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Two Americas September 3, 2007

Posted by littlebangtheory in Politics and Society.
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Most of you who read this humble blog live on the same continent as I do, speak the same primary language as I do, and either benefit from or struggle against the same government as I do (inarticulate, but you get my drift.) We tend to think this means that we all live in the same country.

But we don’t.

And the reason we don’t all live in the same country is that we’re either victims of or beneficiaries of the most pervasive and unassailable “-ism” of all: Economic Classism.

Must be nice:

rich-ones3-small.jpg

Not so much:

poor-ones1-small.jpg

The excellent progressive program Alternative Radio , which I listen to regularly on WAMC out of Albany, New York, recently aired a rebroadcast of a lecture given by Michael Parenti in Arcata, CA in 2006. His talk, entitled “Race, Gender and Class Struggle” added salient facts and details to my thin but gnawing knowledge regarding one of the most disturbing aspects of our culture and society, that being that the working people of the world are but grist for the merciless mill of the Filthy Fucking Rich (hereinafter referred to as “the FFR.”)

Mr. Parenti began his talk by noting that, even as we struggle for parity in regard to gender and race issues, we hold fast to the notion that “class” in America is a non-issue. India, we learn as children, has a rigid caste system; if you’re born a Dirty Dog, you’ll die a Dirty Dog. But in America, God bless our little egalitarian hearts, we learn at a tender age about Horatio Alger’s sunny jaunt from rags to riches, or more currently, about Po White Trash Little Billy Clinton’s ascendancy to The Throne.

So why, if we all have an equal shot at The American Dream, do we see such economic disparity among us? The average American CEO makes about $42,000 a day. I know many college educated Americans (including Yours Truly) who would be ecstatic to earn that much in a year.

Consider the properties pictured above, they being only a few miles apart. In one case we have a huge country home with a Garage Mahal, immaculate stables and finely bred horses; in the other, an unfinished dream which doubtless shelters exponentially more wasps than children, surrounded by rusting treasures on blocks. Who do you imagine works harder for their piece of paradise, the folks who peruse the trades for the best investments-du-jour or the people with the bloody knuckles, busted nails and bad teeth who eke out an existence salvaging parts from the cast-offs of the more fortunate?

Here’s another disparate pairing of American Dreams:

rich-ones-small.jpg

Acres of beautifully manicured lawns and gardens, with a subtly landscaped babbling brook and a guest house I lack the pedigree to occupy for one stinking night; and this nearby hovel

poor-ones2-small.jpg

…where a very old man lives alone, brilliant and fascinating by all accounts, but long since too feeble to take care of his little piece of heaven.

How the hell do we, as Americans, let this happen? What induces us to buy the lie that everything’s copacetic, while our grandparents live in uninsured squalor even as the better-heeled dine on endangered species?

The concept of class equality touted as the prevailing paradigm in America The Beautiful is a sorry illusion. As Michael Parenti states so eloquently, the very concept of “class” is irreconcilable with the idea of “equality.” “Class” presupposes a paradigm of servant and master, slave and slave owner, serf and Feudal Lord.

But while even the most despotic Feudal Lords recognized the symbiotic nature of their relationship to the pitiful masses who tilled their land and tended their herds, our current day Lords and Masters seem to care not at all for the men and women whose labors generate their fortunes. Gone is the concept of noblesse oblige, of a moral responsibility to the unwashed masses tied to an understanding of where one’s food comes from. Today, if the Lord neglects his field hands, the Global Economy will provide uncounted Chinese or Indian or Malaysian replacements. Today, if an old man outlives his productiveness, he’s considered an economic liability rather than a repository of the wisdom of a long life’s learnings.

Today, We The People sit transfixed in front of the Electric Soma as our children’s futures are sold to the highest bidder.

I don’t know how to fix this. I only know that I’m acutely aware that it’s happening, and that most of us either aren’t even vaguely aware of it or have been too neutered by our mass media to believe we can effect a change in this sorry status quo.

I for one intend to not go quietly into the blades of the International Harvester, to not wave cheerily as Ross Perot’s “giant sucking sound” blows my children’s futures away to a distant shore. I intend to go kicking and screaming for the whole world to hear, “Look! Look up there! It’s not the ten percent at the bottom who are sucking you dry, stealing your retirement, denying you health care! Its the FFR at the top, the one percent, the Money Changers in the Temple of your Dreams, the few amongst all the people in the Ancient World who moved Jesus to violence, the few amongst all the people in the Modern World who are benefiting from the rape of your brothers and sisters, your friends and neighbors, your parents, your children, you!”

I’m inviting you to join me in this last-ditch effort to make a difference, to take the penultimate step with me, to find a street corner, a coffee shop, an editorial page, a blog, a mountain top from which to spread the word, to swing the lantern, One If By Land, to wake the sleeping giant, to open its eyes, to make it see The Truth through the fog of obfuscations and lies.

Failing this, our last stand will be violent and bloody, and the Best will be the first to perish.

Pray that we will be heard and believed.

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Comments»

1. sherry - September 3, 2007

i live in an area that has always had the very rich and the very poor and everything inbetween within a 5 or 6 mile radius. i’ve seen classism my entire life. my dad was a trucker for a construction/asphalt company but i attended a school that had the kids of ceo of giant companies. us steel being just 1 of many. classism hasn’t gone away. it’s gotten worse since then. i grew up aware but what opened up my eyes and helped shape my ideals was a trip with my family driving to washington dc and going thru the south around 1963. i saw poverty that astounded me. i heard and watched the attitudes of people that were so convinced of the “rightness” of their bigotry, the casualness of acceptance of class and race disparities that it shook thru me to the soles of my feet.

it’s become couched in pc terms but it hasn’t gone away. some strides have been made, but truly, it’s pathetic how far we need to go.

a labor day rant from a union baby.

2. boxer rebel - September 4, 2007

I am with you on this CR. But I do differ slightly, I think it will take a revolution and possibly a violent one at that for things to change. I want things to change peacefully, I want to be able to make that change happen myself, but I know that those at the top the FFR will not relinquish that control without a fight. I think that we are heading toward some drastic changes in our society and I am not sure if they are for the good or for the bad. Or maybe I am just paranoid and I am feeding my revolutionary spirit.

3. littlebangtheory - September 4, 2007

BR, I’m pretty discouraged by our options for a peaceful revolution, though nothing less will stop the FFR, a.k.a. the “Neocons,” from completing their mission: to control not just the world’s wealth, but the lives and livelyhoods of her people. We’re nothing but a resource to them, and when we stop being a resource we become a liability.

The only chance I see for a peaceful return to government Of, By and FOR the people is if paralyzingly huge numbers of us “get it” and pull a “Gandhi” on them; a lesser showing (say, twenty million or so) will fill those shadowed Midwest prisons with the Leaders of Us Unwashed Peons, from Chomsky and Zinn on down to community organizers and rabble rousers like Melissa at Shakesville and anyone else who has popular support. Smaller fish (like me) will likely just be expected to go hide.

My hope is that once our proudest voices are silenced, every Good American will get it, and enough of us will risk our futures to bring this hegemaniacal juggernaut to its fat, sweaty knees.

I know it’s a long shot; but short of a bloodbath, which would make us (in the eyes of the FFR) all seditionists deserving death, it’s the only clean shot I see on the table we’re playing.

4. sherry - September 4, 2007

i believe in the way the civil rights movement went about things. with dignity and perserverence and organization.

tho i believe it would have to be in even larger numbers.

5. DCup - September 6, 2007

Wow, C.R. you hit this so far out of the park, you hit a football player in another season two cities over with it.

So well done.

