You’re sitting at a window table of a delightful restaurant with a companion who is both interesting and interested and the conversation is engaging. Your waiter brings your food and drink at just the right times and everything is delicious and so satisfying that you don’t even notice your growing sense of contentment. Your belly is full and all is right in your world.
You glance to your right through the window and notice a man looking into the restaurant. His clothes are in poor condition, he has a plastic bag slung over his shoulder and his back is hunched as he peers through the glass. He looks hungry, but that is something that is difficult for you to understand, because you are anything but hungry. Indeed, empathy – feeling what another person feels – is very difficult when you are feeling the opposite and it’s almost impossible to imagine a homeless person’s feeling of hunger in that moment when you have just completed your meal.
So it is for the 1%-ers and their political pawns. Their lives are working quite well, they are more than content and, hard as some might try, there is not even a remote chance that they can feel what the members of a family feel as Mom and Dad lose their jobs, one because of a plant closure and the other to a layoff because business is depressed. It’s impossible for the 1%-ers and their political pawns to have even a remote understanding of the powerful feelings of the members of that family as they lose their house to foreclosure.
And when Mom and Dad join the local Occupy march, it is so easy for the 1%-ers and their political pawns to dismiss them as rabble, as lazy people and to blame them for their circumstances. According to Herman Cain, if Mom and Dad aren’t employed or rich it’s their own fault.
But here’s the thing: Mom and Dad played by the rules. They stayed in school and got an education. They got jobs and worked hard, paid their taxes, coached their kids’ soccer teams and went to their holiday pageants. They followed the American playbook, page by page, doing the right things and doing things right. And now they have lost everything and are wondering what happened to the dream they were promised.
The answer, of course, is that it was stolen from them by the big money interests who purchased their way into power and influence and who then rigged the game. They changed the playbook and didn’t tell anyone that they were gambling with the welfare of the entire world. They didn’t care about consequences because they would get their payday whether their bets paid off or lost, since all the rest of us would bail them out of their failed bets. They were confident of that bailout because they had a gun to the head of every one of us.
So much has crashed and burned and so many millions of people are suffering that it is a wonder that their cries aren’t heard. Yet what is happening instead is as predictable as the tides. Those 1%-ers and their political pawns aren’t even able to hear the cries of hunger of the millions because the rich have always just finished that metaphorical meal. Furthermore, they don’t want their world challenged or changed because it works so well for them, so they have their local muscle brutalize demonstrators, as though tear gas, nightsticks and rubber bullets might somehow make the challenge to the rich go away.
But they won’t. Swatting at symptoms never makes the root cause disappear.
The root cause is an unanswered human need for fairness. Until the game gets un-rigged and the promises kept there will be people in the streets and nearly everywhere else with the simmering anger of having played by the rules and in return gotten screwed.
There are consequences to treating people that way. 1%-ers and political pawns beware: You may not like what’s coming. Just know that you set it up to happen this way, whether you’re simply unable or, worse, callously unwilling to understand the hunger of the people.
Copyright 2019 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.