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Thursday, February 06, 2003

The Nation of the Rich, By the Rich, and For the Rich
Bob Herbert's excellent op-ed today about the hopelessness among unemployed youth deserves a good rant. Fortunately, Brother Jim in California has provided one:

This editorial from NT Times kind of hit me in the gut. After listening to Colin Powell yesterday and today, and struggling to figure out what I really think is best for the World -- after all, based on all the news I've heard, Saddam is a bad guy, North Korea bad news, why not scorch a little more Earth? -- I read this, and it reminded me that our government is presiding over the rapid destruction of our country's social contract.

You would think the rich and powerful would be content with enjoying the benefits of a system in which they don't have to struggle, can be on permanent vacation, and pass on most of their wealth to their children. You would think they might even be leery of calling attention to this status quo. But I think two factors encourage many wealthy to pursue still more concentration of wealth. One is, many got wealthy simply because that was, is, and will be their true love in life -- and as they gather wealth, their power and influence increases, and they use it to increase their wealth still further. The second is about denial, about fear turning to anger, human emotions relating back to the animal "fight or flee" response. The poor threaten the self-satisfaction of the secure, well-heeled Americans; it is an annoyance that religions preach about the last among us, etc. The poor are the uninvited wedding guests, intruding on the festivities. And of course, the poor might not be friendly if the car breaks down somewhere and the cell-phone system is being flaky. So damn them, why can't those poor folks just pull themselves up by their bootstraps, like (soft cough) we people did. And of course politicians love to pander -- don't feel any concern, let alone shame: get pissed! Fewer schools and jobs; more prisons. Hit 'em while they are down -- it's become an industry.

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me. Listening to Colin Powell, I was thinking: with real progress on energy efficiency, and real attempts to work with the World on environmental issues, our government could show that America is trying to help make the World a better place -- not for business, but for people. Europe would be charmed. Domestically, if our administration acknowledged the social contract, and moved to redistribute wealth and provide quality public education, and in a host of ways provided hope and opportunity rather than despair and repression, we would have real patriotism. Someday we will need "World Patriotism" -- some loyalty to all the peoples and devotion to a better future. That is what I call pursuing peace. There will be conflict, but we should pursue peace, not just with words, or tokens, but as the main agenda.

Thanks, Jim!