241. all that’s unfit to print: unchained dissonant melodies

 

 

Oh the chains and uniformly planned strip malls that blacken the highways of our country! I’ve opined against them previously, how they suck the marrow out of local economies and pump up the bloodless pressure of Wall Street profits. I do despise the corporate model of business as usual wherein the top 2% of our population control something like 50% of the national wealth. Where CEO’s earn 260+ times more than the average employee while the average U.S. worker’s income has grown a sickly 5% in the last 35 years. Let me quote someone else’s data.

The Wealth Distribution

In the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2010, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 35.4% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 53.5%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 89%, leaving only 11% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one’s home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.1%.  Edward N. Wolff at New York University (2012).

If you tried to draw a distribution curve for this data, it would not resemble a bell curve but a water slide at Hershey Park. (The slide in this picture is aptly named the Insano. It’s in Brazil.) What’s wrong with this economic set up?  Let’s see, the folks at the top who mostly inherited their vast wealth tell the little people at the bottom to work hard and believe in the capitalist system that is totally tilted against them. “Try harder, Amigo. You can doooo it.  Whoops. There goes another one. Poor people are so slippery.”

Here’s another way to look at it. The graph below shows how CEO’s income has skyrocketed since 1985, from 24 times more than the average worker to 262 times more in 2005.
When I look at these facts, I wonder if we have moved beyond the Middle Ages feudal system or plantation slavery. Just close your eyes and imagine an entire cow or pig being roasted. Enough to feed 100 people who all work together. It looks and smells delicious. When it is fully cooked and just dripping with irresistible juices, meat falling off the bones, the CEO’s family takes the top cuts up to 35%. After the select cuts are served to them, the professional staff totaling 19 folks feast on the rest of the carcass, leaving a paltry 11% of the roast beast to be divided among the remaining 80 folks. Bones and knuckles, pig’s ears and tongue, tail and cracklins. Maybe you’re lucky and get the hog’s maw.  Oooh, Boy!!  Yippee skippy.  Life is so fun at the MASSAH’s table, uh, wait, I mean at the end of the fiscal year when profits are not shared and excuses are made for the folks on the slippy slide of downward mobility. Why is it that the corporate model always winds up looking like a ski slope? Why is there no upward pull for the average worker when obviously there is abundant money for the top shelf company officers and shareholders? The Dow Jones is at 17,200 today. A record high. Who benefits from this success?  A damn special few. These proud American corporations register off shore to further avoid paying U.S. taxes. C’mon. When is enough enough?
I don’t want to be angry about the situation. I haven’t seen anger solve too many problems in my life. I’m not screaming “Revolution” or “Kill the Czar”. I know this same sort of crap happens in communist countries and third world dictatorships. Human nature sucks at its core without God. I guess that’s it:  these statistics and trend lines are documentation of the godlessness of our time. And churches are no better. There is a similar hierarchy in larger churches where wealth flows upward and sticks.
I remember Nixon’s phrase in the early 1970’s, “trickle down economics”. Why is it that taxes are vacuumed upward from working people but benefits must “trickle down” to the little people after splurging on the rich?
The economist John Kenneth Galbraith noted that “trickle-down economics” had been tried before in the United States in the 1890s under the name “horse and sparrow theory.” He wrote, “Mr. David Stockman has said that supply-side economics was merely a cover for the trickle-down approach to economic policy—what an older and less elegant generation called the horse-and-sparrow theory: ‘If you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows.'” Galbraith claimed that the horse and sparrow theory was partly to blame for the Panic of 1896.
My friends, we are sparrows, feasting on the pooping end of the horse. There is a dark twisted theory called social Darwinism that comes out of the application of evolutionary theory to societies and levels of folks in societies.
Social Darwinism applied to a social context too, of course. It provided a justification for the more exploitative forms of capitalism in which workers were paid sometimes pennies a day for long hours of backbreaking labor. Social Darwinism also justified big business’ refusal to acknowledge labor unions and similar organizations, and implied that the rich need not donate money to the poor or less fortunate, since such people were less fit anyway. ( Running cuz I can’t Fly Blog)
 Ah, it’s a wonderful thing indeed when you can control all the wealth and then all the media that explains life to the knuckleheads who slave away for the system that eviscerates them.  Read “Fast Food Nation” for a starter. It’s sickening, folks, really. I love my country and hate its distribution of wealth at the same time. The top of the wealth slide never gets any bigger although it continues to grow higher and higher. As it ascends to God’s heels, the speed at which poor folks are repelled away from prosperity increases. Shame on us.
Look, I am not poor. I’m not buried in debt. But I see that so much of America is unnecessarily burdened by the current robber baron system at work.  Tax me more. Pinch my growth. But don’t let another American slide away from a vital life. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
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209. False springs and genocide

It has happened, my little bloggnats!!! yes, a warm day and windows wide open here at my office. Noisy life is thumping outside, calling squinty-eyed cave dwellers like me out into the wondrous sunshine. 70 degrees and suddenly life is languid again behind last year’s dusty sunglasses. Even though I see on the Weather Channel that snow is coming on Thursday and maybe again next week, I’ll take this false spring day as the dirty snow piles melt away. Ahh, spring sun, the golden gift from God.

