I can hardly leave the house without being appalled.
The other day I stopped at a discount grocery store. There was a tall thirtyish man there, wearing a tee shirt that said “My Dick: the gift that keeps on giving.”
I felt like saying to him “Uh, dude, if you’re wondering why you can’t get a date…” but thought better of it.
I surmised from his manner and the venue that he was a working class guy, probably without prospects, as they say. I am almost daily confronted by the evidence of the degradation of the working class: the preponderance of single mothers and shack-up couples in my neighborhood, the shiftlessness of the young men, the growing signs of creeping poverty.
I love the working class, but it drives me crazy that they spend what little money they have on tattoos, cigarettes, and lottery tickets. And it drives me crazy when I consider that thirty years ago most of them would be like the clean-living, hardworking, churchgoing folks I grew up with.
Don’t get me wrong; there is plenty to be critical about those times, and of merely conventional morality. But even a shallow conformist morality spared the children of a prosperous working class a host of afflictions.
Not that my dismay is limited to working class woes. From time to time we visit a sort of natural foods supermarket in North Canton. They have fresh peanuts and a grinder, and for around the same price as corporate peanut butter you can get something so tasty that it hardly seems to belong to the same species. And it is the sole source for various herbal remedies and salves that we use.
But when I see the affluent customers, trim and fit, pushing their carts filled with exorbitantly priced organic food, which may not really be all that organic, it gives me chills. It isn’t hard to foresee a future where the elite alone can afford good food, where only the rich or near-rich are healthy.
And it isn’t hard to foresee a future where only the rich are educated. The days when parents counseled their kids to take out loans for education, believing that it would pay off with better jobs, are long gone in the wake of a generation stuck with huge debt by age 22. And to say the least, wages have not at all kept up with soaring education costs:
Just today, USA Today reported:
The gulf between the richest 1% of the USA and the rest of the country got to its widest level in history last year.
The top 1% of earners in the U.S. pulled in 19.3% of total household income in 2012, which is their biggest slice of total income in more than 100 years, according to a an analysis by economists at the University of California, Berkeley and the Paris School of Economics at Oxford University.
The richest Americans haven’t claimed this large of a slice of total wealth since 1927, when the group claimed 18.7%. The analysis is based on data from Internal Revenue Service data.
I don’t know what will happen; there are good things going on as well. Urban pioneers are organizing community gardens in Cleveland and Detroit and Youngstown. Fast food workers are agitating for a decent wage. There is a growing consciousness about the systemic economic injustice in the US.
But it may be too little, too late. Walmart, the largest criminal enterprise in the world, continues to rake in profits, mainly from the very working class it exploits. There is very little political threat to the corporatocracy, which owns the system. Even most workers are blissfully unaware, “happy” if they can afford a few tattoos and a cell phone.
But unless something radical happens we are heading for a new serfdom, where the masses serve the masters.
Serf City, here we come.