Saturday, September 21, 2013

Thoughts at Equinox: Who Laid The Tracks?

The USA's version of "middle class" is different from the UK's version. Here the middle class seems to refer to anyone not living in actual poverty, yet not of the 1% of elite bankers, financiers, corporate CEOs, "celebs", multimillionaires and billionaires. In the UK middle class is understood to relate to the professions: doctors, lawyers, professors, scientists - that sort of thing. Ordinary folk, tradespeople, craftsmen, office workers, factory workers, store assistants etc. are the working class. Bearing that difference in mind, yesterday I read a good article by Edward McClelland at Salon.

RIP, the middle class: 1946-2013
The 1 percent hollowed out the middle class and our industrial base. And Washington just let it happen

Here's a paragraph from the piece:
When I was growing up, it was assumed that America’s shared prosperity was the natural endpoint of our economy’s development, that capitalism had produced the workers paradise to which Communism unsuccessfully aspired. Now, with the perspective of 40 years, it’s obvious that the nonstop economic expansion that lasted from the end of World War II to the Arab oil embargo of 1973 was a historical fluke, made possible by the fact that the United States was the only country to emerge from that war with its industrial capacity intact. Unfortunately, the middle class – especially the blue-collar middle class – is also starting to look like a fluke, an interlude between Gilded Ages that more closely reflects the way most societies structure themselves economically. For the majority of human history – and in the majority of countries today – there have been only two classes: aristocracy and peasantry. It’s an order in which the many toil for subsistence wages to provide luxuries for the few. Twentieth century America temporarily escaped this stratification, but now, as statistics on economic inequality demonstrate, we’re slipping back in that direction. Between 1970 and today, the share of the nation’s income that went to the middle class – households earning two-thirds to double the national median – fell from 62 percent to 45 percent. Last year, the wealthiest 1 percent took in 19 percent of America’s income – their highest share since 1928. It’s as though the New Deal and the modern labor movement never happened.

The highlighted sentences are what I latched onto immediately. At this time of equinox and balance in the natural world, doesn't it seem peculiar that any kind of equinox or balance has never, ever existed for humans - anywhere on Earth? Balance, even partial balance, of the distribution of wealth and bounty of planet earth?

We, in the west at least, have moved in cycles of vicious feudalism/slavery, to a much milder disguised form of the same, back to a variation of the more intense form, under a different name.

Why is this? Why does it have to be like this? Karl Marx and others throughout history must have asked the question and tried to answer it. Their solutions didn't take, anymore than it would be feasible to try stopping a toy train on circular track and causing it to take a different route where no tracks existed.

But who laid those tracks in the first place? The elite (for want of a better description of the planet's early rulers). How did they become rulers, and capable of doing this? Why did they think it was the right thing to do?

If astrology works at all, it has to be something inherent in humans due to our physical position in our solar system. Our very nature must drive us along these already laid tracks, and divides us very unequally into rulers and ruled. I wonder where it says that in planetary language? Is it due to the Sun's rule over life itself? That could explain the need for leaders - a ruler: king, emperor, president, whatever, but it doesn't explain why things are, and have always been, so unbalanced; or when efforts to bring about even minor adjustments are made, results are short-lived at best. We soon veer back to the same old tracks. The part of DNA relating to greed for wealth and control must be fairly rare but very, very powerful.

That little lot spewed, unbidden, right off the top of my head and could well be utter rubbish. I needed to let off some steam.
“The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said "This is mine," and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody.”
― Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality


mike said...

I suspect it's the "survival of the fittest" part of our DNA. We humans have become domesticated and "civilized", but our primal DNA still rules. Seems that all animals have a physically superior alpha-type that aggressively asserts fiefdom over the lesser.

With "civilization" has come the ability to compete with our brain rather than brawn. The ability to out-smart, cheat, lie, steal, and out-maneuver rivals pays dividends and allows an individual to amass superior resources, hence a social dominance. An honest and clever individual will easily succumb to a dishonest and clever individual...particularly when the underlings judge the dispute. Underlings are easily swayed by manipulation and deceit. Just look at how politics are only matters what doubt can be instilled in the public's opinion of an honest individual. Truth does not matter with a manipulated public.

