It’s fall now in this, our year of discontent, and of late I’ve begun spotting members of a species whose proliferation I first witnessed visiting my brother in Georgia this past summer.
I’m speaking of the growing numbers of what appear to be middle-class adults standing on sidewalks along commercial boulevards and waving placards for some retail outfit located just across the parking lot. Of course, sometimes the socio-economic affiliation of the folks hawking discounts at Little Caesar’s or Tires Plus can be hard to determine because the placard wavers are dressed up in togas or as radial tires.
Is this just seasonal migration? Or could there be some connection between people flocking to probably the only jobs hiring right now and the wishful thinking we’ve been witnessing lately in certain quarters? I mean the absurd proposition that Elizabeth Warren, the proposed temporary head of a new federal consumer protection agency, is going to single-handedly rein in predatory lending and consumer fraud.
Oh, and bail out the economy at the same time.
I wish Warren well, though I’m afraid cracking down on fraud and credit abuse will mean taking on the banks and investment firms that are simply too big to fail – the same criminal enterprises Obama has been in bed with from the get-go. If that’s the course she chooses to pursue, surely her tenure will be brief.
Equally noteworthy is the fact that the hopes now pinned upon her shoulders are another sign of the false consciousness gripping most of the American populace. In turn, that false consciousness is one of the primary mechanisms by which Stage-4 corporate capitalism has transformed almost the entire population into members of a modern-day version of the lumpenproletariat. That is to say, a class of individuals incapable of perceiving their own interests but liable to cast yearning looks toward the very institutions and elites that have their boot heels on the necks of the lumpenproletariat.
Small wonder that we reel from pillar to post, baring our throats to ciphers masquerading as saviors: now Ronald Reagan, now Barak Obama, now Sarah Palin, now Glenn Beck. And so on and so forth, all the while wringing our hands or bellowing in rage as we march toward actual (not symbolic) extinction, as determined as lemmings but without the lemmings’ stoic fatalism.
In the second installment of this four-part blog, I pointed out that two things had to occur to make the rise of the American lumpenproletariat possible: first, the systematic dismantling of the industrial workforce – the proletariat; and, second, the transformation of the mainstream media from an institution whose news outlets often acted as watchdogs into a member of Team Corporate Capitalism. Today, almost all of the major mainstream news media outlets are owned and operated by publicly traded corporations, answerable only to Wall Street’s demands for ever-escalating rates-of-return and charged with helping promote the values and behaviors that keep a consumer-based profit system going. This latter includes providing news content designed to distract, confuse and disempower rather than inform.
There is no way to reconstitute the American proletariat. Industrial jobs are not coming back to this country. But we can create an independent, alternative news media, a job to which organized labor, even in its crippled form, could lend material assistance.
After Blanche Lincoln won her primary fight against a somewhat more liberal opponent in Arkansas’ Democratic primary this summer, some anonymous gloater at the White House couldn’t help crowing that unions had “flushed $10 million in their members’ fees down the toilet” in the failed effort to unseat Lincoln.
The comment was greeted by widespread outrage. But you know what? Whoever the source of the observation, he or she was absolutely correct.
How much more productive – both in the short and long-term – it would have been if the labor movement had taken that $10 million and invested it in alternative independent news organizations. The Twin Cities Daily Planet, for example, could operate at its current capacity for 50 years with that kind of funding.
We might all be members of the lumpenproletariat. But armed with accurate information about what is happening in the world – and being done to us and by whom – maybe we’d rise up against our oppressors. Maybe we would stop believing in change delivered to us by a man on a white horse and, acting in solidarity forged by a realistic understanding of our larger class interests, we’d start bringing about change on our own.
Because, make no mistake, the threat to us is real and must not be underestimated. More about that in the next installment.