On Saturday, I attended the inaugural caucus of the Clark County chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America.
For work purposes only, people, keep your shirts on. Gordon’s still as red-and-black as ever.
All in all it wasn’t terrible- I actually got an opportunity to talk to the keynote speaker, a local congressman, about the impending vote on military action against my adopted homeland of Syria (for the record, I said if we had money to bomb Syria, we have money to spend giving refugees the medicine, food, and housing they so desperately need).
But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.
I’m here to talk about what was said (over and over), before the congressman started taking questions from the crowd.
As people trickled into the meeting, the chapter head offered a brief speech about the mission of the organization. For the most part, it was pretty run of the mill liberal agenda items. Increase availability of health care, vague promises about improving the state of education, and so on and so forth. What caught my attention though was how often he said that all this would be done to “strengthen the Middle Class.”
In fact, I counted how many times he said that. 10 uses of the term “Middle Class” in a two minute speech.
Now obviously, there’s nothing uncommon about a political group talking about the Middle Class, but seeing as how this speech was given in a community center park in North Vegas, my mind was actually pretty blown.
Let me explain.
Zip code 89106, where I work and where the meeting was held, is one of the single most dangerous zip codes in the US. While I’ve written before that the chances of you actually having to deal with dangerous crime are pretty dang low, in this part of town most estimates have you at a 1 in 7 chance of being victimized in a year, with nearly one violent crime taking place a day. On any given day, I’m driving past four to six homeless people, and every time I walk across from my work to the dollar store, I’m asked if I’ll be using debit or food stamps.
All in all, it’s not what you’d call a “Middle Class” neighborhood.
And still, this guy claimed- with a straight face- to be hellbent on defending all us “Middle Class” folks.
I’d be incensed at the gall of this man to tell a group of some of the poorest people in America that they’re “Middle Class” if I didn’t think he believed each and every word he said.
Leftist writer John Steinbeck once said that “Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as exploited proletariat, but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” You might be more familiar with Tyler Durden’s echo of the same statement (at 39 seconds in):
That’s one major element that really separates the US from the rest of the world culturally. It’s not that we don’t have social classes- we most certainly do. It’s that we simply refuse to believe it. You can see this mentality pretty much anywhere you look in America. From those in line for lottery tickets to the terrified contestants on “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” to the just frankly weird people who do sales pitches on “Shark Tank” (which is our version of “Dragons’ Den”, for any British [or Canadian -Evan.] readers)- everyone’s insistent that they’re just on lucky break away from their ship coming in. From the day we’re born, we’re fed the idea that anyone can become a millionaire, just the same as how anyone can become a president.
Though on that note with 47% of congress is made up of millionaires and the average senator being worth over 2.5 million, so that probably speaks to just how true that particular promise is as well.
It’s a cultural phenomena as interesting as it is, well, psychotically twisted. It’d be hard for me to cite a more clear example of how culture is more effectively weaponized and used to suppress masses of people.
Surveillance, overt campaigns of propaganda, police suppression- these have nothing on the promise of rags-to-riches.
As much as this has shaped American society, there is, at long last, some hope.
The guiding rule of all psychology and social work is that the first step to fixing a problem is admitting it. In spite of the American obsession with the Horatio Alger “by-my-own-bootstraps” fantasy, polls are starting to show a shift in public thought. More and more, Americans are citing that they aren’t looking to be insanely rich. More and more (and doubtlessly as a result of the obliteration of the economy) people are simply wanting to be able to enjoy some simple degree of security and moderate prosperity for themselves and their family.
Though I’m guessing most Americans still haven’t fully found a way to articulate this, self-determination, more than simply being rich or even just well-off, is what the public really wants.
Chris Rock actually breaks it down pretty eloquently.
Obviously I don’t think this is what Rock had in mind when he was doing this bit, but this is actually pretty much a play-by-play of the Marxist vision- workers democratically controlling the workplace (and as a result, their communities).
It seems that, finally, the American public is warming up to the concept of classism. Heck, I’m starting to see (what I truly hope are) the first sprouts of working and underclass pride. You can’t fool all the people all the time, they say, and maybe- just maybe- that time has come.