Thursday, March 10, 2011

Our Serfin' Safari

From Morocco to Bahrain, citizens are demanding democracies in which everyone has an equal voice, and are overthrowing the authoritarian dictators who stand in their way.

In the United States, we are electing them.

One example comes from Wisconsin, where angry voters engorged by Republican fear-mongering elected Scott Walker as governor last fall.

Walker is a Reagan-worshipping conservative determined to enact the small government his corporate sponsors demand by doing things like “balancing the budget”. But balancing the budget is a Trojan Horse.

Balancing the budget is code for slashing programs that assist the poor and the elderly.

Balancing the budget is code for unplugging the middle class.

Balancing the budget is code for big, giant business unfettered by regulation or oversight.

Balancing the budget is code for fuck you.

But there are obstacles. Namely, Democrats and the people who fund them. Oh, and that irksome concept of democracy.

Democrats receive a majority of their campaign financing from unions. And it is clear to conservatives that in order to silence Democrats, unions must be crushed.

Big business has sought—and mostly succeeded—in eroding private sector union membership, either by relocating jobs to areas of the country where unions hold no sway, or by exporting them.

But government doesn’t have that option.

Public sector unions must be snuffed out via big, ugly confrontations. It’s a risk conservatives are willing to take, because when coupled with the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, the elimination of unions paves the way for Republicans to run—for all intent and purposes— unopposed.

Eliminate a Democrat’s funding and you effectively eliminate the Democrat. And who doesn’t think that’s a great idea?

If you believe that history began with the Kennedy presidency or the civil rights movement, you need to know there was a time when the middle class didn’t exist. A time when workers didn’t have eight-hour days and weekends off, much less paid vacations, health insurance and maternity leave.

The world was a handful of rich folk, with nearly everyone else an indentured servant to a feudal lord. People (or serfs) were purposely kept ignorant and in fear of an angry, judgmental god lest they saw things for what they really were.

The world somehow managed to progress to the point where even people not considered royalty could read or own land. And to conservatives, this is where it all went to hell. This is where the idea of democracy flowered.

People with absolute power didn’t give it up without a fight. Installing democracy demanded fierce, bloody and prolonged fighting where people died. With extraordinarily rare exceptions, kings and queens didn’t just give it to us. We took it.

This was also the cost of providing workers with their current quality of life.

In the formation of unions, lives were lost. More were ruined. Businessmen didn’t recognize them because it was the right thing to do. They recognized them when they had no other choice. It was the unions, or sometimes the mere threat of them, that drove business owners to relent and give workers a fair share of the pie.

But as the U.S. curdles into a society consisting of either somnambulant, ossified sheep or snarling, amoral jackals, this is changing. The entitlement conservatives love to whine about when addressing social programs and unions has crept into their vocabulary as well.

In short, they feel that you have too much of everything. That you’re stealing from them. And that must stop. And we, by voting for Republicans like Scott Walker, inexplicably agree.

While not lemmings hurtling ourselves off the cliff in a literal sense, we absolutely, positively are in the figurative one. Is there a more pathetic sight in America than a teacher and a department manager screaming at each other while the wealthiest of us get tax breaks and enjoy actual congressional representation?

Like the party that supposedly represents us, the middle class are dupes for the oldest political ploy in the book: divide and conquer.

The enemy isn’t the sheet metal worker across the street, or the teacher across town. The enemy are those who run Wall Street, oil companies, corporate banks and big pharma, and the naked, bankrupt shills who spread their ass cheeks for them in exchange for campaign funding.

Do we know the difference?

I don’t hate the wealthy. Or the powerful. Hell, I even believe some of them should be allowed to live.

Where I become anti-social is with the idea of absolute rule. That the United States become a corporate oligarchy, serving only the interests of its richest and most-powerful clients. A country by, for and of the wealthy.

It is said a people have the government they deserve. And as a distracted, cynical citizenry who are too busy to pay attention to politics, we certainly have that.

Now that we know the conservative agenda, and their ruthlessness and their relentlessness, are we still too busy to pay attention?

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