Saturday, February 14, 2009

The New Aristocracy - Where's the Revolution?

History is such a great teacher. Why is it that we are such poor students that we insist on repeating the mistakes of previous generations? I have thought for some time now that we Americans are in the process of creating a new elitist upper class, a new modern American aristocracy. I have also tried to repress that notion because I thought I might be just a little bit biased. After all, I grew up somewhat poor in a very modest southern, backwoods country home. Perhaps I am a little prejudiced against those who appear to have had it a little too easy while me and mine have struggled. However, after the last few months of watching our national wealth evaporate and hearing news reports repeating that the ultra-rich of the banking industry are to blame I feel that I was right in my original assessment. I just want to scream, “I told you so!”

The seeds of this new aristocracy were sown almost thirty years ago when a wealthy movie star Republican was elected and began to tell the world that the most important people in our capitalist society were those who create wealth and jobs through their entrepreneurship. They were given special privileges and status. The rest of us were told to be grateful when their wealth would “trickle down” to us. How patronizing.

We endured eight years of his ideas and a further four more of his lackey right after him. This one was worse than the first. He was a New England Blue-Blood who had moved to Texas and flourished in the oil business and ingratiated himself and our nation with a corrupt Middle Eastern monarchy and Communist Chinese (he was our ambassador to China) that has influenced our energy policy and public policy ever since. This fella certainly had no concept of what it was to be an average middle-class American. Remember, this was the guy that had never been grocery shopping. He was amazed by the magic of the common bar code scanner. His most memorable statement on economic policy was, “No new taxes.” What he meant, of course, was no new taxes for his wealthy buddies. They got tax cuts. We poor slobs that worked for them had plenty of new taxes to pay. Apparently what we earned in our paychecks had nowhere to “trickle down” to. So, Blue-Blood thought he had a better use for it, such as paying for a war against the enemy of his Middle Eastern oil-rich buddies.

It didn’t help any when his political colleagues began to collaborate with major religious figures to promote the ideology that God himself was on the side of the greedy. A whole branch of “prosperity doctrine” grew into the theological teaching of the most dominant evangelical traditions. So, now this new class not only had the wealth and political power to do whatever they wanted, they also convinced themselves and much of the public that it was ordained by God. It was an explosive combination. The reaction gave birth to a monster, a new American aristocracy.

The next administration changed political parties but did little to defuse the dangerous situation that had begun. While economic policy changed, the appreciation and admiration of the wealthy did not. During the Clinton years there was a parade of celebrities and superstars through the White House like had never been seen before. No political cause was deemed worthy until it was trumpeted by a “celebrity spokesperson”. The growing technology industry and improved economic policy eliminated our national debt for the first time in years. Unfortunately, the intelligent policies were eclipsed by the low personal value system of the leader. And, because Big Bill couldn’t keep little bill under control, the new corporate-religious-politico elite took him and his party out of control.

The rest of the story is such recent, sad history that it hardly deserves a recap. We all know that the son of the New England Blue Blood was put in office by his ultra rich cronies through a manipulated election that had little to do with the will of the majority of American people. At this point, we had completed the transition. Not only had we birthed and nurtured this new aristocracy, we had handed them control of the world. They began to govern in an fashion that was unashamedly self-serving. There was never a sense of humility for the next eight years. Mistakes were never acknowledged. Wars were unleashed across the globe in the most unapologetic way regardless of the suffering that resulted. American wealth was siphoned off into warmongering. While we were busy spending money on the reconstruction of foreign countries, our jobs were simultaneously being sent overseas. Bush economic policies made it perfectly acceptable for his corporate supporters to eliminate American jobs if India, Mexico, and China would do the work cheaper. Is there any wonder why we are in the condition we are? What does this remind you of? Ready to storm the Bastille yet?

The last time something like this happened in a major world power there was a bloody national catastrophe like had never been seen before. France 1789, had a feckless inexperienced leader being manipulated by sinister handlers (I.e. Bush/Cheney-Rove). An expensive war was being fought that the nation couldn’t afford (Iraq-Afghanistan). Those in power are completely out of touch with the reality of their world (“Mission Accomplished”/”Let them eat cake”) Yes, I know she didn’t say it, but you get my point, right? What’s the only thing missing from this picture? Guillotines? I guess it’s a good thing we had an election, huh?

Personally, I don’t think we are quite out of the woods yet. We have a new leader but that old entrenched aristocracy is still there. The financial nobility that helped create our current crisis has still not faced justice. They have been scolded by Congress in word only. There has been no justice, no punishment. Instead, it can be argued that they have been rewarded with government rescue funds while the victims of their greed lose their homes and jobs.

The French Revolution began with the poor and middle class being completely fed up with the way the super-rich and noble were running their country. They were without bread. We are without homes due to the mortgage meltdown. They were tired of being treated as subservient by those they considered to be noble. I’m reminded of the recent publicity about our own modern royalty disappointing us. Christian Bale publicly humiliated and denigrated a subordinate coworker because of a minor offense. Baseball player Alex Rodriguez is cheating at the profession that has earned him millions of dollars and made him world famous. Michael Phelps promotes himself as an all-American hero to children while he flagrantly indulges in drug crimes that would get the common man arrested with charges that would likely cost him his job and livelihood for years to come. If these people are not deserving of a “national razor” I don’t know who would be.

We have our hopes set on our new young and energetic President. His ideas seem fresh and optimistic for a new way. But, let us not forget that during the French Revolution that Maximillien Robespierre also swelled the hopes of his people. His charm lasted for approximately five years until they were just as fed up with him as they were with the previous rulers. A word to the wise. If you’re going to make a change Mr. President, make it quickly. Angry villagers tend to keep their pitchforks and torches nearby. Let us only hope that we Americans continue to create revolutions in the voting booth and not in the streets.

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