Monday, February 1, 2010

Class War

These images and the accompanying stories pushed me over the top.

I have watched the nightly exhibition of meanness, racism, and insularity, on the part of the world's news teams portraying starving Haitians grasping for what might be their only chance for life. News people find examples of what can be characterized as struggling and "looting" and in so doing paint a picture implying this behavior is somehow endemic. They will sleep peacefully in the airport camps protected by armed soldiers.

The irony Of Clinton/Bush rallying the world to give to their charity to relieve the plight of the Haitian people cannot go unmentioned. Poor Haitians were the very people that Clinton had detained under freeways in Miami, while enforcing special rules that denied them refugee status in the 90's. Or irony turns to tragedy when you realize that Bush and his CIA organized the overthrow of the "populist" Aristede.

Clinton will be there when the dust settles. He will assist in the development of sweat shops and call it reconstruction. He will be there when contractors get wealthy rebuilding Port au Prince.

I remember when Clinton, reformed welfare and drove moms out of their houses into a low wage work force to satisfy the demands of a constituency that has been led to believe that their relative poverty is somehow related to a "welfare queen" driving a Cadillac.

In "What's the Matter With Kansas" Thomas Frank wondered how it was that middle class people from the heartland could be so distracted as to support politicians and their policies that weren't in their self interest. The BBC ran a recent column on the subject.

Marginally middle class people are given the straw dogs of illegal immigration, gay marriage, and a thick file of terrors they are to be afraid of. When they act up at town hall meetings or tea bag rallies you can hear the implicit classism expressing itself in their arguments against health reform. What a fabulous trick of manipulation. A rich lobbyist can get a modest middle American to vote against a set of reforms designed to assist him, by emphasizing that the cost of such reform is related to the extension of health services to the poor.

No people do a better job of ignoring their own self interests then Afro-Americans. It has to be the height of cynicism that has Russell Simmons, a man who sold the images and underwrote the scores for music that celebrated a gangsta lifestyle, promoted values enhanced by 'bling", degraded women, and became rich, now promoting "The Hip Hop Action Network." Russell Simmons exhorts us to be green in advertising promotions. We changed the world he argues, he will do it again. He wants to teach money management skills to people who don't have any money. He wants to sell them a Rush Card. There is still an ounce of flesh to be rendered.

There is a long tradition of identifying with one's oppressors. A particularly mean spirited program is a state sponsored lottery. Watch these games grow as state after state falls into arrears and attempts to balance their budgets on the backs of the poor who buy these tickets. If you examine the underlying structure of the lottery concept it is the perfect weapon in the war on the poor. Not only does it make them poorer, it validates the concept of extreme wealth. The only problem with extreme wealth is that I don't have it and if I can get lucky, well then I too can enjoy the bling.

A positive consequence of hip-hop, and R and B long before, was to break the cycle of humiliation masked in the so called tradition of politeness. No longer would one keep grievances quiet, suffering silently, while nodding respectfully to the holders of the stick. I believe the civil rights movement was enhanced, not by the troubadours of folk music, but by kick ass rock and rollers who crossed over and fused the races in common purpose.

We need a comparable set of tunes to underscore another movement. A social stigma is now being attached to class speech. No matter how egregious the abuse, one is not allowed to characterize corporate behavior as a war on the poor. Enron can freeze out Californians, banks can throw people out of their homes, pension funds can be raided, and jobs moved off shore, but woe be to the individual that points up these abuses or suggest there is a better way.

Just a glimpse of the reactionary voices that decry what they characterize as the rise of communism. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) argues we are running out of rich people.

No leftist could do as much damage in discrediting capitalism as the modern robber baron. He is so secure in his understanding of the nature of the passivity of his victims, that he can collect on his side bets (that people will be unable to finance their mortgages) leave people homeless, and earn a bonus to boot. When homeless women got it together enough to get on the bus and stand in the driveways of the bankers' Greenwich mansions and protest their behavior the press gave them short shrift. Who would have guessed they would become the theme of a fashion show.

What about the images from Milan fashion week were so alarming? There were no poor in the hall to humiliate. The rich show goer is party to the perpetual benign neglect that is the enabler of all the wars. Nothing new there. It is not that one insensitive fashion designer created this show.

I am alarmed by the "kids" who agreed to "model" these behaviors. These young models are not going to act up or out in defense of the homeless they personify. Blind to the possibility that their fates are financially insecure, lulled into a false sense of security by association with the rich and famous, they callously become the expression of disregard and coldness to the poor they objectify.

We need a value revolution and it may bud in the mind of Raj Patal. His new book, The Value of Nothing is highlighted in the following video:

1 comment:

  1. Hi Will!

    I'd like to put this video on or link to it on my facebook, where I can network my thoughts and findings to the 400 od folks who sat next to me on a plane, took a guest room like you two dears.

    How to do it? see my new site. I'd like a blog like yours on site. Know how to do it? Feb 14-20

    Going to Haiti and starting a Brooklyn/leogane partnership. we'd love your design or other support. I want to get ongoing support, not one time - so need pledges from all ages monthly or so.