16 May 2011

Money: The American Dream

"There is a reason education sucks and it's the same reason it will never, ever, ever be fixed. It's never going to get any better; don't look for it, be happy with what you got because the owners of this country don't want that. I'm talking about the real owners now. The real owners, the big, wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions.
Forget the politicians; the politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't! You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land, they own and control the corporations, they've long since bought and paid for the senate, the congress, the state houses, the city halls. They got the judges in their back pockets and they own all the big media companies so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They've got you by the balls!
They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want; they want more for themselves and less for everybody else. But I'll tell you what they don't want. They don't want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don't want well-informed, well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They're not interested in that - that doesn't help them. That's against their interests. That's right! They don't want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table to figure out how badly they're getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard thirty fucking years ago. They don't want that!
You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers; people who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits, the end of overtime and the vanishing pension that disappears the minute you go to collect it. And now, they're coming for your social security money. They want your fucking retirement money - they want it back. So they can give it to their criminal friends on Wall Street.
And you know something? They'll get it. They'll get it all from you sooner or later because they own this fucking place. It's a big club and you ain't in it! You and I are not in the big club! 
By the way, it's the same big fucking club they use to beat you over the head with all day long when they tell you what to believe. All day long, beating you over the head with their media telling you what to believe, what to think, and what to buy.
The table is tilted folks. The game is rigged. And nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care. Good, honest, hard-working people - white collars, blue collars - it doesn't matter what color shirt you have on. Good, honest, hard-working people continue - these are people of modest means - continue to elect these rich cocksuckers who don't give a fuck about them. They don't give a fuck about you! They don't give a fuck about you, they don't care about you! At all! At all! At all!
Nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care; that's what the owners count on - the fact that Americans will probably remain willfully ignorant of the big red, white and blue dick that's being jammed up their assholes every day. Because the owners of this country know the truth - it's called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it." - George Carlin, Living is Worth Losing (2005)

George Carlin beautifully and succinctly sums up what I've thought for years. The table is tilted, folks - but to mention it in polite company will likely earn you social pariah status; written off as a conspiracy theorist in need of a thicker tinfoil hat.

The seeds of these sweeping changes were sown when I was just a child. It was in 1979 that President Jimmy Carter addressed the nation, condemning the growing problem of consumerism, the worship of money, and the powerful pull of greed at the expense of relationships and community.

This vilification of self-indulgence paved the way for a charismatic, former movie star to win the next election. Soon, American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T) was dismantled; cheating many loyal employees out of their pot of gold at the end of a long career - their retirement funds, pensions, and other benefits evaporated as the corporate monolith emerged, championing shareholders' profits over the good of the customers and employees.

I was a high school student when the Iran-Contra-gate scandal hit. I could hardly believe my ears that claiming to not remember major events won Oliver North his exoneration. Surely the attorneys had done their research, hadn't they? Were there no documents, memos, orders or files to divulge who authorized and profited from these breaches? It was then that my faith in my government and justice was irreparably destroyed. It was then I decided I was going to live my life differently to maximize both my flexibility and my freedom.

The LifeScript is a term I have picked up in my travels along the digital highways of the web. The term LifeScript refers to a sort of commonly held ideal lifestyle and path which one's life should take. The current Script seems to go something like this: be a good student and score high on tests to get into a respected college or university; graduate from college with a 4+ year degree in something that will get you a job in a cubicle; get married to someone of your race, religion and background; buy a house; have 2+ children; get into debt by buying things to fill your house, new cars, new clothes, vacations; stay trapped in your job so you can continue to pay your debts; after slavishly giving everything to your children, send them to college; retire; die.

There never seemed to be anything particularly rewarding about living the LifeScript. It seemed, as George Carlin points out, an ingenious way to create obedient workers. To draw from his stand-up, the owners of this country use their media to scare people out of the cities and away from their neighbors and communities. Whether they use violence, racism, crime or other unwholesome features of a particular place matters not - the results are the same. Americans are buying bigger and bigger homes and filling them with every convenience and luxury they can buy. Big screen tvs, DVD collections, video games, exercise equipment, multiple refrigerators and a freezer in the garage - all stocked with food, toys and gadgets and comforts and indulgences. Americans are so burned out from their long days at the office and their long commute home that they justify stockpiling their homes so that they never have to leave and come in contact with the big, scary, unpredictable world.

I was the first person in my family in many generations to get a college degree. Many family members, my parents included, had started college, but had run out of funds before they could complete their studies and graduate. Because of this, my family was naturally suspicious of college and the general sentiment was that university was for rich kids.

In high school, I prepared as if I were going to attend college. I wanted to have the option, should I ever settle on a major course of study. I went to a public high school during the day, and attended community college classes at night. By the time I graduated, I was pretty burned out on school, so I decided to work for awhile instead of heading off to university like all my classmates.

Looking back, those years of hard work were some of my most enjoyable. I still feel ambivalent about college, despite having a degree. I enjoyed college and loved my classes. I majored in something practical- accounting, but I can't say it has guaranteed employment, nor has it been particularly fulfilling or enjoyable. On one hand, I want to believe that getting a good education that is more than just the reading, writing and arithmetic, makes people more interesting and more humane. I think people should be exposed to art, music, wood shop, chemistry, literature and history. On the other hand, modern Americans seem to be so divorced from the infrastructure that makes their life comfortable (street lights, paved roads, indoor plumbing, etc.), and so often lack basic skills that they must throw money at problems rather than resolve it themselves. The average American seems so ill-equipped to deal with leaking toilets, broken fan belts and clogged drains, that they are forced to pay someone else (who may or may not be particularly skilled themselves) to make the repairs. On and on the endless loop continues; now that person has to work more hours to pay for the repairs they had to pay someone else to complete. Maybe more practical or life-skills classes should be required?

Both Mike Rowe in his address to the senate commerce committee, and the bloggers over at The Simple Dollar decry the smug, self-congratulatory sentiment that a "good job" is one that is done in a 6 x 6 cubicle. My religious community certainly seems to value academics and intellectuals above all other vocations. The irony of my mistrust of government is that it is local and state governments that build and maintain the infrastructures we so love. The local governments are the ones who employ the people who do the dirty, hard work of treating our waste water, paving our roads, maintaining dams, levees, bridges and public schools. It wouldn't surprise me in the least to learn that corporate owners were lining the pockets of the politicians of Minnesota (and other places) hellbent on busting unions and disenfranchising public employees. I imagine there are a long line of corporations out there just salivating at contracts for all these newly outsourced public works.

The owners, they want it all.

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