Thoughts on politics, religion, violence, inequality, social control, change, and random other things from an autonomous, analytical, adopted, abolitionist, anarchist who likes the letter A

Fear of Cat Food and Other Anti-Revolutionary Yarns

February 13, 2014 By: Mel Category: Core, Seeking, Work

Scrooge and Marley MoneylendersSometimes you come across an article that so perfectly encapsulates something you have been obsessing about that you have to dust off your blog and throw out a minor rant. Latina Lista published just such an article this week.  So here we go.

According to a study by the (in no way biased) Prudential, “Latinos’ love of family today could spell financial trouble for retirement years.”

We are trained to be in constant fear. Fear of losing our jobs. Fear of losing our homes. Fear of medical bills. Fear of  ending up some solitary, elderly person eating cat food in a hovel. The answer, as is jammed into our heads, is to get on board with the system and try to hoard as much as you can. Don’t let those family and friends dip into your cash. Security comes with obedience and accumulation. Security comes by giving what little money you have to the dipshits at Prudential.

So how does that work out for people?

For one thing, going along with the system is not going to save you. My parents did everything they were supposed to do. There was a small business and a chamber of commerce membership.  There was a house and retirement savings. But along came Office Depot to squeeze my father’s business out. Then medical bills from a massive stroke. And of course there was some middle class lifestyle debt. When the IRS came around looking to take our house, did going along with the fear system help? Nope. You know what did help? Friends who lent my parents money.

Contrary to what we are told, security is mostly an illusion. And what security we do have comes from relationships, not possessions.

But the system desperately needs us to buy this lie. If we stopped fearing, if we stopped thinking we are in it alone, then nothing could keep us doing what we are doing. Nearly everyone I know is quietly plotting their freedom. We hate our jobs so much that we have to escape for bathroom cries. We have insomnia and anxiety. We are constantly medicated and looking for bullshit distractions.

And those are just the people who have enough privilege to still have jobs and something to fear losing. The truly amazing thing about the system is that we are fodder no matter what. If you have a job, you spend most of your waking hours away from the people and things you love in order to make money for greedy bastards. That isn’t enough though. They also want you to hand over some of what little money you make to “secure your retirement”. By which they mean that they want to invest your money in things that will make them money and hurt you. How?

Let’s say you have a retirement account. You’ll have a selection of mutual funds to chose from. Some of them may even say that they are “socially conscious.” What that means, generally, is that they will avoid one or two problematic sectors (like arms dealing). Everything else – sweatshops, union-busters, private prisons – they are all on the table. In short, these Prudential people are working on getting Latinos to give less money to their family and instead invest in the private prison corporations that put them in immigration detention.

When some investment banker tells you to stop giving money to your people and start “investing in your future,” what they are really doing is using you and your fear to finance your own oppression. And if you can’t benefit them through your labor or contributions, then they’ll throw you in prison and make money off of you that way.

I’m not going to tell you that, if you walk away, everything is going to be o.k. The other lie we are told is that we will be rewarded for doing the right thing.  You probably won’t. In fact, doing the right thing often means suffering. Just ask all the political prisoners out there.

Do it anyway.

And try to make it easier for other people to do it too. Let your friends and family and community know that you have their backs when they want to take a risk. Let them know that, so long as you have a roof and some food, they won’t starve or have no place to sleep. Nothing will change unless we are willing to risk something. We can’t make things safe. But we can make it a little easier on each other if we do the exact opposite of what that article is trying to get us to do.

And maybe, just maybe, if we could help each other get over our fears and take care of each other a little bit better, enough people would walk away to make the whole thing coming crashing down.

Time for a Maximum Wage

March 10, 2009 By: Mel Category: Politics, Stratification, Work

We’ve been having the wrong argument.

Liberals have been arguing that we should tax the rich more (as we used to). Conservatives say that taxes (any taxes) retard growth and remove incentives.

