Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Kiss Up, Kick Down

What does it say about our modern values that we always give the benefit of the doubt to the wealthy and assume the worst about the poor? Here's an article from the Guardian about how we punish the poor for being poor.

Everybody agrees it’s wasteful to throw money at the poor. A lazy way of thinking. But the rich? So much is given to them you couldn’t begin to throw it, it has to be delivered in semi trucks, in supertankers. Everybody’s giving money to them, so it must be a good thing. That’s lazy too, and wasteful in much larger amounts. The rich get so much it seems to justify giving them everything. Rich people pass us in the street and without thinking we hand them the contents of our wallets. We buy them drinks and lunch, pay their parking meters, polish their cars, kiss their feet. Here's an article from Vox describing how the rich get richer no matter how lousy they are at their jobs, assuming they have one.

Poor people, though? Ugh. Let’s criminalize poverty. Let’s fine them for being poor and charge them a fee for being unable to pay the fine and imprison them when they cannot pay the fee for nonpayment of fines. This accomplishes two things: it teaches the poor a lesson––not to to be poor––and it adds to the enormous profits we pay to the for-profit prison industry and its wealthy shareholders.

Our society is so clever though. Always innovating. Inventing new ways to kiss up and kick down. Devising new methods for discouraging and penalizing the poor who are already discouraged and penalized and new rituals for worshipping the rich.

Our urban landscape has a new feature: spikes to prevent the homeless from lying down to sleep.

New apartment buildings are being built with separate doors for the rich and the poor. (This way the developers get a tax break for housing us poor folks without forcing the rich to tolerate our company in the elevator.)

Our society used to dish out indignity to one easily identified segment of the population, people with darker skin. The system was called Jim Crow. What will we call this new system?

Sadly, our vocabulary is deficient. We aren’t innovating there. We don’t have words that adequately describe this galloping unfairness. Why? Because in our kissing up we are careful not to cause offense to our betters. We don’t want to hurt the feelings of the rich by explaining how monstrous their privileges are. We don’t want to understand the ways they are robbing us all blind.

Let’s get to work on a fairer vocabulary. Terms like “wage theft” are just coming into use. Let’s see it used more often. Until it was labelled as theft, it seemed perfectly legal for rich employers to do what they were doing. We need to use our language. It’s the only weapon we have left.

“The salient fact of American politics is that there are fifty to seventy million voters each of who will volunteer to live, with his family, in a cardboard box under an overpass, and cook sparrows on an old curtain rod, if someone would only guarantee that the black, gay, Hispanic, liberal, whatever, in the next box over doesn’t even have a curtain rod, or a sparrow to put on it.” ~Davis X. Machina

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