Cheap SneakersFour US Senators in April of 2013 attended Senate hearings on long term unemployment. The rallying cry for the whole of the 2012 election, jobs and unemployment. Ninety-six Senators, with their notable absence, expressed indifference.
When flight delays occasioned by the sequester tripped up business and middle class travelers, congress and 100 senators took three days to craft a fix and release the FAA to speed up the flights and limit delays to normal times.
The reason for each, manifestly dichotomous behaviors, tells the whole story of the dysfunction of the United States government and in turn our culture and its’ likely demise.
Senators don’t really care if they pay $100 or $200 for sneakers, and though those built by sweatshop labor and imported for half the price as those made in US are attractive – everyone likes a deal – the senators real interest in cheap sweatshop sneakers, like on time air travel, is simply convenience.
Nobody wants to be late or hang out in airports, and no congressman or senator wants to work any more than they need. The contributions by big business, which thrives in a non union environment with high unemployment underlying all, is a guarantee that workers will work harder, not complain and not make complaints to OSHA, so to prevent the explosion in West Texas, which killed and injured more than the Boston Marathon bombing all together.
The extraordinary and dirty little secret of long term unemployment, in part a natural result of the exponential growth of technology by allowing one person today to do the jobs of thirty people thirty years ago, is that though less costly to retrain and subsidize and fix, long term unemployment is an absolute disincentive and prophylactic for the growth or safety of Labor Unions, and labor unions are the single greatest protection of both a middle class, a collective body of workers representing their own rights and some internal controls of a reckless plutocracy whose wealth, in a single decade, has closed out the future of over a hundred million middle class and poor, whose future and social mobility was protected as recently as ten years ago. So what is the relationship between sweat shops, cheap sneakers and on time flights?
Though congress chose on time flights rather than head start, cancer treatment and food subsidy for families, of whom tens of millions live below the poverty line, they did it for a reason. There are no mistakes and the purpose in all is self service.
Long term unemployment guarantees cheap sneakers and cheap sneakers guarantee unnatural competition for jobs and unnatural competition for jobs weakens labor unions and workers rights and guarantees rich corporate profits and rich corporate profits guarantee well funded lobbyists whose corporate sponsored bank accounts in turn subsidize the re-election of the 96 senators who, rather than work too hard, their average working days one hundred thirty one in 2012, can take their tithe and re-election funds from huge corporate sponsors. At the end of the day, one might ask how are ‘on time’ travel and ‘cheap sneakers’ related? They are both the outcomes of convenience, the unintended outcomes of which may be poverty, unsafe working conditions, Ammonia nitrate explosions in West Texas and collapsed textile factories in Bangladesh. Most extraordinary, such diffidence and absolute indifference to the rights of the general populace, insures the perpetuation of the very system which now and in the foreseeable future serves the self interest of the ninety six.
Homo Sapiens and Homo Erectus. In the origins of the species we now call human, there is an extraordinary lesson which bears significantly on how we conduct ourselves today.
The large conflicts of our body politic, immigration, gun control, women’s rights, education, food and shelter for the weak and vulnerable, all elements of our social safety net have a single common thread which strings them all together.Homo Sapiens and Homo Erectus.
What are or are not the bounds and responsibilities of one for the other and if none, are the disenfranchised or weak to struggle on their own and fall prey to the biological imprimatur; survival of the fittest.
The history of Homo Sapien and Erectus is, amongst other things, characterized by their use of tools, methods of hunting, (providing for their kith and kin) and with the very disparate outcomes.
Both species arose in the Rift Valley of Southern Africa and both species had well developed the use of the hand axe, the tool triangular in shape, not unlike today’s computer mouse, which edged with a skil developed of chipping, one harder rock on the edge of another, allowed then existing man to develop the roughly sharpened lethal cutting and killing tool easily manipulated by a single hunter. The immediate benefit for both species was the transformation of early man from a nut, berry, vegetarian to a meat eater. The density and portability of protein afforded allowed the first significant migration which headed the then nascent species North to Europe, East to Russia, West to Spain, and from there, to colonize the world.
Two mission critical characteristics distinguished the species ultimately causing the demise of one and the ubiquitous and flourishing success of the other.
Homo Sapien, over time turned the large and sometimes unwieldy hand axe into the increasingly technologicaly efficient tool of a spear. Ultimately, the technology developed such that it was easily made, reasonably affixed to the end of a spear and in time to a bow, as the tip of a lethal arrow. Such efficiency, of size and lethality allowed for a whole new range of hunting skills which included the group skill set of hunters herding and pressing animals of prey into the waiting arrows and spears of the awaiting line of firepower. As such, the need of a group, to undertake the endeavor, and the success of the outcome in pounds of meat and numbers killed or caught dramatically changed the whole of the course of the civilization of this species, from which came the earliest notion of commonwealth, an endeavor in which all depended in one fashion or another on each-other.
Conversely, Homo Erectus continued to use the more cumbersome and unwieldy hand axe which limited his kills and the provision of food to his own innate skill as a hunter, but without any of the added benefit of the skills of the group, the technology as developed by the group and the greater range and accessibility to food supplies. And he ultimately perished.
In these hyper political times of debate, all in some fashion or form related to the question of the social contract, the right or wrong of our collectively taking care of our commonwealth, weak or strong, or the alternative view which obliges the weak, poor, disenfranchised and less strong classes of woman and children to essentially fend for themselves, is there not a two hundred thousand year old lesson here which will foretell the outcome of one choice versus the other.
In the last ten years our country has spent trillions of dollars and thousands of lives in Afghanistan and Iraq to protect our homeland and make the world and those countries safe for ‘democracy.’
Fundamental to the political rhetoric have been the issues of humanity, the pernicious conditions of poverty despite royal wealth, oil wealth, and the persistent separate and unequal class system which has divided families, oppressed women, withheld education and social mobility on the basis of religious teachings; and institutionalized the second class status of women and children, poverty and helplessness as a god-given and natural way of life.
We have said we will fight wars to protect a woman’s freedom. We speak out in favor of the freedoms to unmask her face, be schooled, prevent stoning, travel outside the home, drive a car and possess at least some modicum of what Western women have come largely to take for granted. We have rhetorically espoused the inalienable right of freedom of religion, travel, health, marriage, education and the protection from corporeal punishment.
Whatever the right or wrong, and whether women are or are not second class citizens and therefore are or are not entitled to special forms of freedom or punishment, what we hold out as a standard to preach or teach or try to at least insinuate in our international relations is in ways a greater standard than that to which even women in the US are entitled.
From birth we enshrine in our young the ‘American dream,’ telling them they can be president and that the ceiling there is glass and not easily shattered. Yet to the women in our country, knowing poverty is the leading indicator of educational success, and education is the leading indicator of teenage pregnancy, unwanted child birth, the destruction of a family unit central to the rise or demise of our culture. We have now thirty three states in which a woman’s right to self determination of her own health and health care, headlined by her right to family planning, including contraception and abortion, is virtually illegal.
Systematically, factually and in a profound cultural statement we have said to the women of the US, “you do not have the intellectual or moral capacity to make such profound judgments about your own health or those questions that relate to childbirth as does the entirety of the male of the species.”
What does it say about a woman in the US, who only recently realized the right to vote, to work (although paid a fraction of the pay for the same work and job descriptions as men), and now whose sexual/reproductive rights are subordinate to those interests of men and the state?
We have to ask the question, how is this behavior any different than our century -old, now-unconstitutional predilection for slavery? If we can get to that fundamental understanding – knowing and understanding history is half of the requirement to change the future – then the next and most important question would be ‘why?’
The facts of history clearly support the assertion that this pathology resides not in women, who may or may not be incapable of judicious decisions about their lives and their families, but rather in a dysfunctional, unresolved and profoundly disturbed psyche of the male who, for his own internal weakness, fragmentation or unconsummated manhood, needs, through projection to articulate the problem as the woman’s weakness. By the right of might, man alone can manage and ultimately adjudicate.
Guy Herman (c) All Rights Reserved 2013
A cop killed by an ex-cop triggered a four day manhunt with an accompanying 24-hour, wall-to-wall news extravaganza with as much television coverage provided as during the three days invading Iraq or any presidential election in modern history.
With one of the wounded in the hospital, security included more than 1000 state, local, federal, ATF and FBI law enforcement personnel. Using paramilitary equipment, helicopters, tanks and high tech AWACS units to coordinate this small army, the chase for the would-be assassin combed into the mountains and nearby resort.
When local hospital officials were asked by a news person, “Why are there so many police around the hospital where the officer was shot?” the police spokeswoman replied, “You know, law enforcement take care of their own.’’ Explicit in the reply left the question: “Well, then…who takes care of us?”
Implicit in the question of a culture and society in which ‘law enforcement,’ like ‘congress,’ does indeed take care of its’ own, but not of those it serves, is how come and why? When twenty five people are killed in Chicago on a weekend, the notice in the press is on page 8 and below the fold.
If the twenty five Chicagoans were ‘law enforcement,’ there would be an army large enough to invade Cuba dispatched and it would be the opening story every hour, with side by side live video feed, until resolved.
While 90% of Americans, including ‘law enforcement,’ believe in background checks and assault weapon limits, congress will repay the debt beholden to the NRA, (and the money they provide to themselves), with a ‘no’ vote on gun control, despite the very articulate interests of their constituency and the vast majority of citizens.
