Covidian Musings

… and who is society? There is no such thing!

– Margaret Thatcher

The 9 most terrifying words in the English language are, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”

– Ronald Reagan

The man said “Get out of here, I’ll tear you limb from limb.”
I said, “You know they refused Jesus too.” He said, “You’re not him.”

– Bob Dylan (115th Dream)

It’s winter here on the farm. Nothing to do but feed the stove, thumb through seed catalogs, try to get over my Omicron infection and pan for news nuggets in the frigid, murky (main)stream of media. Last week began in holliday-mode with the rote recognition of Martin Luther King Day. Dr. King, being safely dead, was not on-hand to dispute the now conveniently cartoonish characterization of his life and struggle. He had “a dream” we are told——you know— for Negroes. For “inclusion.”  Apparently he was an early-adopter of identity politics. So, that’s cool. Right?

By the time he was assassinated, he (and the movement) were calling for an end to the barbarous war against the people of Vietnam, a universal guaranteed annual income, with  public housing and healthcare as an economic right for everybody. Feel free to check. In 1967, a year before he was struck down in Memphis supporting the striking “sanitation workers” and organizing for the Poor People’s Campaign, he gave a speech at New York’s Riverside Church: “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.”

He announced, “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin to shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘people-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” He named the United States as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”

That hasn’t changed, yet we don’t talk about it in polite company. King was “a little edgy” for his times— and ours. On Holliday Monday the Guardian published a Michael Harriot column offering some useful history. He wrote, “…. For the entirety of the 39 years that King lived and breathed, there wasn’t a single day when the majority of white Americans approved of him. In 1966, Gallup measured his approval rating at 32% positive and 63% negative. That same year, a December Harris poll found that 50% of whites felt that King was ‘hurting the Negro cause of civil rights,’ while only 36% felt he was helping. By the time he died (sic) in 1968 three out of four white Americans disapproved of him. In the wake of his assassination, 31% of the country felt that he ‘brought it on himself.’ ”

Speaking against the latest war-of-opportunity, and for universal economic rights to income, housing and healthcare doesn’t always get you killed. But even today it makes the privileged “uncomfortable” and will likely even get you “a reputation” as a trouble maker.  Ouch.

Since the vampiric Reagan/ Thatcher dystopian duo officially dismissed the idea of public housing (or public anything) in the Anglo-American political realm, we’ve relied on voluntarism, charity and public subsidy to private profit as “solutions” to social problems. Government money is sluiced to private corporate types and these profit-takers theoretically provide vital stuff like housing “opportunities.”  A few days before the MLK distraction, a fire in a Bronx apartment tower killed 17 residents; injuring and displacing many more. The New York Post reported (1/13/22) that previous inspections by the New York Housing Authority had cataloged what the Post called “horrific conditions” in housing described as “decrepit.”

It was reported up here only because one of the “investor” owners was the Maine-based “Low Income Housing Corporation,” now dba LIHC Investment Group.  The corporate website reports, “Our mission is simple and straightforward: forge creative relationships that capitalize the financial needs of our clients….Over the years of working with investors and limited partners— drawing upon our extensive experience and creativity in tax consequences, regulatory issues and partnership structures——LIHC Investment Group has been able to maximize sales proceeds for our clients….”

Not too “people-oriented.”

Yes dear reader, decades post-assassination this now reflects the way “we” deal with low income housing, if “we” deal with it at all.

Preliminary to the EliteMeet at Davos, the week also featured a report from Oxfam: “Inequality Kills.” It found that during the Covid conflagration a new billionaire “has been created every 26 hours (in an increasingly) violent economy…. (where) billionaire wealth blooms, in which millions of people are killed, and billions of people are impoverished due to inequality; in which we burn the planet and our future human existence on the altar of the excesses of the rich.”

The report called for sharply higher taxes on folks like Jeff Bezos, noting his earlier “Marie Antoinette ‘let them eat cake moment’” when the world’s richest man ….”launched himself into space in his luxury rocket while millions were dying needlessly below him” without vaccines or food.

Yeah, not too “people-oriented” alright.

But, just another week that was.


Richard Rhames is a dirt-farmer in Biddeford, Maine (just north of the Kennebunkport town line). He can be reached at: