Jason Miller: Slaves to the "Free Market" Unite
Slaves to the "Free Market" Unite
Can Humanity Make a Stand Against the Ruthless Onslaught of Capitalist Imperialism?
By Jason Miller
Relentlessly delivering the triphammer blows of a youthful Mike Tyson, America’s imperialist ruling class of wealthy and corporate elites has been pummeling the poor, minorities, and the working class with impunity for years.
As some of my readers have aptly pointed out, America and its White Christian patriarchy do not have a historical monopoly on abuse of power or exploitation of “lesser people”. It is also true that Anglos have been victimized at various points in history. Yet the United States exists and thrives almost solely because it obscenely exploited Africans to attain economic power and committed genocide against North America’s indigenous people to obtain and expand its territory.
While other nations and races have committed similar atrocities throughout history, Anglos have suffered persecution, and slavery and the Native American genocide are in the past, the actions of the United States and its White patriarchal society were still morally reprehensible. Furthermore, many of the beneficiaries and descendents of the perpetrators remain unrepentant. Recent polls and events also indicate that about a third of Americans still support an entrenched American power structure which flourishes by practicing exploitation and conquest.
The United States is not the only nation currently committing brutalities and injustices, yet Washington is home to a government which claims to be the ultimate moral authority on the globe. While invading and occupying nations which posed no threat to them, slaughtering innocent civilians, and torturing suspected enemies, the United States continues to mouth empty platitudes about spreading freedom and democracy, pompously lecture other nations on human rights, and hypocritically determine which nations are too “evil” to be trusted with nuclear technology.
In his recent book, Overthrow, Stephen Kinzer wrote:
There is no stronger or more persistent strain in the American character than the belief that the United States is a nation uniquely endowed with virtue…..This view is driven by a profound conviction that the American form of government, based on capitalism and individual political choice, is, as President Bush asserted, “right and true for every person in every society.”
Time and again the United States has acted on this pathological belief, almost always spreading suffering and misery rather than democracy and freedom.
Little deters them
Despite remarkable strides toward social justice achieved by powerful leaders like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eugene Debs, and Martin Luther King, Jr., the advent of international humanitarian laws like the Geneva Conventions, and the addition of amendments to the US Constitution expanding civil rights, the relentlessly acquisitive individuals manning the bulwarks of the Corporatocracy at Wall Street, Capitol Hill, Langley, and 1600 Pennsylvania Ave have continued to find myriad means to advance their malignant agenda on both the foreign and domestic fronts.
They are employing direct intervention through invasion and occupation in Iraq as I write. Indirect intervention by the CIA has brought many ruthless dictators to power because they were friendly to corporate America’s interests. Multi-national corporations devastate weaker nations by grossly exploiting labor and resources. The World Bank and IMF enable the ruling elite of the United States to enslave developing nations economically. Nuclear intimidation rounds out the vast array of weapons at the disposal of the power mongers at the helm of the United States.
Consolidating power into the Executive Branch, nullifying several Constitutional Amendments with the Patriot Act, packing the courts with “their people”, and conducting pseudo-elections are currently at the forefront of the domestic arsenal of America’s ruling elite.
Tell me lies....tell me sweet little lies
Utilizing the corporate domination of the mainstream media and educational textbook producers, the patrician class of the United States continues to white-wash history and current events to perpetrate one of the biggest hoaxes in the history of mankind. They have managed to convince many of their plebs of the virtuous, benevolent, and “democratic” nature of America, to the degree that some violently reject the truth when confronted with it.
The under-funded No Child Left Behind legislation ensures that educators lack the resources they need to prepare their students for mandatory tests which emphasize rote memorization and basic skills. Teaching critical thinking, history, literature, and politics falls by the wayside in the mad scramble to prepare students to pass government-mandated exams. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for those atop the food chain in the American Empire if they could virtually eliminate domestic dissent without resorting to mass arrests or torture?
Despite the widening wealth gap, the Wal-Martization of the economy, Katrina, Iraq, stolen elections, an $8 trillion national debt, tax cuts for the wealthy, and increasingly rapacious acts by corporations, many Americans are still oblivious to our descent into fascism. Sucking on the pacifier of conspicuous consumption, they “shop til they drop”, lining Corporate America’s pockets and freeing the ruling elite to pursue world domination, as outlined in the Project for the New American Century and the Bush Doctrine.
Certainly there are some decent human beings who hold great wealth or positions of power in the United States, but their voices and actions are readily neutralized by the far more numerous spiritually hollow individuals whose existence is predicated on attempting to fulfill their insatiable lust for money and domination of other people.
Slaves to "human nature" we are not
Some argue that avarice, hatred, cruelty, territorial instinct, and deceit are inescapable aspects of "human nature" and define the human condition. Large scale human-inflicted injustice, misery, and suffering would indeed be inevitable if one accepted the notion that we are slaves to "human nature", our ids, and our Shadows.
I refuse to accept this hypothesis for several reasons. Human beings possess highly developed frontal lobes and opposable thumbs so that we can problem solve and avoid subjugation to our animal impulses. As Scott Peck astutely observed in The Road Less Traveled, it defies human nature to use a toilet or a toothbrush, yet most people learn to do both.
I spent some time acting on the dark side of my nature in the past, yet I managed to undergo a profound moral transformation over the last thirteen years, choosing to live a life based on basic human decency, dignity, non-violent assertiveness, and compassion. My life is full of family and friends who share similar values. While it is impossible to completely deny one's id or Shadow, it is possible to manage them and live a reasonably ethical life.
There are also numerous examples of extraordinary people like Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama who achieved the peak of human moral development.
The masters' kingdom would collapse without the slaves
One of the wealthy ruling elite’s most poignant victories against progressive, humane forces has been their crushing blow to working people around the globe. Since the advent of the Industrial Revolution and the birth of the prevailing virulent form of Capitalism, the working class has been a festering thorn in the side of their masters, motivating them to devote a great deal of energy to keep them subdued.
Representing a necessary evil, workers in America and abroad are the engine of the Corporatocracy, as both the producers and consumers who power the Capitalist economy. While monstrous men like Henry Kissinger would move to shrink their numbers through starvation (or perhaps carpet bombing) if permitted, they still recognize that these “beasts of burden” are indispensable.
Not surprisingly, political ideologies which seek to empower the poor and working class have been heavily vilified by those who hold a vested interest in keeping wealth and power in the hands of a few. Americans are inculcated with the belief that men like Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez, Salvador Allende, and Evo Morales are (or were) our enemies. It is anathema, we are taught, to our “free market system” and “democracy” when leaders of other sovereign nations end the persistent grip of an entrenched oligarchy and raise a majority of their people out of abject poverty. With such beliefs, perhaps America’s moral deficit exceeds its fiscal one.
Can I interest you in selling Amway?
American Capitalism is the ultimate Ponzi scheme. For each of the four remaining Walton heirs to enjoy their billions, millions of human beings have to suffer abysmal poverty. Certainly, there are the occasional members of the Proletariat who infiltrate the exclusive world of the Bourgeoise, but they are so few and far between that they pose little threat to the dominance of the filthy rich resting at the pinnacle of the pyramid. Besides, thanks to Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy and the inevitable repeal of the inheritance tax, America’s wealthy elite will be further insulated from threats to their virtual monopoly on excessive wealth.
As a member of the working class, I am weighing in against the status quo multi-level marketing scheme. Despite my lower middle class upbringing and opportunity to obtain a college education, I went through hard times and quit school. For the next six years, I faced under-employment, unemployment and serious economic struggles. Intermittently working as an unskilled laborer in various manufacturing and service jobs, I received wages as low as $5 per hour, had limited or no benefits, endured miserable conditions, and suffered severe burns on my legs in an industrial accident. I experienced life in the lower stratus of the pyramid of American Capitalism first-hand. In a nation as wealthy as ours, it is a travesty that some people remain trapped in such wretched circumstances throughout their lives.
Today my wife and I are fortunate enough to generate a middle class income together, enabling our family to live a modest lifestyle and for me to engage in my avocation of researching, writing dissident essays, and publishing my blog. However, as members of the middle class, we are part of a dying breed in America, balancing precariously on the edge of an economic abyss.
Ethics, laws, justice? Who cares...
Consider three examples of the fates of laborers who dared to defy the primary beneficiaries of America’s predatory economic system.
During a peaceful pro-labor rally in May of 1886, anarchists were exposing the recent Chicago police slaying of two laborers striking against McCormick Harvesting. An unidentified individual detonated a bomb in the midst of the crowd, killing eight police officers and three demonstrators. In an effort to turn public opinion against the labor movement, the Land of the Free committed state-sponsored murder against four of the anarchists, publicly hanging them. The Illinois governor later concluded the executed men were innocent, the Haymarket Martyr’s Monument was raised in their honor, and wide speculation emerged that the bomber was a corporate agent provocateur.
In 1894, when workers became fed up with rail car manufacturer George Pullman’s “welfare capitalism” (a euphemism for indentured servitude), they went on strike. Eugene Debs led a sympathy strike amongst thousands of railroad employees, whose refusal to handle Pullman cars seriously interfered with national rail traffic. President Grover Cleveland broke the strike with US Marshals and the military, leaving thirteen strikers dead and Debs in prison.
It is small wonder that so many of America’s elite genuflect to Ronald Reagan and want to see his countenance emblazoned on the ten dollar bill. Reagan dropped a nuke on labor in the ongoing class war when he fired the PATCO air traffic controllers in 1981. When Reagan took office, union membership was 23%, down from its 35% peak in the 1950’s. However, his withering blow greatly accelerated the precipitous decline of organized labor in the United States. By 2005 only 8% of America’s private sector workforce was unionized.
Brute force, propaganda, illegal firings, and state-sponsored murder imposed by the ruling class in the United States were not enough to deter the American labor movement from its diligent efforts to improve the lot of the working class. We can thank them for the eight hour work day, an end to child labor, increased safety in the work place, higher wages, and health and retirement benefits.
Since the majority of the population is a part of the working class, a majority of people benefited from labor’s gains. Sounds like a logical outcome in a nation which espouses democratic values. However, the minority in the ruling plutocracy was not pleased. Determined as they were to protect their interests, the modern day Money Changers discovered new ways to impose their economic brutality. (Imagine what Jesus would do on the floors of the stock exchanges).
Welcome to McDonald’s! Would you like fries with that?
Arguing that American workers are overpaid, corporate elites have slashed pay, health benefits, and pensions. They contend that to stay competitive in the new “global economy”, they need to cut labor costs. Working people are to sacrifice with a smile since it is in their best interest to enable their masters to stay in business. Throughout the 80’s and 90’s, massive layoffs pushed millions of middle class blue collar workers into service sector jobs which cut their incomes in half. According to Louis Uchitelle of the New York Times, 30 million Americans were laid off between 1984 and 2004.
Starting in 2000, Silicon Valley and the telecom companies began a trend of massive white collar layoffs. Other industries have followed suit. In short, “overpaid” front line American workers have become highly expendable.
Corporate America doesn’t care what color your collar is. Human beings are commodities to them, and if an employee’s existence is too costly, they eliminate them. Illegally firing employees who try to unionize, hiring temps to replace full-time employees (to eliminate paying those damn benefits), replacing seasoned employees with fresh college grads, and “off shoring” American jobs to exploit cheap labor in other nations exemplify the new paradigm in American business. While corporate profits soar at an annual clip of 30%, employee wages crawl upward at an average of 2%. Meanwhile, CEO’s earn an average of over 400 times that of their employees.
