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[personal profile] flewellyn
Sometimes, when I voice my concerns that the wealthy have far too much power in our society, I am accused, along with other progressives, of promoting "class warfare".

I have only one response.

The wealthy declared the class war long ago. We are declaring that we have noticed.

Date: 2009-10-06 03:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] hotcoffeems.livejournal.com
The wealthy declared the class war long ago. We are declaring that we have noticed. Well said, sir.

It's astounding how few people seem to notice this, or how often the Distraction Technique works to separate people whose interests really do lie in the same direction (i.e., rich whites in the postwar South convincing poor whites that their problem really was black people, or the powers that be now convincing working class folk that "illegal immigrants" are the cause of their economic woes).

Divide and conquer...

Date: 2009-10-06 03:31 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flewellyn.livejournal.com

I posted this because a friend told me I should, after I said it in a conversation.

Date: 2009-10-06 05:44 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] roseneko.livejournal.com
In A People's History of the United States, Howard Zinn advances this theory as to where the ingrained multigenerational racial warfare of the South came from and why it's particularly prevalent among poorer folk. The wealth and power were in the hands of a very few white men, and between the black slaves and the poorer whites (especially the criminals who had undergone transportation and had served out their terms) their biggest fear was that enough people would notice the disproportionate wealth distribution and band together to demand a change. But then they realize, all they had to do was exploit the fundamental human trait of not wanting to be last on the totem pole - if they treated the poor white folk just a little bit better, and gave them just a few more rights than the black slaves, and made them feel like they had a group they could look down on, then they wouldn't dream of banding together with somebody beneath them, even though both classes had some very real grievances with the ruling class.

And now, more than two centuries later, they're still doing it, and we're still falling for it. It's that last fact that makes me wonder if America is truly going to make any progress with social change.

My favorite bumper sticker that I've seen recently: "At least the war on the middle class is going well..."

Al Franken agrees with you

Date: 2009-10-06 03:34 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] keori.livejournal.com
In his most recent book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look At the Right, Senator Al Franken wrote the following:

Any time that a liberal points out that the wealthy are disproportionately benefiting from Bush's tax policies, Republicans shout, "class warfare!"

In her book A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century, Barbara Tuchman writes about a peasant revolt in 1358 that began in the village of St. Leu and spread throughout the Oise Valley. At one estate, the serfs sacked the manor house, killed the knight, and roasted him on a spit in front of his wife and kids. Then, after ten or twelve peasants violated the lady, with the children still watching, they forced her to eat the roasted flesh of her dead husband and then killed her.

That is class warfare.

Arguing over the optimum marginal tax rate for the top one percent is not.

Re: Al Franken agrees with you

Date: 2009-10-06 03:39 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] glenniebun.livejournal.com
I was just trying to remember which book that was in. Thank you!

Re: Al Franken agrees with you

Date: 2009-10-06 03:42 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] flewellyn.livejournal.com
I have that book, and I often think of that passage when I encounter the phrase in person.

Re: Al Franken agrees with you

Date: 2009-10-06 02:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] happiestsadist.livejournal.com
I think of that passage too when I hear the phrase.

Date: 2009-10-06 10:43 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] illdrinn.livejournal.com
As someone who comes from the "comfortable classes" I should take exception that I am included in a group you see as an enemy however...

It astounds me how many Americans fail to notice the large class divides in their country and the ongoing effort of the wealthy to maintain a free market economy that punishes those who begin poor. There seems to be much less of a middle class in America than any other Western nation.

Date: 2009-10-06 02:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] roseneko.livejournal.com
Functionally speaking, the middle class is a tool of the wealthy to stay in power. Any system of economics is only stable so long as the majority of people feel like they're making out okay; otherwise you have such a large percentage of people who are upset about the distribution of wealth that you end up with something along the lines of the French Revolution. The middle class tips that balance in favor of the "making out okay" without taking up so much of the wealth that the obscenely rich have to worry.

