I try not to watch the news too often, but I also feel I should try to keep up, and I looked in my phone this morning to see some of the festivities in Saudi Arabia, the Gold Swords and opulent palaces and mountains of fresh flowers and fruit, flown in from all over the earth.
I was startled by what I was seeing, in a country where some people are terrified of losing their health care and others are terrified to drive down a road if there is a police care ther, the barons and rulers and arms makers of the earth are holding feasts and celebrations with Golden Swords, glowing orbs, dancing soldier and mountains of lobster and fish and beef that would have shamed Maria Antoinette.
It was the kind of gala that cost her her head, but was being presented to us as the arrival of a new world order. If you read some history, it will look very much like the old one, before revolutionaries in France and America had a new idea called liberty.
I felt cut off from myself, disconnected from my country, and I had this recurring idea, it kept flashing through my mind, that our country and everything in it is now for sale.
And the rich Kings and Princes and Saudis and fawning and bowing American leaders were in a buying and deal-making mood, it was gleefully announced that the Kingdom would soon be investing in billions of dollars worth of American infrastructure in exchange for being permitted to buy hundreds of billions of dollars in bombs, jet fighter planes and the newest tanks.
And all of this in the name of a new kind of harmony and peace. It was some sort of over-the-top Devil's Feast it seemed to me, it has about as much to do with working people or peace and harmony as me as diving off the Australian reefs in a yacht.
Everytime I look at the news, I see that something new is for sale, another deal in the making – the media, health care, national parks, prisons, seats in Congress, schools big banks, immigrants and refugees, the environment and the earth itself, tax reform, oil and gas reserves, cabinet positions.
My country is having a giant yard sale, the biggest in the modern world. We are selling everything we are to the deepest pockets and nastiest people on the planet. And nothing, absolutely nothing, is sacred.
What, I wonder, happened to working people anyway?
They have never, in my lifetime, been more beleaguered, underpaid, discouraged, or broke. They seem broken and disoriented to me, cheering on the very people who are grinding them into the dirt.
After watching the almost grotesquely opulent ceremonies in Saudi Arabia, one of the world's most repressive and cruel countries, I saw a piece in the New York Times called "Alone on the Open Road: Truckers Feel Like 'Throwaway People."
I remember when trucking was valued middle-class work that paid well and brought hard-working people into the middle class. Now it is a brutish and miserable profession that pays little, has awful working conditions, no benefits, an 80 per cent annual turnover, and is hated by the people doing it and the people they serve. It's worth reading this piece. Look what they've done to work, I thought, destroying yet another kind of valued labor for more money.
And look at what have they done to working class.
Have working people been so ground into the dirt that they can no longer tell friends from enemies or organize to better their lives? We live in a country where fast food workers and Wal-Mart employees apply for welfare and food stamps to live (while the family that owns Wal-Mart now owns 40 per cent of the nation's wealth?)
Where Amazon warehouse workers have GPS devices attached to their legs so that their bosses will know if they pause to rest or go to the bathroom?
Look at how they rail and tremble at even the mention of socialism? Could it possibly be as bad as life in an Amazon warehouse?
Wait until they encounter the Communists again, they are practically begging for them to return.
I took out my dog-eared copy of Requiem For The American Dream: The 10 Principles Of Concentration Of Wealth And Power, by Naom Chomsky, a wise and honest teacher.
I opened to page 107, the chapter was called Keep The Rabble In Line, and there, Chomsky was writing about what I was reading about, the brutal war against organized labor, which he calls "the one barrier to this vicious cycle going on, which leads to corporate tyranny."
A major reason for the concentrated, almost fanatic attack on unions and organized labor is that they are a democratizing force, Chomsky writes. They provide a barrier that defends workers' rights, but also popular rights generally. This interferes with the prerogatives and power of the corporations and those who own and manage our society, and who now collect all but a fraction of the wealth.
If you have also been watching the news, you may also see that we are now living in a Corporate Nation. Every legislation, appointment, government agency is for them.
And who really speaks for the working class? The right? The left?
"I should say," writes Chomsky, "that anti-union sentiment in the United States is so strong that the fundamental core of labor rights – the basic principle in the International Labor Organization, which is the right of free association, hence the right to form unions – has never been ratified by the United States. In 1978, the head of the United Auto Workers said that "business is waging a one-sided class war against the working class." Then, more than 60 per cent of working people belonged to unions, and the middle class thrived.
A generation later, the war is over.
By now, less than 7 per cent of private sector workers have unions.
Today, the working class is suffering epidemic poverty, suicide, drug addiction, shorter life spans, depression and declining wages. No wonder. There is no middle-class left for them to get to.
Like the truck drivers and fast food workers and Amazon warehouse employees, they have become the new "Throwaway People," the people left behind and who cannot get ahead, victims of a culture that celebrates the idea that good business means getting as wealthy as possible and forgetting about everybody else.
The mountains of lobster and wine and the mountains of caviar and prime steak flown in and served with our President's favorite ketchup in the desert last night turned my stomach a bit. The corporate journalists could hardly contain themselves, this was, they gushed, so presidential.
What, I wondered was the message for me? Of course, I realized. There is no message for me.
I remember when it was our values that we sold and promoted, not just our money and workers.