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[revised June 1, 2010]
A scene in Claude Berri’s fine 1993 film Germinal captures the essence of it all. French coal miners, circa 1880s, are enduring bleak conditions. They have no union, so a group of them ask to speak to the mine owner at his manor house. This one scene reveals the extent of a certain mindset of that day , and of now . The workers enter the study of the boss. He is seated at his desk as the group enters. They take their hats off and, to a man, seem to lower their heads in his presence.
I recall when Alan Greenspan was Federal Reserve Chairman. Each time he would appear before Congress to answer questions, they treated him like…..royalty! All of a sudden, this man who represented private banks and not the citizens, was approached like the Delphic Oracle. If the hearings were not conducted indoors, we might have seen hats coming off before they questioned him…. They even began addressing him as Doctor Greenspan. Every word he uttered was received with baited breath. The CNBC financial show covered his appearances live, and all the little serfs on the trading floor stopped working to hear what he was saying. After all, if he said the right thing, the market would react upwards. If not, no cocktails later on at 4 PM. Meanwhile, it was Greenspan who helped inflate the real estate bubble by celebrating the wonders of this ownership society.
America, 2010, and nothing really has changed, with one percent of our population ( of nearly 300 million people ) controlling 40 percent of our wealth. Unions represent a modern low of 14 percent of the workforce. Yet, probably the most damaging aspect is the mindset of most 9 to 5 Americans, who wannabe ‘ Just like Mike ‘ ! Remember that powerful advertisement for Nike ( or was it Coke ? ) when Michael Jordan was the hit of the town? He was a superstar, super wealthy, with this big smile that reeked of success….. Power! All the average Joes out there wished they could be like him…..live like him! Then we had shows like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, and all those couch potatoes dreamed of one day being like that. We had ( and have ) all those infomercials telling us how to make money quick from real estate. I remember Erik Estrada from the old Chips cop show pushing real estate investing, with his pot belly and bloated once handsome face…. ‘ With little money down! ‘
Conversations in offices, supermarket lines, health clubs, job sites…. Everywhere it seems, are about the ‘ scandal of the day ‘ involving the rich and famous. Never do you hear discussions about the trillion dollar phony bank bailouts, or trillion dollar phony wars we taxpayers fund, or about what Goldman Sachs did to the Greek government to cause their crisis. Or the news about how the Greek 9 to 5 working folks are not taking this like we here take everything. They went out in the streets, en masse, demanding better answers instead of just taking it all on their backs and in their wallets. Yet, here in La La land, all I hear from my friends is how much they are losing in their portfolios. Instead of having contempt and righteous anger for the one percent who seem to get all the breaks from this government, my neighbors walk right into the trap of ‘ Wanabee ‘.
I was driving in my car and channel surfing. Problem is, if you want to hear talk radio in my area of Central Florida, all you get is right wing **** . Limbaugh is on , simultaneously, on three different channels at the same time! Three! If you want local talk radio…. Oh boy! More of the same dribble! One guy, a local yokel who had the audacity to actually legally change his name to ‘ Big John ‘ , really takes the cake. Portraying himself as a bleeding heart independent, he spends most of his time siding with the super rich. He says he was against the invasion of Iraq, yet won’t speak of it on air ( ‘ This is a local show about local issues ‘ he parrots ). He refuses to connect the dots as to why our towns are so broke. No mention of the one trillion going to phony wars and one trillion to phony bank bailouts. Think of all the dough that Florida would be getting in Federal Block Grants to help with our red ink budgets if that money did not divert to the Military Industrial Complex and the Wall Street cliques. Recently, this joker was discussing rail link ideas for this area. Currently, the local rail system is virtually nonexistent. Big John ( oh, what a stupid name ) was against funding any rail system improvements. He went on to state that since the citizens voted for it in a referendum, it should be funded by raising the sales tax, agreeing with his guest that we would do better with a Fair Tax instead of any sort of income tax, which Florida currently does not have. This scheme of a Fair Tax AKA Consumption Tax ( Sales Tax ) instead of any state income tax would put the burden on raising money on the backs of all we little folks. Look carefully at the gasoline pump next time you fill up. See how much in taxes you pay for each gallon. Is it the 1% , the super wealthy , who pay the most, or is it the rest of we serfs ? How many toaster ovens and shirts and underwear can that one percent buy compared to the 99% of Americans? Yet, it is so many serfs who trumpet the nonsense spewed out by characters like ‘ Big John ‘ .
Finally, for all my fellow Christian brothers and sisters out there, let’s end with the words of two men you hold so dear. Remember, that in Jesus’ day the scribes and Pharisees represented the elites of that society.
John the Baptist –
You worship God with voice and lip; your hearts are far away, and set on gold…. Your priests have bound upon the people burdens far too great to bear; they live in ease upon the hard earned wages of the poor. Your lawyers, doctors, scribes are useless cumberers of the ground; they are but tumors on the body of the state; they toil not neither do they spin, yet they consume the profits of your marts of trade. Your rulers are adulterers, extortioners and thieves, regarding not the rights of any man……
Jesus of Nazareth –
Beware you of the scribes and Pharisees who pride themselves in wearing long and richly decorated robes, and love to be saluted in the market place, and seek the highest seats at feasts, and take the hard earned wages of the poor to satisfy their carnal selves, and pray in public, long and loud. These are the wolves who clothes themselves to look like sheep….. They say the things that Moses taught; they do the things of Beelzebub. They talk of mercy, yet they bind on human shoulders burdens grievous to bear. They talk of helpfulness, and yet they put not forth the slightest efforts for their brother man.
Alas, dear friends, the manor house in not a place this writer wishes to reside in….. Or even visit.
Philip A. Farruggio is son and grandson of Brooklyn NYC longshoremen. He is an activist leader and free lance columnist. Since the 2000 elections, he has written over 150 columns, many posted on various sites worldwide. Recently, he is finding a home at www.dandelionsalad.com, or at his own blog at http://www.opensalon.com. Philip can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.