I want to discuss class in America. Just for sport, not to cause any great discussion or insult anyone's upbringing or political viewpoint, but just to talk about it. After all, blogs are really about the writer's ego, aren't they? Instead of having to have an editor go thru and revise your words, or have some publisher cancel out whole chapters a person can write merrily away as if they understood the subject, and although I have a link to my email account so far nobody has written and said I was a jerk and I should take back what I said. So here I go, talking about something of which I am a part, but about which I was never instructed. It's just me.
To begin with we can observe that class is not something like a specific frequency of light, like 'red' or 'blue'. It's more like a range of colors where red fades into purple which moves into blue and all those inbetween colors like 'reddish-purple' or 'magenta' have validity on their own. Likewise colors vary depending on the observer. As we have noted before, existence is in the eyes of the beholder. So class is in the eyes of the beholder, too. Although George Bush is a very wealthy man and therefore part of the wealthy class, one would be sore pressed to call him a 'classy' man. But America is an intensely class oriented society. Obviously wealth, and the acquisition of wealth is the mainstay of this society. One is measured by one's wealth. George liked or likes to drive while drunk and although he was busted more than once for doing so he saw no jail time, nor will he ever. Not because he is a reformed man, since he now endangers millions by his irresponsible actions, but because he is even more wealthy than before. Thus although he has killed by proxy thousands more than Charles Manson, who perhaps killed one person, Charles Manson will never see the outside of a prison. He is poor.
Another example of how class works here is our response to disasters. The government under George Bush uses it's vast resources to protect the wealth of a small handful of Americans and others in countries such as Britain and Israel. We send thousands of Americans out to kill and die to protect oil wells, shipping lanes and the like. We send angry letters to protect the poor people in Darfur from what we admit is a genocide in progress, and we hold press conferences to help the poor people of the Gulf Coast. Sometimes, in the case of the victims of the calamities in Pakistan we send promises of aid. It has been argued that we spend billions to fund aid to the poor in America but if you were to go out into the cold on the streets of American cities you would find that somehow those billions don't do a lot insofar as feeding and housing the poor. We are told this is a trap, that too much aid would encourage the poor to stay poor. We point to multi-generational welfare families, as if they have decided that living hand to mouth on welfare is better than working for a living. Out of the millions of poor in America we extract one or two criminals who cheat the system as examples of how welfare if actually bad for people and gives them an opulent lifestyle while the wealthy have to struggle to make ends meet. Those who have a chance at upward mobility sometimes like to reference these criminals as the norm among the poor and encourage the government to cut them off, cut them all off. But like the dairy farmer who is faced with one sick cow the government simply kills off the few examples of the poor who dared to maintain a high profile. The quiet ones are allowed to continue browsing until it comes time to harvest what value they have. Recently we hear about organs being removed from street people and sold to the wealthy. This is somewhat unlikely as those organs would not be very healthy and the wealthy can certain afford to buy better quality organs than that.
On programs like Tavis Smiley on PBS we see a lot of racism used to explain class in America. References are often made to the legacy of slavery, forgetting that slaves in America were also white, brown and yellow. Blacks are encouraged to think of themselves as descended from slaves, even if their families came from Europe as immigrants who never saw the African shores. This helps keep them in their place. But race has nothing to do with class. Wealth is what determines class in America as we are a capitalistic society, not a white society. It's easy for Americans to accept a black man working in the White House, if that man is wealthy. Even when a black woman strolls across the White House lawn holding the (white) President's hand we see no problem because that woman is not only black, but wealthy. Besides which, the President chose to hold her hand, she did not force it on him. He chooses to play with her, to exercise with her and she refers to him as her 'husband' without any outcry. Obviously her skin tone is not the issue. She is wealthy enough to have earned the right to fool around with the President, just as he has earned the right to slaughter hundreds of thousands of poor people around the globe. He is a multi-millionaire and so has unlimited power.
