ME the People
What has happened to us? Us as in “we” I mean. We used to be a society, which my dictionary defines as a voluntary association of individuals for common ends. It’s what the Founders had in mind. “We” is the first word in our Constitution: “We the People, in order to form a more perfect Union . . . promote the general Welfare . . . “ (boy, those are two words the Republicans just hate, union and welfare). They named states the Commonwealth of Virginia, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Common wealth. But that’s Commietism! No, it is not. That’s a well regulated, free enterprise form of constitutionally limited government.
Somehow though, we’ve lost that sense that we’re all in this together. I think it started with Reagan in the 1980s. There’s a reason it was called the Me Decade. This notion was suckled at the dry, icy breast of Ayn Rand, whose books gave rise to an I’ve-got-mine-so-screw-you-Jack philosophy which was at the height of faux intellectual debate in the 1970s. Today the cult of libertarianism is stronger than ever, this idea of rugged individualism, needing the help of no one, being a law unto oneself. It’s a utopian dream, and it’s also weapons grade bullshit (see “An Open Letter To Libertarians” in the archives).
There is not a single instance of anyone becoming wealthy all by themselves, without any help from anyone. Their factories were protected by police and fire departments, they transported their goods to market on roads and highways, or by rail, and they used the electronic communications network. All this infrastructure is paid for by all of us; that’s what is known as the commons, like the air we breathe and the water we drink. It’s what we’re all “entitled” to in any society. No one can be Daniel Boone anymore, and to think otherwise is delusional.
Yet this anti-social thinking continues to infect the national consciousness. This is bad enough in itself, but something far worse is afoot, a feeling of indifference and even contempt for the unfortunate among us. Oh, those are just lazy bums. They don’t want to work, they want everything handed to them. We hear it echoed by Herman Cain: “Don’t blame the banks. Don’t blame Wall Street. If you can’t find a job and you aren’t rich, blame yourself!” We heard it in the audience at three consecutive GOP debates. In one, they cheered Texas Governor Rick Perry’s modern record of executions. In another, they yelled that a 30-year old man in a coma, and without health insurance, should be allowed to die. And in the other, they booed a Marine calling from Iraq, because he was gay. We saw it a few years ago in an ad for the U.S. Army, in the slogan “An Army of One.” Yeah, because in a life-and-death situation, who needs teamwork, anyway?
None of this is accidental. The oligarchs who rule this country, nowadays known as the 1%, want it this way. As radio host Mike Malloy said, the last thing they want is a bunch of peasants getting together; they might decide to storm the castle. This ruling class is terrified of us, because we outnumber them at least 1000 to one. Their best bet is to divide us into smaller and smaller groups, and keep us fighting each other. They want to get rid of social safety nets in place for generations. To them, social sounds like socialism, and community sounds too much like communism. They’re not in the least bit interested in hard working people who have slipped through the cracks, through no fault of their own. Let the bastards die in the streets. The plan is neofeudalism, with an elite few having absolute power over a serf class. All these social programs will be privatized; Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. National Parks, public parks, the schools, even police and fire departments. What will this look like?
Unfortunately, we already know. In Obion (Oh-BUY-un) County, Tennessee, three of the five fire departments are semi-privatized, so area residents have to pony up $75 a year, in addition to property and other taxes. Gene Cranick had meant to pay the fee, but he kept forgetting. Then in October, 2010, his house caught fire. He called 911 and identified himself, and the dispatcher told him sorry, you’re not on our list. Police and fire trucks arrived, but only to keep the fire from spreading. Cranick offered to pay right then, and a neighbor took his checkbook out. Sorry, they were told, and they all stood there while the house burned to the ground. The family pets, three dogs and a cat, were burned alive. Is this the kind of country you want to live in? Then may your check get lost in the mail.
This country is dis-integrating, but fortunately, not all is lost. Even dull-witted, brainwashed Americans have a bullshit detector, and maybe we’re finally hearing that shrieking alarm. The Occupy movement has helped to wake us up, changing the national conversation. With it is coming the awareness that we have been victims of a giant scam. Besides, it’s not as if America has completely lost the feeling of community, you’ll find it in most small towns. Those people realize they all depend on each other, and it’s an uplifting, life-affirming feeling. We need to get that feeling back, on a national level. President Obama voiced this sentiment just earlier this month during a speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, when he said, “We are greater together than we are alone.”