That 1 percent

Dateline: Thu 20 Oct 2011

or..."the rich you will always have with you," to paraphrase.

A friend in Madison, Wis., sent an old copy (1972) of The Realist, Paul Krassner's "giggy," ratty, radical, kill-the-pigs little magazine that was popular enough in its heyday and beyond that issues are still on line in archive form (mainly because Krassner is still around along with his huge ego):

The issue my friend sent includes feminist rants, a reverie of a Hell's Angels party at Ken Kesey's place, a rambling but rousing description of the Democratic convention in Miami ("The crazier you were, the more they loved you. The Democratic Convention was a perfect opportunity to get real chummy with people who have money and influence. ...Miami turned into Peyton Place," wrote Kathie Streem; a critique of the film "Clockwork Orange" tied with a piece about the effects of psychiatry on society -- shrinks are all capitalists and determined to preserve the system while lobotomizing and sterlizing patients -- ; and fresh conspiracy theories about who killed JFK, based on the New York Times refusal to print the truth....etc. etc. etc.) Plus, of course, the usual assortment of titillating, funky, obscene cartoons.

Anyhow, I loved reading it....again, probably. (You weren't really there if you remember).

My friend Jane sent it simply because it included a photo of John Lennon drinking a beer with "The Realist Nun," but if Jane had read the fine print, she would have seen that it was an actor playing Lennon.

Aside from the "fake," what struck like lightning was an observation from "Who's Afraid of Clockwork Orange?" by Jacqueline Christeve. She wrote:

"I recently heard the statistic from a Ph.D. economist that if all the wealth in the United States, which is MAINLY CONTROLLED BY 1 PERCENT OF THE POPULATION, were equally distributed among the pupulation, every family of four would have an income of $18,500 a year!" (Remember, this is 1972.)

As Noam Chomskey noted, this i percent is an old problem, dating back to the 1970s...nothing new in concentration of wealth in the U.S.

What is new, of course, are the Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy protests in cities across the nation. My perspective has been shaped by the experience of a young (30 something) friend, a male, who attended the Occupy protest in Knoxville; this guy is brilliant, radical and well-educated.  He found himself underwhelmed by the Knoxville experience. He carried a sign that said "Consume the Rich," and was subtly informed that his message was not on point. That's probably because leaders of the Knoxville movement arrived in SUV', spent time on their IPads, and most of the protests related, understandably, to student debt. (college town).

His impressions:

"The difficulty, I'm increasingly persuaded, is that we have no adequate theory of revolutionary (if that is the right word) change appropriate for an advanced, capitalist, technologically sophisticated, networked, mass democracy.

"The left is stuck with Marxian theory more appropriate for the period immediately following the end of monarchies in the late 19th/early 20th century, in which social, civil and technocratic institutions are poorly developed and easily capturable..."

The real readicals, (Chomskey of MIT and Great Britain's Ian Bone) he points out, agree that "reformism is the worst kind of collaboration." In other words, if reforms can be contained within "the system," they're not worth the spit it took to articulate them.

My young friend's conclusion is a modest, "Someone has to take this in hand," and then he eventually moves on to talk about various consumer issues -- what Netflix is doing wrong, again, and what e-books are the best buy. His reach of new technology is so beyond my grasp and pocketbook that I'll just leave it at that.

The 99 percent movement is no doubt sincere, justifably angry, vocal, media-savvy and over-covered, but, in my view, they are not about to change anything.  As a nation, we're too comfortable to really change.

None of this excuses the excesses on Wall Street, which are real.

But revolution? Hell no, we won't go.


Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

I recommend that everyone read Bill Manchester's book "The Glory and The Dream," covering US events from 1929 to 1950. It is mainly about the late Hoover cum Roosevelt years. And what is striking about it is that it mirrors-- forshadows?-- our current condition. It was a bit uglier, vituperative, frightening, bigoted, and poor...but not by nearly as much as you might think. I am astonished at the similarities found on every page, in 1932 for example, that could be today's news.

Does Manchester give us any insights? Only that human nature is resiliant, grasping, venal, easily swayed and perhaps prone to doing the right thing, if the right thing can be communally identified.

I am eager to learn how things turn out for Mr Roosevelt and the rest of us....

2011-10-20 12:34:11

hendy [Member] said:

I think that the 99%ers are a great counterweight to the "anything good for business is good for America" memes that have arrived. Corporate boorishness and seething greed are pervasive. Lots of systems are broken, and our legislatures and elected officials are essentially bribed into making short-term decisions that aren't good for long term America. Wall Street demands excellent quarter after excellent quarter with no excuses. This breeds a mentality of survivalship that corporations shouldn't be endowed with.

Chomsky, who has outstanding criticisms, is a destructionalist, and is not constructive. His criticisms have the enormous error of the presumption of a mass or body of ideals to use as metrics for his criticisms. He is always a dirge, when we need the music to find crescendos and systematic approaches to solving problems. Instead, he's as dour as dour gets, a pillar of poop. Yet I read him with fascination. If I read him too much, I would have to kill myself, as he's sooo depressing.

2011-10-20 13:35:38

Tom Greenacres [unverified] said:

What hendy said, in his first graf.
(Ignore the 2nd.)

2011-10-20 21:19:44

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2011-10-22 11:09:49

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2011-10-23 12:53:46

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