Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Class War

According to numerous reports, the US Treasury and Federal Reserve have pumped upwards of $14 trillion to support failing financial institutions. There are approximately 100 million households in the US. So if you divide that $14 trillion by 100 million and that means that each and every US household could have been sent a check for $140,000.
-Michael Thornton

We're not allowed to talk about class war in the United States.

Some of it has to do with our founding mythology. We like to see ourselves as having broken from the old European model of stratified society, in which the social class to which you are born is overwhelmingly likely to be the one in which you spend your life and die.

Some of it has to do with the Cold War, because the class struggle was and remains a revered trope of our Socialist enemies (not that they're really our enemies anymore in any realistic sense, but we hated on them so long that we're still not allowed to take any of their ideas into serious consideration, lest they infect us like AIDS or teh gay).

But mostly it has to do with this: the class war is already being waged and won, and the winning side doesn't want the rest of us wising up before it's too late.

For a good thirty years after WWII revitalized the American economy, things got better for everybody. Wages rose as productivity increased. The GI bill put college in reach for previously unheard-of numbers of Americans. You could support your family of four with a job in a factory, and know that when you'd put your twenty or thirty years in you would be taken care of for the rest of your life.

Sure, we still had rich folks, but the gap between the haves and the have-lesses was less gratuitous and obscene. As the economy grew, as it did each year, everybody made more money, right up til the early '70s. Since then, real wages have stagnated.

But the economy kept growing. So where did all that money go?

Into the hands of the super-rich.

Sure, they already had more money than they or their heirs could spend. But they wanted more. After all, when you have all the money and the sprawling masses don't have enough to feed themselves and pay their bills, it gives you a great deal of leverage. Leverage you can use, among other things, to hijack the national discourse to your advantage. You can pay smart, morally compromised people to come up with seemingly good reasons that the fruits of our collective national labor and effort should rightfully go to those who already have more than they or their heirs will ever need, instead of, say, to guaranteeing that nobody falls below a certain level, to sharing the wealth around more broadly, which would do all sorts of psychological and social good.

The truth is simple. We're not allowed to talk about class war in the United States because if we do, we'll realize that it's already happening. That is has always been happening. That throughout the history of human civilization, since the first tribe stayed in one place long enough to grow its own food, thus guaranteeing their survival and allowing some of its members to do things other than hunt and gather, there has always been a parasite class, who through monopolies first of violence and later of ideas arrogates to itself a greater than is rightful share of the fruits of the tribe's efforts and labor. Who takes more than it deserves because it can, leaving less for the rest of us.

We're not allowed to talk about class war, because the super-rich own most of the voices in the national discourse, and they do not want it spoken of, because they've been waging that war since time immemorial, and winning. They are a cancer on the body politic. And just as cancer eventually kills the host, through arrogating to itself more of the body's resources than the body can stand, so too does the parasite class sicken and weaken the American body politic.

Now let me be clear. I do believe in capitalism. Healthy competition keeps animals and organizations fit and capable, and drives innovation and progress. But capitalism is like fire. When channeled appropriately, it can be incredibly useful and productive. When left to burn unchecked, it consumes everything in its path, destroying all and leaving only ash and devastation in its wake.

The Reagan Era, which it seems perhaps we are on the verge of getting past, finally, after thirty long years of everybody getting fucked in the name of unfettered free-market capitalism, can and should be seen as a particularly effective and successful maneuver in the age-old war between the parasite class and the body politic. Despite its flaws, I believe that the passage of Health Care Reform signifies an important sea change, a tectonic shift, if you will, in the meme wars that serve as a proxy for the actual one.

A recognition that everybody, simply by dint of being American, deserves a safety net, a fair share of the fruits of our collective prosperity, enshrined into the law of the land and never to be repealed, despite how the parasite class and their mouthpieces and dupes might squawk.

It's a hopeful sign. An important victory. But without the collective recognition of the larger picture of the forces at work and the stakes over which they are struggling, it's not enough, and never will be. To borrow a right-wing trope, you can't fight a war properly if you don't recognize you're at war.

It's about time we did.


JC said...

I would add that I hope one day we all realize the extent to which we are contributing to the redistribution of wealth. We all buy all the stupid shit they're selling - from cigarettes, to sex, to corporate news, to skinny jeans. Wouldn't it be grand if Americans actually DID live up to the rugged individualism of our forefathers and actually instituted a boycott of all this plastic sugar-coated crap in favor some something more real? Something more homemade? Until every single person acknowledges their complicity, the struggle will continue. Until we put down the cheetos and start doing it ourselves, those of us who try to pretend they are cut from the same cloth as those bayonette toting minute men are just living a sad, pathetic lie. But that was already obvious as hell.

dallas taylor said...

hear f-cking hear.