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"Reckoning will come, though..."

Joe Bageant
In the world's big picture, however — the unedited version we are never allowed to see in American media — most American fundamentalists are being screwed blue by the same global economic pillage as, say, the Quiche Indians of Guatemala. Working class American fundamentalists suffer extractive capitalism's vampirism the same as the Third World, but by a more incremental yet nonetheless relentless process. A scam is a scam and while you may blame the victims for ignorance, you cannot blame them for trust and good will toward men.

Now hold onto your drawers and get this. Some working class fundamentalists are beginning to get a sense of what even the most educated of Americans seem congenitally blind to — the inevitable brutality of capitalism's march through history — mainly because it is marching in their direction this time, creating bankruptcy, lost homes, credit meltdowns, and job insecurity for the hardest working, most obedient and faithful people in America — the traditional working class. Just like their brothers in the Third World, the economic "cures" they are subjected to always turn out to be worse than the sickness. Some now notice that when unemployment rises, so does the stock market, and when real wages drop the "economy" soars, according to the news reports. All sorts of folks are beginning to disabuse themselves of the notion that the American economy and the American people are the same thing. As in: "I work like hell, get paid and I buy stuff and I pay taxes. Ain't that the fucking economy?" Or as one very dedicated local blue collar fundamentalist put it a while back when I was writing my book, "The big guys have always had it all over the little feller, but it's gettin' entawrly out of hand. Sooner or later somethin's gotta be done to give a workin man a chance again. This ain't what Our Lord intended."

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Reckoning will come though, and it will come like it always does for the human race, too late, and long after the princes of the earth have absconded with the goods. For Americans it will come when the secret militias in this country start cracking open their basement arms caches, and exercise those skills learned in Iraq, Afghanistan and along the perimeter of the Empire's last desperate efforts on behalf of the richest of the rich. By then however, it will be too late for a thin network of firepower and explosives to do much except add its members to the official terrorist list, along side scores of Muslim cab drivers and halal meat vendors.

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The good news is that genuine human liberation for ordinary humanity can come much sooner than catastrophe. And in coming it will require real leaders, born of and among the lost and wasted lifetimes of toil — not from the political theorists, nor the meaninglessly educated hothouse plants from the managing classes. Working class liberation leaders are beginning to evolve from the sons and daughters of Baptist truck drivers or 55-year old Wal-Mart greeters with varicose veins and no health insurance. I get emails from them and I find them in corners of American politics such as West Virginia's emerging but understandably as yet disoriented Mountain Party. Liberation's future leadership is out there right now, stocking the shelves of the supermarkets tonight, buffing the floors of the nation's universities and banks, checking on the calf-cow pairs in the late season snows of Montana, and likely as not they are gun owning, non-drinking Christians doing solitary jobs with lots of time to think. And they experience things like loneliness, modern alienation, and an inner emptiness within that now quaint concept called the soul. Which drives so many of them to the last place that even addresses the souls of people such as themselves — fundamentalist churches.


Beth Shulman
The “you are on your own” notion of government and freedom has meant that American families must live with stagnant wages at a time of high profits and productivity without a way to get ahead no matter how hard they try. It has meant health insecurity for workers and their families as fewer and fewer jobs provide health care coverage. It has meant that workers face their older years without the means they counted on to retire, as corporations have slashed traditional pension plans. And it has meant that half of Americans don’t have the fundamental right to take a day off from work when they are sick without losing a job or a paycheck.

It has meant parents having to forgo a child’s high school or college graduation or a PTA meeting because twenty percent of America’s workers do not have any vacation or personal days. It has meant parents tag teaming their shifts to provide their children supervision leading to increased divorce rates because they can’t afford child care. It has meant families who are more stressed out as jobs become more and more insecure. And it has meant more families just struggling to get by with one out of every three workers making less than what it takes to have basic self-sufficiency. All this has been dumped on the already sagging shoulders of working families while government has stood on the sidelines.
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This is a false freedom that forces us to make false choices. Americans aren’t free when they have to choose between paying the rent and providing child care for their children. Parents aren’t free when they must choose between being responsible workers and responsible family members. The elderly aren’t free when they must choose to continue working in their later years because they don’t have pensions. Families aren’t free when they have to declare bankruptcy when they can’t pay their hospital bills. Mothers and fathers aren’t free when they don’t have time to be with their children because they are working two or three jobs just to make ends meet. And children aren’t free when they can’t get the basic tools to succeed and fulfill their potential as human beings.

Normal Finkelstein
Q: Do you think that professors have an obligation to engage in political activity?

A: They don't have an obligation as professors; they have an obligation as citizens. They have the luxury of devoting their working life to trying to ferret out the facts and the truth about what's going on.

For most other working people, their working lives are devoted to jobs which have minimal levels of personal gratification and have very little to do with mental activity of the sort that creates informed citizens. So since you have the luxury of sitting around and reading books, you do have an obligation as a citizen to pursue and expose the truth.

Thomas Jefferson
...the spirit of the times may alter, will alter. Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. A single zealot may commence persecutor, and better men be his victims. It can never be too often repeated, that the time for fixing every essential right on a legal basis is while our rulers are honest, and ourselves united. From the conclusion of this [Revolutionary] war we shall be going down hill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves, but in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, will remain on us long, will be made heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion.

Alexander Berkman
Yet the American worker remains loyal to the government and is the first to defend it against criticism. He is still the most devoted champion of the "grand and noble institutions of the greatest country on earth." Why? because he believes that they are his institutions, that he, as sovereign and free citizen, is running them and that he could change if he so wished. It is his faith in the existing order that constitutes its greatest security against revolution. His faith is stupid and unjustified, and some day it will break down and with it American capitalism and despotism. But as long as that faith persists, American plutocracy is safe against revolution.

As men's minds broaden and develop, as they advance to new ideas and lose faith in their former beliefs, institutions begin to change and are ultimately done away with. The people grow to understand their former views were false, that they were not truth but prejudice and superstition.

In this way many ideas, once held to be true, have come to be regarded as wrong and evil. Thus the ideas of the divine right of kings, of slavery and serfdom. There was a time when the whole world believed those institutions to be right, just, and unchangeable. In the measure that those superstitions and false beliefs were fought by advanced thinkers, they became discredited and lost their hold upon the people, and finally the institutions that incorporated those ideas were abolished.

Everywhere inequality is a cause of revolution, but an inequality in which there is no proportion — for instance, a perpetual monarchy among equals; and always it is the desire of equality which rises in rebellion.
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What share insolence and avarice have in creating revolutions, and how they work, is plain enough. When the magistrates are insolent and grasping they conspire against one another and also against the constitution from which they derive their power, making their gains either at the expense of individuals or of the public.