I say they are both wrong.

The conservative argument is based on the idea that only the possibility of obscene amounts of money is an incentive for work and creativity. Bull. Ask most nonprofit employees, nuns, or fire fighters if their primary incentive is cash.

What if the entire world worked on the principle of politicians, Wall Street brokers, and CEOs? We would be screwed. As far as I’m concerned, if owning a gold plated yacht is the only thing that motivates you, you need to do some serious soul searching.

Meanwhile the liberals operate from an equally objectionable principle. Suggesting that we just increase taxes on the rich requires an acceptance of the glaring income inequality behind all this mess.

The Tax Justice Network has a fascinating and disturbing quote from former U.S. Treasury Secretary Larry Summers:

If the income distribution in the United States were the same today as it was in 1979, the bottom 80 percent of the population would have about $670 billion more, or about $8,000 per family. And the top one percent would have about $670 billion less, or about $500,000 per family.

$8,000 per family! How much more comfortable would your life be with an extra $8,000 a year?

Does anyone really need to make $54 million a year? How can we accept a society where some Wall Street schmuck makes $54 million while your average teaching assistant makes $22,820? The person who grows your food is lucky to bring in $22,640. The person who serves your food makes $16,700. The person who takes care of your child brings in $19,670.

We need to close that gap.

I’m not suggesting that we give everyone the same amount of income. People should receive extra compensation for long years of education, for extra responsibility, for doing the kinds of jobs that other people don’t want to do, and for doing the kinds of jobs most essential to our survival. And people should receive compensation for outstanding efforts. But that doesn’t mean that the difference has to be as vast as it is.

Hillary Gets a Bailout Too?

December 06, 2008 By: Mel Category: Politics

This week, the Obama campaign (Joe Biden specifically) sent me an email asking that I give $100 or more to help Hillary Clinton pay off her primary debt.

Are they f’ing kidding me? Let me try to wrap my head around this one.

  • From the years 2000 – 2006 the Clintons earned $109 million
  • Hillary Clinton raised $229.4 million for her presidential campaign.
  • Hillary “loaned” her campaign $11 – 13 million so that she could string out her electorally impossible challenge against Barack Obama
  • About $5.3 million of the money the Clinton campaign owes is to pay slimy Mark Penn who ran her campaign into the ground and is also a lobbyist for people like the government of Colombia.

Oh yeah, and

  • We are in a major recession

So first I’m informed that billions of our tax dollars are going to pay for the greed fest of a bunch of uber-wealthy Wall Street billionaires who liked to play mortgage craps.

Then they want us to swallow paying billions more to bail out car company executives who couldn’t manage their way out of a paper bag and who continued to make gas guzzling SUVs even though we were undoubtedly headed for an oil crisis.

Now I’m supposed to take some of what’s left of my pathetic non-profit administrator salary to pay off some lobbyists so the Clinton’s don’t suffer a setback on their way to billionaires row?

Sometimes, I swear, I think my head is just going to explode.

Redefining Success in a Post Bling World

October 12, 2008 By: Mel Category: Core, Seeking, Stratification

It seems like I am not the only one who has had it with greed, selfishness and decadence.

Richard Fuld, the former CEO of the now bankrupt Lehman Brothers (a CEO who made $300 million dollars since 2000) was punched in the face at the company gym. (Man, that must have felt good.) Americans are up in arms about the $440,000 retreat taken by AIG executives right after we bailed them out with our tax money. And we sent thousands of emails to try and stop the bailout to begin with, mostly because we didn’t want to help a bunch of overpaid, greedy, schmucks keep their millions.

So the million dollar question is – Will it stick? Is this a momentary hiccup or is something more substantial happening here? And if it is something more substantial, what does America look like if we’re not all aiming for boundless riches? Will The Apprentice get cancelled? Will the Sex and the City women start wearing Converse? Will the $10 million stable full of thoroughbreds in this year’s Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog go unpurchased? God I hope so.

