The Way It is Today
The possibility of having to restate the profound and likely irreversible damage the new tax bill will inflict on this country exhausts me. There are only so many times you can say that America is involved in a one-sided class war and that the rich (all of the rich) are doing their best to reduce the poor (all of the poor) to a state of penury and servitude — slavery in all but name — before you start to feel like a lunatic.
What is happening is obvious. It could not be more obvious. Reality is punching you in the face, tripping you down a flight of stairs, and kicking you in the back while you’re down. It is obvious that the millionaire class is trying to make you utterly helpless and utterly powerless, with no avenues with which to protest your lot. It is obvious that our current situation has almost nothing to do with the hyperactive toddler in the Oval Office, and everything to do with the cumulative effects of decades of neoliberalism. It is obvious that last night’s events represent not only years of Republican efforts to impoverish the country for the benefit of the ultra-rich culminating in nothing less than an orgy of looting of public goods, but years of Democratic weakness and failure, of respectability politics and bipartisan compromise, of an utter blindness to the fact that capitalism’s toxins cannot be leached out with injections of more capitalism. It is obvious that the party in power will keep doing worse and worse things because their opposition lacks both the will and the understanding to stop them. It is obvious that we are far down the road of authoritarian oligarchy. It is obvious that we have been set to a default mode of fighting over scraps while the people at the top steal all the real resources, then invent new expressions of value and steal those as well. This is the way things are today, and because our system was explicitly designed to produce this result the chances of them becoming anything close to equitable or just using that system are below zero.
While I don’t want to turn this into just another tirade about the failure of liberalism, I also don’t want to dwell on the evils of Republicans too much. Pointing out that the Republican party is full of knaves, frauds, toadies, and bullies is like pointing out that leaves are green or that the sun rises in the east; it is not informative, but merely descriptive. The G.O.P. attracts grifters and creeps for the same reason honey attracts bees, for the same reason criminals rob banks. They could not be more obvious in their goals, and that we do not treat them like the vermin that they are is our failure to take them seriously, not their failure to announce their intentions. But the Democrats must bear as much of the blame. They have forsaken any pretense of being a party of the poor, of the people, of the unions or the working class; they have embraced the totality of the market and given themselves over to any heartless capitalist who will fatten their campaign coffers; they have swallowed metric tons of bullshit from self-absorbed capitalist hustlers who promise to revivify America through the application of a kinder, gentler form of privatization; and they have made idols of people whose money-lust is as transparent as that of any Republican, but who says the right thing about women, blacks, and gays.
Do you enjoy living like this? Is it satisfying to you to have to spend the precious little time your boss leaves you to live your life having to make phone calls and write letters to a paltry rump of millionaires, begging them not to plunge you into even more misery? Does it make you happy to have to wait every four years to see which of the two parties of the rich get slightly more than 25% of the public to put them in the White House, thus determining whether the next four years at least will be just as bad as the last four, or even worse? Are you satisfied with a system that curtails your every option for influencing the world you live in to an increasingly irrelevant process of voting every few years between two increasingly indistinguishable parties? Is it good to you that the Vile Maxim — all for us, and nothing for anyone else — is the default setting of our economy, and that decision was made about the country that belongs to you with no input from you? Does feeling helpless, manipulated, and unimportant all the time bring you happiness?
Imagine if you could organize with people who believed that there were solutions that didn’t involve the largesse of billionaires. Imagine if you could stand beside people who were honest enough to say that there is more we can do than just vote when we’re allowed to vote. Imagine if you had friends and comrades honest enough to talk about options other than the ones you’re given by the bosses and their flunkies. Imagine if there were people — tens of thousands of them, growing in number every day — who thought unions are a necessity, not a luxury; that the wealth of a nation belongs to its people, not to a handful of greedy criminals; that the people who do the work should be the ones who profit from it; that no one deserves immiseration just because they weren’t born lucky; that the way to solve the problems of capitalism isn’t more capitalism; that it is them who should come to us hats in hand.
The Republicans will damn us, and the Democrats will not save us. They are middle managers and triangulators, messenger boys and bootlickers, tools of power; they have absolute faith in capitalism, in empire, and in the comforting notion that the status quo is something to be preserved, not to be annihilated. Their diversity is shadings and skin tones of wealth and power alone. They will forever keep at arm’s length the most important policies of our time: demilitarization, anti-imperialism, higher wages, better social programs, unconditional freedom from debt and fear and uncertainty and ignorance and ill health.
We are at a critical historical point, and we can either decide to look at it with eyes open, or we can be forgotten. Join DSA. But if you don’t, do something. Donate some time to community aid — and show up, don’t just send money. Organize a clothing drive for the homeless. Set yourself on fire in a meaningful location. Teach yourself emergency medical aid. Put together a union drive where you work. Show up at a town hall and tell your worthless representatives to go get fucked. Learn to shoot, and pick a good target. Just don’t look at the way it is today and decide that there is nothing you can do but what you have always done.