“Joe the Plumber” & The American (Pipe) Dream

“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.”
-Jay Gould, Robber Baron

The 15 minutes of fame awarded to republican mascot, Samuel Wurzelbacher, aka “Joe the Plumber”, confirms what I have long considered to be the single greatest psychological problem afflicting working people in the US. Not the taste for mass-produced,  country “music” that is pumped from Nashville into large motor vehicles and  suburban and rural homes like sewage, but that steady journey to a mirage of an oasis, in this social desert. Mr. Wurzelbacher embodies the economic Stockholm syndrome of working people confusing their desires with those of the elites.

A lesser evil was the form that some of the corporate media/liberal blogger attacks against Mr. Wurzelbacher took. Not having internet access, at the time, I missed out on some of the more entertaining, but sadly untrue rumors such as the ones where his dad was Charles Keating’s (of McCain’s “pre-maverick” days) son-in-law. There’s no way I wouldn’t have bitten on that one. I fully comprehend that he volunteered to be a partisan combatant and should not have been surprised when bureaucrats in Ohio and elsewhere ran his numbers. The media focus on his back taxes and inability to complete a specialized training program and obtain professional licensing, portrayed being working poor as a moral failing, since millions of us have been in those kinds of situations. The liberal strategy of combating phony populism with genuine elitism seems somewhat misguided.

Why such a “great american”  who is connected to an astrofturf pseudo-union would choose to lie and associate himself with something as “marxist” as trade union (on myspace and facebook) is beyond me, especially when said trade union had given the member dues to the opposition candidate. Personally,  I’d no sooner pretend to be a member of plumbers union than a motorcycle “club”.

Like many people in the US, Wurzelbacher suffers from the delusion of cross-class mobility. Some people are willing to suffer any indignity, not just higher taxes in the here-and-now and allow the wealthy to get away with anything, in anticipation of a massive rise in personal income, like lottery winners and Bill Gates and Michael Jordan and Metallica and they can’t bear the thought of their dream wedding, hypothetical fortune being overtaxed. It’s Stockholm syndrome. How many people toil their lives away under the mistaken impression that they will one day buy the business they work for? I have about the same chance of buying that plumbing company as he does. Is it just another version of “being rewarded in heaven” or an economic Rapture? If a corporate entity is large enough, even the working poor who toil for it can buy stock in the company they work for. It is regarded as great privilege to possess a speck of a symbolic representation of the means of production. You become a gambler, although a less than insignificant one, and your low wages and paltry benefits and even your layoff, should it be deemed necessary, are all fixes implemented to benefit and improve the odds, for you, the shareholder. Your 401(k) depends on large groups of other workers and the planet itself being done even worse than you are.

Even in the US, these market fundamentalist, folk traditions often exact an even higher toll than mere degradation and wholesale boredom and they are not without their martyrs. Some people work themselves to death much faster than others in pursuit of the “American (sic) Dream”.

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Blind Obedience Can End “The War”?

January 17, 2008 will mark 17 years of open US hostilities against Iraq, although (maybe misreading of Baudrillard?) liberals disregard the Clinton years, since bombings and sanctions are not acts of aggression, unless Cuba is on the receiving end. The left wing of the US war party is as fixated on the Bush dynasty, as the right wing is with Clinton’s reproductive organ. The misguided souls who vote are too hung up on the stylistic differences to notice that US policy doesn’t change from administration to administration, except in very superficial ways, and so all sorts of kooky, hypothetical electoral and moral fantasies to “end The War” are being bandied about, as if “peace” is merely the absence of “war”.

For some unknown reason, perhaps it is the notorious US weakness in geography, many people appear to be delusional enough believe that the US intends to leave Iraq, and a politician or two can accomplish this. Maybe these people have never heard of Germany, Japan, Korea, Puerto Rico, Guam, or any of the other places the US has indefinitely occupied? The hipsters are more likely to withdraw from Brooklyn and the Brits are more likely to leave the North of Ireland (a situation closer to Iraq than the ahistorical Vietnam comparisons) than the US giving up on expanding consumer markets, laundering tax dollars, and controlling energy supplies in the Mid-East.

Some of the political fantasies bouncing around out there are so absurd, that it seems their proponents must be aware of the impossibility of the situation, or getting some really potent weed. One of the most entertaining pieces of fan fiction regarding the 2008 US elections was recently posted on the website of the Lefty newsletter, Counterpunch.

In Welcome to the Revolution, Donna J. Volatile adds another voice to the cyber kool-aid chorus, that much like the religious Right believes that a Saint Paul is the only route to salvation, although they mean the Texas one, not the Tarsus one. Volatile beseeches liberals and progressives to set aside whatever principles they may have, and to ignore Paul’s positions on everything but Iraq, since they are only “wrapping paper” on the “gift” of Ron Paul.

Even Dennis Kucinich seems to think so, there is so much buzz in cyberspace about the possibility of a Dennis Kucinich/Ron Paul ticket, it is stunning. Dennis has even raised the prospect himself as has his wife Elisabeth. Who ever thought we’d see the day?!

