Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Machine

There are millions of ex-manufacturing workers who used to make good livings making things here in the USA. The "New Economy" had and has no real place for them: the Old Economy is the only place that offered them a way to use their skills and gifts in a way that afforded them the basics of life plus a little fun.

Again: the economy offers people with less than a college degree precious few (and vanishing) ways to support a family in anything approaching comfort.

Here's the thing: there are millions of folks who are, to be blunt, not smart enough, or are temperamentally unsuited, (or increasingly, too poor) to go to college. Are they to be consigned to working at 7/11 and making 9 bucks an hour? Don't we as citizens have an obligation to see that they have work available to them that will allow them to support their families in a dignified manner, and maybe even allow them to put something away for college for the kids and even something for their golden years?

These questions have not been asked of Americans in any public and consistent way for years - decades even. The very clause, "we, as citizens, are obligated to..." is, in the libertarian, Hobbesian world of economic mercilessness we've allowed to flourish, a nonsensical phrase full of meaningless words. We are no longer "citizens" -- active participants in the building of our civilization -- but "consumers", defined by our economic worth; mere cogs in the soul-impoverishing machinery of "wealth creation" and economic oligarchy; passively doing our part to keep the whole corrupt machine humming, nothing demanded of us but to Consume.

I didn't quite realize it at the time, but the thing that most creeped me out about the movie The Matrix was the sense I had that it was not really about some future dystopia, but rather a piercing parable for the present world we live in; there is this sort of Machine that we all participate in, so immersive that we can't escape its greedy maw, can't but serve its needs rather than the needs of our brothers and sisters.

To break out of this losing game, we must realize - we must RESOLVE - that, to coin a phrase, the Economy is made by and for us, and not us for the economy.

Martin Luther King Jr. used to say "You can't ride a man's back unless it is already bent." It took decades for the ceaseless propaganda of the Machine to bend our backs; it only takes a moment, an instant, to decide to straighten your back and thus undo all its work.

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