by The Other Katherine Harris
The Other Katherine Harris’s blog
May 3, 2008
Like others raised before the age of infotainment, I was taught to scorn the voyeuristic impulse. I wouldn’t dream of watching a building burn, slowing traffic to gawk at a smashup or reading beyond unavoidable headlines about celebrity meltdowns, cult busts and diableries du jour.
However, the Austrian dungeon tales have drawn me in. They’re actual news, in an allegorical way.
Really, could there be a more perfect example of microcosmic/macrocosmic similitude? I was thinking that already, when this line in a business story underscored it: “I have this feeling that there is a wall in front of us.”
Axel Marceau, identified by The New York Times as “a 41-year-old schoolteacher living outside of Frankfurt…(whose) father had a teaching job that afforded the family upward mobility, from owning a home to fancy ski vacations,” went on to say, “We’re just not going to get any further… (W)e’ve been in a slow process of losing to the people up top.”
“A wall.” “The people up top.” See what I mean? Betrayed by our supposed protectors, we’re in the grip of a monstrous evil. Elisabeth Fritzl and her children call it Father; Axel Marceau calls it Fatherland. In all its forms, the tyranny of powerful sociopaths has crafted hell on earth for its captives.
In Madrid, Maria Salgado, a TV director and divorced mother of two, is scraping by on little more than she earned 14 years ago as a novice. “The middle class used to live well. And if you have lived well, it’s hard to live so badly,” she said, adding that her daughter asked if they were poor, because they can no longer shop at health food stores or buy fish more than once a week. “I’m surprised we haven’t started a revolution,” she observed.
“I look at people on the bus and they seem sad and beaten down,” said Francesca Di Pietro, who works in Rome but can’t afford to live in the city. She and her partner, both in their 40s, earn middle class wages, yet have to pack lunch, buy secondhand clothes and get beauty school haircuts. “We should be feeling more combative,” she remarked, “but really all we feel is frustrated.”
A typical couple of the French middle class reported sinking farther into debt every month, despite selling one of their cars due to gasoline prices, giving their son powdered milk and baking their own bread. “In France, when you can’t afford a baguette anymore, you know you’re in trouble,” said Anne-Laure Renard, a teacher. “The French Revolution started with bread riots,” she noted.
Across the Channel, London’s Daily Mail recently completed an analysis that showed “food costs alone are rising at 15.5 per cent a year – more than six times the official rate. And there are double-digit increases in other … essentials such as petrol, gas and electricity. Many families need … more than £1,200 extra a year just to stand still. Once higher mortgage costs are added, millions … (need) at least another £2,000 a year to keep their heads above water.”
Despite sharp drops in buying power due to “free trade” policies imposed through our governments by conscienceless oligarchs, the shrinking middle class of Europe are substantially better off than we are. They have universal healthcare, a stronger currency, a higher wage (both minimum and median), better access to higher education and unions that retain some strength. Even their poor are more secure than we, thanks to social safety nets that keep everyone who seeks help fed and sheltered.
Thus, within this hell of exploitation in which all but the few – our oppressors – reside, distressed Europeans occupy the top circles. Americans who work for a living exist on several levels between them and the world’s most wretched, descending from those struggling to hold it together to those in extremis: the dispossessed, the sick who have no hope of care, the unemployed, the hungry.
Recognizing that all who lack independent wealth are together in the same dungeon now, we must also admit the only difference between workers surviving in some degree of comfort and the Haitians eating dirt is one of degree. Given time enough, those who prey on us will reduce our circumstances equally. They call what they’ve been doing to us for decades Labor Arbitrage. If we have a lick of sense, we’ll start calling it crime and demanding an end to government complicity.