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Comes The Revolution …..

Comes The Revolution

In the Broadway production of Ballyhoo of 1932, Willie Howard and his brother Eugene played in a widely popular Depression-era comedy routine describing the inanities of government programs in which a soap-box orator told some New York City bums about the glories of Communism. “Comes the revolution,” the orator declared, everyone will live the good life and eat strawberries and cream. “I don’t like strawberries and cream!” responded one of his listeners. “Comes the revolution,” the orator declared, “You’ll eat strawberries and cream—and like it!”

Many years ago I belonged to a unionized carpentry cooperative that framed buildings for general contractors. The cooperative was named after the Bolshevik great-grandfather of one of the coop’s founders, whose favorite rejoinder, adopted by our entire crew was, “Comes the revolution.”, complete with a dramatically rolled “r”. Nearly every carpenter in the group was a college graduate and at that time I was teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Our conversations were lively and the politics ranged from liberal to revolutionary. We all entertained visions of strawberries and cream for the human race. That was a long time ago but I am still reminded of those conversations when confronted by today’s politics especially the multitude and variety of beliefs swarming within the body politic not the least of which are attempts to inject religious beliefs into the political discourse when the Constitution clearly states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”.

In these modern times the economic system, Capitalism, seems to have evolved into a quasi-religious political belief system. Like religious dogma, Capitalism may not be questioned without accusatory and punitive response in spite of clear evidence it is destroying social contracts, consuming and sequestering wealth in un-taxable accounts globally. Capitalism has become a belief system which, while promising fair distribution of material and social wealth, is delivering quite the opposite. Now that 85 people, according to Oxfam, own nearly half of the world’s wealth and closer to home, .01% of the US population owns nearly 40% of this nation’s wealth, it is plain to see things are out of balance and in a multitude of ways. Forbes, not exactly a left wing organization, reports that currently 76 million Americans are struggling financially. A Harris poll found that 43% of the jobless have given up looking for work and the US government reported that 94.7 million Americans are now considered as not being in the labor force. To argue against these imbalances can earn you various imprecations such as, you’re a Socialist or even worse a Communist. Many people who use these terms haven’t a clue as to what socialism is. It is simply name – calling because Communists and Socialists, are, as we all know, evil.

We have to wonder how long a life expectancy any social contract, Capitalist or otherwise, has that impoverishes and leaves jobless so many formerly middle-class people as their employers close and, in the name of profit, move operations out of the United States to places with little or no health and safety regulations and pay scales that are a fraction of those in the US. This past March the Carrier Corporation announced it was closing its Indianapolis air conditioning manufacturing and moving those jobs to Mexico at the loss of 1400 American jobs. Carrier moved jobs to Mexico where workers earn approximately $19.00 a day compared to, on average, $15 to $26 an hour in Indiana. The total annual compensation of the chief executive of United Technologies, Carrier’s owners,  is, by the way , $5.7 million. In many communities throughout the United States, especially in the mid-West, gainful employment is drying up except for low paying menial jobs – not much remains but mortgage  foreclosures, and food stamps.  There are many full-time workers who rely on food stamps as their wages are insufficient to feed their families.

Unemployment numbers are suspect as many no longer qualify and have dropped off the roles allowing politicians to cite low unemployment. In the face of this tragic situation several states Legislatures and Governors (most notably Maine), while touting their religiosity are even restricting or outright denying food stamps to those in need and subjecting applicants to humiliating drug testing. We have to wonder and must talk openly about where all this is going to end up. The national conversation needs to be about these things otherwise it’s going to be either, “Just eat your ice cream and strawberries and shut up!” or “… comes the revolution”. A choice is going to have be made by one way or another.

 

The Henny Penny Syndrome

Do you remember Henny Penny, a.k.a. “Chicken Little”, who became convinced the sky was falling when an acorn dropped on her head? As a consequence of Henny’s alarm, a number of her panicked chicken colleagues were eaten by a wolf. All of this the result of just one acorn falling. It is only in the general, the sum total of a number of particulars, that we become able to correctly see larger patterns, the tectonic shifts in the social contract for example, and the proximate causes that tell us if the sky is really falling.  Presently there are very many particulars going around and it’s a challenge to properly identify, characterize, and project them as indicators of future possibilities. These days, if you pay attention to the news, it’s difficult not to be somewhere between the extremes of outrage and fear.

