Wednesday, February 28, 2007

An E-mail to my friend regarding the future of America

As far as fortress America goes, we're already seeing it. More and more gated communities and McMansions in places with no public transportation. At least in NYC the rich and poor and everyone else live on top of one another. A bragging pink in a thousand dollar suit runs the real risk of being confronted by reality in the form of panhandlers, muggers, people yelling "yuppie scum!", sitting in vomit by accident on the 2 train, etc.

Until the sixties, basic necessities like food, shelter, and medical care were much cheaper and dropping out of society in one form or another (like getting a slack job and being reasonably comfortable within the outer lanes of the rat race) could be done. You could declare yourself a poet and pretty much skate by. My dad did it for 2 decades and still managed to retire comfortably after only 18 years of work.

Not now. Now it's dog-eat-dog, and all the dogs are hungry except the top ones, who aren't dogs anymore. They're parasites. And they eat whether they're hungry or not. In fact, they gorge themselves, on principle, since not eating as much and as fast as they can (and 20% more each year!) is un-American and the highest expression of freedom is overusing and wasting resources, and definitely not "sharing" - since the alphas are entitled to not do so.

Your comment yesterday that Americans deny the obvious class issues in our society is cogent. However, as Langston Hughes said, and I paraphrase, a dream deferred may explode. Denial is always punctured by reality, but mostly too late and when not much can be done. Just ask Al Gore. He's a two-time loser; the white house and the greenhouse, so to speak.

But consider: What's the incentive for people only slightly less educated than we are, who can't even get into a cubicle job, to behave themselves? My father is quite right to be puzzled why deperate hordes of poor people don't use violence against those at the top. Rest assured, if things get bad enough they will, or will try. And they will be gunned down as in bygone days. Shooting desperate Americans may be tomorrow's growth industry, and not just in Anbar province. Can the Gun-Toting Liberal be pursueded to abandon his causes and man the ramparts for Astra Zeneca, Phizer, Dow Jones?

Not me, Jim. I'm true-blue. And I like feeling morally and ethically accountable.

On the other hand... what are they paying over at Pinkerton's these days? And can I be paid in boullion, or is it only in company scrip?

My feeling, which echoes Noam Chomsky in terms of domestic policy, is that you cannot have a healthy democracy without a healthy labor movement, which in turn protects a healthy middle economic class. It's no accident that union enrollment is at historic lows, and that workers themselves trust their corporate parasite-masters more than union organizers. Chomsky calls this an unqualified victory by fifty years of corporate propaganda. Manufactured consent to be raped economically.


When the robber-baron era is in true, flourishing return, there will be a rebirth of class consciousness and a surge of an erstwhile labor movement. Not in outsourceable arenas, but in service industries. You can't outsource air-conditioning repair, supermarkets, shrinks, or even manicurists to Bangalore. Whether you can base a sustainable economy on these jobs is another matter.

As far as I'm concerned, the CEO may well be a decent person, but the dozens or hundreds of millions of dollars he receives makes him a detriment to the social fabric. If he was getting 90% of the potable water the results would be more visible, but no more risable (rhyming like Jessie Jackson, and me from Hymietown!). The Nazi party was filled with the banality of evil, too, and most officers in the SS, I suppose, were decent folk swept up in a very large movement; they were anti-semitic the same way as modern biznessmen love money: they generally abide by the law and if the law encourages amoral behavior, well, hell, they'll do as the Romans do.

This is a screed and you may well have lost interest by now. Just remember that a cushion of about a year, which you say you have, is not that bad a thing to be able to show for your years of labor. It would be like a sabbatical. However, I have a feeling if you walked away from the job today you might just drink and smoke yourself halfway to death -- and then have to go back to work anyway.

Better to think of it as a safety net for a fearless gamble -- toward more fulfilling work, not unmitigated leisure. You know full well how either of us would spend a year without daily structure: music, imbibification, more music, more imbibing...

I'd imagine that being tied to the wheel is bad enough, but trying to leap back onto it would only grind the gears.

Write back. For some reason I'm letting things go today. I'll respond.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is quite a screed, GTL!
The lower classes are not that close to rebellion, I'm afraid- the Madison Avenue image machine has too many people believing that they too might be rich some day- "all I have to do is win American Idol and I'm THERE!".
CEO salaries are what really get my goat, as they've risen so much more than the salaries of the rest of us. This is because of structural problems on Wall Street that nobody there has the incentive to change and that certainly won't get changed by the Bush administration: the corporate boards are staffed by CEOs of other companies, and they're all in on the game- giving more and more money to themselves in the ultimate "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" game. And it is now clear that there is no end to their greed- they seem immune to shame. I guess they're like professional athletes, in that the salary is just a way of keeping score and determining Top Dog status, rather than an indication of what they need to live on or earn in any sense of the word.
-Bossman Dan