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$88,00 for Your Thoughts

$88,000. This is how much Jeff Bezos has to spend to be equivalent to the average person’s $1. He is of course, the richest man in the world right now. If you’re like most Americans you’ve probably got your kid ordering slime on Amazon Prime as we speak. Just think if we had progressive vending machines like some sort of progressive taxation….. Bezos would never get 132,000 dollar bills flattened out to buy a Diet Coke. Hopefully he would get to about 117,000 or so bills in the machine, and then hit the ones that wouldn’t smooth out.  But he’d keep trying, that head shining in sweat from his toil. If I could devise a hell that makes sense for all his greed…….that would be it for him. He’d be very, very thirsty and he’d have to keep trying at that vending machine for eternity. Sounds pretty insane, right? That’s how insane it is that one man has amassed a fortune like this while he lives in a nation with a poverty problem that is now on the UN radar.

Places like the Mississippi Delta and parts of Appalachia have a lower life expectancy than Bangladesh. It’s not fair it’s so low in Bangladesh either, but I make the point to say that these shady economic traps are happening in the country Bezos calls home. The average Amazon worker is toiling for a median pay of $28,446. And in a lot of places that is considered a very good job, even if workers have to urinate in bottles to stay on track, avoiding those pesky calls of nature that can steal minutes from your delivering productivity. So they work all year for what Bezos makes in— hell, I can’t even do the math. My schools were underfunded here in the Midwest. I’m not even sure about that $8,800 thing above in the title. It might be 88 fucktillion instead. I just don’t know. The numbers are into the realm of surrealism–that I do know.

So why aren’t Americans flipping out about this gross inequality? Because they are so busy looking down on others, I suppose, or in some instances just accepting that this is the norm for a functioning society. All playing the parts assigned by the ruling class. I will admit that I thought that Trump voters were motivated mainly by economic insecurity, and that the greasy orange snake oil salesman made it sound like he might help the little guy during his campaign (at least to those gullible ears wanting to parse that out of what he was saying). Well—not so fast—two University of Kansas sociologists found that the white voters who supported Trump did so mainly because of shared prejudices. David Smith and Eric Hanley explored the motivations of those who supported Trump and found that “People who voted for Trump did not worry more about their personal finances than white voters who supported other candidates; economic worry doesn’t help distinguish between the two camps.” Their published work in the journal Critical Sociology found that this “could explain much of the attraction of the idea of a domineering leader.” In short, they love the guy being nasty to those with skin south of ecru. They feel a tingle when families are torn apart because it feels good to focus on someone else being less than you are when you are nothing but the commodity that this culture turns you into. You’re a commodity whether you are a high salaried professional or a low wage worker in this system. Deep down this is known,m in the American psyche and the spiralling suicide rates and opiod abuse probably do a good job tracking the enhanced internalized dehumanization.

The study of Trump voters explains a lot of the polarization going on now, but that is not to let the centrist loving Democrats off the hook. There is not an effective labor or resistance party in this nation, and this leaves those with weak ethical inclinations an easy slide into what feels good in the immediate–that of giving in to hate instead of looking at the shared needs of their neighbors. Democrats of the neoliberal variety don’t offer an effective alternative.

So Americans accept the hoarders and think it is a just and sensible system. Never mind the system requires an input of about 4 Earths (if the whole globe consumes what the US does, and global consumption is on the rise). Infinite growth on a finite planet, that stinging and true statement. Maybe we need to consider that perhaps those who strive to amass so much when others are in need are truly fucked in the head? And the sad thing is that we have all to some extent bought into this nonsense. We don’t believe alternatives can exist, even in the face of certain doom– if not in our lifetimes, then likely in our children’s. How bizarre is that? To accept such a thing? This is thanatos in action–a death drive. The best way to have a clear view of a situation or a culture is often to imagine you are an alien anthropologist (I do this at work a lot to try and maintain sanity).  This is recommended by the Journal of Applied Observation and Judging or maybe I saw this recommended by someone on the internet. Anyway, I wholeheartedly endorse this technique and oh damn, are we in trouble. We look really stupid. All the alien anthropologists are astonished by this incredible mess we have going.

I always conclude with a bit of hope or at least some notion of decency afoot that I’ve heard about. I’m not sure how to do that right now though. I suppose it comes down to creating decency in your own small sphere of influence (looking for every way possible to alleviate suffering for someone–person or animal)–and a willingness to battle for that same decency on a larger scale when possible, To be governed by empathy, even when others are governed by greed and prejudice.  This Trump era appeals to the lowest motivations. Every person has dark thoughts about others, but the clean and decent way to live is to realize it and rise above. Now there is an easier alternative. Just wallow in the filth of hate–everybody’s doing it. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not calling for civility when under the bed monsters that steal kids show themselves. I’m calling for it with those we love, and those that can be helped. There’s no room to flatter yourself that the kind of demons that gave you nightmares as kids will happily get in on any namaste you might bring up. When you take crying kids from their parents you have become the night-time monster.

I know on my deathbed (was Eddie Izzard the one who said, stay out of that bed? It’s named a deathbed….), where was I? Oh yes, on the deathbed (if you do forget and accidently climb into that particular piece of scary named furniture) a life governed by empathy and not the love of green paper will be well lived, and doing battle against injustice will do nothing but erode that sense that we are nothing but senseless commodities to be exploited by those who do not know what matters. At least you can think that along with why did I get in this damn bed?!

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Kathleen Wallace writes out of the US Midwest and can be reached at klwallace@riseup.net

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