Are we, as a society, as cohesive and secure as we believe we are or are we kidding ourselves? Rousseau defined the social contract as a collective moral body and I think he would be challenged to find such in the United States today. Would such populist sloganeering and propaganda as “America First” or “Take Back America” be politically useful if large segments of the population were not feeling an acute sense of insecurity? It’s hard to judge from the extremes of protestation and acting out behavior going on across the country. Supporters of one populist candidate have staged violent demonstrations with out of control tempers, brandished guns, blows being struck, and people bloodied. Much of it seems to be about emotional racism and unarticulated class resentment.   

True Believers are striking out at the “usual suspects” those being people of color or non-standard sexual orientation. Where people pee is inspiring death threats. And while protestors seem inarticulate about their grievances and unable to describe what exactly the source of their angst is, they are certain their candidate will solve it for them. Given the enormous disparity of wealth and opportunity this is certainly not surprising.

Obviously when an economic system permits the export of well paying and even marginal jobs in search of people desperate enough to work for low wages, the inevitable consequence is unemployment in the society being abandoned. With chronic unemployment comes impoverishment, and with poverty the inability to sustain a viable much less a vibrant economy. Fear, resentment, and anger are the inevitable byproducts. People who are powerless resent their sense of impotence and tend to take their frustration out on others and politicians are ruthlessly taking advantage of this dynamic.

The present election cycle has exposed a deep body of unfocused acrimony and repressed anger caused by an economic system that has impoverished and disadvantaged many. There are company towns with no company. Angry Americans want a fence. But, while a fence might keep migrants out it certainly won’t keep jobs in.

At root, the underlying problem is the perception fostered over time that Capitalism and Democracy are synonymous. Capitalism, the driving force behind the foregoing social problems has achieved quasi-religious and patriotic status and is thus cannot be questioned. Capitalism has replaced Democracy as the foundation stone of our social contract. Social Democracy remains an experiment and not a delivered reality. Although the United States has never been a true Democracy it is even less so now. Oligarchy has existed far longer than Democracy and is going strong in this country concentrating wealth, influence, and power much more intensely and narrowly than ever before.

Experiment and experience derive from the same root, we experiment in order to experience an idea – imagination is the inspiration. An important quality of experiments is that there is no failure. We experiment seeking outcomes or results, it is a learning experience. And, brother, are we ever learning these days that Democracy remains an ongoing experiment. Maybe the sky is falling.

The Power Of Belief

The philosopher Donald Davidson once pointed out that, “Truth is beautifully transparent compared to belief …”. As human beings our vanity is that we believe we act rationally when, in fact, the vast majority of human activity is motivated by belief. Throughout the course of history social contracts have been based on belief systems regardless of truth, as for example, “… all men are created equal”.  No form of social contract, from so-called Democracy to totalitarian states can exist and function unless people believe its tenets, be they true or not. This necessary belief may be coerced or delusional, condign or voluntary, but is always foundational to all social contracts. It cannot be any other way. Because of this any discussion about social contracts must include what people believe in a specific social context, that is to say, their belief system. Liars, public and private, and politicians know and exploit this dynamic simply by telling people what they want to hear based on what they need to believe.  It’s how cons, in and out of politics, work their magic selling the Brooklyn Bridge.

The US government has already built, at not inconsiderable expense, a wall and fence along the border with Mexico to keep out people many of whom are refugees fleeing violence in their home countries. The GW Bush administration built around 670 miles of fence along the border at an estimated cost of $2.4 billion to keep people out. One former Republican presidential candidate, Marco Rubio, made fencing the border a major component of his campaign agenda. Not to be outdone, Donald Trump went Rubio one better promising a 2000 mile wall along the entire border and, he said, Mexico will pay for it. How do politicians get away with this nonsense? Belief – the belief by  their audience that such a fence will make them safe, keep out the threatening undesirable refugees (including children), and that Mexico will pay for it. It’s a con playing to ignorance. It’s a con. People have been playing to fear since white people first set  foot on this continent. Demonized Italians, Frenchmen, Poles, Lithuanians, Irish, you name them and just about every group that came to this country has been demonized at one time or another by a group that had themselves been previously demonized.  Every protester who now wants to pull up the gangplank owes their citizenship to an immigrant ancestor including those who came across the Bearing  Straits land bridge 16 to 13,000 years ago.

Recently a group of individuals took over a federal facility in Oregon, claiming their rights as “sovereign citizens”. “Sovereign” generally refers to royalty; however, as an adjective sovereign implies ultimate power, and in a democracy that supreme power is said to rest with the “people”. It is important to note that the group in Oregon consisted mainly of white males who were armed and who had, in this staged drama damaged or destroyed public property. So what do these protesters believe sovereign means? Do they believe they can enjoy the benefits accruing to citizens of the US without communal duties or responsibilities, a notion that has been regularly rejected by the courts? Their belief is strong enough for one of them to get shot to death by police and others to be jailed.

Perhaps one possible explanation to these questions lies in the power of false and contrived political identity born of a lack of a sense of authentic political and  social identity.  In short, they believe they have to declare themselves sovereign to be authentic. Another observable authenticity scam is the skilled use of false identity by politicians to divide their believers from others. Donald Trump is a master of this kind of demagoguery.  Fear is the belief system being appealed to no different from Hitler demonizing Jews. Believers are easily conned because what they are really afraid of is not truth but what they believe.

A Ship of Fools

A Ship of Fools is adrift. The crew is filling the sails with lies, ignorance, and innuendo fueled by religiosity, ignorance, racism, resentment, mysogny, homophobia, hate speech, class discrimination, ethnicity, fear, distrust of government, disparagement of anyone and everyone not like them, and not the least, unbridled political ambition funded by billionaires. No person, no institution is safe from their depredations not even the sitting president. Fear of truth also fuels this taxonomy of disfunction, deception, and destruction. To wit:

The Ship’s Crew at Work

(1) A Texan Republican Representative claims wind is a “finite” resource and using it to spin power generating windmills slows the winds down causing temperatures to go up.

(2) The Republican governor of Louisianna has prohibited state officials and employees from using the term “Global Warming”.

(3) A recent poll shows 57% of Republican primary voters support Christianity as the national religion, clearly advocating, as does ISIL, religious government in a country founded on religious freedom. It should be noted that in this same demographic 66% do not believe in global warming and 49% do not believe in evolution.

(4) In the US Congress 47 members, led by Republican Representative Tom Cotton, wrote to the government of Iran to warn them away from signing a nuclear nonproliferation agreement with the United States and other countries.

(5) The father of US Representative Ted Cruz is quoted in the national media as claiming that LGBT rights will lead to football teams showering with girls.

(6) Rudy Giuliani contributed – “I do not believe that the president loves America.”

(7) In Jackson, Mississippi police officers drew their guns on a six year old child.

(8) The Kochs are offering $889 million to influence the 2016 elections.

(9) In Georgia a Republican legislator is concerned that human embryos might be mixed with jellyfish cells to create “glow-in-the-dark” babies.

(10) Not to be outdone, an Idaho Republican State Representative thinks gynecological examinations for pregnancy can be carried out by having women swallow tiny cameras. 

(11) Also in Idaho another Republican representative believes the state has no right to protect children from parents who refuse them medical treatment in favor of faith healing. 

(12) A Republican legislator in Montana, has proposed a bill to control women’s attire, his bill makes it unlawful for females to sport yoga pants outside their homes and restricts women from wearing apparel that’s overly tight or that shows a lot of skin. The bill also aims to stop men from showing their nipples. Individuals who ignore the guidelines of this proposed law would be subject to fines as high as $10,000 and the possibility of life in prison.