6. littlebangtheory - September 6, 2007

Too kind, DC. Isn’t this just the way it has to be? You, and Sherry, and BR, and Phydeaux, we have the passion. With that, I believe, comes the responsibility to turn our ideas into reality.

My only tool is my voice. I’m gonna tell it to the mountains, and expect everyone else with a clue to do the same.

Spread the word, spread the truth, spread the power.

Love and Courage, -CR

7. Tengrain - September 7, 2007

Ah, you are well named, Cunning Runt —

After reading Howard Zinn’s A Peoples History of the United States, I can tell you that we never, ever were egalitarian. And it was never meant to be, either.

So what is the solution? I dunno. At times I think Boxer is right, but mostly now I think that if the economy goes into the crapper, the GOP goes along with it. This is their mess (with a lot of help from the Loyal Opposition), but mostly it is the GOPs to lose.

Maybe I’m too cynical tonight, but I don’t think so. Our founding was really about being gouged over the price of tea, so maybe being gouged over the price of gas will be the trigger event. Regardless of what the event is, I truly believe it will be based on economics way before it will be on our rights being taken away.

Regards,

Tengrain

8. Kelso - September 7, 2007

Brilliant stuff, Littlebangtheory. I come here via D-CUP. Thanks for your work and also for your response to Boxer Rebel’s frustration. I understand it. But I don’t approve. I’m not going to be mean about it, but being of Russian-Jewish ancestry, and having grown up in a CITY, I have a rather different vision. Maybe it’s an urban Jewish thing, but REVOLUTION is NOT something you joke about or take lightly. VIOLENT OVERTHROW OF A GOVERNMENT is not a movie. In order to be a successful revolutionary one must be able to kill a child or a police officer in cold blood and be willing to die himself. I hate to puncture the fantasy, but them’s the facts. You either ARE a revolutionary or you’re not. There is NO MIDDLE GROUND. I don’t like violence and I am not a revolutionary and I’m quite happy about that.

And I’m not going to hold anything back. I’ll tell you EXACTLY what I am. I am an ex-pat for practical reasons not for political statement. I have an MBA. I like to make money and I know how to do it. If someone’s leaving a $100 bill on the street, I’m picking it up. I’m a straight, white man of European descent. I am not a “liberal.” I am a “bad” person who likes to enjoy himself. I went to see the gamecocks at La Gallera recently and not with a protest sign. I was watching the weigh-ins, studying the tying of the gaffs and trying to either pick winners or find arbitrages. I like to go fishing. I like baseball. I like to hang around with my friends and stay out all night. I play high-stakes poker. I tell offensive jokes. In short, I AM THE ENEMY, exactly the kind of person you need to get rid of for a utopian America and — lucky thing — I’m gone. But it wasn’t you who got rid of me. That would be Senator Frist.

I am being ironic, of course, because your remarks about social class and noblesse oblige show a very insightful worldview. Social class, not race, is the American Social Taboo. With drugs a close 2nd. You mention Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. Odd you mentioned them. Because when their publisher THE NEW PRESS needed a pro-bono financial analyst to work through a complicated investment they’d been offered, they didn’t call the WELL-MEANING LIBERAL to do it. They called the capitalist, sexist, racist pig, who cares fuck-all if gamecocks live or die, and wants nothing to do with revolution to do the job — ME, because I KNOW how to ask sales people hard questions about their bullshit investment gimmicks. And I did it and continue to do it with delight because I like Chomsky and Zinn and Sherrod Brown and Lewis Lapham and all of their fine authors. And I admire the risks they take publishing whom they do. And their dedication. And I AGREE with their politics.

This is goofy to be sure but I am trying to make an important point. I like your Ghandi vision. I hope it happens before the disgraceful neo-cons get the world blown in two. But the point is this: life is more complicated than theory. Class-consciousness is crucial. But there will never be an “American Left” until “liberals” realize how many friends they have among the moneyed class and among the RIGHT.

