Thursday, December 16, 2010

Is "freedom" just another word for nothing left to lose?


David Seaton's News Links
There is a world, a universe, of pain in the following quote from the Financial Times:
If you want something to get angry about, I wouldn’t look at tuition fees. I’d look at a little graph produced by Leon Feinstein of the Institute for Education, which shows tests of cognitive development given to almost 2,500 children at the age of 22 months, 42 months, five years and 10 years. The very brightest 22-month-old working-class kids were inexorably overhauled by the very dimmest children of professional or managerial parents – apparently by the age of about seven, and emphatically by the age of 10. -  Financial Times
If this is true about Great Britain, which still has some scraps of its once fine welfare state intact, it is surely doubly or triply true of the United States of America. Has a study similar to Leon Feinstein's  even been done in America yet? I imagine so, studies like Feinstein's seem to roll off of America's back like water off a duck.

Just the other day a judge in Virginia declared president Obama's minimalist health care bill, "unconstitutional", meaning that millions of Americans are to be condemned to pain and early death, because of a document written over two hundred years ago by an assembly of wealthy men living on land stolen from the Indians (all of them) worked for them by African slaves (many of them). These men gave a lot of thought to "freedom", but I would argue that their idea of freedom was an aristocratic one, a worship of the sacred "individual" similar to the slave-based economy that fostered the philosophy of ancient Greece. Such individualism is postulated on a great mass of invisible "half-people", who may, as is often the case in America today, not even be needed or fitted for productive work, not even recruits for Marx's "reserve army of labor".

We are talking about human beings with one life to live, whose potential to contribute, to be useful to themselves and to society is being thrown, flushed, away. Common sense and common decency reel from this thought.

In America, when we talk about poor education for poor children, we may quite possibly be talking about physical hunger too. Conservative estimates put the figure at about 13 million hungry children in the USA. Here is how "Bread for the World" breaks it down:
--36.3 million people--including 13 million children--live in households that experience hunger or the risk of hunger. This represents more than one in ten 0households in the United States (11.2 percent). This is an increase of 1.4 million, from 34.9, million in 2002.
--3.5 percent of U.S. households experience hunger. Some people in these households frequently skip meals or eat too little, sometimes going without food for a whole day. 9.6 million people, including 3 million children, live in these homes.
--7.7 percent of U.S. households are at risk of hunger. Members of these households have lower quality diets or must resort to seeking emergency food because they cannot always afford the food they need. 26.6 million people, including 10.3 million children, live in these homes.
One blogger confronted with these statistics, did a little math and wrote the following:
Think about this. Recently 20 billion dollars was given to Bank of America to bail them out. With that amount every hungry child in America could eat for a year
The judge in Virginia that struck down the gelded health plan would probably call that "socialist demagoguery". Maybe it is: I'm cool with that.

Many think that nothing will happen, that America' poor of today are to degraded to react. An "anonymous" reader wrote this in response to a recent post of mine, speculating about the possibility of civil strife similar to Europe's in the USA:
It's hard for me to imagine the unemployed rebelling. It's not that people are necessarily apathetic, but they're unarmed (I mean in things like useful education, intelligent political discourse) and bombarded with jingoism and bread and circuses nonsense. And beyond the deficit in political awareness, there are the practical problems of always being cold and tired and sick and having all your energies taken up with just getting by.
I would reply that many of those soon to be out of  a job, out of their homes, with no savings, or their saving eaten up, and soon to be destitute are "armed" with an education and even armed without quotation marks and that history shows that peoples in this world even more brutalized, hungry, alienated and empty handed than today's Americans, have risen up before and rebelled. DS

1 comment:

Publius said...

I've been wondering about this for a while. I'm amazed at the abuse and desperate circumstances people here are willing to put up with, without any rebellious thoughts whatsoever entering their minds.

Most people still blame themselves. The ideology of individual responsibility has been so drilled into our heads from youth, by schools, churches, and the media, that I think most people would rather just fade away, starve, and die before they think of seeking to change the system.

The system, you see, has utilized modern communications technology to cause people to indoctrinate themselves far more effectively than the Nazis or Soviets were able to do with the radio and posters and rallies.

It doesn't help that most people spend all their free time watching TV or playing video games, and avoiding physical proximity to their fellow consumers. People in urban/urbane areas tend to be much more critical of the system, while also being paradoxically happier, less isolated, and more engaged.
This has also led to a huge cultural divide... not really between so-called conservatives and liberals, but between the fearful isolated and the angry engaged.