People Power post #2 – “Blame yourself”

Herman Cain represents the viewpoint of many conservatives in America who see the Wall Street protesters as people who are simply jealous of the success of rich people. Obviously, I can’t speak for everyone at the protests, but I am a far left wing socialist, and so that has to carry some weight! In my opinion, these protests are not about jealousy at all. I oppose Wall Street, and I oppose the gross inequality of our United States. But it is not because I want more money. I’m happy and content. I just question the common notion that we need to have a wealthy set of elitists at the top dictating our national policy, determining the economic course of our nation, and deciding who deserves to have things like healthcare, education, and housing.

Conservatives tend to think that “the market” is a neutral force, outside of human control – an objective and righteous arbitrator of economic justice. This is what many wacko protesters like myself disagree with. That’s why people take to the streets. The market is controlled by the wealthy, they profit from its success, but the consequences of their abuse and greed are shared by all.

This isn’t a protest to get handouts from the government. It is a protest against a system that depends on the wealthy. It is a protest to take back economic power.

When Herman Cain, Rush Limbaugh, and other conservatives look at the system, they see a system that works for anyone who works hard. For some, it works this way. However, for others it doesn’t. For those it does work, it is easy to be naive, to pretend that any poverty and suffering is caused because people are too lazy or just bad people.

Sure, there are some people who can claw their way out of poverty. I just ask a simple question: why does the system have to work this way?

When I look at a society, I think that everyone is equal and valuable, and that their economic value should reflect this. A greeter at Wal-Mart has the same human value as a broker on Wall Street. Why should one be denied healthcare? Certainly, a person who works hard should have greater compensation than another, but this should only produce a small amount of inequality. Some inequality is good, it keeps us honest and working hard. The kind of inequality that Herman Cain defends, however, is the kind that produces powerful billionaires on the one hand and ghettos packed with poverty, gangs, and drugs on the other. What I want to say is that if we defend this kind of extreme poverty and as a society we do nothing, it hurts us all. If we deny healthcare to only those who work for corporations, and we leave some people to fend for themselves, it will come back and hurt us all.

If we truly believe that everyone is equal, then in some way, we need to reflect this as an economic reality. That’s what these protests are about. It’s not about jealousy or fleecing the rich. Not for me.

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Jonathan Erdman

Writer. In the summers, I live and work in the incredible state of Alaska, in the bush community of McCarthy, as the Executive Director of the Wrangell Mountain Center. When not in McCarthy, you'll typically find me in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, writing and working with local activists. My primary writing project right now is a novel set in remote bush Alaska, of the magical realism genre wherein an earnest and independent young woman finds a mysterious radio belonging to her grandmother, a device that has paranormal bandwidth and a disturbing ability to mess with one's mental stability.

2 thoughts on “People Power post #2 – “Blame yourself””

  1. It may not be about “fleecing the rich” for you John, but the “problems” you bring up only have one way to resolve themselves and that is by actually fleecing the rich and taking the money stolen from the rich to give to those who are less than rich. There’s no getting around it.

    Of course, you continue to ignore the fact that there are far more millionaires and far more people who are doing better today than they were 10 years ago (far more millionaires than ever!). That counts for nothing in the way you talk about this kind of thing. Why is that?


  2. Hi Quinn,

    I don’t follow you on this one. I do agree with you that there are more millionaires than ever. From my perspective, though, that’s a problem. The middle class is shrinking. For the nonrich, the rest of us, real wages have stagnated and remained essentially unchanged since the 1970s. Reagan ushered in an era of “trickle down economics.” Unfortunately, there’s been no increase, and the trickle has remained slow.

    I would like to say, though, that there are other ways to achieving equality apart from “fleecing the rich.” Don’t get me wrong, I do support fleecing the rich at this time in our nation’s history; however, as part of a longer term strategy, I think it would be more effective to put policies in place that create greater individual and community responsibility. Ultimately, I think that making government the redistributor of wealth is a losing battle. That’s why I am a “libertarian socialist” and not an “authoritarian socialist.”

    One practical example of how to equalize our society (in the long term) without fleecing the rich would be to create an ownership society, where all workers share in the ownership of the business/company with which they work. In fact, the best businesses already know this and provide their employees with shares of stock and with profit sharing plans. We are motivated to perform better if we feel a sense of ownership of our work. As it is, factory workers, secretaries, janitors, and other workers slave away for years and decades for nothing but a paycheck. That kind of sucks. Wouldn’t people be more productive if they had a share in their company?

    We can achieve equality. It’s a very real possibility.


Consider this post an invitation, an invitation to comment and collaborate ~ In Solidarity, JE

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