Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Rich Get Richer, etc.

I don't usually blog about political issues and I'm not going to start now. For one thing I'm too dumb. But recently I posted an article on Facebook about the widening divide between the ultra-rich and the so-called 'middle-class' in this country. It sparked a fire fight because a couple of conservative Facebook friends weighed in on the issue. I was mildly surprised at the rage and online hissing that followed.

Really, however, I don't know why anyone is surprised. Not at the reaction to the posts, but at the reality of the situation. I think the simple fact that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer is a natural endgame to capitalism. I mean, come on, it's at the very root of the American dream. It is the pot of gold at the end of the idealogical rainbow, the game-winning response to the final American jeapardy question; in short, it is the solution we sought, not the problem we've inadvertently created. And now, 235 years after the fact, we're shocked and awed it turned out this way at all.

I don't mean to sound elementary here, but the final goal of capitalism is not, regardless of what we've been taught, supply and demand. No, not at all. The final goal of capitalism is who can screw the most people out of the most money in the shortest amount of time. And the circus-like atmosphere that envelops this nation in the high-stakes game of disguising that fact has become treacherous and partisan, to say the least.

The great experiment known as democracy has succeeded. I can't remember who said it and I'm paraphrasing here, but it's been called 'the worst system of government on earth...until you look at all the others.' And make no mistake, democracy and capitalism are forever and permanently bound together.

And yet, we (and by 'we' I mean 'me') are outraged by it. The combined income of the wealthiest ten percent of American citizens comes to approximately 1.7 trillion dollars. The bottom fifty percent comes to 1.6 trillion dollars. We're coming to the end of the monopoly game, Gentle Readers, and there are winners and losers. As in every single aspect of life in the 21st century, there are winners and losers. It is an extension of Darwin's survival of the fittest and, as in nature itself, the most adaptable, the boldest, the strongest, the ones without remorse, the quickest to the draw, continue to thrive and flourish. The weak, the less aggressive, the slow and careless, the moral and fair-minded are destined to live in the dreaded bottom fifty percent.

Even Jesus, allegedly delivering his inauguration address from the mount, acknowledged the inherent unfairness in Darwin's theory. He extolled the virtues of 'the weak,' encouraging them and offering the consolation prize of 'inheriting the earth,' of partaking in a much fairer plain of existence in the afterlife, promising everyone a 'mansion' in the kingdom of heaven, and mollifying the disgruntled masses by promising that 'the rich man' cannot enter. It was tantamount to the after game speech from a disappointed little league coach...'we'll get 'em next year, boys.'

This is the system of economy our ancestors bled and died for. We won. Our dreams came true. Everything we stood for, believed in, were taught was sacred, has come to fruition. And, as Cervantes warned, we were apparently not careful enough in our wishes, because we have had the misfortune to have them granted. The rich, not the meek, have inherited the earth. And we're all just starting to shake off the effects of the dream and coming to grips with the fact that it wasn't a dream after all. It is our who we are.

And in our confusion, we want to call a 'do over.' "Wait a minute," we say, "Um, this is not, uh, this is not what we wanted at all. There's been a terrible mistake. We'd like to start the game over, please." Too late. Too late for that. The game of Risk is nearly over, 'global domination,' as it says in the rulebook, is the final solution. We wrote the rulebook. We approved it. We voted for it. We wrote it and then prayed to it. And now, like the scientists at Los Alamos, we'd like to put the genie back in the bottle.

And finally, we are enraged. We are appalled that the playing field has been so unlevel all these years, all these centuries. We paid our money, we took aim, we threw the softball and we didn't quite knock all the stacked bottles down. And we didn't get the stuffed bear. All we got was a weathered and yellowing ticket and a hopeful memory of the circus that came blazing through town 235 years ago.

I dare say in about a hundred years, our grandchildren's children will be the true recipients of our shortsidedness. And we can only hope we will be forgiven for a noble experiment gone terribly wrong. Our roads were indeed paved with the very best of intentions. But we wrote the rule book. We set the height of the bar ourselves. We clearly and methodically outlined the game. And now it's getting late, people are going home, most have already been ousted from the game, the winners are still gathered around the table and the losers are questioning why they ever started.

America was founded on the concept of winning and losing. "...And justice for all" and "We, the people..." are wonderful concepts for a melodrama, but lousy concepts by which to develop a philosophy to insure 'the pursuit of happiness' for upwards of 300 million people. In the final analysis, 'the rich get rich and the poor get poorer' is not a courageous and defiant phrase uttered by our parents and grandparents. It is a summation of the rules of the game. The game we invented. The game we played passionately and lustfully. The game most of us lost.

See you tomorrow.

No comments: