Class Warfare

Class Warfare

I come from a long line of warriors on both sides of my family, including two ancestors who won the highest military honor in the country for which they fought, the United States and Cuba. My father and three uncles were officers in the Second World War, and one died with the 82nd Airborne in Italy. The heroism and service of these men has always been a source of tremendous pride in my family.

I also come from a long line of Quakers whose dedication to non-violence and world peace has been an inspiration to me and to the world. I didn’t go to Vietnam, my generation’s war. I marched against it. I have avoided violence successfully throughout my life and am committed to Quaker principles for the most part, if not entirely. But I am prepared to fight, with my ancestors as my model, in the one war that is demonstrably unjust, demonstrably waged as policy in the United States and throughout the world, and whose victims’suffering I feel and see all around me every day: The Class War.

I really don’t know how erudite, well-informed citizens can navigate their lives without the input of Noam Chomsky and Greg Palast. To do so is to man the helm with the wrong charts spread out before you. Maybe that metaphor should be reworked or replaced. Many of the world’s citizens have not spent time in a boat. And maybe it is not so much the wrong charts, as incomplete charts, with shoals and depths and rocks left out or mislabeled. The world is simply not what the New York Times says it is. It is not bounded by the pronouncements of CNN or ABC. There is another grinding reality to the affairs of humankind that crushes the lives of a staggering number of the world’s citizens every day, and it is ignored by the organs of communication that the privileged classes read and hear as part of their daily understanding.

Inequality in the distribution of wealth, and the growth of this sad divide, in this country and in the world, should be the unavoidable banner headline of the daily press as the war is waged by governments and their partner corporations, death toll in the millions. Should be, but isn’t.

When blood is being spilled on an hourly basis, positions are being overrun, and escape routes are blocked before the need for them is understood, it is best to acknowledge the state of war, and then fight. The smallest regard for history dates the conflict to the earliest days, but the savagery of the assault and the success of the monstrously aggressive forces in the last thirty years are chilling and frightening. The rate of poverty in this country and around the world might be flung at the doorstep of governmental incompetence had we not the cold-blooded legislative initiatives responsible. It should be no surprise that these measures do not acknowledge the disastrous goals which virtually all of the available data proclaim have been attained since their implementation. The utterly regressive payroll taxes, and the elimination of the maybe-at-one-time absurdly progressive income tax have been the mechanism of gap in the United States.

The mendacity employed to veil the stunning reality leads one to shudder. Those embarrassed enough and unable to avoid the question try a number of strategies. Some leap for the end of a swinging rope that refers to “averages” in wealth and income.. Whatever that average is, if it maintains or rises slightly, in income, or wealth, or some other measure, it is so for only one reason: the uppermost strata of our fellow citizens have been rocketed into another stratosphere and we, in our little boats, are towed gracefully behind though out of sight way beyond the horizon.

One need not linger over whether it is the top one percent or the top one-tenth of one percent that owns or is paid fifty or eighty percent of the nation’s wealth or salary. The demarcation between the top and the rest can be drawn wherever the draftsperson is inclined. The story of inequality and its deliberate purpose are inescapable. Whether it be food stamps, hot lunches, or the minimum wage, this nation’s policies have taken consistently from those that need to give to those that don’t.

Such policies are possible because they are not the subject of discussion, or if they are, their opponents’ voices suffer forced inaudibility or mangled and spun interpretation. It is far from surprising that a system of governance founded on the supposed channeled pursuit of greedy self-interest has fallen into the reigning despotism of unchanneled and unbridled greed. Benjamin Franklin predicted it, but its recognition has not been permitted by those fouled enterprises that own the inkprint and the airwaves, and thus hold the reins. Encomiums to greed and self-interest periodically surface in an effort to forestall a more honest appraisal. But no one should expect anything other than what we have from a system of corporate domination that allows the single-minded pursuit of profit at the same time it promotes that corporate domination over matters far removed from the sale of product or the provision of service.

Inequality of wealth is born of an inequality of power. With no voice in the halls of power, and no voice in the public domain, there is no incentive on the part of the powerful to throttle down their quest for more wealth and more power. Thus are the forces of class warfare arrayed, the bleeding and the suffering of all kinds and colors find themselves without exception on the same side of the battle lines.

If those who stand with the losers in this campaign resolve to find a weapon and use it, those saddled on the high horses of sanctimony will shrilly cry that citizen is pitted against citizen. It is a well-worn phrase found in and dragged from the closet of perfidy whenever a running Democrat is in a state of true desperation and utters a bleating objection to the financial divide. The lesson never learned is that populist condemnations of inequality have always found a home in the political consciousness of most of us. The occasional desperate users of the phrases of class warfare tend not to understand the power at the class warrior’s disposal. Or they are embarrassed at the country club to be seen in conflict with other members of the foursome.

I make the following suggestions: when the accusation of class warfare is made, rise instantly to be counted. Catalogue the casualties, all on one side, and set forth the mechanisms of their injuries and death. Do not seek withdrawal or negotiation. Seek the methods of equality which found some muted success for thirty years in the mid-twentieth century. Declare implacable resolve not to walk from this battlefield till the structures of equality have been erected, and inspected, and made impregnable to future assault..

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