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A Point About Privilege

16/03/2017

“Privilege” is one of those words, much like “theory”, that has a very precise technical meaning and a much looser popular one.

In everyday parlance, “privilege” means gloating or lording it over someone because one possesses something the others lack. “That’s her privilege” “He thinks he’s a privileged character” “It was my privilege to know them”

In common parlance, “privilege” packs
quite a negative emotional punch.

In its precise use in sociology and other sciences, it’s far more morally neutral.

Let’s tell a little story to illustrate the point using Sam and Pat.

Sam is a successful small business owner who uses a wheelchair.

Pat is an unsuccessful working-class level employee who is able-bodied.
Both Sam and Pat have to get their driver’s licenses renewed. Pat goes to the DMV, walks right up the steps and through the front door, takes a form off the rack on the wall, gets in line, and eventually receives a new license.

Sam has to locate the wheelchair access ramp, ask someone to hand down a form from the rack, gets in line, and eventually receives a new license.

After getting their respective licenses, Sam and Pat feel hungry.

Sam rolls across the street to a restaurant and orders a satisfying meal. Sam’s business is successful enough to afford spontaneous little things like this without worry.

Pat feels hungry, but hasn’t got enough for both a snack from the DMV coin op machine and bus fare home. The part time job Pat holds requires a valid driver’s license but doesn’t pay enough to afford even a cheap used car. Pat needs to decide whether to eat and walk home, skip lunch and take a bus, or do both because who knows what tomorrow may hold?

Pat enjoys what is referred to as “able-bodied privilege”. Pat never has to think about going up stairs, door access, where things are located, etc. because the world for the most part is set up to accommodate people like Pat who are physically able.

Sam does have to worry about such things, because unless somebody thinks ahead and designs the DMV building in such a way as to make it equally accessible for everyone, Sam personally needs to adjust to a world built for able-bodied folk.

Conversely, because Sam is reasonably successful at business, Sam doesn’t have to evaluate whether to spend money on a meal; Sam just orders it and enjoys. Pat does have to make that judgment.

And that, in a nutshell, precisely defines “privilege” in sociological terms: You can afford not to think about something because it doesn’t bother you directly.

It doesn’t make one a bad person.

It doesn’t mean one gloats or smirks or lords it over others.

It certainly doesn’t mean one doesn’t experience other problems and disappointments in life.

But Pat can ignore inadequate wheelchair access at DMV because it doesn’t affect able-bodied persons.

And Sam can roll over and buy a meal on the spur of the moment because making a choice like that presents no budgeting challenge to a person with cash.

Privilege.

You’ve got it.

No matter who you are, no matter what your background, you enjoy privilege in some shape, form, or fashion.

There’s nothing wrong with recognizing that.

Just make sure when you can, you look around and ask what can be done to make the world a bit easier for those who don’t enjoy what you’re able to enjoy.

You don’t have to give anything up.

It’s not a status symbol.

It’s just treating others the
way you want to be treated.

 

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A Post On Reparations

7/03/2017

You’re invited over to someone’s house for a turkey diner.

Maybe it’s your grandparents who are inviting you.

Maybe it’s those nice neighbors.

Maybe you’re coming empty handed, maybe you’re bringing a side dish.

Doesn’t matter.

You come, you gorge yourself on turkey.

You have a great time.

You feel full.

But then, as you’re leaving, you learn your hosts — be they your grandparents or just nice neighbors — stole the turkey from someone else.

And the person they stole the turkey from, they and their family have gone hungry.

Oh, maybe not starvation hungry, but hungry.

And what was once theirs was taken from them.

And you benefited from that theft, even if you didn’t know it at the time.

Now, do you seek justice for the victimized family?

Do you demand your hosts pay for the turkey?

Do you at least dig into your own pocket and pay your share of what the turkey was worth?

Or do you say it’s not your fault?

Not your responsibility?

The victims should have done a better job of looking after their poultry?

That other people steal turkeys all the time, and until those thieves are brought to justice the nice people who invited you shouldn’t have to pay?

One answer makes you a mensch,
one answer makes you a shit.

And you damn well know which is which.

