Wealth and Misery – the Feudal Lords Need Your Dollars

Recent CNN reporting (Jan 22, 2018) from Oxfam international posits that better than eight of every ten dollars produced last year went to the wealthiest one percent. One of the not startling conclusions of the reportage is that wealth is rewarded over labor. Not startling because I’m certain, cynically so it is true, that this is really how things have always been despite efforts to the contrary. Both capitalism and communism were devised as answers to feudal style wealth hording which ultimately left the heads of aristocratic European families with the most world power. Things never really changed very much and those same groups of people who fought so hard to build the world economies that made them prosper and employed the rest of us are largely still those people who inherited the wealth (which is equivalent to power). The pessimist in me wants to argue that we shouldn’t expect anything different, but the idealist in me points to mission statements of our national identity which remarkably have always been about achievement of a life worth living, something we regularly call middle class, once again despite our classless society. While the communists sought to guarantee this level of existence for all and ended up with another sort of feudalism, we in the west aspired to a limitless projection of dreamy expectation of personal wealth. Of course, for the vast majority no such limitless climb up any particular reward ladder actually presents itself and we mostly muddle around fantasizing about lottery winnings and chewing our nails through each bill cycle while hoping no one gets sick.
Henry Miller put it another way in his famous book The Air-conditioned Nightmare: “. . . Actually we are a vulgar, pushing mob whose passions are easily mobilized by demagogues, newspaper men, religious quacks, agitators and such like. To call this a society of free peoples is blasphemous. What have we to offer the world beside the superabundant loot which we recklessly plunder from the earth under the maniacal delusion that this insane activity represents progress and enlightenment?” That was 1945 and Miller was on one of his cross-country jaunts that seemed to presage Kerouac who had much less concrete to say about the actual workings of the arts and social sciences.
These days most of my friends are waving flags of identity variously confident of their moral bulwark. There are those pulling down the various southern memorials to the Confederacy which I had naively thought of as tributes to the folly of war and the pointless death of naive youth, widely and with that energy so common in the young, trundled off to die for causes they at best barely understood. As most wars are fought by participants acting on a pride that rarely has anything to do with the statecraft manipulating it. I was a fool, it turns out, because most of these monuments (all are now suspect) were goading and exploitative efforts to continue an ages old practice of nothing more than reminding an underclass of powerless people that those in power would never relinquish a bit of that power to them. And they indeed haven’t.
I recently completed a small book about a local race inspired killing that happened in a nearby town here in North Carolina, and while it is one of the most depressing books I’ve read outside of Eli Wiesel it deftly brings home the pure useless arrogance and unfettered hate aimed at nothing but a variation in people’s color and culture. Blood Done Sign My Name (Tyson 2004) is a miserable tale without a wisp of hope in it. The hopelessness it conjures is thorough and debilitating. It is nothing short of an account of war every bit as stark and shocking as that of Palestine or Northern Ireland, replete with the religious overtones seemingly necessary to contain the tenacity of violence.
The waters are muddied by the endless special interests. In the end regardless of Patriarchy or some kind of Chumbawamba take-down of Unilever for their “washing-whiter” ad-campaign or some trumped up worry of “lib-tards” creating new pronouns that will be legislated into use . . . the problem is still and always will be those wealthy and powerful lording their desires over the rest of us who are basically helpless due to our lack of funds. And there is nothing more fucking feudal.
Presently my email box is thundering with requests, not for my vote, my attention, or my skill set but instead only for my money. We need to defeat Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, please send a donation. Hours later another request blazing with the kind of graphics usually reserved for porn spam. Pleading with me for money. Every win or loss in our political spectrum is based on the funding that can be drummed up. Indeed every measure of a candidate’s worthiness is estimated in terms of liquid assets. And no one blinks about the fact of wealth equaling political integrity. Our nation votes with its dollars. Doesn’t anyone imagine there should be caps on this kind of spending?
Our citizenry understands perfectly their value rests only in an ability to spend dollars. Measure of buying power is our ability to make change, to have a say, or to form or persuade collective action. In the end we are wallets, not brains, skill sets, working ethics, or correctly aligned moral compasses. We are piles of dollars not just to advertisers looking to sell product, but to our administrators looking to maintain their offices and constituencies. Dollars are not just vital they are the very essence of our existences, they are our souls. We exist as pockets of tiny wealth, joined together in collectives of district wealth or finally estimated wealth by conglomerates selling us our next superhero, boxed cereal, and even, and this is very important, our ideas of personal identity.
There is some truth to this idea of identity that finds us all crushed and powerless, equating to depression (because that’s what depression really is: helplessness) that leaves each of us sensitive to our society dispossessing us despite our years of effort-filled devotion, suffering, and need (and despite our sex, gender, race, creed, or special interests). It is clear that many folks have felt the hammer of this dispossession much more clearly and more criminally than others, but this does not stop us feeling the maddening alienation in a universal form. There is no scale of wrong that should be tolerated by an individual and so every individual feels it and looks for an enemy to unleash blame and hatred on. And we’re back to some kind of lynching, shooting, or public humiliation. There are no innocent parties. A rallying cry wants a villain. And villains we have aplenty.
Just when you reach the end of a cycle of disturbing news that brings to mind childish workmates mouthing hate about MLK day, or popular conspiracy lunacy that incorporates a heightened trust in a false-positive of big government using secret techniques and powers to manage our ability to unite and make changes or hell even learn something . . ., there are lizard people, the Illuminati, Alex Jones . . . we’re cycling in this feeling of sickening waste of life, years having been spent for little gain (82 percent of all the world’s wealth went to 1 percent of the world’s people), and those of us trundled off to war for pride, freedom, or glory, who, as James Baldwin once said, suffer and die for a nation that doesn’t care a hoot for those of us who fight for it—and the soul swims in a pudding of misery.
Sure we can rail at various criminals. We can egg the houses of our feudal lords, or make internet videos deriding the worst of our self-important elite louts, but in the end it’s only where our dollars go that makes any point or is anything of a challenge. That system is going nowhere. So spend those dollars wisely they are your only real voice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *