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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 8/18/10

Understanding America's Class System

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Or look at the arrogance of Barack Obama's characterization of American heartlanders "clinging to God and guns." Which we do. However, implicit in his statement was that both God and guns are indicators of an ignorant loser class. When opponents scalded him for his remarks, he justified them by pointing out he had said, "what everybody knows is true." Meaning everybody in his class, the educated liberal class. Hard to believe their predecessors were the point men and women for the Scopes trial, the eight-hour day, unions, anti-McCarthyism, Cesar Chavez, Negro civil rights.

Big dogs eat first

The ruling elite stays in power through the patronage both parties offer their supporters. They hang onto or follow their party's leaders much the same as remoras cling to big sharks, and pilot fish accompany sharks, happy to get the leftovers. Both parties provide their activists and followers with livelihoods, through programs or legislation that just happen to make the rich richer.

One good example is the psychologists, doctors and social workers who initiate the process of getting half the country on anti-depressants or mood stabilizers, a term that should scare the hell out of anyone who grasps the concept of the corporate state. They get their jobs through government funding, or research that defines behaviors as illnesses requiring powerful psychoactive drugs.

One new favorite is ODD, oppositional defiant disorder, in which children act like -- surprise, surprise -- the young a**holes that children can sometimes be. Teenage rebellion becomes a psychological disorder. Diagnostic manual symptoms include "often argues with adults," an unheard of behavior of teenagers calling for antipsychotics such as Risperidone. Side effects of Risperidone include a mild speed like buzz, a super erection lasting hours, lactation and suicidal tendencies. Phew!

Big Pharma makes billions more in the name of alleviating the people's suffering. Obviously many millions are indeed suffering, but if that is the case, then American society is suffering. Never will it be asked publicly just what psychic anguish our society is suffering from. Because the answer is capitalist industrial commodity disease, and the psychic pathology of Americaness. That would mean consulting Mr. Marx, who predicted much of it, or Arthur Barsky, who brought the definition up to date.

For Americans, self-examination is not just rare, it is nonexistent, which one source of our pathology. Missing from our national character is love of the common good, and our collective civic responsibility toward one another. But if we acknowledged collective responsibilities to the individual members of our society, then we would have to deal with the issue of class in this country. Better to medicate the entire nation. To do that, you need big government.

In the process, the already rich get richer and the rest of the middle class commissariat becomes more dependent upon the rich. As conservative editor and writer Angelo M. Codevilla, pointed out in a July 2010 article: "By taxing and parceling out more than a third of what Americans produce, through regulations that reach deep into American life, our ruling class is making itself the arbiter of wealth and poverty." A third is more than enough to tip the scales at their will.

Keep "em dazzled with foot work

Meanwhile, there are the rest of us. That great throng of squawking, family loving folks, professionals and peasants alike, libertarians, patriots, people who worship god and those who loath religion -- people who still believe that hard work is the road to success despite the evidence, people who know differently because they sell used cars or work for the US Post Office -- citizens who rightfully suspect that government taxes merely feed the beast, or who believe, again rightly, that no politician truly represents their interests, and that the government is now in the business of social engineering for economic purposes. Fundamentalist Christians, gays, small businessmen, Hispanic Americans, organic farmers, pro-lifers and abortion supporters, union workers in the North and Southern anti-unionists, school teachers and stump preachers -- we all feel threatened by our government.

At the same time, in order to keep revolution at bay, and the military in cannon fodder and defense industry in contracts, we have been heavily indoctrinated to believe America leads the world in all things, and that the rest of mankind lives less prosperous, less free lives, coveting our "lifestyle." In short, they are lesser people.

Still though, we have in common that none of us like the idea of a ruling class. We did not from the very beginning. Yet, we no longer take effective action, because it has become impossible to identify what we might do to change anything. Instead, we react to events. That is what the ruling class wants, because if we are reactive, then outcomes can be controlled by controlling the stimuli. Keep 'em dazzled with foot work. So the stimuli keep coming at us faster than we can think. And they are presented as fate, or the result of "fast changing world events," or a banking collapse no one could have predicted -- things to which we must respond immediately. Most of us just give up. Which again, is what the ruling class wants us to do -- become a uniformly pliant mass.

Because the revolutionary destruction of the current economic system, bad as it is, would crash the country's economy even more quickly than the current process of theft, we are not likely to see an outright revolution that overthrows the ruling class. Look at the sorry assed "Tea Party Revolution," which will have to be allied with the GOP (which its backstage leadership has been anyway) in 2012 if it wants to be even a small factor. Media noise about the Tea Party doth not a revolution make, and it certainly does not overthrow the ruling class, who do not mind the wrath of the rabble, so long as it does not get in the way of the money.

And besides, the ruling class holds all the money, not to mention the media that informs the populace as to what is going on in our country. It controls our health care, our banking and retirement funds. It controls our education or lack of education, and it controls the price, quantity and quality of the food we eat. It controls the quality of the air we breathe, and soon, through pollution credits, even the price they will pay for that air. Most importantly, it holds concentrated legal and governmental authority, not to mention the machinery of both parties to grant itself more authority.

In the face of all this stands a very diverse public, which regardless of what some might claim behind a few beers, is not about to take up arms or use force to unseat the ruling class. When your life and your family are so utterly controlled by persons and forces that you cannot even see, you don't take such risks. That's not gutlessness. It's common sense.

Therefore, you are left with a rigged game called legislative action. This is an invisible power process, masked by another process called public relations strategy, which feeds it into yet another process called media, that makes "news decisions," as to what you need to hear or see. And there's plenty you don't need to hear. For instance, NPR, the New York Times and thousands of other outlets refuse to use the word torture to describe waterboarding, preferring instead "aggressive interrogation methods," unencumbered interrogation, free interrogation, or similar euphemisms. NPR's justification for sugarcoating US torture is, ""the word torture is loaded with political and social implications."

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Joe Bageant is the author of a forthcoming book from Random House Crown about working class America, scheduled for Spring 2007 release. A complete archive of his online work, along with the thoughts of many working Americans on the subject of class (more...)
 
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