Thursday, June 14, 2012

Left Side of the Aisle #61 - Part 2

Attacks on the Commons: Government is not your enemy, the 1% is

The past couple of weeks I have talked about what I call the Commons, that range of our social and political culture where the common interests of our society lie, that area where all can obtain benefit, all can take part, and all have some responsibility, each to the other and to the whole. I have also talked about attacks on that idea, attacks on the idea that we as a society, as a people, have common, that is, community, interests and responsibilities. It seems now that every week brings a new example, a new illustration of that attack.

This week, it comes from Witless Romney. He was, it was reported, "skeptical" of PHC*'s take on the economy. "Obama" - this is quoting Romney - "Obama says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Did he not get the message from Wisconsin? It’s time for us to cut back on government and help the American people."

There are a number of things about this statement that anyone with a brain and a conscience should find repulsive. One is the obvious one that he's saying that even as our population grows, we don't need more fire fighters, more cops, more teachers. Which is absurd on its face.

The second is that he is in essence saying not only that fire fighters, cops, and teachers aren't "helping the American people" but that they aren't part of "the American people." That they are separate, apart, that they are "not us," they are "them," they are "other."

Which brings me to the underlying point here. He referred to fire fighters, cops, and teachers, but I'm sure he would be willing to add public health nurses, sanitation workers, even bus drivers, and more - because they all have one thing in common: They are public employees. They work for the government.

Attacking government is a linchpin of the attack on the Commons because government is the most obvious symbol of the Commons; more than than, it's a central player in maintaining the Commons, in maintaining the possibility of being a society instead of an atomized collection of individuals, each isolated from and in competition with all others. Sometime ago I said that the ideal of government is that it is a vehicle through which a people act on their ideals. Obviously, I expect that all governments across history have fallen short of that, which is why I call it the "ideal." It's what you're shooting for. It is the idea of government. Which is why the attacks have slid so smoothly from ones on "big government" to ones on the ordinary people who work for the government, who do the public jobs. Because it never was about "big" government, it was never about making government "more efficient," it was about the very idea of government, about the very idea of the people of a society being able to work together for their own mutual and joint benefit.

Now, this is not new: Literally 30 years ago I was denouncing that I called
political programs that appeal to the worst in our cultural heritage, that speak to selfishness, competitiveness, suspicion, and a "what's-in-it-for-me" attitude.
I accused the right wing of seeking
to arouse a meanness of manner and selfishness of soul among the American people, to divide us against ourselves, empty us of compassion, and make what the British call "I'm all right Jack" our national motto.
That is,
they want you to think of just yourselves in isolation: You're working, you're not hungry, your mortgage hasn't been foreclosed, so the hell with everybody else.
A little later, I added that
that's why they speak of the personal but never of the public; of self but never others; of us and them but never we; of family but never of community. In fact, they're afraid to talk of community, because that means to talk of social obligations, of moral commitments to what you could call a type of extended family that goes far beyond their circumscribed view.
Let me pause for just a moment here to answer the question that you may be - legitimately, should be - asking: Who are "they?" I'll be blunt: I'm talking about the right wing and even more than that the rich, the economic elite - the 1%, if you will.

Now, don't anyone dare to write me claiming I said that every single person at that level of wealth is evil and citing some single seeming exception as a supposed ultimate disproof of everything I said. You'll only make yourself look lame, so don't bother.

I am not saying that every single rich individual is a money-grubbing, greed-driven, sociopath whose only concern for the rest of us is how we might be of benefit to their personal bottom line. I just saying that as a group, as a whole, those people are money-grubbing, greed-driven, sociopaths whose only concern for the rest of us is how we might be of benefit to their personal bottom line.

And the thing is, that economic elite, both individual and corporate, that elite is now essentially in charge of our government and the higher up you go in the level of government, the greater the control becomes. We saw that just the other day with the release of a batch of emails detailing how the Obama gang negotiated a deal with the pharmaceutical industry to get that so-called health reform law - better called the Health Insurance Industry Enrichment Act - passed and how as part of that deal the O crowd gave away the one thing that could have significantly and immediately reduced the cost of medicine to US consumers: the reimportation of drugs, now, still, specifically banned by law despite the absence of any safety, medical, or health-related reason - except, that is, the healthy profits of the drug companies.

Those sorts of I hesitate to call them concerns usually get a friendly reception in Congress, which is not surprising, considering that according to the Center for Responsive Politics, 249 current members of Congress, about 47% of the total, are millionaires and the estimated median net worth of a current US senator is $2.56 million.

Those are the sort of people who have the power now. They are. We have to face that. But they have a problem, a perpetual, on-going worry: There are a lot more of us than there are of them.

That's why they want you to feel isolated. They why they want you to feel alone. That's why they want you to feel that government is "them," that government, that everything to do with government, is "other," is separate from you, is somehow alien and even threatening, that government, as they will openly claim, is the problem. Because they know, they know, they know, that the one thing that can affect their power, the one thing that can provide a counterweight to their power, is an aroused citizenry acting through their - our - government.

Why do you think they promoted, moved in on, and then took over the Tea Party movement? Because those people had been successfully conditioned, if you will, to be predisposed to seeing government as an enemy. So the movement could be and was rather easily redirected away from its initial anger, which was directed pretty equally between government and the banks, to becoming strictly a "government bad, not government good" movement that could offer a facade of populist anger while actually serving the interests of the elites.

At the same time, why do you think they were to terrified of the Occupy movement? Why were they so eager first to dismiss it, then to mock it, then to undermine it, then to crush it, and now to insist it is dead and buried? Because Occupy identified - identifies, I should say - the issue, the enemy if you will, as concentrated wealth. As concentrated economic power, a concentration that has grown dramatically and continues to grow as all of our increases in our total national wealth continue to line the pockets of the rich even as the rest of us suffered a record decline in wealth between 2007 and 2010. Don't forget, it was the Occupy movement that introduced the idea of the 99%. So why are the elites so scared of Occupy? Because it aims at the right target.

Fire fighters, cops, teachers, public health nurses, sanitation workers, bus drivers, the scientists at the EPA, the clerks in the bowels of some state's bureaucracy - these people are not your enemies. And while our present overseers, our present governors, may well be our enemies, government is not.

*PHC = President Hopey-Changey


No comments:

// I Support The Occupy Movement : banner and script by @jeffcouturer / (v1.2) document.write('
I support the OCCUPY movement
');function occupySwap(whichState){if(whichState==1){document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}else{document.getElementById('occupyimg').src=""}} document.write('');