The headline is an homage to The Wizard of Oz. I mean to convey the irony of thinking we live in a type of society that just doesn't exist anymore. At the time of the Wizard of Oz, we were full of hope, determination, grim entry into WWII, and people coming together for the common good. We've replaced The Wizard of Oz, It's a Wonderful Life, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with The Patriot Act, The Military Commissions Act, Presidential Signing Statements, The Ministry of Homeland Security (oops, sorry for the Freudian slip) I mean the Department of Homeland Security, TSA, Tasers, The Police State, Blackwater, and possible Martial Law.
In recent weeks, I've tried to extricate myself from all of the negativity of the news items, blogs, and political issues I follow. I've tried very hard to tell myself to just be positive. Things cannot be all that bad. I went and counseled with a couple of mentors recently and they advised that I stop being so angry and just serve at the discretion of the companies who pay my paycheck. What they don't realize is that what we've been called to as "servants" is serfdom. Now before I go too far on this rant, these individuals had the best intentions and I know what they said was good advice for prospering under the current system. And I do thank them for the advice, because it does work. However, for me, it comes with a cost tag attached. Namely, my spirit. Now on to the rest of the rant.
You remember serfdom right? It's that archaic state of being that has been coming back into vogue since the dawn of the industrial age. Wikipedia defines it well:
Serfdom is the socio-economic status of peasants under feudalism, and specifically relates to Manorialism. It was a condition of bondage or modified slavery seen primarily during the Middle Ages in Europe. Serfdom was the enforced labour of serfs on the fields of landowners, in return for protection and the right to work on their leased fields.
More and more, this describes the current state of middle class America. When I bought my house, I only bought the right to live in the house. I don't actually own the land underneath the house. The state retained mineral rights to my property. I have to ask permission to dig or be slapped with a fine.
So during my morning news checks I come across the following tidbits. First, I learn that Wal-Mart has pursued and won on appeal a court case to recoup medical costs from a former employee. What did this woman do wrong? She trusted that companies have some kind of moral responsibility not to screw it's workers 10 ways from Sunday. Some of that restraint may have been evident in previous decades, but those shackles were thrown off long ago as greed has worked its way more deeply into our society. I can only wistfully think that Sam Walton is rolling over in his grave today. To think that the legacy he left his children is being usurped by those same children of such unsavory character as to allow a case like this to pass without comment, without compassion.
But the atrocities don't stop with the compromising corporations. Oh no. They learned it first from the new government "above the people, disdaining of the people, and undermining of the people." Yes, our wonderful government might as well just re institute the draft. It would be better than the false promises of bonuses and college educations. What good is a college education if you're not alive to attend? You see here, the good ol' US of A is claiming that since enlistees cannot fulfill their military obligation, they are not entitled to the bonuses that secured their enlistments in the first place. But it's not surprising since many of these men and women are viewed as little more than cannon fodder. And why should the U.S. government worry about good publicity? They don't have to. We are their captive audience and there is no where else we can go to complain.
It is folly for us to believe that simply "voting with our dollars or votes" will change anything. The economic concept of Economies of Scale dictates that a large enough enterprise can withstand a large amount of disruption without seriously endangering the life of that entity. In layman's terms it means that the U.S. Government and many large corporations such as Wal-Mart have gotten too big for their britches. It's time we do something about it.
I'll bet you think I'm going to advocate a call to arms. Join a militia. Move to Vermont or some such. Are you crazy? Don't you know that Big Brother (read NSA) is monitoring all of our communications? Didn't you see what happened to Ruby Ridge? Waco? New Orleans? No. I'm smarter than to advocate that. But there are some things all of us can do.
First, get out of debt. I'm as deep in it as the next person so I feel your pain at the thought of resolving that problem. But the fact remains that the debtor is truly slave to the lender. You have no voice until that happens. Second, learn to live simply and work with your hands. Do you really need that McMansion? Do you really need the new iPhone? Sure it's cool. But do you NEED it?!? There are stories floating around about some people who are protesting the war by paying zero taxes. How do they do it? They have no taxable income. You can read about one of them here.
Next, pull your children out of public schools. They are not there to give your children an education. They are there to inculcate the children with the values of the state, regardless of the wishes of the parents. The children are indoctrinated as much as possible to give allegiance to the state first, God and and Family second. Did you know that our model for public schools comes from the Prussian model of a militarized state? How is it that the American populace was better educated and better informed in the late 1700's and early 1800's than they are today when there were no public schools as we see them today? It's a question worth considering. The school system today is designed to turn out workers for the corporate system. It is clearly not designed to educate. It may be different at the elite Ivy League schools or some obscure Christian colleges, but the great majority are designed for job specialization and indoctrination. I wouldn't really know because I attended a school of military indoctrination known as a Service Academy. It's taken me years to claw my way back to some semblance of critical thinking. For more on the history of our educational system, I highly recommend John Taylor Gatto's book, The Underground History of American Education. You can find it and other information at his website here.
Finally, we need to invest in one another again, without the meddling of a middle man. We need to buy our food locally. Or better yet, we need to grow our own food locally. We need to shop at companies that share our values instead of trampling on them. How can we sleep at night knowing we shop at a company that cares more about money than the life of a human being? We need to know our neighbours. We need to know our merchants. There is an investment idea known as Solari. I haven't really researched it so I don't know exactly what they are selling, but the central idea as I understand it is to invest in one another instead of through the bank. We have power in our local communities if we simply stop giving our money to the "Mega Mega Big ___ You Corporation" and instead use it to invest in each other. I don't know if Solari is advocating this, but why can't we pool our money for local car insurance? Why don't we pool it for local health insurance? What about a community supported farm in the neighborhood instead of just playgrounds? Instead of going to the bank for investment capital, why don't we go to our local community with the business idea that needs some funding? As we re-localize, I believe we can all decide to stop feeding the rat race machine and then decide to get off together.