There is a larger point to be made here and perhaps the most important one and that is there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the wants, needs and desires of the anti-war traditional conservatives and the anti-war leftists and progressives. We just all need to get over ourselves. If Dennis Kucinich would consider Ron Paul as a running mate isn’t it time for the anti-war movement to dig a little deeper to see what is going on here?…

Sounds like Larouche/Nader, but if Dennis Kucinich (proof that the ‘one good politician’ can’t change policy or politics) says he’s OK…

(I have always supported Dennis Kucinich, whenever possible but after the 2004 Convention and his failure to stand up at the Convention against the war and support the peace activists who were hauled off the convention floor, with their anti-war signs, and given his inability to run a strong campaign, I can no longer back him. I do respect his positions on many issues.)

Volatile can’t overlook Kucinich’s failure to rescue people who wanted to get arrested from being arrested, but Paul’s cryptofacism is A-OK. Here’s a gem from a recent GOP candidate forum, where St. Paul discusses the importance of imaginary lines over human lives:

I see the immigration problem as a consequence of our welfare state. We encourage people not to work here, but the welfare we offer the people who come–they get free medical care. They get free education. They bankrupt our hospitals. Our hospitals are closing. And it shouldn’t be rewarded. That means you don’t give them citizenship. You can’t solve this problem until you get rid of the welfare state, because in a healthy economy, immigrants wouldn’t be a threat to us.

It’s no accident that Paul has the support of neo-nazis.

Volatile wonders:

Are we to forever be held back by issues, such as abortion or even National Health Care, an issue that never gets delivered in the first place (we are no closer now than we were way back when) ? These issues are by design. Abortion keeps us divided. National Health care lends us false hope.

Damn pesky, non-Iraq issues. I like my reformists to seek reforms, not dismantle them.

Some of the masochists who think that getting arrested on purpose (not to be confused with repression of dissent and resistance) is a viable strategy to affect change in a nation with 7 million individuals “in the system”, 2.2 million of them in prison, almost half of them non-violent drug offenders, have released a year-end report on the handful in handcuffs. The willingness to be handcuffed and processed for crossing an imaginary line is eerily reminiscent of the border-fixated crowd’s desire to arrest and/or bring harm to people who cross those imaginary lines. Except the activists call the cops on themselves (and each other).

These Lefties, who consider themselves to be more politically advanced or whatever it’s called, than their beloved working class, who in their eyes “just don’t get it” and need to be guided or saved, alienate their coveted “masses” with voluntary arrest. In my own experience, the average working person seems to recognize that this isn’t MLK or Gandhi’s world anymore, probably a result of day-to-day life. Making reservations to spend a day or two at a county lockup won’t do much to encourage the teeming masses to “join your movement”. To many people, getting arrested on purpose is something homeless people do when winter temperatures become deadly, and need shelter for a few days.

The possession of illegal drugs can also be viewed as a form of civil disobedience, and can sometimes amount to de facto being arrested on purpose, but the drug war isn’t going anywhere, so I’m unsure how a few thousand arrests for summary offenses (glorified traffic tickets) will result in “peace” for the people of Iraq. It’s a mystery how the identity politicians have failed to notice that raising bail in advance, then being taken into State custody on purpose, and then whining about your maltreatment is anything but an obnoxious display of privilege, and correctly seen as a waste of time and money to those with little of either. How can participation in State violence end State violence?

Voting and intentional arrest have a poor track record in ending the bosses’ wars, but even the Franco-Prussian War had to be put on hold for the Paris Commune. Participation in electoral politics and courts of law, serve to legitimize the State’s monopoly on violence and facilitate the internal and external projection of force. Greeting the politicians and police as “liberators” will not make you free.

Catching Up: (Part 1.) September 1-8

Apparently life goes on whether I remark on it or not, and I feel half guilty taking September off, so I’ll try and catch up. There’s some big stuff in the works, including a collaboration with a dear comrade and little brother, on a piece about the folly of ethical consumption and an overblown commentary on Mike Vick and his sporting dogs.

  • September 1 : It wouldn’t be a long weekend, if we didn’t celebrate “our freedom” with Taliban/Carry Nation checkpoints and police crackdowns.
  • September 2: Pittsburgh Food Not Bombs hosted what was apparently a great block party.
  • September 3: Labor Day is May 1, you big dummies.
  • September 4: The Pittsburgh Organizing Group began it’s “End War FAST“, in an alleged effort to close the Forbes Avenue recruiting station. I hope no one really believed that the US military cares who eats and who doesn’t, and that blue-haired liberal ladies got out their checkbooks, which seems to be a more realistic goal for a hunger strike. For some reason, their use of all-caps in the word “FAST” drove me crazy.
  • September 5: Suburban golden boy, whose family used their City address, turned Mayor, Luke Ravenstahl, dropped by the Zone 3 police station, to get his picture taken using the City’s new cyber-snitch website.
  • September 6: The dollar fell. I hope it hits the ground before it wakes up.
  • September 7: The region’s second-worst “badge bunny“, head-trauma patient, and “Man of Faith” (don’t worry Mr. Zapalla, you’re still #1) donated money to buy shit for police dogs in Cleveland. Ben, you may or may not know this (or be able to read this), but police dogs have managed to bite black folks just fine, long before morons like you thought they needed body armor. Anti-American Idol, Osama (that’s Usama for you FOX viewers)bin Laden, releases a new tape and unveils his new look. I like it better than his old stuff.
  • September 8: Minor skirmishes outside the APEC summit in Sydney, Australia result in arrests.
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