Thursday, January 20, 2005

Class Warfare

one of the lenses through which to view history that i find instructive and informative, if not perfectly nuanced, is that of the tension between the peasantry and the nobility and its often cyclical nature. the peasants struggled to survive despite the oppression of taxes and such quaint practices as the "right of the lord of the manor to the bridenight." the nobles, in their arrogance, tended to squeeze out ever more taxes from the peasants and to treat them with increasing cruelty. when the peasants were sufficiently desperate they took up cudgels and pitchforks, stormed the castle, and killed as many nobles as possible. the nobles in turn sent out their army, comprised mainly of the strongest and most brutal peasants forced and bribed into service, to kill as many peasants as possible. the easy example is the french revolution.

it usually worked out badly if either side scored too decisive a victory. the peasants, though not stupid, may not have learned to organize quickly enough to defend against takeover by a neighboring nobility. the local nobility, lacking a sufficient peasant base, may have been forced to capitulate to a stronger neighbor. either way the peasants were bound to suffer the most. if a rough balance was struck, before the country was too much laid waste, life went on and the nobility may have learned to limit their oppression of the peasants. there have been and are now countries where sufficient of the noble (modern noble=$) class understand the full implications of noblesse oblige for their own lives, both morally and selfishly. the nobility of some countries were slow learners, thus another cycle was acted out, or those countries are gone. do you remember bohemia or dalmatia?

today the tension is played out between the haves and the have-nots, the owners and the renters. in european countries many of the haves are still the inherited nobility. china has a new dynasty, and the communist party leaders are the nobility and the larger population are still both literally peasants and have-nots. in those countries that have survived several of these cycles, mostly europe, the haves seem to have learned that they can maintain their opulent, even decadent, lifestyle if they allow the have-nots to become have-somes. the disparity between the highest paid and lowest paid in the usa is some ten times the disparity in europe. workers in europe routinely get six weeks of vacation, while the standard in the usa is two weeks or less. most industrialized countries have universal health care--not so in the usa.

while we still have a large middle-class in our country, they do seem oblivious to the sizable chunks falling off the bottom of lower-middle into poverty, creating more have-nots. our president was infamously caught on video telling a gathering of supporters "you're my base--the haves and the have-mores." we have seen the largest tax cuts benefit the very rich while we go to war. in response to a major attack on our country the president says "go shopping." we hear the lie that social security is in "crisis." something like 5% of our population owns somewhere over 75% of everything. the rich are so comfortable that they don't care if our government makes an unholy alliance with a radically fundamental christian minority, letting them dictate public morals in return for political support, as long as the rich can get richer. the wealthy can send their daughters to morally lax europe for abortions. how many "upper-crust" young men and women enter the "all volunteer" armed forces? inside walled and gated communities there are private police and fire departments, while outside, more and more cities small and large face budget problems necessitating cuts in police, fire, and public health services. whole states face bankruptcy. on the international front our "king" is depleting our treasury of blood and money to support his insane drive to dominate the ENTIRE PLANET. the smarmy little man, shilling for the oil barons, is spending the rent money, the nest egg, the seed corn, and not just incidentally trashing our good name.

are the peasants desperate enough to take up cudgels and pitchforks? well, not this peasant. not quite yet. i do despair, and i do see the fuzzy outlines of the velvet coup d'etat engineered by the guys in the smoke-filled room; the new, oh so discreet, nobility of the owners of it all, but the bigger population has inertia. the new world order has not yet congealed into reality. "it's a hard rain gonna fall" for sure. i am a pessimist, but i swear i see the current madness fraying around the edges. the stark economic reality of continuing deficit spending and imbalance of trade will hit with bad effect. it will creep in like the tsunami did in places, just a bit higher than most waves at first, then a chunk more, then a double high wave and on and on. how much sacrifice must our military endure? how many VA hospitals will close? we may not quite get, as a whole, what's really happening in iraq in our name, but we will notice when we see more homeless people, when our adjustable mortgages are adjusted up every chance, when we know lots of laid off people, when none of our schools has a library, when the dow jones tanks to 600, when inflation eats up every gain we've made for forty years.

the machinery of our governance is sore tried by rabid people on all sides poisoning the well of public discourse. we do not have to join in that foul endeavor. do not be shy to be honest and open. be aggressively ethical. be insistently civil. the reality-based community has an implacable ally---reality. keep pointing at actual events and economic facts.

i read and enjoy a lot of blogs and comments for information, opinion, humor and ideas. i would recommend and thank two of my favorites bloggers for challenging me to think deeply about our current political and moral situation. please go read cervantes and robert m jeffers .

dread pirate roberts



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