How do we come to such an asymmetric care or duty in our social contract? How is it that a job for the congressman, who is voted in and paid for by a constituency, is more important than the social contract ensuring rights for the very constituency who entrusted him with that job?
Inevitably, the question unanswered is this: ‘Who are they (congress, law enforcement, government) supposed to take care of?’ Alternatively, ‘Does taking care of their own mean those who aren’t in the ‘club’ or so entitled, in fact or act, thereby the recipient of a different and too often inferior level of care?’
The patent and automatic answer of any ‘law enforcement’ or ‘congressional chief’ is ‘No, of course not. We are here to serve to people.’ Yet repeatedly, the facts do not support such statements.
Criminality in Wall Street, allowing unwarranted foreclosures and criminal behavior in the streets, thereby resulting in the death of twenty-five residents of one city in one weekend. Criminality in denying abortion, healthcare and food to the needy, and criminality in a society which was founded on rules of a social contract, including equality for all, but which now favors ‘special interests’ repeatedly and predictably violates those inalienable rights.
When a spokeswoman for the manhunt was queried as to why there was such an inordinately large presence, or what would happen next, narrators and spokespeople purposefully use the designation ‘law enforcement’ as distinct from ‘police’, ‘sheriff’ or some other nomenclature like the president or senator, referring to a single person as distinct from a group.
So in the expression ‘law enforcement,’ there is an absolute key to understanding this more than colloquial and now almost idiomatic use of the phrase. Clear in the statement, belonging to the group confers special rights.
The NRA defines the ‘gun control’ debate as one of ‘them and us,’ and it is curiously reminiscent of the Republicans’ ongoing and blanket defiance of Obama passing any law to anyone’s benefit, be it control of Wall Street, which summarily caused the loss of two trillion dollars of private individual wealth and redistributed it to the ‘group’ like ‘law enforcement’ or the ‘Wall Street tribe,’ education, or infrastructure.
There is a law enforcement command post, assets, law enforcement personnel, law enforcement capabilities, law enforcement base camp. No one has asked the obvious question, ‘Well if law enforcement takes care of their own, what about ‘us?’
In further describing the manhunt, the spokeswoman for ‘law enforcement’ described the scene as “like a war zone…..our deputies are heroes…they walked into raging fire and all placed their lives at incredible risk.” What about the kids in Chicago? Isn’t this what law enforcement does?
At the press conference, one senior member from each of the branches of law enforcement (FBI, ATF, Border Patrol, sheriff, state police, local militia) counted in excess of one-thousand soldiers, leaders in stars and stripes, full honors dress, gold insignias, ties, formal hats and bangles, military crew high-and-tights, all brothers in arms. All appeared to speak to their respective responsibilities and their unwavering commitment to ‘get the villain,’ concluding with “Thank-you all for coming to our press conference.” The general with stars and gold stripes repeated the sentiment, but there was no mention of Chicago or the twenty-five kids that had been shot in one weekend.
So, we know the question.
Why are there two classes of people in the US?
There are wealthy and poor, and an ever growing disparity in between.
There is law enforcement, and the kids in the Chicago streets with little sight for improvement.
There are congressmen and the kids at Newtown and the pressure to take the NRA handouts to get re-elected, subsidized largely by gun manufacturers who, like cigarette companies, care more about their product sales than the health or wellbeing of the populace
More than the terrible price of congress taking care of themselves first, or of law enforcement caring for it’s own, but willing to let the rest of the world cannibalize each other, is the humiliation of our people, us, thinking we have voted for representatives to represent us, and in fact we have been duped.
As a people, if we have mafiosos as leaders, or a Kim Jung Un of North Korea or Saddam Hussein, who admit freely that they have no real cares in the world but their own, we could reasonably decide between two dictators or two rogues……there are many facets to slavery. And if we are to be poisoned, there is nothing wrong with at least having the choice of hemlock or the blue juice of suicide.
“My name is Mr. Dempsey and I am your 5th Form English teacher”.
“Now I am sure,” he said glancing at his watch, “since it is midday, you have all had a chance to catch up with one another, so with your permission we will begin.
“In English this year we are going to learn how to write.” The English Teacher continued, “ and at the end of the day, or better the beginning,” and he grinned a curious and bemused smile, “we need to understand what is writing, what do we want to say and how do we get to a spot in which we all agree we have said what we want.”
The English teacher paused, peered out to the class, over his horned rimmed glasses.
He was quiet. He appeared comfortable and seemed willing to wait the few seconds, minutes or Annabel thought, ‘until the end of class’ until someone rose their hand and tried to answer.
No one did.
