The governments of the western world are playing a dangerous game with their people, and they don't even realize it.
In the recent days, weeks, and months, we've seen discontent everywhere from Europe to North America. This is no surprise. The economy is lurching from crisis to crisis, the stock market is doing its best yo-yo impression, and regardless of whether there's officially a recession or not, unemployment is everywhere higher than it was a few years back.
So people are upset. They want change. They want things to be fixed.
And what are we hearing from our elected leaders?
Sit down and shut up. Broadly speaking, in a democratic country, there are three ways to effect change. You can go to the ballot box. You can protest. Or you can strike.
Let's take them in reverse order.
In Britain, a general strike by public sector workers this week was aimed at protesting cuts to pensions.
It is the largest one-day walkout in generations, with the workers upset that they're being asked to pay more, yet wait longer to get fewer benefits.
What was the British government's response to this?
"The strike is not going to achieve anything, it's not going to change anything," said British treasury chief George Osborne.
This is the response that has been coming from governments around the world, and here in Canada, too, when workers talk about striking or trying to hold the line against austerity measures.
Then there's protest. The Occupy Wall Street movement has been swept out of the parks and plazas it took over in most major North American cities. But while it lasted, it was a pretty big deal.
The response to Occupy from the government? Well, those on the centre-left have been supportive . . . verbally. Their lack of action is telling.
At least the right wing has been honest, with Newt Gingrich telling protesters to get a job and a shower. Ah, feel the raw contempt! He'll make a great president.
So protesting doesn't work, and striking is scorned, but what about voting in a new bunch?
Well, that doesn't seem to make much difference, either.
And as far as I can tell, there's no western political movement, of the left or the right, that is free of blame. They were all more or less in favour of the policies that got us into this mess; they only varied on how fast they were willing to kowtow to the big banks and shyster mortgage lenders.
So what's left? When protest and democratic change are exhausted as options, the traditional next step is violence. Which is why the contempt of the rulers strikes me as suicidal right now.
Violence is not likely to make things better. The record of violent revolutions has far more failures - the Reign of Terror, the October Revolution, the March on Rome - than successes.
I think our leaders have forgotten the past, and are therefore doomed to repeat it. We were in this situation just after World War One, and it gave us Soviet Russia and Fascist Italy.
We got there again in the 1930s and got Nazi Germany. In the 1960s, we got the Paris riots in '68 and the Weathermen. Since then, mass political violence has fallen off sharply.
But if A, B, and C fail, some people are going to choose D.
And D stands for death and destruction.