What if the United States wasn’t like an overgrown middle school? What if nobody cared whose name was sewn on the ass of your jeans or what car you drive (or if you drive one at all)? What if, given the choice between a new flatscreen and more time with the kids, everyone chose the latter? What if we redefined our idea of success?

Up until now, success for most people seemed to be based on how much stuff they had or what they could get. Success meant career “advancement,” a mcmansion in the suburbs, designer clothes, the right car, resort vacations, and lots of toys (adult and child-sized). We filled our lives with things, hoping each new thing would be the one that finally made us feel good about ourselves. Success was measured by how far “above” other people one progressed, because success entailed an illusion of superiority.

Now what if we judged success differently. What if the most successful people were the ones who were truly happy? What if our jobs supported our lives instead of our lives supporting our jobs? What if we admired people who had the most time to spend with the people they loved? What if we congratulated the people who left work on time and not the ones who stay at the office until midnight? What if we just shook our heads and chuckled at people who spent all their time trying to keep up with Joneses? What if their were no Joneses to keep up with?

Financially, things are going to get tougher for a lot of people and attitudes are likely to change out of necessity. Perhaps this is just the kick in the pants we need. Perhaps we’ll start buying less, conserving more, fixing things, and rethinking our priorities. Perhaps we can build a culture where it is the greedy who are pariahs and not the poor.

Against The Rich

October 03, 2008 By: Mel Category: Stratification

I am so tired of rich people. I’m tired of people who admire rich people. I’m tired of people who aspire to be rich people. I’m tired of Paris Hilton and MTV Cribs. I’m tired of televised yacht tours. I’m tired of walking by empty beach-side mansions that are only occupied one month per year while thousands of homeless don’t have shit. I’m tired of hummers and beemers, of six hundred dollar purses and thousand dollar shoes. I’m tired of the shallow, materialistic, empty, selfish, and greedy culture that underpins it all.

Most of all, I’m tired of the people whose desire for money goes beyond what they can get for it. The worst are those who just want money to have it. They want as much of it as possible. And they don’t give a damn who they step on in the process of getting and keeping it. And don’t kid yourself into thinking that it is possible to acquire that much wealth without being ruthless. Acquiring that much wealth is in itself ruthless.

What is wealth really? It is a representation of natural and human resources. It is the value of commodities plus the value of labor. What gives anyone the right to hoard that much of the natural resources and labor in the world? And why do we accept it? We are all getting raped in every orifice and yet, instead of raising hell, we just go to the corner store to buy a lotto ticket in the hope that we can be one of those rich people. It isn’t going to happen.

Goldman Sachs is one of the firms whose speculation and greed has caused this supposed meltdown of our financial system. Of course, it is former Goldman Sachs CEO and current Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson who is telling us the sky is falling, but lets pretend it is for a moment. Not only are the Goldman Sachs of the world costing each of us more than $2,000 with this ridiculous bailout, they are also one of the major oil speculators that has been driving the price of gasoline sky high. Goldman Sachs executives have been pulling in $50 million a year. Why are they coming to us for $2,000 a piece? Why aren’t they taking the $54.3 million Lloyd Blankfein made in 2006?

No one needs to make 50 million dollars a year. And making 50 million dollars a year isn’t good for anyone. It means hoarding resources that could be better used by others, at best. At worst it involves crushing other human beings. It creates extremes of wealth and poverty that aren’t good for the people at either end of the spectrum. The poor are dehumanized by their desperation and the rich are dehumanized by their inability to empathise or relate to real life.

This country is full of addicts. The bastards we are bailing out with our tax money are addicted to cash. They don’t need us to provide another fix for them. They need a twelve step program. They need some tough love. Cut them off. Let them hit rock bottom. Let them lose their mansions and yachts and trophy wives. Put them to work tarring driveways or cleaning airport bathrooms for minimum wage.