See Sheldon Drobny for details.

For what it’s worth which is nothing. I don’t have a Garage Mahal. I like to live simply even though I love to make money.

9. littlebangtheory - September 8, 2007

Tengrain, thanks for coming by – I always appreciate reading your “take” on things.

I agree with your observation about our country never being an egalitarian paradise. Hamilton was a genius, but despite (or perhaps because of) growing up from humble roots, he was adamant about buffering the ruling structures of government from the uninformed whims of the masses. There was an assumed ownership of control which was brilliantly obfuscated in our egalitarian-sounding Constitution (think “Electoral College,” think “you can’t vote if you don’t own property and a penis.”) We were, I’m sure you know, his “beast.

But as far as the economy being the engine which will drive social and political change, I think the “dire straits” will crush the proletariat long before the FFR are down to three houses and an insurance plan with co-pays. And as long as the FFR are comfortable, I don’t think we’ll see any real change. I sense that the transfer of wealth from the creators to the collectors has a momentum and an acceleration which will resist limitation and regulation by We The People.

And Kelso, I come here through DCup as well. Well actually, the first blog I ever read was BlueGal, who “Blue” my mind and hooked me into the concept of real people trading real-time ideas. Pretty cool stuff.

But for whatever reason, I end my work day looking forward to what DCup has to say, perhaps because of her cogent and insightful voicing of the thoughts in my head. Thanks, DC. You’re my template for how to do it right.

Frankly Kelso, you scare me. Not because I think you’re a dangerous and brilliant nutcase, though that would scare me too, but because your replies are always long, complex and challenging for a guy who can’t read. That’s right – I’m illiterate, in a functional way. I can listen and understand, reason independently and draw conclusions to write about, but I have a terrible time with reading comprehension.

So, at present I’ve read the first few paragraphs of your no-doubt insightful and informed reply, and the last bit. I’ll get to the rest eventually, but right now I need to say this:

You and I have many differences, but more commonalities. At least half of the descriptors you applied to yourself in your reply above could have been said about me, though I’m a poor man who’s never been anywhere (well, not quite literally) and couldn’t make money if you gave me a Canon color copier. I abhor wagering of any kind, as I see it as an abdication of both our responsibility to the less fortunate (in a literal way) and an abandonment of the concept of earning what we get. But that’s just me; carry on, my friend.

But I wouldn’t kill an innocent person for a cause, or even to save my own life. I’ve heard you argue this position before, that talk of violent revolution should be predicated by a willingness to kill toward an end and not because of a value judgment about the victim of your actions, and found it both sobering and terrifying. Because frankly, I’m not sure I have the courage to die for my convictions, but I am certain that I don’t have the conviction to kill innocent people to attain my social or political goals.

This, I understand, leaves me at a serious tactical disadvantage with regard to the people who are willing to do those things.

So I’m not, nor was I ever (“Scuse me, Senator, If I’m stealing your material) advocating violent revolution. I’m just saying we may not see a return to constitutional governance without it.

10. Kelso - September 8, 2007

Why are you puttin’ me on? Nothing illiterate about you, son.

I feel very passioantely about this “revolution” business and I let my emotions get the best of me and pissed off a lot of people at BlueGal. So, I haven’t been back. As far as I can tell, there is only one person yet who was able to joke about revloution and make his political points cogently: ABBIE HOFFMAN (Writing as “Free”) “REVOLUTION FOR THE HELL OF IT”

My advice to any blogger speaking about revolution casually is to read that book and then decide whether you can make your point about revolution without advocating violence. In other words, ask yourself “can I do it as well as Abbie did?” If no, then be careful what you write and make sure you know what it means.

I’d like to come back to BlueGal someday but I personally can’t get past being told that “revolution” is a “metaphor for a change of paradigm.” And then get taken to task because of my tone, when I merely (albeit indelicately) advocated your more peaceful vision of change.

Ah well.

11. littlebangtheory - September 9, 2007

“I’d like to come back to BlueGal someday but I personally can’t get past being told that “revolution” is a ‘metaphor for a change of paradigm.'”

Kelso, my very good man, get over it. We The People need you to get over it. Allowing our pride to divide us over differences of opinion or style or whatever, while choosing not to see our commonalities, hands the Gold Ring to the FFR.

I’ve blogged about dialog being essential to the success of a Democracy, even of Civilization Itself, and particularly dialog with people with whom we disagree. We must keep the conversation going despite our differences.

I have the feeling I’m persona non grata over at BlueGal’s for a remark I made there which outed my “political incorrectness,” though no offense was intended. (Sorry for that, QD, I didn’t understand your personal situation.) Nonetheless, I’m more enamored of my shared interests with the BG crowd than my trifling differences, and I make an effort to stay connected, hear their views and express my own.

12. Mauigirl - September 9, 2007

Just want to say this was an excellent post and very thought-provoking. I came here via DCup and I’ll certainly be back regularly.

13. littlebangtheory - September 10, 2007

Welcome Mauigirl, and feel free to share your perceptions. I’m really all about dialog, and I do what I can to provoke it. So come on in, bring your friends, and let’s talk.

14. Kelso - September 10, 2007

CR:

Maybe someday I’ll try. You surely make a persuasive case for it. But I don’t fit on a liberal FOR PROFIT blog. The range of scheduled theologies is just too narrow for me. I am at once too far right and too far left to deal with it.

I can’t say what I think about U.S. taxes (too high) or financial regulation (too much) or inherited wealth (someone with money should be able to pass it down to heirs tax-free) on economics (everybody should know both Marx and Milton Friedman and make up their own minds) or AFDC welfare (bring it back) or abortion (free and with no-restrictions) or the military budget (cut it down the bare minimum) or the criminal justice system (rethink the whole thing, stop privatizing prisons, legalize drugs, end death penalty), or war (peace) or affirmative-action (get rid of it and bring back quotas, and if whites don’t like it they should work harder in school and apply to more colleges; reading to your kids wouldn’t hurt either), most of all ON FREE SPEECH (absolutist)…and on and on and on…How great you figure any of that will play over there? They are on the opposite side of every one of my views.

I’m neither dangerous nor a nutcase. I’m a peace lover and I’m very rational. But I express myself.

Look, I’m happy that centrist blogs like that are doing well. They’re making money, getting lots of traffic and moving up the blog chain. Mazel tov. Not what I’m about.

15. littlebangtheory - September 11, 2007

Kelso, my deep traveling companion, I’m really glad you’re here. ‘Cause you’re the kind of person I need to connect with, not entirely on my page but close enough to build bridges.

I think you’re wrong about the scene over at Blue Gal’s. They’re on board with at least 60% of the points you made above. Doesn’t that warrant dialog, or do you need 100% agreement?

And as for making money, BG would probably split a gut over that one! For whatever pittance she generates with her banners and ads, I can’t imagine it to be a retire-early scheme.

The positions you espouse which differ from my own are nonetheless valid, such as your take on inheritances. I’ll go a round with you on that, not to persuade you or to be persuaded, but to understand your position.

Hey, I’m falling asleep at my keyboard, let’s continue this at a future time.

16. Harrison Bergeron - September 20, 2007

I really like this posting and also the opinions expressed by those before me. That being said.

Revolution will soon be necessary. It is not really a question of can you kill police officers, or hold children hostage now but when the time comes. Revolution happens when a whole generation loses a realistic hope for retirement, home ownership, free and open society etc. Revolution is the other option from lay down and die. We are rapidly approaching this point. Which is exacerbated by the fact that many Americans can barely find our country on a map, much less understand history or politics enough to understand what is going on. What Americans do seem to understand is the emotion. And few things will evoke more emotion than the idea of the American dream being stolen by the FFR.


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