(13.) A wealthy-from-birth candidate for president wants to do away with mandated minimum wage.

The foregoing of course isn’t the entire crew roster and certainly not the entire story but it does illustrate where our present course is leading as we sail into the future of this society, this country.  That we have been spent nearly one trillion dollars on one fighter aircraft that has yet to be cleared for use after at least 10 years of development while education, roads, water supplies, and health care languish is testimony to our values as a nation, as a people. That we have been involved in one war or another for 222 years out of the 239 years since 1776 itself speaks more about our values as a  society than all of our rhetoric. War making and war machines have taken precedence over our development as a civilized people. This seems to me to be an unspeakable travesty of what we, as a nation, represent ourselves as being.

Even education has been transformed from a national treasure into a target. Politicians with no experience or background in education are pushing destructive educational policies like endless meaningless testing and third grade retention for kids who aren’t learning to read on a phony political schedule, all in service to political contributors who are already profiting from privatized public education. Is it paranoid to suggest an uneducated or poorly educated public would be far easier to manipulate and control and, aside from profit, isn’t that what makes this an attractive strategy for some?

   What kind of world do these people envision in the aftermath of their attacks on the social contract? What kind of country will this be when people are without health care, without education, without roofs over their heads, without food, without employment at living wages? Are they imagining with some kind of satisfaction soup kitchens and bread lines? Is this the path they and their politician accomplices are planning to achieve “American Exceptionalism”?

We struggle constantly with the ancient hierarchical social belief system in which some are always “better” than others by virtue of an accident of birth, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or any other quality with which they sort the polity. People who operate at this low level of socialization seem incapable of perceiving or admitting to the simple existence of “others” to respect others as when an elected official publicly characterizes women as a “cut of meat”.

Where are we going with all of this? That is the most important question we are compelled to ask and demand answers to from everyone including ourselves personally. Our fate as a society is at stake. Our fate as a civilization is in peril sailing on as we are with a seriously defective moral compass.

The Social Consequences of Injustice

 

Ecologist Garrett Hardin’s 1968 essay, “Tragedy of the Commons” inspired a stream of writing by all manner of scholars particularly economists. The essence of Hardin’s thesis is actually a common sense observation that limited resources can tragically be depleted or destroyed when thoughtless unlimited use is made of them. When people disregard the consequences of their use and abuse of limited resources those actions invariably affect others who need or use those same goods. In other words, when people behave selfishly it is essentially anti-social.

 

Selfish behavior is a moral issue contrary to what two well known University of Chicago economists, S.D. Levitt and S.J. Dunbar claim. Their blunt appraisal is, “.. economics simply doesn’t traffic in morality.”; in their opinion it seems, any resulting inequality from over use of the commons has no moral dimension, an attitude which, in one form or another, seems to have become pervasive in our society and around the world. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, Chairman of the Board of Directors of Nestle, the largest food producing and water bottling company in the world, recently stated: “Human beings have no right to water.” If people want water they must buy it – preferably from him, of course. I suppose it is only fair to ask if is air next? We are living, it seems, in a time of unprecedented venality, an era of social behavior separated from moral consideration and consequence.

 

I believe the commons and the social contract are interchangeable. In a just society there is a relationship between the equitable distribution of wealth, justice, and economic opportunity as essential goods of the commons. Truthfulness and belief are also vital parts of that equation. A healthy functioning social contract cannot be a Potemkin Village of lies, injustice, and public relations flack. The two most corrosive recent Supreme Court decisions, the 2000 coronation of George W. Bush and granting corporations human status in 2010 were poisonous to the commons, to the social contract. As a result of the latter we have a Congress controlled by business lobbyists and not by any measure a Congress of the people. A society in which the wealth of six people in one family is equal to the entire bottom 30% of Americans is not a healthy society. A “Let them eat cake.” mind set didn’t work for Marie Antoinette; ultimately it isn’t going to work for today’s 1% either. Something is going to have to give either as a result of increased political consciousness or other less civil means. If the history of civilization is any guide, a tipping point will be reached sooner or later.