In America, however, there are some special circumstances at work. Here, far more than anywhere in Europe, we buy into the notion that with hard work and determination anyone can pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become wealthy (the fact that this is patently untrue notwithstanding - we parade around the very few exceptions as prooof of the rule). We also have a strong nationalistic identity, especially among the lower classes ("America is the greatest country in the world!"), thanks to an incredibly effective propaganda campaign propagated by the obscenely wealthy in this country (Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Rupert Murdoch, et al), as well as the aforementioned divide-and-conquer tactics. So even though we may well be teetering on the brink of too-many-poor for a stable system, those on top keep fanning the flames of patriotism and paranoia as well as holding out the "Don't blame us for being rich, we just worked hard" excuse to turn their attentions elsewhere...and it works.

Yeah, I spend way too much time thinking about these kinds of things. It's depressing.

Date: 2009-10-12 04:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ms-daisy-cutter.livejournal.com
Functionally speaking, the middle class is a tool of the wealthy to stay in power.

Are you opposed to there being a middle class? Personally, I don't think any other economic system is sustainable. As [livejournal.com profile] lucretiasheart says, you will never have a perfectly egalitarian system.

I agree with most of your sentiments here, however.

Date: 2009-10-12 06:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] roseneko.livejournal.com
Given that I'm pretty solidly a member of said middle class, it'd be a bit hypocritical of me to be against the concept. :) Sure, it's not a perfect system, but when it comes to something as fundamental as an economic system I'm more than willing to take stability in lieu of something potentially better or worse - change can be great and all, but (to refer to the earlier example of the French Revolution) when there's that much power at stake the revolutionaries rarely end up acting in the best interests of the majority.

That said, I'm very much in favor of government policies aimed at keeping that middle class alive and well, in part due to that desire for stability and also because I think it's morally wrong that some people can take home hundreds of millions of dollars every year and others can barely scrape by on food stamps and WIC warrants. This is partially why it pisses me off so much when the obscenely wealthy take such obvious advantage of the middle and lower classes - propaganda will only go so far, and if they keep being so blatantly uncaring sooner or later enough people will get pissed off to cause some serious trouble for them.

Date: 2009-10-06 02:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] happiestsadist.livejournal.com
The wealthy declared the class war long ago. We are declaring that we have noticed.
Yep, still putting that on a shirt once I get some fabric paint.

class war

Date: 2009-10-06 06:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] lucretiasheart.livejournal.com
Good point.

Personally, I understand that humans are fundamentally status-conscious, and will create striations and levels and compete to get to the top. That's the nature of the beast.

However, what I resent is CHEATING to stay at the top, creating a permanent, unchanging lower class that gets stomped on, and a permanent, unchanging upper class that gets to do all the stomping. I also resent the middle class (neither stompers nor stomped) being squeezed out of existence. The United States started as an experiment to create a society that was stratified, sure, but DYNAMICALLY so-- where people could move up and down class lines in as fair a manner as possible. Since poor could get rich in such a society, and DID, since middle classes and even some poor could get college educations and raise themselves out of poverty-- so long as there was a possibility for an exit to lifelong misery--? Most of our ancestors signed on to that social contract. Yeah, there were rich, but they were few-- and same with the poor. Most people were in the middle and every society that's been mostly made of middle class citizens has worked and had high levels of satisfaction.

But that's been slowly eroded over time. Once again the middle class is disappearing and the rich get richer and the poor get more and more numerous, as their chances to get out of poverty are stripped away. We're quickly going back to a feudal society (plus technology) that ensures the maximum exploitation of the population by the few at the top.

So yeah-- class warfare HAS been declared, and anyone who doesn't see soon will when they're part of the growing lower class.

EDIT: Then again, now that I've read comments above, MAYBE NOT. But its one thing to grow up "white trash" and another to find yourself there after a fairly cushy middle class (even upper middle class) existence. THOSE people will not be happy.
Edited Date: 2009-10-06 06:44 pm (UTC)

Date: 2009-10-06 10:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] xuincherguixe.livejournal.com
I like that one.

Date: 2009-10-07 08:27 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
But its one thing to grow up "white trash" and another to find yourself there after a fairly cushy middle class (even upper middle class) existence. THOSE people will not be happy.

Speaking as one of those (falling middle class) people, I wholeheartedly agree. I have been saying this for several years, and only now are people (that I know personally) starting to see the light. Funny how so many don't see the forest until all the trees immediately surrounding them have been cut down.


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