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 MinneKota@gmail.com

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Choosing not to be a fool

That part of the nation which still labors under the delusion that the noises it makes are some kind of communication is in the throes of a massive hysterical fit over Edward Snowden.  Is he a hero, a traitor, or a self-sucking jerk off?

Who cares?  

The only thing that concerns the 99 percent, or at least should, is how to endure a new world order that holds them in serfdom.  Or more basically, to decide if one even wants to endure.   

Columnist David Brooks fears that the nation is caught up in cynicism.  He seems to ignore the fact that the choices left us are being cynical or stupid.  It seems better for most not to be a fool.  If you have to go down, it is at least better to understand what is pushing you down. 

Perhaps nothing is more stupid than the political debate under which the nation is submerged.  It centers on the idea that we can either live in a free capitalist society or a government-controlled totalitarian one,  Marxist per chance.  What those who engage in this bicker fest just cannot grasp is, what difference does it make to the 99 percent whether the force that determines the quality of their existence is a totalitarian corporation or a totalitarian government?  Have any of those people so outraged over what the NSA is doing checked their credit reports to see what kind of information corporate America is collecting and circulating about them? 

People who bicker and like to pass judgments on other people have been confounded by the Occupy movement.  They have denigrated it because it did not engage in any of those wasteful, pointless efforts that they think are mandatory rituals of activism.  Occupiers did not issue an agenda, they did not elect leaders to represent them, and when police took action against them, they chose not to be active.  The establishment thinks they were effectively vanquished.  That's okay.  Like Bartleby in Herman Melville's story "Bartleby the Scrivener,"  they have shrugged and indicated to the establshment that they "prefer not to" participate in its games and rituals.  

Some will condemn the Occupiers for not fighting the good fight.  But there is no good fight.  There is just pointless fights that resolve nothing and improve nothing.  The paradigm of this pointless waste of life and energy is the recent wars we have fought:  Viet Nam, Iraq, Afghanistan.  All they do successfully is kill people and generate hatreds that lead to more killing and dismissal of any sanctity or possibility for human life.  All we get in the end is a death count over which there is a mass clucking of tongues and an exchange of accusations and pseudo-rhetoric which corrupts the language.  

The epiphany of what we have become is the Great Recession from which some say we are recovering, but has, in fact, changed the country in irrevocable ways.  The big fact is that, according to Financial Times, the profits at the end of the Great Recession were 25-30 percent higher than they were at its onset, but wages as a share of the national income sunk to 58 percent.   The Occupy people confronted this fact and have chosen a course of inaction that will not result in angry, pointless, unproductive confrontations and more destruction of lives.  

A book was published this spring, Barbara Garson's Down the Up Escalator: How the 99 Percent Live in the Great Recession, that chronicles the way people's lives have been  changed and their way of coping with that change.  Barbara Garson, author of the satire on Lyndon Johnson, MacBird, is a master of what is known as the Wall Street Journal story.  It is a story that does not dwell on the theories and arguments about some  trend, but rather she lays out the facts of the trend and focuses on stories that illustrate how it affects real people and how they deal with it.  In this book, she relates how
"hard-working people are learning to make do with less money, less opportunity and less free time,"  and "show little interest in jumping on the treadmill required to keep up a middle-class lifestyle"  (L.A. Times review)

In one example she explores, a young college graduate watches his father who is a manager of a warehouse for a big box store have his wages frozen over the years while he is given more workers to supervise and realizes the company is trying to force him to quit.  The son has part time, rather menial employment, but decides to make it work rather than get on the hopeless treadmill he sees his father treading.  

Garson sees the beginnings of the Great Recession and its consquences beginning in the 1970s with outsourcing and offshoring of American jobs.  Then with Ronald Reagan's firing of air traffic controllers and officially embracing trickle-down economics, government joined corporations in the subjugation and economic disenfranchisement of American wage earners. One of the people she presents in her book is a Viet Nam veteran who frequented a cofee shop she worked at after he was discharged from active duty.  She relates he told her that in Viet Nam, "his company had stayed stoned the whole time. “Our motto,” he once told me, “was ‘let’s not and say we did.’”  That tactic of survival is in a way what the 99 percent are adopting.  They are surviving with what they have and doing without all those trappings that once defined the middle class.  Garson writes, “If the majority of Americans was earning less and producing more, who was going to buy all the stuff?” 

She says, "If you’re not a worker, not a consumer and you don’t earn significant income from investments, then you don’t have much of a place in capitalist society,”  And that is where the 99 percent finds itself.

Wage earners have been excluded from the opportunities that the middle class spent a century in building. As the KOS reviewer says:

We know the policies that would fix [America]. What we don't know is how to get there, how to overcome a broken Senate and a gerrymandered House and both political parties being more responsive to big money than to working people.
The response of the 99 percent is not action, but simply logic.  If you are excluded from partaking of the products of your labor, why participate in the labor?  By withholding participation and consumption, the establishment will eventually implode upon itself and fall into the black hole it has spent so much time and energy creating.  In the meantime, we can use those remnants of the economy available to us and use our "wit, shit, and grit" to get along.   

As the establishment falters, we can replace it with forms of government and a culture of sustenance that respects people and returns opportunities to them.

It takes patience and the spirit of creativity, quiet industry, and humor.  It will come to pass, and decency may inherit the earth.  

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