Thursday, June 23, 2011

On Politics and Human Nature

Thoroughly pissed off. That’s how I am feeling today, and most days. 

The rich just keep getting richer, the poor keep getting poorer, and the middle class is not just shrinking, but being pushed (shoved? stomped?) into the underclass.

The very banks and financial institutions that drove us into the second worst financial crisis in history (thanks in large part to a lack in government oversight), and created the most unemployment in our, our parents, and likely our grandparents’, memories are now repossessing the homes of the unemployed. They – the banks – never felt a prick. They never had to take any responsibility. No one lost their job, no one went under, and now they’re forcing unemployed families into the streets. People who are unemployed because of the banks' financial malfeasances.

It is beyond ironic. Beyond horrifying. Instead, in my mind, it sits atop a sandy plateau in the middle of a desert on a day when the sun is so brightly burning that everything looks orange, and waves rise from the flattened brown earth. Surreal. Murderous.

Every day the U.S. looks less and less like a first world country, and more like a member of the third world. Where justice is bought and sold, where only the rich get the goods, and where everyone else starves, goes without, and dies both early and often.

Ethics dictate that honorable people don’t let their neighbor’s children starve. Here, not only do we let them starve, we’re taking away their medical care, too. Theirs, the elderly’s, the disabled’s. Medicaid and medicare. The safety net for the helpless.

Is it a burden on society? Sure it is. Absolutely. But shouldering responsibilities is part of what makes us grown-ups.

So, as a society are we regressing to childhood?

I wish I could blame the rich for the gamesmanship, and their greed, and their obscene obsession with acquiring wealth, even as their sister and fellow countryfolk starve, and die.

But we all do it. Here in America.

How many of us think of others when we get a raise? How many of us care an inkling about the suffering of animals in shelters, or the way beef cattle or egg-producing chickens are being treated? How many of us give one tiny shit – even a passing thought – to the people living on the street? How many of us care enough to even feel badly when someone’s child is abducted?

And during any given year, how many of us do one thing – even one – for someone worse off than us?

And that is precisely what the superrich think of you. Or, rather, they don’t.

It’s a disease, and it’s called selfishness. It infects our emotions, our intellect, and our ethics. It manifests as apathy, and greed, and jealousy, and murder, and theft, and adultery, and self-pity, and a hundred other things. It often motivates despair, and urges us to seek happiness. It’s so commonplace most of us don’t even notice it, whether in ourselves or others.

Right here at this juncture is where I’m supposed to reveal some witty truth, some kernel of knowledge that will make you slap your forehead and want to do better.

I don’t have one.

I think the only solution is moral/ethical, emotional, and intellectual maturity, not just of us as individuals, but of societies. I don’t see it on the horizon. In fact, I don't see it anywhere, and that fact leaves me sick at heart.


  1. "But we all do it. Here in America."
    Yes, I agree. As much as I want to blame everything on rich people and hate on the politicians that help pad their pockets, the main difference between them and us is they have the influence to make their desires manifest. If we all had access to that kind of power and influence, would we be better people? Would the world be a kinder and gentler place? I wish I could say I believe it, but I don't think I do anymore. We poor and downtrodden are also complicit in the horrors, mostly by turning an apathetic eye (most often seen in distracting ourselves into willful ignorance).
    I have greater faith in the downtroddens' capacities for kindness and compassion, but our systems of power are so monumental and corrupt, I think kind deeds end up having less traction. We're left with institutions that conceptualize power/resources as finite and seek to take from others and consolidate them. Sadly, too many of us remain too ignorant, overwhelmed, and apathetic to challenge this; in this way, we all contribute to the inequalities.

  2. Thank you for writing this, Lauri *and for saying hi!*. I think you're absolutely right. No one who contributes in any way in our society is 100% innocent. We all have a responsibility to one another, and the higher-ups in government seem to forget that the millisecond they're elected. Sadly, money is what greases the wheels of our world. Not social justice. Not equality. The haves and have-nots. And it's sickening. To think that our government cares more about tax breaks and subsidies for the rich and major companies than about the people who voted them into office breaks my heart and pisses me off. They're acting like spoiled children instead of leaders.

  3. Agreed - and I think they all need a spanking!