Class Consciousness Matters: What's missing from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal -- In These Times
In my "latest clicks" listing there have been a number of links to the "Class Matters" series currently running in the New York Times. That genuine social mobility is the missing component of the Amerikan Dream is further examined with today's link. That the situation is worse under the Bush administration will be no surprise, but my concern is that a similar pattern can be witnessed here in Britain too.
Cosmetic changes to the welfare system and public services by the Blair government are little more than a political marketing tactic. Reform needs to be an on-going, permanent, revisional process driven by a well-considered long-term ideaology, not a quick-fix to try and cover up previous neglect. Purpose is everything - even sweeping the poor from a nation's cities and leaving them to rot in isolated areas could be considered "reform", albeit virtual genocide at the same time!
Someone starving, without resources to change their situation, is undoubtably living in poverty. If they have been deliberately put in that position by another's design it is a political issue. If their predicament has come about through accident or natural disaster then the issue is simply a humanitarian one. Yet in most other cases, "poverty" is relative - the disenfrachisement of an individual or group by the society in which they have strived to exist. Any social system which focuses solely on the "average" or the "norm" will be, intentionally or otherwise, be promoting poverty in the relative sense.
There are some extraordinary contradictions in Bush's Amerika. In its imperial pursuits and own internal hierarchy it seems in every way to embody the Darwinian perspective of "survival of the fittest" - yet it also seems intent on promoting the concept of creationism as a doctrine for the masses. It allows consumerism and corporate interests to manage its infrastructure, but now lets arch-rivals like China to take ownership of those same institutions. (Click here) In an indivudual, this behaviour would be considered psychotic.
So pervasive is capitalism as a world model for social control that its worst attribute, greed, has now become the dominating force in social mobility. In this scenario, poverty becomes more acute as a simple mathematical consequence. The degrees of poverty range from enslavement to ostracisation, but can be seen in various forms in every country on the planet. It is, as I said, a matter of relativity. Amerika has championed this cause around the globe for decades to the extent that it pervades our lives and consciousness everywhere. The current British government, whose party once represented an ideaology that included the abolition of class divide, is now the most devoted subscriber to the idealogical opposite.
The new de-stablisation in Europe shows the fragility of this sham. Countries with a residue of socially-aware policy are struggling to redefine themselves against the onslaught of the new world order. New democracies are still too innocent to realise the folly of the Amerikan dream. Former imperial powers like Britain and France are stubbornly entrenched in their own historical status and won't give it up willingly. The remainder feel increasingly impotent in the face of those more dominent. In a time where a continental accord is more needed than ever to counter Amerika's arrogance, there is no longer either confidence or consensus. If there was any truth to Blair's rumoured presidential ambitions, they must surely now be scuppered - his legacy as temporary president for the next six months will most likely be a short-term public relations fix with about as much credibilty as his reforms in Britain itself.
Poverty in the modern world may best be now described as the inability to partake as a consumer in a commodity-powered machine. The wherefores and the whys of that inability cannot be addressed by continued dependence on it. The desendants of the impoverished and dispossessed, if they survive, may have the last laugh. Seismic shifts in the planet's eco-system are simply being accelerated by this blind pursuit of greed and the illusion of wealth will be rendered meaningless in a world where the resources to feed it no longer exist. It will be "back to the planet" for us all.