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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Let’s Get This Class War Started

Let’s Get This Class War Started

By Chris Hedges
TruthDig.com
October 22, 2013

“The rich are different from us,” F. Scott Fitzgerald is said
to have remarked to Ernest Hemingway, to which Hemingway
allegedly replied, “Yes, they have more money.”

The exchange, although it never actually took place, sums up
a wisdom Fitzgerald had that eluded Hemingway. The rich are
different.

The cocoon of wealth and privilege permits the rich to turn
those around them into compliant workers, hangers-on,
servants, flatterers and sycophants.

Wealth breeds, as Fitzgerald illustrated in “The Great Gatsby”
and his short story “The Rich Boy,” a class of people for whom
human beings are disposable commodities.

Colleagues, associates, employees, kitchen staff, servants,
gardeners, tutors, personal trainers, even friends and family,
bend to the whims of the wealthy or disappear.

Once oligarchs achieve unchecked economic and political power, as
they have in the United States, the citizens too become disposable.

The public face of the oligarchic class bears little resemblance to
the private face.

I, like Fitzgerald, was thrown into the embrace of the upper crust
when young.

I was shipped off as a scholarship student at the age of 10 to an
exclusive New England boarding school.

I had classmates whose fathers, fathers they rarely saw, arrived
at the school in their limousines accompanied by personal
photographers (and at times their mistresses), so the press
could be fed images of rich and famous men playing the role
of good fathers.

I spent time in the homes of the ultra-rich and powerful, watching
my classmates, who were children, callously order around men and
women who worked as their chauffeurs, cooks, nannies and servants.

When the sons and daughters of the rich get into serious trouble
there are always lawyers, publicists and political personages to
protect them, George W. Bush’s life is a case study in the insidious
affirmative action for the rich.

The rich have a snobbish disdain for the poor, despite well-
publicized acts of philanthropy, and the middle class.

These lower classes are viewed as uncouth parasites, annoyances
that have to be endured, at times placated and always controlled
in the quest to amass more power and money.

My hatred of authority, along with my loathing for the pretensions,
heartlessness and sense of entitlement of the rich, comes from
living among the privileged.

It was a deeply unpleasant experience. But it exposed me to their
insatiable selfishness and hedonism. I learned, as a boy, who were
my enemies.

The inability to grasp the pathology of our oligarchic rulers is one
of our gravest faults.

We have been blinded to the depravity of our ruling elite by the
relentless propaganda of public relations firms that work on behalf
of corporations and the rich.

Compliant politicians, clueless entertainers and our vapid,
corporate-funded popular culture, which holds up the rich as
leaders to emulate and assures us that through diligence and
hard work we can join them, keep us from seeing the truth.

“They were careless people, Tom and Daisy,” Fitzgerald wrote
of the wealthy couple at the center of Gatsby’s life.

“They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back
into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was
that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess
they had made.”

Aristotle, Niccolò Machiavelli, Alexis de Tocqueville, Adam Smith
and Karl Marx all began from the premise there is a natural
antagonism between the rich and the masses.

“Those who have too much of the goods of fortune, strength,
wealth, friends, and the like, are neither willing nor able to
submit to authority,” Aristotle wrote in “Politics.”

“The evil begins at home; for when they are boys, by reason of
the luxury in which they are brought up, they never learn, even
at school, the habit of obedience.”

Oligarchs, these philosophers knew, are schooled in the mechanisms
of manipulation, subtle and overt repression and exploitation to
protect their wealth and power at our expense.

Foremost among their mechanisms of control is the control of ideas.

Ruling elites ensure that the established intellectual class is
subservient to an ideology, in this case free market capitalism
and globalization, that justifies their greed.

“The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the
dominant material relationships,” Marx wrote, “the dominant
material relationships grasped as ideas.”

The blanket dissemination of the ideology of free market capitalism
through the media and the purging, especially in academia, of
critical voices have permitted our oligarchs to orchestrate the
largest income inequality gap in the industrialized world.

The top 1 percent in the United States own 40 percent of
the nation’s wealth while the bottom 80 percent own only
7 percent, as Joseph E. Stiglitz wrote in, “The Price of
Inequality.”

For every dollar that the wealthiest 0.1 percent amassed in 1980
they had an additional $3 in yearly income in 2008, David Cay
Johnston explained in the article “9 Things the Rich Don’t Want
You to Know About Taxes.”

The bottom 90 percent, Johnson said, in the same period added
only one cent.

Half of the country is now classified as poor or low-income.

The real value of the minimum wage has fallen by $2.77 since
1968.

Oligarchs do not believe in self-sacrifice for the common good.

They never have. They never will. They are the cancer of democracy.

“We Americans are not usually thought to be a submissive people,
but of course we are,” Wendell Berry writes.

“Why else would we allow our country to be destroyed?

Why else would we be rewarding its destroyers?

Why else would we all, by proxies we have given to greedy
corporations, and corrupt politicians, be participating in its
destruction?

Most of us are still too sane to piss in our own cistern, but
we allow others to do so and we reward them for it.

We reward them so well, in fact, that those who piss in our
cistern are wealthier than the rest of us.

How do we submit? By not being radical enough. Or by not
being thorough enough, which is the same thing.”

The rise of an oligarchic state offers a nation two routes,
according to Aristotle.

The impoverished masses either revolt to rectify the imbalance
of wealth and power or the oligarchs establish a brutal tyranny
to keep the masses forcibly enslaved.

We have chosen the second of Aristotle’s options.

The slow advances we made in the early 20th century through
unions, government regulation, the New Deal, the courts, an
alternative press and mass movements have been reversed.

The oligarchs are turning us, as they did in the 19th century
steel and textile factories, into disposable human beings.

They are building the most pervasive security and surveillance
apparatus in human history to keep us submissive.

This imbalance would not have disturbed most of our
Founding Fathers.

The Founding Fathers, largely wealthy slaveholders, feared
direct democracy.

They rigged our political process to thwart popular rule and
protect the property rights of the native aristocracy.

The masses were to be kept at bay.

The Electoral College, the original power of the states to appoint
senators, the disenfranchisement of women, Native Americans,
African-Americans and men without property locked most people
out of the democratic process at the beginning of the republic.

We had to fight for our voice.

Hundreds of workers were killed and thousands were wounded in
our labor wars.

The violence dwarfed the labor battles in any other industrialized
nation.

The democratic openings we achieved were fought for and paid
for with the blood of abolitionists, African-Americans, suffragists,
workers and those in the anti-war and civil rights movements.

Our radical movements, repressed and ruthlessly dismantled in the
name of anti-communism, were the real engines of equality and
social justice.

The squalor and suffering inflicted on workers by the oligarchic
class in the 19th century is mirrored in the present, now that we
have been stripped of protection.

Dissent is once again a criminal act.

The Mellons, Rockefellers and Carnegies at the turn of the
last century sought to create a nation of masters and serfs.

The modern corporate incarnation of this 19th century
oligarchic elite has created a worldwide neofeudalism,
where workers across the planet toil in misery, while
corporate oligarchs amass hundreds of millions in personal
wealth.

There is no way within the system to defy the demands
of Wall Street, the fossil fuel industry or war profiteers.

The only route left to us, as Aristotle knew, is revolt.

Class struggle defines most of human history.

Marx got this right.

The sooner we realize that we are locked in deadly warfare with
our ruling, corporate elite, the sooner we will realize that these
elites must be overthrown.

The corporate oligarchs have now seized all institutional systems
of power in the United States.

Electoral politics, internal security, the judiciary, our universities,
the arts and finance, along with nearly all forms of communication,
are in corporate hands.

Our democracy, with faux debates between two corporate parties,
is meaningless political theater.

There is no way within the system to defy the demands
of Wall Street, the fossil fuel industry or war profiteers.

The only route left to us, as Aristotle knew, is revolt.

It is not a new story. The rich, throughout history, have found
ways to subjugate and re-subjugate the masses.

And the masses, throughout history, have cyclically awoken to
throw off their chains.

The ceaseless fight in human societies between the despotic power
of the rich and the struggle for justice and equality lies at the heart
of Fitzgerald’s novel, which uses the story of Gatsby to carry out a
fierce indictment of capitalism.

Fitzgerald was reading Oswald Spengler’s “The Decline of the West”
as he was writing “The Great Gatsby.”

Spengler predicted that, as Western democracies calcified and
died, a class of “monied thugs” would replace the traditional
political elites.

Spengler was right about that.

“There are only two or three human stories,” Willa Cather wrote,
“and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had
never happened before.”

The seesaw of history has thrust the oligarchs once again into
the sky.

We sit humiliated and broken on the ground.

It is an old battle.

It has been fought over and over in human history.

We never seem to learn.

It is time to grab our pitchforks.



Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges
graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two
decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times and he
is the author of many books.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/lets_get_this_class_war _started_20131020

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