With every group of people, there is always a need for several individuals to assert themselves and vie for leadership. I have seen this need for superiority and desire for leadership at every job I've ever had and within every group I've been a member. We humans and most animals assemble ourselves in a hierarchy.

You said, "The part of DNA relating to greed for wealth and control must be fairly rare but very, very powerful." I think this is a very COMMON attribute of humans. There are leaders and there are followers.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

mike (again) said...

P.S. - It's ironic that the powerful usually feel superior and condescending toward the followers and lesser individuals. The followers and lesser individuals usually feel contentious and resentful of the powerful. Yet, one begets the other.

mike (again) said...

P.S.S. - last comment here! Recent findings regarding the neanderthals indicates they were a much more peaceful species than us sapiens. So, maybe the sapiens' DNA is particularly tainted.

There are and have been cultures where leadership did not equate to power, except for collective decision making. Many of the more primitive tribes (hunter-gather) on Earth today, of which there aren't many remaining...most are in S.America's rainforest, and the original Native American tribes did not possess the knowledge of wealth and ownership...they did know rival-tribal warfare, though.

LB said...

"Civilization is an experiment, a very recent way of life in the human career, and it has a habit of walking into what I am calling progress traps. A small village on good land beside a river is a good idea; but when the village grows into a city and paves over the good land, it becomes a bad idea. While prevention might have been easy, a cure may be impossible: a city isn't easily moved. This human inability to foresee -- or to watch out for -- long-range consequences may be inherent to our kind, shaped by the millions of years when we lived from hand to mouth by hunting and gathering. It may also be little more than a mix of inertia, greed, and foolishness encouraged by the shape of the social pyramid. The concentration of power at the top of large-scale societies gives the elite a vested interest in the status quo; they continue to prosper in darkening times long after the environment and general populace begin to suffer. (109)"
― Ronald Wright, A Short History of Progress

I think mike makes some good points about some (not all) of society's more successful leaders and the ways in which we're easily manipulated, at least initially. Whether it's politics, business, medicine, church, or even within our chosen spiritual or social-groups, studies have suggested people lacking conscience (those with sociopathic/psychopathic tendencies) are more likely to hold positions of power.

Which isn't to let those of us who are led completely off the hook. Sometimes, though not always, there's a choice involved. We often most admire those self-made men and women (frequently ruthless) who've risen to the top, holding them up as shining examples of self-sufficiency and what it takes to make it in our world.

Or, we readily mistake charm for character and/or place a higher value on quick fixes that promise us MORE of something -more convenience, more power, more money, more success, more happiness, more immediate gratification- and in the process lose sight of a longer range vision that includes truth, personal integrity and compassion, a vision that honors our connectedness by including and caring for *all* members of society - especially the "least among us". Nothing worthwhile is ever gained without restraint and sacrifice, words we seldom like to hear.

My latest (pre-Halloween) campaign involves encouraging more people to purchase slave-free chocolate and cocoa products. At the supermarket last night, looking around at the aisles of packaged chocolate harvested using children as slaves (with only 1 lonely chocolate bar that didn't) really drove the point home for me.:( Still, that's no reason not to try.

Twilight said...

mike ~ The "survival of the fittest" accounts for part of the story, as it relates to the masses, I agree. Any group of ordinary people does tend to eventually form some kind of hierarchical pattern.
Native Americans had tribal chiefs, as I suppose do other early tribal groups elsewhere in the world.

Perhaps the king/emperor-rulers/peasants pattern has to be just an extension and perhaps, in some ways, a corruption of that innate hierarchical pattern of ours.....maybe dictated by the planets.....maybe not.

Ideally the leaders should protect the followers. In the past there was some of this going on. Now, not so fact not at all. The pattern has been corrupted.

I like your last point in the PSS-
that homo sapiens DNA come have become somehow tainted; neanderthals, derided as they usually are, could have, if they had survived, aeons later might have brought us to a better place.

Twilight said...

LB ~ You wrote studies have suggested people lacking conscience (those with sociopathic/psychopathic tendencies) are more likely to hold positions of power.

This has to be the crux of what I see as a corruption of the old straight-forward leader/follower pattern. Maybe the occasionally sociopathic tendency fotund in humans is what defines homo sapiens as against neanderthals, maybe that was the "gift" sapiens gave us. ;-(

As you say, those being led bear some blame for allowing corruption to spread, by being naive, lazy or manipulated by brain-wash.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a time-lapse-type movie of history from the very first leader/king we know of, to discover how he came to be king or leader, and follow through all of history until now, in a chosen group of countries - those which would best illustrate how it all developed. Massive, impossible job, though. Delving too far back into mists of time to be in any way accurate I guess.

Well done you - in your campaign for fair chocolate! (For want of better description). It's ironic that supermarket aisles are filled with stuff manufactured often using child slavery, with children especially in mind at Hallowe'en.

I think, this year, if we join in with Trick or Treat at all, it'll have to be with fruit or other types of candy, or cookies.

LB said...

Twilight ~ Thanks for caring.:) If you change your mind and want to pass out chocolate (and don't want to order online), the supermarket chain, "Whole Foods" usually carries fair-trade brands that make smaller-size Halloween treats. I think there's one in Lawton, don't know how far that is from where you are. If you have a health food store or organic farmer's market in your area, you might try there too.

Twilight said...

LB ~~ Thanks, the next time we're in Lawton (it's a half hour's drive away) we'll investigate the choc aisle at Whole Foods. :-)

mike (again) said...

Twilight and LB, the fruit and other agricultural products are just as tainted by children's hands:


"In 2000 Human Rights Watch published FINGERS TO THE BONE: UNITED STATES FAILURE TO PROTECT CHILD FARMWORKERS. The critical report documented the health and educational risks faced by child laborers on America's farms. Estimates of the number of children working in agriculture range from 300,000 (The General Accounting Office) to 800,000 (United Farm Workers union).

Children who work on farms are governed by different rules than those in any other occupation. They can start work at age 12 if accompanied by a parent. The minimum employment age for non-agricultural work is 14. Child farm laborers can also work longer hours. Children who are 14 or older can work unlimited hours in the fields before or after school hours. Children who work in any other occupation are permitted to work only 3 hours per day while school is in session.

According to the General Accounting office more than 100,000 children and teens are injured on farms each year. In addition, such child farmworkers are exposed to pesticides at the same level as adults, although their risk may be higher, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. A study by the National Migrant Resources Program found that migrant children have a higher rate of chronic disease (10.9% vs. 3% for the general population) and a death rate 1.6 times higher than other children."

And I see that Chiquita (bananas) is having troubles regarding its ties to the Colombian civil war.

Dole Foods is involved in various litigation for sundry "crimes" a search.

Are there any ethically-backed products available to consumers anymore????? Clothing, food, electronics, lumber, petroleum...nothing seems off-limits for abuse.

Twilight said...

mike ~~ Thanks for the research. Dang! Well fruit will be a no-no for Hallowe'en then. I'll look for some candy made in the USA, non-chocolate. Jelly Beans? Werthers butterscotch drops? Lollipops? That kind of thing. The kids will probably decide to give us a wide berth, come next year!

It's getting ridiculous now. I thought unions had sorted out the child labour problem, in the USA at least. But of course the USA doesn't like unions does it. Grrrr!!!!

ex-Chomp said...

English idea of middle class is like the general European idea of middle class: Basically the world of professions

Twilight said...

ex-Chomp ~ Yes, the academics and the extra-skilled among us who had had to commit to lots of extra study to get them to pro-standard. :-)

Juno said...

Hi Twilight - have not been on your blog for a while - great choice of article, and could not agree more. A good friend of mine (much older and wiser, in his mid 60's now) said back in the 90's when NAFTA passed, "They are not satisfied - not until they destroy the middle class." He has referring to the corporate elite and the politicians that colluded with them. My friend, an old Labour type, saw teh beginning of the end when the Soviet Union collapsed, because the U.S. no longer had to present an alternate economic model. Marx may have promised a worker's paradise, but here in the U.S. we actually had it.

Juno said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Twilight said...

Juno ~ Hi, nice to see ya! (I removed a duplication of your comment by the way).

Yes, I've come to understand from my husband that "things were not always like this here". Which means, logically, that things will not always remain as they are now , because we do move in cycles.

Let's hope that we're experiencing a relatively short cycle which could end with another collapse somewhere, somehow (I hope it will not be our own collapse, but....). :-)