Monday, April 27, 2009

A Few Basic Rules

posted by Armadillo Joe

Hey, you Blog-O-Maniacs! B'way Carl has again asked me to mind the store in his absence, but told me no SUPERTRAINS! so I'll have to find something else to write about.

How about social justice?

Or just basic vengeance?

Because when we evolve out of our natural state, when we build institutions and organize ourselves into entities that coerce or persuade through incentives or through the naked threat of violence (or the actual use of violence) the lone caveman to stop bashing other cavemen on the head and taking their cavegirls, we have formed a government.

No one ever signed on for such an enterprise, mind you, because we don't choose the time and location of our births. Besides, someone has to be in charge and who was that first caveman to tell all the other cavemen to stop bashing heads? Well, he was the baddest MF of them all and what he says goes. Until some bigger and badder MF comes along and does the same to him. And that leads us to all sorts of questions about lines of succession and who gets to be in charge, because if its a simple matter of just bashing heads until no one is left to say you can't have the throne, anyone can eventually become king, right? Its still true to this day for dictatorships throughout South America and Africa. Thus, the folks at the top of the food chain eventually declared that god himself put them there and everyone else should just accept that fact and go about their business of growing food and otherwise fighting and dying for the king's ambitions.

What could go wrong with a system like that?

Which is why, by the 17th & 18th Centuries A.D., a bunch of idle rich hanging out in the salons of the European continent who had grown weary of hearing this whole "divine right of kings" crap to justify every cockamamie idea that ever popped into a monarch's head -- ideas which usually resulted in the deaths of hundred or thousands of their countrymen, too boot -- and who were young and idealistic (as youth are wont to be) finally cooked up a bunch of alternate ideas about social contracts and "consent of the governed" to explain how and why we got here, with all those kings and bureacracies and gendarmes and all that sort of thing. For a few decades, all their lofty rhetoric and fancy words remained just the college newspaper Op-Ed screeds of their day, laying fallow and unheeded, until a bunch of yeoman farmers in a far-flung British colony over on the American continent (and the wealthy transplants who owned the land those farmers worked and saw a way to keep even more of their money) got a hold of those ideas as a way of giving the finger to that clown King George who thought he could do whatever he wanted because, well, he was king.

A couple of years and one semi-hot revolution later, we had ourselves a king-free government, though not for lack of trying on the part of a great number of our so-called Founding Fathers. Luckily, our own George (Washington, that is) had read enough of all that coffee house prattle from Yurp to actually believe some of it and, to our everlasting relief, declined every attempt to put a crown on his head.

But other mischief was afoot back on the Continent and enough peasants got tired enough of starving and dying for Marie Antoinette's pearls that they had a little revolution of their own. You might recall it had something to do with guillotines and some cat named Robespierre. From that blood-soaked chaos, some time later (like almost 30 years later), the dictator who rose up from humble origins on a small island off the French coast to have royalty bow down before him was ultimately defeated on a battlefield in Belgium, but not before reshaping the way government ruled over the people who resided on the land it controlled. Consent of the governed became our notion of the Rule of Law and the people were assured a voice in their own government. OK, only if they were white and male, but at least divinity was no longer a pre-requisite for governing and that put us on the road to the expansion of suffrage, battles which are being fought -- even in this country -- to this very day.

All of which brings me to this quote:
“No offense to Middle America, but if someone went to Columbia or Wharton, [even if] their company is a fumbling, mismanaged bank, why should they all of a sudden be paid the same as the guy down the block who delivers restaurant supplies for Sysco out of a huge, shiny truck?” e-mails an irate Citigroup executive to a colleague.
I think you guys can predict my response to this Marie Antoinette from Citigroup:

Because when I use the phrase "Ruling Class" to refer to a certain group of people in this country, I'm not kidding. I'm not exaggerating. They are a direct line from the aristocracy of a former day -- not always by blood, mind you, but always by disposition -- and they really and truly think this country, all the people in it and its institutions and all of its natural resources, belong to them. The purpose of this country and all the people in it is to support them in the oppulent lifestyle to which they have grown accustomed and to do whatever they require to maintain the economic and political structures (domestic and foreign) that enable that lifestyle, which is why they have no qualms about soaking up our tax dollars when they try so hard to avoid paying any taxes at all and then sending the poor and brown-skinned among us either to prison or off to a war they themselves are too precious to fight. Like Vietnam, Iraq is a rich man's war and a poor man's fight.

The previous president is from the Ruling Class and he sure as shit acted like the military was his personal revenge and ego-boosting tool, which Cardinal Richelieu Dick Cheney was more than happy to exploit for his own nefarious ends.

Whether AIG bonuses or torture to justify a ginned-up war, the impulse is the same for these people, the logical waters they drink are drawn from the same poisoned well, and the natural political home for their functionaries is the GOP. But these people and their pet political party didn't come out of nowhere. They have deep roots in human history and this country is no exception, no matter what our glorious mythologies may tell us about what a free and noble people we are, about what an exception to history our story represents.

For more on that, go read driftglass.

Plus, some SUPERTRAINS! --

Choo-choo trains RAWK!

toy train in a circle


Fraulein said...

"They are a direct line from the aristocracy of a former day -- not always by blood, mind you, but always by disposition -- and they really and truly think this country, all the people in it and its institutions and all of its natural resources, belong to them. The purpose of this country and all the people in it is to support them in the opulent lifestyle to which they have grown accustomed..."

This is exactly it, Joe. This is the point that I think needs so desperately to be made by those of us who call ourselves progressives. Only when we accept this reality will we be able to start figuring out how to change it.

Matt Osborne said...

Damn skippy! Let the tumbrils commence!