 

What demagogues of all stripes fail to remember is that there has always been a price to be paid when a critical mass of disbelief and inequality is reached. Lies have lasting effect and are inevitably found out either by disclosure or by turn of events. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia recently stated that voting rights are “entitlements”. Either he is ignorant of the Constitution, he doesn’t grasp the Constitution, or he is a bald face liar. There are no further possibilities and lying seems the most likely based on his presumption of stupidity on the part of the rest of us, or, in other words, his obvious arrogance. “The most irreducibly bad thing about lies is that they contrive to interfere with, and impair, our natural effort to apprehend the real state of affairs.” is how Harry G. Frankfurt puts it in his charming and insightful book, “On Truth”. Lies from the Supreme Court bench indisputably distort the “real state of affairs”.

 

What is the “real” state of affairs in this case? Here is the definitive statement of voting rights which Scalia and John Roberts want us to believe they don’t get:

15TH AMENDMENT TO THE U.S. CONSTITUTION

[Ratified February 3, 1870]

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Section 2. The Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation. 

The Massachusetts Secretary of State, William Galvin, in response to Roberts’ assertion during the trial that Massachusetts had the worst white to black voter ratio turnout in the U.S. gets to the heart of this discussion: “I’m disturbed, first of all, that he is distorting information. You would expect better conduct from the chief justice of the United States. I’m a lawyer, he’s a lawyer, lawyers are not supposed to provide disinformation in the course of a case. It’s supposed to be based on truth.”

 

Of course you would have to be new to the planet of you thought lawyers have a universal commitment to the truth. You might notice in a court proceeding that everyone must take an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Everyone that is except the lawyers. I once questioned an officer of the Lawyers Disciplinary Board, a group that is charged with overseeing the conduct of lawyers, about this anomaly. I was told that lawyers may “interpret” in their speech to a jury. This assertion flies in the face of what is called the “Duty of Candor Before the Tribunal” to which all lawyers are required to adhere. Nowhere in the literature of the American Bar Association will you find an exception to this duty. In practice however lying is sanctioned in a Kafka-worthy “interpretation” by regulators. If truth is not the absolute coin of the realm in court where could it ever be? How could there be justice?

 

I agree with the social philosopher, Philippa Foot, who said, “… it makes sense to speak of those who are lovers of justice – as of those who are lovers of truth.” we must then conclude that the lawyering business has a questionable relationship with both truth and justice if their standard for truth is a moveable feast, fabrication in the guise of “interpretation” to suit their needs. As Mr. Galvin cast it, “… lawyers are not supposed to provide disinformation in the course of a case. It’s supposed to be based on truth.” I once conducted a simple survey of lawyers asking the question: “Is your duty before the court to seek justice or to win?” I never did get a straight answer. If the motto is “winning is everything” the corollary must inevitably be, “Society and Justice be damned.” It follows from this that not all people are equal before the law but rather it depends upon who has the lawyer most willing to “interpret” the “facts” in a manner favorable to the client.

 

A society cannot long exist without truth which is the bedrock of justice, it cannot long live a lie. In the final analysis the Social Contract is both a perception and a belief. When the substance of life in a society as it is lived is perceived to fail our natural expectations of truth and justice, our belief in the social contract is betrayed and cynicism follows; with that the commitment to the commons is destroyed. When there is no social contract it becomes everyone for themselves with all which that entails.

 

 

 

ABOUT JUSTICE

John Dewey wrote, “We cannot seek or attain health, wealth, learning, Justice, or kindness in general. Action is always specific, concrete, unique.”

Alexander Saxton wrote, “To move from the particular to the general is an exercise in humility because it forces one to recognize the particulars – even those privileged details one’s own individual existence – remain meaningless and essentially useless to other people unless they can be shown to typify, or illuminate larger streams of human experience.”