Our main objection to communist China and communist Russia was not so much their treatment of the races, but their refusal to allow our wealthy citizens the right to buy any of their assets. It is human nature to note differences in skin tone even as it is deer nature to reject albino deer from the herd. But it is a societal choice to reject the poor and to demean the poor lifestyle. Notice how the main proponents of Christianity live. Compare the life of Jeshua with that of the Pope or any major evangelical minister. It's like night and day, yet the wealthy suggest that they are followers of the Christ by virtue of their material support of the local church. Build a cathedral and go to heaven. It takes money to bribe St.Peter to open the gates to someone like George Bush, otherwise how could a mass murderer speak of being a born-again follower of a man who said the wealthy have as much chance of gaining heaven as a camel would have of passing thru the eye of a needle. It has nothing to do with philosophy, color of skin, or background. It has everything to do with access to wealth.
Throughout history the rich have taught the poor that they have a place in society and aspiring to a higher post can be noble, but will only be successful if they can somehow acquire wealth. Why else would people risk their lives to rob a bank when simply working and saving would take them out of poverty? Generally the poor are set up to remain poor. Even if you look at the conditions of the neighborhoods you can see the enforced class divisions. Streets have more potholes in poor parts of a city. Buildings are crumbling and schools have out of date textbooks. Since the number of poor is by nature going to be much more vast than the number of wealthy it would be obvious that the poor classes have more assets in terms of ideas and availability of labor, yet when the President wants to have a speech delivered about the needs of the poor he goes to wealthy think-tanks rather than holding town hall meetings with the poor living the life. Likewise when a city or other government does something to eliminate poverty they usually build up poor neighborhoods beyond the ability of the poor to afford the property taxes, thus driving them out of the neighborhood and giving the impression of an improved situation. Well off people walk the new streets surrounded by townhouses and brownstones, but the neighborhood has not one poor family and no one seems interested in tracking the whereabouts of the people who used to live in the ghetto, once it has become a middle class neighborhood.
Societies are like any other natural construct. They live and die by patterns long established and impossible to change, anymore than one can change the path of the sun across the sky. Revolutionary societies immediately make revolution illegal and smother dissenting viewpoints. The leaders become wealthy and insulated from their origins and they become increasingly reactionary as they get further and further away from their true base, the poor. Eventually they must become repressive and violent in reaction to the unease felt by the masses of poor. The poor in their turn become reactionary to the point when they hit a 'tipping point' and become revolutionary. The wealthy forget that wealth is merely referenced labor and come to believe that it has innate value and as such imparts real value to themselves. As a result they are always taken by surprise when they find that their 'wealth' (the relative poor) is not controlled by them but that they are themselves supported by the poor. When that support is removed they become themselves poor. Note that the wealthy whites do not become black or yellow or red, yet they descend in class nevertheless. Their wealth is removed, their race is not.
The good news (for the poor) is that this cycle has existed since people merged tribes to become societies. The bad news (for the poor) is that this cycle has been around since tribes merged to become societies. Thus, no effort can be made which will change the basic pattern of revolution-reaction-repression-revolution. Sunrise, sunset. Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. The trick is to be in the ruling class throughout your life and not to be there during the revolutionary part of the cycle. When the peasants revolt it is a good idea to be elsewhere with ones wealth protected by distance and local laws. Thus the smart wealthy invest in real estate in other lands and have a means to travel there which is protected, such as a private jet. Recall the Russian nobility who were in France with luggage filled with jewels while the peasants were ransacking their Russian homes. Revolution is always about wealth and wealth is always about inequality. Thus wealth is always a source of revolution and a means of conducting revolution. Class never changes although the participants always do. Just like the sun shines on us all so does the structure of class, and so does the pattern of class change.
This is why in spite of the purported grand benevolent ideals of the founders of this nation it was always about supporting the members of the wealthy class by engaging the poor in violence. When the dust settles it is always the wealthy who are left, because they are the ones holding the wealth. The poor are left with the dust. This is why the mission of Christ was doomed from the start. As soon as you have a temple you have real estate, you have wealth, and you have left the ideals of the founder of the church. As soon as the founders of America built a bunch of white marble mansions for the new government to operate in they created inequalities and thus new class warfare was made inevitable. They knew this and this is why although they wrote on paper insurance for the poor they continued to own poor people, to create wealth for themselves and to prepare the future generations of wealthy a means to forestall that revolution. They couldn't stop it, but they could delay it by creating the impression on paper that it was possible for the poor to be treated as equals to the rich. This was a grand hypocrisy. Paper is paper and words on paper can be burned along with the paper in the fires of revolution, or in the wastecans of bureaucracy. Our Secretary of War has said much the same thing about international treaties and international and national laws.