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In The Bloody Decade After…

5/03/2017

As bitter as Clinton’s failure must feel to her, and as ignominious her and her husband’s fall from grace in the Democratic Party is going to be over the next two years*, in the end she will probably come to reluctantly admit it was better that Trump took the reigns and drove the country into the shitter than for her fingerprints to be on the controls in 2020.

Barack Obama will probably come to realize the same thing, that it was better for him to have been a thwarted figurehead for six years than to have actually enacted any programs, for had those programs not been instantly and obviously 100% successful, his place in history would have been tainted by them.

Now he goes down as a heroic champion, stymied by the incipient racism of conservative politics, a Kennedy-esque figure without the liability of actually having to get shot.

Like it or not, here is the problem:
Big Money, always a player, has taken control of the political system in this country and several others.

They are like professional athletes who have conspired to get all the refs and umpires thrown out of the stadium and regard the rulebook with contempt, playing the game as they damn well like and expecting the fans to love it and continue paying them exorbitant fees to do whatever they feel like doing and who gives a rip if the crowd likes it or not?

If that sounds stupid, it is:
Nobody except Big Money has ever claimed they were smart and Big Money’s proof of their intelligence are the huge piles of money they steal or extort from others.

If history is any example — and boy howdy, is it ever! — then they are going to get a bunch of laws passed to enrich themselves, another bunch of laws repealed or changed so they can avoid paying their fair share, and then everything will go to hell in a hand basket.

Smart Republicans — yes, they exist — are going about with forced smiles on their faces, hoping Trump runs things off the rails right after the mid-terms in 2018 so they can blame him** for screwing things up and position themselves to remove him from the ticket in 2020 and hopefully spare themselves from the ethics of retaliation yet again.

Trump’s negotiating history is this:
He finds a mark who wants to make money or otherwise get something out of the deal (acquire a property, etc.).

He makes grandiose non-specific promises and lets the mark fill in the details in their own head.

Once Trump gets what he wants, he disengages as quickly as possible. If the mark is lucky, the mark has gotten all or most of what they wanted. If the mark is unlucky, they have to deal with the people Trump hands off to.

If the mark is really unlucky, Trump stiffs them. They then face a range of options going from shutting up and accept being stiffed, settling for a lesser amount, or suing (and the whole gamut of options there).

Rarely does anyone take it all the way through court and successfully recover what is owed them plus attendant court costs.

Trump repeats this again and again. Eventually the word spreads and he runs out of easy marks. This happened to Trump in the US as US banks and investors, wary of his shenanigans, refused him money.

Trump is approaching foreign policy in the same manner, assuming his brashness and braggadocio will get him what he wants without blowback.

Unfortunately, he can’t walk off the world stage. To paraphrase a line in Watchmen, the world isn’t locked up with him, he’s locked up with the world.

He is dealing with people who have much different agendas than self-enrichment. World leaders are motivated by internal factors Trump has no control over, and which Trump can’t negotiate on.

He can offer a short changed investor pennies on the dollar, he can’t offer to turn a foreign nation’s internal pressure down.

His behavior, in fact, will only acerbate this.

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* Like it or not, they are tainted goods now, and for whatever valid advice they may be able to offer, it will have to be behind the scenes.

** You know he will loudly be taking claim for every good piece of economic news before then.

 

 

 

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The Enemy Is Not At The Gate But At Our Table

14/02/2017

The terrible thing about authoritarianism is that it robs one of moral agency.

That’s a fenchy-smenchy way of saying it takes away your individual moral responsibility.

“I was told…”

“The boss said…”

“According to the book…”

In each case the individual surrenders their ability to make a choice for good or ill and lets somebody else decide for them.

On occasion, this is good:
It speeds things up and prevents low level functionaries from making a mess of establish procedure.

But there’s also several magnitudes of difference between a check-out clerk who won’t give a refund without a receipt because of store policy, and a person who refuses to help a desperate person simply because the paperwork has been filled out incorrectly.

In the first case, one can always push it up to a manager or other higher authority figure; even if denied the person seeking the refund is unlikely to suffer great personal harm. In the latter, one may see that will befall a person, and simply avoid doing anything about it because one can hide behind authority. “Hey, I didn’t want to sends those Jews back to Nazi Germany, but their papers weren’t in order and the regulations are clear.”

Authority offers a comfort factor:
In an authoritarian environment, everybody knows their place.* Theoretically, when the old king dies the new king – even if only a child – immediately steps in, and things proceed in an orderly fashion.**

When many people feel their world shifting unfamiliarly around them, when they’re no longer certain or comfortable where societal boundaries lay, then they turn to authoritarianism.

A big hunk of this comes from fear of losing status, safety, and security to change. As human beings we are almost always more comfortable / less anxious if things stay the way they’ve always been.

“’Twas ever thus.”

But not everybody enjoys their current or past status, and many want that status changed, at least to the point where they feel safe and secure.

Too often those with the old mind set cannot grasp why they can’t continue acting and talking the way they once had — they have no problem with it and literally can’t imagine why anyone else would.

I remember in grade school, way back in the 1960s, hearing a sweet little white haired old lady ask after church, “Well, what’s so wrong with calling them n[bomb]s? That’s what they are.”

Racism is authority in the form of tradition: We have always had this system, ergo we must always have this system.

And since racism hinges so much on shoring up the status of the dominant group, it’s no surprise members of said group flock to comfort under certain authoritarian banners.

They want something to make them feel safe and secure, and gladly surrender heart, mind, and soul.

I am not a racist,” they proclaim, and in their specific definition that’s true.

But it doesn’t mater if you personally kick your neighbor’s teeth in or if you merely say nothing while somebody else kicks their teeth in if the end result is the same: Your neighbor gets their teeth kicked in.

We are now engaged in the opening salvos of a great test of our national character, one in which we shall see if we truly do believe in liberty & justice for all and loving our neighbors as we love ourselves, or will throw it all away in a desperate yet futile attempt to cling to a past that not only no longer exists, but never really existed in the first place and certainly can’t be summoned forth now.

There will be no neutrals in this struggle. There may be peacemakers, but those peacemakers will not be neutral.

We have failed — in fact, have been failing for a long, long time — our tests of moral character. We need to choose wisely so we do not destroy ourselves entirely.

Nobody thought Byzantium would fall…

…until it did.

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* And if that doesn’t sound offense and demeaning to you, it’s because you don’t feel the sting…yet.

** Theoretically. And that has happened on many an occasion. The pages of history, however, are well saturated with blood in all the places where it didn’t and pretenders to the throne went to war over heirs-apparent.

 

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Symbol Status

8/02/2017

[see “Two Sides, One Coin” and “A Walking Contradiction…”]

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There’s a concept called the hierarchy of needs and it basically boils down to this: As soon as your most basic level of needs are met (i.e., you have air / water / food), you forget about them and progress to the next level of needs (i.e., shelter and clothing for protection from danger and harsh elements), and then to the next level (i.e., securing a stable source / supply of those needs), and so on and so on until you get to the need for status.

And today, despite people complaining about crushing debt and limited buying power and lack of affordable health care, we are by and large living fat ‘n’ sassy and can afford to worry about status.

Our economic system has spent literally centuries telling workers that they were useless unless they produced wealth for someone else.

Even so-called self-made gazillionaires were producing wealth for investors and stockholders, not exclusively for themselves.

Anybody who tries going off the grid is dismissed as an impractical eccentric at best and a kook at worse.

Culturally, it’s even more daunting. It doesn’t matter if you are a bona fide hermit or a California nature lover or a self-contained religious cult or an early Delta blues musician or a jazz player or a rock’n’roller or a Greenwich village bohemian or a Beat or a hippie: If you opt out of the rat race, if you set your own goals, if you establish your own standards then you are suspect at best, despised most likely, and actively persecuted with depressing frequency.

We are expected to participate in the grand scheme of things.

The model created at the beginning of the industrial revolution is no longer viable:   Large numbers of human beings aren’t needed to grow food or make things; most of those jobs can be eliminated.

What do we replace them with if not a consumer society?
How can you have consumers if they have no money with which to consume?

The average human being travels in a relatively small community.

I’m not referring to actual physical location, but to the people who make that community up.

Most people have about 250 people in their lives whom they interact with enough to be comfortable with.*

Facebook and other social media lets us have thousands of ”friends” but in truth once one starts growing their Facebook friend list beyond a hundred or so people, one discovers those people are really fans or followers, people who find something interesting in your posts and keep an eye on what you’re doing.

