This little note was inspired by my seeing this headline in today's Alternet: Corporate America's Plan to Loot Our Pensions Is the Latest Battle in Decades‐Long Assault on the Middle Class. That article and this essay contain no surprises for people who have been awake to the class struggle for a while, but that article may be a good introduction and summary for anyone who has just begun to become aware of the class struggle.
If it is permitted for a few people to have far more wealth than everyone else — i.e., if that arrangement is not prohibited by both rules and culture — then wealth will become concentrated in the hands of the few psychopaths who truly lust after it, who prize it above all else. The wealth makes them powerful, the power gives them influence, and they use that influence to bend the rules, to buy the politicians, to make themselves still more wealthy, at everyone else's expense.
Power corrupts — surely theStanford Prison Experiment proved that — and so the rich become callous and indifferentto the fate of the non‐rich. The rich may justify their actions to themselves in a variety of ways — e.g., by believing in social darwinism (blinding themselves to human nature), or by believing in trickle‐down economics (blinding themselves to the contrary evidence all around them). Eventually their callousness turns into cruelty: To justify to themselves the suffering of others, they convince themselves that the others deserve the suffering, and then they see their own moral duty to punish those others. Some may even go as far as the sadism Orwell described in his novel 1984 : They want to feel power, and the only sure measure of power is in the ability to make others suffer. (But they do not necessarily form a conscious conspiracy; they might be merely a network of like‐minded individuals.)
Wars, sweatshops, and ecocide will continue as long as a few profit from them. Those few believe that our economic interests are all separate — i.e., that your loss is not necessarily my loss — and they want us to believe that too, because that belief separates us and weakens us while reinforcing their own feeling of self‐justification.
I am not advocating violent revolution; I don't think that could succeed. We are outgunned. And working "within the system" seems to be a dead end too. Perhaps it would work a little bit, but too slowly to save us from the continuing ecocide. The plutocracy has insulated themselves in a bubble, an echo chamber, where they cannot be reached by force and can hardly be reached by ideas.
Still, I think they can be reached. They do not have a separate culture — they do not have their own musicians, novelists, and cinematographers — they share ours. If we change our own culture enough, make itempathic enough, that will reach them too. But we may overcome them sooner by another route: If we change our culture enough, we will wake up the people around us, the non‐rich. As I mentioned earlier, the bureaucracy of brutality will fall without a shot if all its employees walk out.
How are we to awaken working people? It is not enough just to see the truth and tell it to other working people. Many have been turned against us by the propaganda of the plutocracy. Many will not hear, will not understand, will not appreciate what we have to say. That is because we do not yet understand enough of the truth: We do not yet know how to make our truth understandable to those other people, because we do not understand those other people well enough. We cannot simply lecture; we must converse. We must get to know and share their hopes and fears. We must see the world more clearly. We must rid ourselves of the mote in our own eye. None of us knows the whole song; each of us knows part of it. Keep listening; keep singing.