There are some truths so hard to face, so ugly and so at odds with how we imagine the world should be, that nobody can accept them. Here’s one: It is obvious that a class system has arrived in America — a recent study of the thirty-four countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that only Italy and Great Britain have less social mobility. But nobody wants to admit: If your daddy was rich, you’re gonna stay rich, and if your daddy was poor, you’re gonna stay poor. Every instinct in the American gut, every institution, every national symbol, runs on the idea that anybody can make it; the only limits are your own limits. Which is an amazing idea, a gift to the world — just no longer true. Culturally, and in their daily lives, Americans continue to glide through a ghostly land of opportunity they can’t bear to tell themselves isn’t real. It’s the most dangerous lie the country tells itself.
More than anything else, class now determines Americans’ fates. The old inequalities — racism, sexism, homophobia — are increasingly antiquated [fig. 1]. Women are threatening to overwhelm men in the workplace, and the utter collapse of the black lower middle class in the age of Obama — a catastrophe for the African-American community — has little to do with prejudice and everything to do with brute economics. Who wins and who loses has become simplified, purified: those who own and those who don’t.
It may be the day after Christmas, but this seems more appropriate for Halloween. This is some scary shit.
Retreating to the comfort zone in the face of something like this would usually point to some nostrum like “well, at least we’re talking about it openly.” But the thing about nostrums is that they’re designed to soothe, to paper over, to stifle discussion and make confrontation with unpleasant truths easier to avoid. I don’t find any comfort in that, and in truth, I’d have grave doubts about anyone who did.
We can’t congratulate ourselves for being able to talk about class, about inequality, about polarization between haves and have nots. Or more accurately, we can, but we shouldn’t. Talking about something honestly is all very well, but if you’re not prepared to pursue the implications of what you’re talking about, you might as well not bother.
So let’s address those implications. Is this what we want for our country, our future? Is this the kind of society we want to become? If so, then as Marche argues, the least we can do is have an honest conversation about it.
- Far-right wackjobs: they’re not just tedious – they’re a genuine threat | via AlterNet | #uspoli
- From @mtaibbi, a Christmas message from Wall Street | #classwarfare #uspoli
- @GeorgeMonbiot on the subversion of ‘freedom’ | #winningbackthewords
- Chris Hedges: Zero Point of Systemic Collapse | Adbusters Culturejammer Headquarters