against. The anti-war movement in the ’60s likewise engages in destructive violence while its leadership turns sexist, racist, and authoritarian.
This is really not the fault of the individuals involved; rather, it is a structural conundrum. In order to beat the elites at their game, the revolutionaries must actually play the game, only better. In the process, they become that which they revolt against.
Violence has always provided the clearest example of this conundrum: if you meet violence with pacifism you are quickly destroyed, but if you meet violence with violence then, win or lose, you become infected with violence.
Which is why only the super-rich can save us: they are able to initiate, embody and model the deep systemic change the world needs and to do so in a way that is truly liberating for all. As I recently wrote:
There are only two ways out of this mess. The best solution is a bit counter-intuitive: Those who are at the top of the power-over pyramid willingly and freely come to their senses and do the right thing. This was (and still is) the great hope with Obama — that he would lead a top-down revolution that would change everything.
Those who rule via power-over must freely choose power-with. In this way, the revolution happens with a minimum of power-over force and violence. And those who are already committed to power-with do not have to sacrifice their principles. –[intlink id=”1713″ type=”post”]Domination Rules[/intlink]
The answer to Nader’s question is, “Yes they can!”
The more urgent question now: Will they?