Which is fine.

Nothing wrong with that.

But there’s a core of around 250 people who matter to us, even if they’re just Facebook friends or pen pals.

We want them to look favorably on us.

That’s status.

Real status.

Even among the world of celebrities and / or billionaires, there’s only 250 people they’re trying to impress.

They may want fame and fortune so that millions of schmoes will envy them, but having millions of schmoes envying them is how their 250 friends rank status.

We have an economy and attendant culture based on making / moving / marketing things.

We encourage people to consume things not for the obvious basic reasons of pure survival, but because by conspicuous consumption our status may be displayed to the rest of society.

Expensive shit stuff >means> “They make a lot of money” >means> “They must be important.”

We literally live in a culture based on this deliberate and incessant perversion of the Tenth Commandment: Thou shalt covet…

Our digital world is undercutting all this.

We no longer need to physically possess something in order to enjoy it.

We don’t need ownership for much of what we want, merely access.

So why do we need things to display status?

Consider a society / culture / world in which status was adjudged by doing something.

Hard to imagine?

Why?

That’s the world most people lived in the western world in the 17th, 18th, 19th, and early part of the 20th century.

That’s the world of classical Greece, of pre-Columbian American, of the Polynesian peoples.

A world rich with amateur and semi-pro athletics, of literary and art guilds, of amateur musical groups ranging from choirs to brass bands to full symphonic orchestras, of amateur theatrical troupes, of home makers displaying their skills and competing in local / regional / national competitions, of animal shows, of gardening clubs, of a thousand and one special interest groups, all built around the concept of their members doing things.

Read any history of popular culture in those eras. People worked hard, but had no mass produced diversions; they had to entertain themselves.

What happened to that world?

Consumer economy, that’s what.

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[to be continued]

* “Comfortable” here does not necessarily mean pleasant, merely that both sides know their respective roles in the relationship and can thus anticipate what the other will do in a given situation.

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007 in 008 words

2/02/2017

007 thunderball underwater cropped

kill all the men
boff all the babes

007 thunderball_art

art by Robert McGinnis

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The Impossible Dream lyrics by Joe Darion

21/01/2017

To dream…
the impossible dream
To fight…
the unbeatable foe
To bear…
with unbearable sorrow
To run…
where the brave dare not go
To right…
the unrightable wrong
To love…
pure and chaste from afar
To try…
when your arms are too weary
To reach…
the unreachable star

This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far
To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a Heavenly cause

And I know
if I’ll only be true

To this glorious quest
That my heart
will lie peaceful and calm

When I’m laid to my rest

And the world…
will be better for this
That one man…
scorned and covered with scars
Still strove…
with his last ounce of courage
To reach 
the unreachable star!

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A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall by Bob Dylan

20/01/2017

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?

I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?

I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?

I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
I heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
I heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
I heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
I heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
I heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?

I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded in hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?

I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Copyright © 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.;
renewed 1991 by Special Rider Music

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Trouble Every Day lyrics by Frank Zappa

20/01/2017

Well I’m about to get sick
From watchin’ my TV
Been checkin’ out the news
Until my eyeballs fail to see
I mean to say that every day
Is just another rotten mess
And when it’s gonna change, my friend
Is anybody’s guess

So I’m watchin’ and I’m waitin’
Hopin’ for the best
Even think I’ll go to prayin’
Every time I hear ’em sayin’
That there’s no way to delay
That trouble comin’ every day
No way to delay
That trouble comin’ every day

Wednesday I watched the riot…
Seen the cops out on the street
Watched ’em throwin’ rocks and stuff
And chokin’ in the heat
Listened to reports
About the whisky passin’ ’round
Seen the smoke and fire
And the market burnin’ down
Watched while everybody
On his street would take a turn
To stomp and smash and bash and crash
And slash and bust and burn

And I’m watchin’ and I’m waitin’
Hopin’ for the best
Even think I’ll go to prayin’
Every time I hear ’em sayin’
That there’s no way to delay
That trouble comin’ every day
No way to delay
That trouble comin’ every day

Well, you can cool it,
You can heat it…
‘Cause, baby, I don’t need it…
Take your TV tube and eat it
‘N all that phony stuff on sports
‘N all the unconfirmed reports
You know I watched that rotten box
Until my head begin to hurt
From checkin’ out the way
The newsman say they get the dirt
Before the guys on channel so-and-so

And further they assert
That any show they’ll interrupt
To bring you news if it comes up
They say that if the place blows up
They will be the first to tell,
Because the boys they got downtown
Are workin’ hard and doin’ swell,
And if anybody gets the news
Before it hits the street,
They say that no one blabs it faster
Their coverage can’t be beat

And if another woman driver
Gets machine-gunned from her seat
They’ll send some joker with a brownie
And you’ll see it all complete

So I’m watchin’ and I’m waitin’
Hopin’ for the best
Even think I’ll go to prayin’
Every time I hear ’em sayin’
That there’s no way to delay
That trouble comin’ every day
No way to delay
That trouble comin’ every day

Hey, you know something people?
I’m not black
But there’s a whole lots a times
I wish I could say I’m not white

Well, I seen the fires burnin’
And the local people turnin’
On the merchants and the shops
Who used to sell their brooms and mops
And every other household item
Watched the mob just turn and bite ’em
And they say it served ’em right
Because a few of them are white,
And it’s the same across the nation
Black and white discrimination
Yellin’ “You can’t understand me!”
‘N all that other jazz they hand me
In the papers and TV and
All that mass stupidity
That seems to grow more every day
Each time you hear some nitwit say
He wants to go and do you in
Because the color of your skin
Just don’t appeal to him
(No matter if it’s black or white)
Because he’s out for blood tonight

You know we got to sit around at home
And watch this thing begin
But I bet there won’t be many live
To see it really end
‘Cause the fire in the street
Ain’t like the fire in the heart
And in the eyes of all these people
Don’t you know that this could start
On any street in any town
In any state if any clown
Decides that now’s the time to fight
For some ideal he thinks is right
And if a million more agree
There ain’t no Great Society
As it applies to you and me
Our country isn’t free
And the law refuses to see
If all that you can ever be
Is just a lousy janitor
Unless your uncle owns a store
You know that five in every four
Just won’t amount to nothin’ more
Gonna watch the rats go across the floor
And make up songs about being poor

Blow your harmonica, son!

wotp-frank_zappa

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A Walking Contradiction…

9/01/2017

[see “Two Sides, One Coin”]

Before delving into why it will be more important to play than work as this century progresses, let’s spend a few more moments looking at the internal contradiction of the middle class trump voter.

Mother Jones recently ran an in-depth article culled from the book Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right on white Louisiana tea partiers and why they voted for trump. The author, Arlie Russell Hochschild, made an honest effort to understand the tea partiers, spending five years getting to know them and allowing them to speak for themselves.

However, as anybody who has ever watched Errol Morris at work, the way you strike gold in an interview is to just let the subject/s talk.

The more they talk, the more they reveal…

“Sharon also faced economic uncertainty. A divorced mother of two, she supported herself and two children on an ample but erratic income, all from commission on her Aflac sales [of health insurance to working class families]. ‘If you’re starting out, you might get 99 “noes” for every one “yes.” After 16 years on the job, I get 50 percent “yeses.”’ This put her at the top among Aflac salespeople; still, she added, ‘If it’s a slow month, we eat peanut butter.’
“Until a few years ago, Sharon had also collected rent from 80 tenants in a trailer court. Her ex-husband earned $40,000 as a sales manager at Pacific Sunwear, she explained, and helped with child support; altogether it allowed her to pay her children’s tuition at a parochial school and stay current on the mortgage of a tastefully furnished, spacious ranch house in suburban Moss Bluff. She lived in the anxious middle.
“And from this vantage point, the lives of renters in her trailer park, called Crestwood Community, had both appalled and unnerved her. Some of her tenants, 80 percent of whom were white, had matter-of-factly admitted to lying to get Medicaid and food stamps. When she’d asked a boy her son’s age about his plans for the future, he answered, ‘I’m just going to get a [disability] check, like my mama.’ Many renters had been, she told me, able-bodied, idle, and on disability…
“…Unable to pay an astronomical water bill, Sharon had been forced to close the trailer park, giving residents a month’s notice and provoking their resentment.
“In truth, Sharon felt relief. Her renters, she said, had been a hard-living lot. A jealous boyfriend had murdered his girlfriend. Some men drank and beat their wives. One man had married his son’s ex-wife. Beyond that, Sharon had felt unfairly envied by them. ‘I’ve been called a rich bitch. They think Miss Sharon lives the life of Riley.’ And while her home was a 25-minute drive away, the life of her renters had felt entirely too close for comfort. ‘You couldn’t talk to anyone at Crestwood whose teeth weren’t falling out, gums black, missing teeth,’ adding that she gave out toothbrushes and toothpaste one Christmas. ‘My kids make fun of me because I brush my teeth so much.’
“To her, the trailer park both did and did not feel worlds away. For one thing, a person’s standard of living, their worldview and basic identity, seemed already set on a floor of Jell-O. Who could know for sure how you would fare in the era of an expanding bottom, spiking top, and receding middle class?”

