Given what’s going on in the world today, I feel compelled to say that Marx had a lot of things right. It seems ever more evident that we are dividing here into the haves and the have nots, and those classes are at war. Not all the haves are fighting the have nots, but there are enough out there doing so, fighting for their own good, that the have nots are losing out.
As I hear about Haiti losing its industries because of pressure to buy cheaper exports from abroad, and the same thing happening in the US, killing many of our industries with the influx of Chinese products, I think to myself that with globalization, international inherited debt, unregulated speculation, and tax favoritism towards the wealthy, we are creating a world where the wealthy will survive while the middle class will work either till death or until they are no longer able to work. And the poor will turn to violence, while struggling with disease, ignorance, bad health, imprisonment, drugs, teen pregnancy, pollution of every form, and the rest of us will try to avoid them as best we can, cordon ourselves off from them. And the chief measure of wealth will be whether one is truly able to cordon themselves off from poverty or not.
Do I sound hopeless? I am relatively hopeless, after what I’ve seen. Jon Stewart said in that book forum that life has improved so much for many of us, in no longer “drinking from the water we once shitted in” and such. And yes, many things have improved. There is no longer child labor in the United States. There is public education. Our police are relatively reliable. Women can vote. All people can vote. And I can walk down the street with a black girlfriend and marry a black woman, without starting a riot. And we have elected a black man for the first time to an office that used to be all white.
There have been some improvements, and many of them have trickled down to the poor. Maybe part of my cynicism comes in comparing our current America not so much to the America that Stewart spoke of the early 1900s, but to the America of the 1950s, where there was a strong middle class base. Is the cup half empty or full? For the unemployed person without health insurance or a pension, I’d say it’s completely empty. And the philosophical approach that Mr. Stewart can afford to take is justifiable in one sense, but unhelpful to that unemployed worker who’s wondering what happened to the American Dream- work hard, get a pension, retire and watch your grandchildren grow up.