Sunday, July 15, 2012

Class warfare: Its not about bad people...its about power

In a couple of my posts from yesterday, conservative commenters showed up to basically demonize poor people as lazy drags on society who simply need to buck up and take care of themselves rather than ask for handouts from the government. In other words, pretty standard stuff from them.

It got me thinking about the fact that we liberals tend to demonize rich people in much the same way. We talk about them as if they are all selfish greedy people who only care about profits - not people.

The thing about it is that I've lived long enough to know some rich people who really are assholes. But I've also known some poor people who are assholes too. I've also had the privilege of knowing some rich people who were unbelievably selfless and generous. And I've known some poor people who are inspirational in their strength through struggle.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that the amount of money someone has doesn't seem to me to be determinative of what kind of person they are. And so I don't think the kind of class warfare we're in the midst of right now has to do with good or bad people. That is a distraction from the real issue...which is all about power.

Throughout history, rich people have found ways to ensure that money = power. And every now and then, poor people have recognized that there is another form of power...numbers. There are more of us than there are of them. That can give us the advantage in battle, but also via the ballot box in a democracy.

We are watching all of this play out as Republicans try to use their money advantage in this election to divide and conquer the majority. They're trying to pit white people against people of color and the working class against the poor with their demonizations of "the other." And just in case that doesn't work, they're trying to rig the game by reducing our numbers advantage with voting restrictions.

What Republicans are trying to do with all that is take away our one source of power - the fact that there are more of us than there are of them. When we let them divide us with their demonizations about "bad people," they win.

Anything we can do to bridge that divide means we win.


  1. This is why I always use the term "financial parasite class" for the enemy, instead of "the 1%". A rich person like Bill Gates, who actually did give the world things of value proportional to what he received and who gives away huge amounts of his money for good purposes, can't be compared with someone like Romney.

  2. On deleting comments: I am thrilled that you do. I have more or less abandoned commenting at some sites I have cared about deeply in the past because civility is not actively maintained by the administrator. I crave debate, but abusive exchanges will simply cause me to leave a site.

    I have many times before told the story--I may have here!--of my first Buddhist retreat. Some of the senior practicioners at the end, when we spoke after days of silence, shared what drew them to the practice. One woman said she was in some retail store, at which an Asian woman working there (Chinese, we discover) took some abuse by the customer she helped.

    The rude customer left, and the woman I heard the story from told the cashier, "wow, what an awful person that was." The Chinese woman said, "there are no bad people. There are only bad situations." The woman who became a practitioner thought to herself, "wow, I gotta get what she's got," and their conversation led her to the practice.

    We deal with a coherent system, if one riddled with contradictions. Because we do, we can drop the moral judgements about people. We are ALL in it, we ALL participate in it. If we can approach these things as technical questions rather than moral ones, we can approach how to help more people be who they are better.

    Judgement of people is a killer. I definitely do it, but it's a waste of time when I do, and distracts me from anything good I can be doing.

    1. On your point about deleting comments, I have a story.

      Years ago a co-worker showed me the importance of being willing to fire people who weren't performing on the job - something us do-gooder liberals tend to not be very good at.

      In our business we tend to have pretty high turnover because we hire young people and pay them shit. But before I learned that lesson, we had 40-45% turnover every year. Since then, its never been over 10%.

      Lesson learned: when you're willing get rid of the problem people, the good one's stick around.

      Of course, there's still the challenge of when to know someone is a problem. The line I draw here tends to be when they insult other commenters.

  3. Amen to what you said - it's about power and who has it.

  4. Thank you for deleting worthless comments. It's not about disagreement. It's disrespectful to you and the readers to respond to your posts with the same dumbass talking points you'd hear from the pundits. It'd be cool if someone attacked your position from a place of erudition and soul searching. Since they're unwilling to do it that way, it's your blog to do as you please.