(Quoted by Arianna Huffington, in Huffington Post, August 10, 2010)
As the New York Times reported last week, Hawaii has gone beyond laying off teachers and has begun laying off students -- closing its public schools on 17 Fridays during the last school year. In the Atlanta suburb of Clayton County, the entire bus system was shut down. Colorado Springs turned off over 24,000 of its streetlights. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Camden, New Jersey is soon to permanently shutter its entire library system. And last month the Wall Street Journal reported on the trend of cash-strapped states and counties giving up on the idea of maintaining paved roads, allowing them instead to turn back into gravel. And those localities that can't even afford to put gravel down are just letting the roads, as the Journal put it, "return to nature." A seminar at Purdue University on this trend was entitled "Back to the Stone Age."
Congress, this week, passed a $26 billion stimulus bill to keep teachers and police and firemen on the job in the states. And yet, this litany of cut-backs continues across the country. And there is a clear disconnect. The people at the top, those with the six-figure incomes, in the U.S., are content with the slow rate of recovery of the economy, because the flow of their incomes from multiple sources continues unabated. It is the gutting of the middle class, almost as a kind of silent coup, given the powerlessness of the largest group in the country to push back against the policies, the reversals and the trashing of their long-standing contribution to the economic, political and cultural health of the nation that we are going through.
We, the collective body politic, have witnessed one of the most significant purges in the history of the world. Only this purge is not specifically ethnic. It is a kind of silent shoving aside of the people who trusted that the system would continue to operate on the kind of premises and rules that had been in operation for the last half century. Labour unions fighting for reasonable contracts, (without the scourge of private corruption and greed) , corporations operating with one eye on the balance sheet, and the other on the health and wellbeing of the people in their employ, the government balancing ideology with pragmatism to reach effective and needed compromises, and the GDP, GNP, Employment rates, mortality rates and all the other statistical data to which we have grown so boringly familiar, sounding within the range of normal.
That is all gone! And it is never going to return, not, at least in our lifetimes.
We are leaving to our grandchildren a new world where Darwinism, the law of the jungle, has now morphed into the "law of the rich" because they have the investment accounts, and the private schools, and the access to the museums and art galleries, and the symphonies and the best universities, and, naturally the best networks, and consequentially, the best jobs, certainly the only jobs of consequence.
The rest, and that includes nearly 80% of all people, will provide service, at very modest wages, for the wealthy.
This is not the movie I signed up for, when I ventured off to university in 1959, and then again in 1968, and then again in 1987. I believed then, and continue with this outmoded and antiquated belief and perception that I would continue to have a contribution to make, in a reasonably productive and reasonably rewarded career, first in teaching and later in community development. And that was true for a period.
And then, first came the likes of Mike Harris, and then George W. Bush, and the triumph of the dollar seemed to purge the consciousness of the North American society of the capacity to see what was really happening.
As the media, the politicians and the wealthy slipped into the same bed, seemingly for the next generation, I as one incredulous observer, cried, "Wait, this is not any more a liberal democracy, where both sides have an equal opportunity to have their voices heard, respected and integrated with policy!" This is now an oligarchy of the rich!
Somewhere, somehow, the train ran off the track, and I point the finger at the Bushes, the Harrises, and their seduction by the financial sector manipulators whose own greed set the pace and the pattern for the rape of the middle class.
And now, all we can hear are the faint whispers of, "This hurts, and it is going to hurt for a very long time!" coming from the coffee shops, and the bars and the casino's, and now the on-line casino's.
Like the reservations of the First Nations, we have all been "given," courtesy of the magnanimity of the rich and the powerful, the opportunity to make our wealth grow, with odds that preclude even rational thought, at the crap table, on e-bay, or maybe by boot-legging, or if we still have some pride, serving burgers in a fast-food hut.
And we still hear talk of the wise stewardship of our natural resources....like brains, and imaginations and skills!
It is all a sham! And we have all paid the price of sleeping through the revolution, while the most crass took us to the cleaners.
And we have the Sermon on the Mount telling us "the meek shall inherit the earth" and we believe it in the poetic abstraction, but not in this lifetime, and not on this planet.