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Chronicling the collapse of a failed society
Once you sift through the layers of thinly veiled racism, a picture emerges of just how bleak many Americans perceive the future to be:
Why the white working class is alienated, pessimistic
The latest measure of this discontent came in a thoughtful national survey on economic opportunity released last week by the Pew Charitable Trusts’ Economic Mobility Project. If numbers could scream, they would probably sound like the poll’s results among working-class whites.
One question asked respondents whether they expected to be better off economically in 10 years than they are today. Two-thirds of blacks and Hispanics said yes, as did 55 percent of college-educated whites; just 44 percent of noncollege whites agreed. Asked if they were better off than their parents were at the same age, about three-fifths of college-educated whites, African-Americans, and Hispanics said they were. But blue-collar whites divided narrowly, with 52 percent saying yes and a head-turning 43 percent saying no. …
… 63 percent of African-Americans and 54 percent of Hispanics said they expected their children to exceed their standard of living. Even college-educated whites are less optimistic (only about two-fifths agree). But the noncollege whites are the gloomiest: Just one-third of them think their kids will live better than they do; an equal number think their children won’t even match their living standard. No other group is nearly that negative.
The focus on whites versus “minorities” is wholly unnecessary, and only serves to reinforce racist notions that have lingered since the birth of our nation. What is most relevant in the article is the negative perception that people of all races – but particularly working class people – have of the future.
The comment section for the above article is filled with tales of suffering and discontent: people working three jobs simply to make end meet, or being fired after 20+ years on the job as yet another corporation seeks to maximize its profits by moving operations overseas. The article has been shared on Facebook nearly 5,000 times, a fact which suggests that a very tender nerve has been struck.
And indeed, it has. Setting aside the divisive and wholly unwarranted references to race, Americans everywhere are slowly waking up to the fact that the American dream has died – if, in fact, it ever lived. From the golden era of the booming 50s and 60s to the steady decline of the 70s, 80s and 2000s, people across the nation are starting to realize somewhere along the line, something went very wrong.
People are scratching their heads, pointing fingers, trying to figure out who and what is to blame for the precipitous decline in the standard of living of the masses. Fifty years ago, a family could live exceedingly comfortably on the lone income of the high school educated father. Today families struggle to survive with multiple incomes, in many cases even with a college education.
Most of the time, the blame is thrown at Washington, DC – and in some ways it should be. The problem is that most Americans, influenced by decades of exposure to the slick corporate media machine, view the situation through the narrowly defined parameters of corporate interests. In this simplified view, everything can be blamed on whichever party happens to be in power at the time: If disaster strikes while Republicans are at the helm, than Democrats are considered the solution. If Democrats are in control when things go wrong, the masses swing back to the Republicans, believing that if one party is wrong, then the other, by default, is right.
Obviously this is not the case. But I think it is a mistake to focus on politics at all, since our entire political process has been commandeered by corporate interests. The federal government is no longer the wielder of genuine power in our society; it is merely, to quote Chomsky, the shadow that big business casts.
The decline in wages and living standards across the United States is due not to the actions of our government, but to the insatiable greed of the modern corporation, which in turn is founded upon our unwavering support of the sacred profit motive. As the wealthiest among us continue to acquire obscene sums of money, the masses are left behind to struggle in squalor. And such is the natural result of a capitalist society. What else could we have expected?
When the pursuit of profit is valued above all else, it is inevitable that, eventually, those who are able to successfully obtain their riches will continue to amass greater and greater wealth, while those at the bottom are left to squabble over the crumbs. Throughout history this has been observed on an individual scale, but thanks to the modern corporation it is now taking place on an institutional, transnational scale. And it will continue to do so until we flatly reject the very notion of the profit motive, and realize that a society which prospers in the long term is not one which is founded upon endless greed, but rather one which is based on the ideals of sufficiency, equality and creativity.
Sadly, I don’t think Americans have yet suffered enough to reach that conclusion; the innate flaws of the system itself are instead described away by attributing our plight to the aberrant behavior of a few rogue corporations. If we simply rein them in with a few regulations here and there, our sacred Capitalism will allow us to flourish and prosper once more – until the same result inevitably resurfaces, and we repeat the cycle again, and again.