While American workers struggle, multinational corporations, which are often guided by American executives and extremely wealthy share-holders, have introduced human beings in developing nations to the profound misery of Dickensonian Capitalism. When laws in the United States began making it prohibitive for the Social Darwinists to exploit employees and the environment to the extent that it engorged their bank accounts, they began moving their operations to countries which did not have these “harsh constraints”.
It is time for labor to unite on behalf of humanity
In a 1978 letter of resignation from his position of president of the UAW, Douglas Fraser wrote:
I believe leaders of the business community, with few exceptions, have chosen to wage a one-sided class war today in our country --a war against working people, the unemployed, the poor, the minorities, the very young and the very old, and even many in the middle class of our society….I would rather sit with the rural poor, the desperate children of urban blight, the victims of racism, and working people seeking a better life than with those whose religion is the status quo, whose goal is profit and whose hearts are cold. We intend to reforge the links with those who believe in struggle: the kind of people who sat down in the factories in the 1930's and who marched in Selma in the 1960's.
Unfortunately, Fraser’s inspiring words have gone largely unheeded. The two party American Duopoly continues to represent the interests of their wealthy and corporate benefactors. Grass roots mobilization and efforts to advance the interests of social and economic justice for the poor and working class have virtually fallen from the radar screen of organized labor. The larger labor unions continue their close ties with the Democratic Party, apparently believing the fiction that Democrats have the spine or the will to advance the interests of the working class.
In July 2005, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) president Andy Stern took his 1.8 million members and broke ties with the AFL-CIO, an organization which has achieved few tangible advances for labor or the working class in recent years. A former social worker and present activist for social causes, Stern was recently profiled on 60 Minutes. Organizing workers, many of whom are minorities and women, in previously under-unionized industries such as day care and janitorial, Stern has created an agenda of global worker cooperation to end the disturbing trend of corporate exploitation.
Stern and his followers have set out to rectify the gross economic injustices facing the working class and humanity in general. They recognize that collectively, the working class wields great power. Unionizing, strikes, and boycotts are the potent weapons they employ against the seemingly overwhelming forces of Capitalist domination.
Last week, I asked SEIU’s online campaign manager, Anders Schneiderman, to share his thoughts on labor taking the lead in advancing the causes of social and economic justice.
SEIU members believe that the only way we can build a better world for all of us is if we unite with workers across the globe. When corporations move around the world looking for opportunities to maximize their profits by driving down pay and benefits standards, no one is safe unless we work together. That's why school bus drivers, are joining together on both sides of the Atlantic to hold First Service accountable, and why on June 15 janitors from around the world will be celebrating International Justice Day and discussing where their campaigns to raise standards should go next.
While the ruling elite have done an exceptional job of employing the concept of divide and conquer in human society (gay vs. straight, pro-life vs. pro-choice, red state vs. blue state, Christianity vs. Islam), a majority of the global population shares at least one common interest. Almost all of us need to trade our labor for our means of sustenance. A global unification of working people of all stripes is what we of the poor and middle classes need to overcome the tyranny of the moneyed ruling class. These modern day monarchs thrive by keeping their peasants in a perpetual state of unnecessary poverty, ignorance, war, and human suffering.
Contrary to the lies of the elite, human nature does not doom us to high degrees of injustice and misery. Human beings are blessed with free will. As individuals, and ultimately collectively, we can choose to act in mostly reasoned, honest and just ways. We can avoid resorting to impulsive, reactionary responses to primal emotions like fear, lust, and anger (feelings propagandists love to trigger and manipulate). No one will make reasoned, fair choices all of the time, but I know from my own experience that through conscious effort, it is possible to do so much of the time.
A revitalized labor movement on a global scale could very well be our means to snatch victory from the pitbull-like jaws of Capitalist Imperialism and to forge a reasonably just and humane society.
Jason Miller is a 39 year old sociopolitical essayist with a degree in liberal arts and an extensive self-education (derived from an insatiable appetite for reading). He is a member of Amnesty International and an avid supporter of Oxfam International and Human Rights Watch. He welcomes responses at willpowerful @ hotmail.com or comments on his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at _ http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com .