News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

When democracy fails

A Don Burnet photo  circulating on Face Book
One of the failures of the Democratic Party is explaining what has, in fact, happened to the American economy and what it means in terms of a political future.  A significant message has been obscured by the rattle and prattle of the "interactive" media and cable television, which embraces the rattle and prattle.  As a scholar of American literature and culture, I find that the message that is lost is one that explains the formation of America and is indelibly recorded in its literature.

A historian, Edmundo O'Gorman, stated that America had to be invented before it was discovered.  He examined the motives behind the immigration to America and what forces shaped it.  In looking at England, for example, an essential factor cited is that five percent of the people owned about 90 percent of the nation's wealth.  The people came to a realization that any kind of acceptable life not defined by oppressive servitude would have to be constructed in a different place where the rules of feudalism did not apply and the wealth and political power was distributed among the people.  

The rule by aristocracy (plutocracy, actually) obviates any notions of equality, freedom, or justice.  So, the idea of an America had to be invented and then a place had to be found to give it a try.  From the beginning, applying the concepts of American democracy was a struggle, but the founders understood the concepts and put them in the articles of incorporation.  The struggle to achieve those concepts listed in the Declaration and enabled by the Constitution was a bloody and arduous one.  The vestige of feudalism implanted in America was the plantation system manned by slaves.  The Civil War was in actual a battle over whether the racial divides and the class discrimination and oppression  of the feudal system would be allowed to exist in the United States.  Then it had to set about giving equality, freedom, and justice to those originally excluded:  women, racial minorities, differing cultural and sexual orientations.  And it had to build a wall between the secular democracy and those who think freedom of religion means the right to bring their sects into the governing system.  America was a force in the liberation and equalization of people.  It never has fully come to terms with the transgressions against the Native Americans.

The current resurgence of conservatism in America is a regression to those times of a privileged elite and a massive underclass that exists under its feudal terms.  We are back to a time when 5 percent of the people own 80 percent of the wealth and garner for themselves a similar ratio in the earning power.  The main reason we can't come out of the recession is that the forces holding the wealth do not want a recovery.  Instead it attacks those institutions which have elevated people in the struggle for equality and freedom and consequence:  public education, labor unions, and the liberal movement  in general, which has led the struggle for democratic equity.

Bob Schwartz has posted a George Carlin piece, complete with transcript, and correctly relates it to the protests growing throughout the nation. The Washington Post has a piece on the whys of the exorbitant executive pay in America, an elaborate justification for the return to feudalism. 

George Carlin's quick and incisive commentary can be viewed below: 

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States