For a word that has been chiseled into stone monuments for centuries we could reasonably hope society would by now have the practice and understanding of Justice down cold. However, more often than not, as Justice is experienced personally but spoken of generally we struggle to find understanding in the “larger stream”. Justice is variously defined as being fair and being fair defined as being just and just as being fair and so on. For centuries thinkers and doers have tried to grasp and define Justice in all of its manifestations concretely. This philosophic and semantic project has haunted virtually all societies throughout history. Almost every philosopher from Plato’s argument via Socrates about just persons and a just state to Aristotle and onwards across centuries to John Dewey and Alasdair MacIntyre, Amartya Sen, John Rawls and Alexander Saxton among recent others, has given us a take on Justice.

If, over so many centuries, so many brilliant people have struggled for so long and so hard to arrive at a definitive exegesis of Justice what they have been seeking may not exist, at least not in a form they were hoping for. Justice in all its manifestations seems to be like beauty, living in the hearts and minds of the observers be they beneficiaries or victims. Was the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki just? Only in the eyes of the perpetrators. It seems to me there is no such thing as Justice except as an everlasting quest for justification. In that case Justice will remain always a fluid and beautiful idea, an aspiration at that, but in the end there will be no absolute, it will always be, “ … specific, concrete, unique” to the moment.

First and foremost it is necessary, I believe, to acknowledge that Justice is a construct – a moveable definition which, not unlike a sheen of oil on water, changes century to century, culture to culture, moment to moment, observer to observer. Like belief systems, Justice is fluid, always in motion. There exists no concrete, immutable, definition of Justice – no demonstration you can point to, take to the bank, or teach the young. What is Justice for you can be injustice to your neighbors. It remains, however, the most appealing and illusive of ideas and much like quick-silver, “Liberty and Justice for all … ” slips away at the touch.

A few quick police pistol shots and an unarmed 12 year old named Tamir Rice received an instant irreversible summary Justice not found in a court of law but in a public park. By late 2015, police in the US had summarily shot and executed 1103 “suspects” of whom 161 were unarmed. In the US, police summarily execute people, generally people of color, nearly on a daily basis. Once dead the “suspects” no longer have access to any semblance of Justice. Why then do we pretend Justice for all exists? Because we must. Like Equality, Justice is an essential myth an illusion without which our social contract would be impossible .

Injustice is not only the taking of lives but the diminishing of lives as well given an economic system that systematically concentrates wealth to a very few and harms many. Throughout the United States economic injustice manifests concretely in hunger, access to medical care, education, legal representation, and opportunity often determined by the color of one’s skin. Like any manifestation of inequality, lack of Economic Justice is corrosive disease and eats at the heart and soul of society. In Louisianna the Governor recently removed 31,000 jobless people from receiving food stamps, in Wisconsin that Governor removed 15,000, in Indiana 50,000,  and in Maine 40,000. Whose definition of Economic Justice is this?  Whose definition of morality, humanity, and common sense? Adults, and even more, children who are not well fed and well housed cannot possibly thrive and succeed are thus condemned to a diminished existence and, as a consequence, with what kind of commitment to a social contract? 

In courts of law Justice has fast become the last thing sought – winning is the goal. Prosecutors, with a firm thumb on the scales of Justice, are especially fond of, ex parte proceedings in police shooting cases where no contrary testimony is permitted. I once surveyed a fairly disparate group of lawyers with the question: “At trial what is most important to you – winning or Justice?” Needless to say, I suppose, winning was the winner. So much for Justice. How is this? Well, if you are a lawyer who works for insurance companies, for example, you make your living and your reputation defeating liability claims. It’s a no-brainer. Also, keep in mind that at trial the only participants who do not swear to tell the truth are the lawyers. It’s all about winning not about Truth and certainly not about Justice. It’s about profit.

We live in a time when sociopathy permeates society. The question is not how much worse can it get but how much longer can it go on without a total breakdown of civility and and order? There are, after all, consequences. Alasdair MacIntyre, in After Virtue, put it this way: In a society where there is no longer a shared conception of the community’s  good for man, there can no longer either be any substantial concept of what it is to contribute more or less to the achievement of that good.”  The possibility of a civil society is foreclosed.

Tipping Point?

“The long and the short of it is, there is no important idea that stupidity does not know how to make use of, for it can move in all directions and is able to wear all the garments of truth. Truth, on the other hand, has only one garden and one road and is always at a disadvantage.” (The Man Without Qualities, Robert Musil)

In the course of human events, the evolving and relentless curriculum of all societies, countries, indeed every form of human organization there inevitably comes to pass what can be called a tipping point. A moment in time when previous understandings no longer apply, are no longer valid or abided by. Things change, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. This  dynamic exists in all relationships without exception. Relationships are constantly being made and broken, alliances formed, reformed, or destroyed, joined and separated – conjunto today separado tomorrow. This has always been the normal state of human affairs. We understand that relationships are at times defined by convenience, mutual needs under particular circumstances which, when those circumstances change, so too the relationships.

Social contracts defining political relationships such as democracy are based on trust that the foundational definitions will hold over time and circumstances and for all members equally. When beliefs fail to reflect  experience trust is inevitably displaced by disillusionment and disappointment which inevitably segues into resentment and anger. No amount of rhetoric or sermonizing can assuage the indignity of inequality – social, economic, or political. When the foundational conditions defining a society, country, or international agreement fail, become inconsistent, or are regularly violated the required trust, the “glue” dissolves taking the contract with it. The social history of the United States speaks to this truth since its inception failing to deliver its promises of social equality never mind economic.

An analysis  of federal policy initiatives dating from 1981 to 2002 by researchers at Princeton concluded, “ … economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” The denial and destruction of a government of, by, and for the people, is the antithesis of a democratic society paving a path to disillusionment, disengagement, and ultimately – dissolution. There are all manner of inequalities some of which society can redress and some we cannot. It is inarguable that civilized humane people must correct those inequalities that can be, to provide the economic and social capital to equalize the inequalities of opportunity and access.  It is not that society lacks the means and methods but rather it lacks the will and motivation but, there is more to it than that even. It’s a failure to believe in or to understand what it means to live in a democracy.

More and more people in the US realize they don’t live in a participatory democracy as they were led to believe and where this realization will take us is unknowable. Obviously the many Texans, supported by elected officials, who were convinced the federal government was preparing to “take over” that state, impose martial law, and confine them in disused Walmart stores have reached some kind of tipping point. For these delusory Texans the only remaining question is will there be greeters in blue vests.

    The ability to live at high levels of cognitive dissonance such as to believe the US government is plotting to lock you up in an empty Walmart store illustrates the problem – no contradiction of evidence, values, or beliefs is to great to ignore; no reassurance to the contrary matters accompanied by pandering politicians exploiting the hysteria.The consistent thread is dispensing with the idea of truth. Where there is no social or economic opportunity, and no justice there is no believable truth.  If black people can be shot or beaten by police with impunity on any pretext no amount of political suasion will protect a belief in truth or justice in that community. Where there is no justice there is no possibility of a coherent social contract. Nowhere in such a desperate belief system can truth live comfortably and securely. The denial and negation of truth has many expressions including social and economic inequality, mysogny, racism, and eventually the reality of a diminished, if not extinguished, democracy.

Economic justice is constrained by neoliberal capitalism, an amoral economic system become a quasi-religious belief system not to be questioned. One can fairly ask as now one must, how is it possible for a polity to maintain a non-democratic economic system approaching religious status conflated with a barely functioning social contract? This is the stuff of cognitive dissonance.

But, what is all this about, really?  It’s about indignity; not simply expressed as inequality of material things but the inequality of shared human experience which underlies racism, mysogny, greed, and every other social aberration that objectifies others. It is about a growing lack of simple compassion as illustrated by thirty-three cities across the US which have either already banned or are considering banning giving food to homeless people going so far as to threaten jail time for doing so. If every person of color were to disappear from the United States by tomorrow morning a new replacement group would be found by nightfall. It’s a curse on society and that, my friends, is the sad truth and how far can it go without some serious course corrections is more in question than the inevitability of that necessity. We don’t know where the tipping point is – but, there is one, there always is.


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