“Really,” he resumed, smiling again, both at the reticence of his new class, but too, for the not uncommon nature of teenager’s unwillingness to speak openly and aloud particularly when their predictions or peregrinations may have been less than correct or even simply wrong.
“It is just another form of expression. The language of the heart or soul or whatever it is you call it that differentiates one of us from another and us, as a species from all others.
“And as we learn,” he continued, “if we listen carefully, we will acquire the tools and build an arsenal and we should not only learn something about ourselves but about our culture, so, in time we will be able to explore our own feelings, and better understand reverberations from the shadowy dark of our innermost souls.
“Mr. Dempsey,” Annabel Devry spoke, her hand raised but not waiting for a reply,
“My name is Annie,” as the custom dictated new students introduce themselves to new teachers, “this sounds more like a course in psychology or political science.
“That, young lady,” Jack Dempsey replied, a thick, rich and nearly indiscernible accent from somewhere in the aisles off the coast, from Wales, Northern Scotland, South Africa, “is a very astute observation. And may I ask, had you thought there was any difference.”
Annabel and indeed all of the class fell into a deep, hushed silence.
It was apparently a question none had ever considered.
Annabel’s hand rose again but only as a formality as she was speaking already.
“Well they are different, aren’t they, Mr. Dempsey.
“A very good question,” Dempsey replied.
“So who would like to take a chance answering Miss Annabel’s question,” the English teacher asked, looking around, waiting for someone else to raise their hand or speak, or feel comfortable enough to join the conversation.
“Well,” ventured one of the students, a slight young lad with a large voice and big wondrous eyes.
“My name is Colby Sir, Colby North, and maybe this is not the answer you were looking for but does it have something to do with the idea that language is what the brain uses to tell stories, or to tell about history and history and stories of people are really about ..you know…the world, in a way, so, what we write, whatever it is about somehow reflects what’s going on in the world.
“That sir is brilliant. And exactly true.
“So we can look at language in a vacuum, as might a child murmur or speak to another when they are at play, or between two grown-ups, two politicians, world leaders, even between an English teacher and his class, and at the end of the day, it is both about us, but too reflects the world we live in.
“So Mister Colby, what do you call the people who live on foreign planets.
The class suddenly sat up and all looked at Mr. Dempsey directly not knowing if he were joking or a fruitcake from another planet himself.
“I am not sure I know what you mean, Mr. Dempsey, I mean, I didn’t know we had found life on other planets.
“Nor I, young sir, nor I. I meant, in the movies, or on television, how do you call those funny little cartoon characters with one eye, funny voices, or even the ones like batman who fly and shoot people from the electrical lasers in their finger tips,
“Well I don’t know sir, I mean there are millions.
“Well, I don’t either…my point was simply,” and he smiled in a way that immediately gave all the understanding he was making a wry but noteworthy joke.
“I meant if there were such critters, and they did speak and write, chances are they would also speak of ‘stuff’ as we might call it, which would relate to their lives, their planets, their experiences on their planet Klingon or whatever it is called.
Colby raised his hand struggling to control his laugh.
“The Klingons, Mr. Dempsey are I think the people who live on one of those planets, but I think we all get what you mean.
“In time, we will find a handmaiden, a speaker, someone who reflects the sense of themselves which is consonant with our own and a sense of the world which makes sense.
“Hey what do you think of the new English teacher,”
As Nini spoke, Annie tried to cram four text books, an enormous binder and all of the papers from each of the new classes into her small locker.
“It’s not going to work,” she finally allowed leaning against the door trying half heartedly to push it closed.
“I mean, it’s just not gonna’ work.
“What are you talking about’, Nini asked, standing now next to her friend from kindergarten, Annabel Devry.
“You mean you’re not going to take the class.
“What are you talking about?”
“You said it’s not going to work”
“I meant the locker silly,” Annie said.
“Yeah it will, but you just can’t throw everything in and expect it all to work.
“Nini that is exactly what Mr. Dempsey said after class.
Nini, turning to leave, stopped abruptly.
“How do you mean.”
“Well’ Annie said trying now to unpack and repack the small locker, “he said ‘you can’t be a great writer if you just throw everything in all at once.
“Good writing,” he said, “’is actually more of a taking away, kind of like good surgery, cutting out the right stuff from all the clutter.
Nini looked blankly at Annie, waiting for her to turn the dial on the padlock.
“I’m just going to stick it in my bag,” she concluded thrashing shut the locker door, done with the appearance of order and as anxious as Nini to get off to home room.
“Do you know what bus you’re gonna’ be on?
“I don’t,” she answered, heading out and quickstepping past her lifelong friend.
“C’mon,” she chided turning back her head now smiling at Nini who had dawdled for just a moment and was now three paces behind.