A pause before we continue:
If you want the summation of the ills of this country, indeed the ills of the Western world, look no further. The slickee boiz and the demagogues both prey on the same fundamental Achilles’ heel, the stark terror the middle class feels at the thought of slipping from their precarious position and sliding even lower.

It is how this country, particularly the southern states, managed to keep a lid on disadvantaged poor whites* by deliberately suppressing and demonizing African-Americans, shoving them down to an even lower level of cultural depravity, then telling the poor whites they were “lucky” (read: “Better behave yourself, boy”) they were white, otherwise their disgrace and degeneration would be absolute.

It is how that lid is maintained to this day, fostering resentment among an anxious middle class that “they” — whoever those unworthies are — are not just stealing from the middle class but actively threatening them by undermining their status.

And conversely, the 1% — like a slick con man shilling the rubes with 3-Card Monte — diverts the lower classes’ attention and thought away from the real owners and instead directs it towards the struggling middle class as the authors of lower class misery.

” As we drove from the trailer park to her home, Sharon reflected on human ambition: “You can just see it in some guys’ eyes; they’re aiming higher. They don’t want a handout.” This was the central point of one of Sharon’s favorite books, Barefoot to Billionaire, by oil magnate Jon Huntsman Sr. (whose son ran in the 2012 Republican presidential primary). Ambition was good. Earning money was good. The more money you earned, the more you could give to others. Giving was good. So ambition was the key to goodness, which was the basis for pride.
“If you could work, even for pennies, receiving government benefits was a source of shame. It was okay if you were one of the few who really needed it, but not otherwise. Indignation at the overuse of welfare spread, in the minds of tea party supporters I got to know, to the federal government itself, and to state and local agencies. A retired assistant fire chief in Lake Charles told me, ‘I got told we don’t need an assistant fire chief. A lot of people around here don’t like any public employees, apart from the police.’ His wife said, ‘We were making such low pay that we could have been on food stamps every month and other welfare stuff. And [an official] told our departments that if we went and got food stamps or welfare it would look bad for Lake Charles so that he would fire us.’ A public school teacher complained, ‘I’ve had people tell me, “It’s the teachers who need to pass the kids’ tests.” They have no idea what I know.’ A social worker who worked with drug addicts said, ‘I’ve been told the church should take care of addicts, not the government.’ Both receivers and givers of public services were tainted — in the eyes of nearly all I came to know — by the very touch of government.
“Sharon especially admired Albert, a middle-aged sheet metal worker who could have used help but was too proud to ask for it. ‘He’s had open-heart surgery. He’s had stomach surgery. He’s had like eight surgeries. He’s still working, though. He wants to work. He’s got a daughter in jail — her third DUI, so he’s raising her son — and this and that. But he doesn’t want anything from the government. He’s such a neat guy.’ There was no mention of the need for a good alcoholism rehab program for his daughter or after-school programs for his grandson. Until a few days before his death Albert continued working, head high, shame-free.”

There in lays the other part of the equation, the secret by which the 1% manipulates the working and middle classes: We have a society that teaches one’s value and status can only be determined by the amount of money you make working for somebody else.

[to be continued]

*  Referred to by the aristocracy who imported them for labor as “poor white trash” literally from the moment they stepped off the boat.

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