Blue crocus flowers

But what’s really exciting is I had my first blog hit from Namibia. How weird is that? I had read a book last fall about planned genocides. Namibia was one of those extermination zones where self-righteous German soldiers hunted down and slaughtered the indigenous people of southwest Africa and stole their land and cattle. I’m sure the English would have done the same if they’d had the chance. Genocide is not particular to any people group, though the British were very skilled at it; so were Americans when it came to the pesky Native peoples. Now, my patient blogicianados, I’m sure you are wondering if there is any sort of connection between false spring days and genocides.

Namibia

I have a personal theory about perfectionism and genocide. It seems innocent enough when someone ( a perfectionist) has high standards and wants others to comply with these noble goals of theirs. The superior minded begin trying to educate the dull witted masses about their superior ways. When they are met with resistance, the superior ones begin punishing the resistors. They change the rules and laws. Resistors and their sympathizers are imprisoned and then executed. It’s a clean, neat, and thorough program. The perfect plan turns into a perfect genocide, because after all of the perfectionists’ pure efforts, the resistors can not be re-educated so they have to be eliminated. The darn Aztecs could not become Spanish Catholics. The nomadic Africans could not get the whole German thing. The Australian aborigines didn’t do well in Victorian society. Solution? Kill them.

Ahhh, but that’s all history. It’s just short of sultry outside right now. I’m thinking of a beach as each car passes on the main drag across the alleyway. I mentally translate their dull roars into waves breaking on warm sands. Birds are tweeting about. Life is blooming again, except it’s not real yet. Nasty winds and cold are going to whip this watercolor painting into a frozen placemat at the bottom of a trash can by next week. It’s too soon, people. Like 14 year olds in love– no roots, no bark, no strength to endure the savage elements that will follow. Teens tend to be fervently idealistic due to their lack of experience and maturity. They believe in all or nothing choices and resist negotiations and compromises. When you are thoroughly convinced of the moral rectitude of your position, why negotiate or discuss it? Just like the Spanish conquistadors, the Brits around the world, the Germans, the Serbs, the Turks, the U.S. cavalry… they knew better and with absolute certainty. And so they proceeded with absolute arrogance to exterminate resistors to their ideals.

For some reason famous spring storms come to mind, where folks thought winter was over and they were aching for spring. In New York City in 1888, for instance.

The Blizzard of 1888

45th Street and Grand Central Depot, New York, March 1888, Source: NOAA’s National Weather Service Collection

With 21 inches of snow falling over a two-day period — the third largest accumulation on record — the blizzard of 1888 hit New York City by surprise at the end of a warm March day (March 11-14). As two storms, one approaching from the south and one from the north, met over the City, heavy precipitation and winds gusting up to almost 75 mph resulted in snowdrifts up to 30 feet high. Roads and highways were blocked, steam train service was suspended, horse-drawn streetcars and taxis halted operations, and ships docked in New York’s harbor.

A New York Central locomotive derailed while attempting to push past snow drifts in the 4th Avenue tunnel, and many commuters were stranded on elevated tracks in unheated cars. It took 14 days for the City to completely recover. The mayor responded in early 1889 by ordering all overhead wires placed underground. At least 200 New Yorkers died. Many froze to death that false spring.

Suddenly it was on them without any warning, no Weather Channel then, and pretty Easter outfits failed to keep them warm as they huddled in doorways and under bridges. Like young impetuous lovers, completely unprepared for what they had walked into, as if love alone would protect them from hypothermia, dehydration, and suffocation… they died. No ideals will not dig you out of an avalanche, kids. Wishing life was different does not make it so.

Now I need the magic trick to pull the genocide rabbit out of the false spring day hat. What are they doing in the same post? If I proceed to plant tomatoes today because it is sunny and 70, I will effectively kill every one of the plants in two days. No force of imposing my will can change this biological fact: tomatoes freeze and die at 32 degrees or lower. They will not produce fruit at temps below 55. To follow my will would only result in some sort of planticide. And yet, this is similar to what educated men did over and over again with the humans they had conquered.

In Central America the Spaniards killed and enslaved indigenous people to extract gold wherever they could. They believed incorrectly in a fantasy city of Cibola, the city of gold. A rumor, a lie, a fable led to real suffering and death of individuals and whole cultures. When lies are taken as truths and truths are seen as lies, bad things happen. People die like tomato plants in sub zero temperatures. Oh, national ideals and religious purities sound so good to the initiated, the chosen and the saved. Whether the dreamers are communists, Crusaders, Taliban, Zulus, Hindus, manifest destiny Yankees, or German nationalists, the outcomes are hauntingly similar. Fields of death and destruction bloom after absolutely lovely ideals erupt.