In the last part of the 19th century we experienced the industrial revolution. What that enabled was the advent of the age in which America and the Europe discovered how to use electricity and things like oil and gas from the ground instead of from whales and oil seeds and animal fats plus cutting down ancient forests for use as firewood.
With these building blocks people who were endowed with grand ideas thought of the ways to use the new sciences that became possible and invented new ways to make things. Manufacturing became less and less hand work and more and more machine assisted production. Mass production raised volumes of goods and lowered prices, while creating jobs.
Exploration and communication jumped enormously, as did construction, transportation and the need for financial resources to fuel the march of progress. Those bright enough to see the possibilities saw that if there were no real barriers others could enter these markets and create competition that would result in even lower prices from greater availability and therefore lower returns on investments.
The cure to this ugly prospect consisted of conspiracies to fix prices, exclusionary combinations among the already wealthy and mergers leading to fewer competitors. Highly concentrated ownership of essential resources of production in so many fields, were monopolized or so solidly concentrated in the hands of few competitors that higher prices for everything were protected; new entry into critical industries (oil, steel, railroads etc) made all but impossible. Large producers squeezed out independent smaller competitors through predatory pricing and the use of superior buying power to obtain critical advantages that the smaller companies couldn’t match.
Those who could fix prices could also fix wages, and the same conspiratorial efforts produced the lowest possible wages. This was so overdone that working class folks could barely, through great sacrifice, eat and pay essential, minimal costs of living.
Workplace and product safety were not part of any equation. Eventually, through violent upheaval, the American labor movement began and unified mass action needed to counter employer economic power enabled essential changes to things like the 40 hour work week and livable wages. There was violent resistance to this and counter violence was required to survive as a movement. Since the press was largely controlled by large companies, the situation was characterized in the main stream American press as the march of Communism into American life. The statutory crime of “criminal syndicalism” was created to enable people to be thrown into prison for gathering together to express dissatisfaction with wages and working conditions and for fomenting strikes and work stoppages. People would disappear for months and sometimes years with no trial scheduled, rotting in sordid, inhumane prisons. This is what happens to otherwise normal people when there is such a disparity in economics amongst people that the top few get to deprive the larger rest of the people of meaningful participation in a thriving economic environment.
Workers worked all day with no down time earning barely enough to buy a little food and usually not enough to pay all their living expenses. A medical emergency meant financial collapse and loss of homes and the breakup of families. Hunger and privation among fully employed workers was the norm. Working conditions were just plain awful. There was no regulation of food safety or food quality, and bad food was distributed to everyone except those who could afford the most exceptional provisions. The specifics of these conditions were memorialized by progressive writers like Upton Sinclair.
This is what “Conservative’ Government tolerated. Government authority was the product of the rich providing money to control access to public office despite voting rights. What made it to the floors of state legislators and Congress was determined by a “Boss” system. Issues were not tolerated, and the meaner things became, the more the conservatives called it ‘real” America.
Workers had no voice in anything and the public was totally outmaneuvered through manipulation and deceit. The social, economic and political circumstances in America eventually went do low that there finally erupted a movement to change things. The lesson of this is that we do not react decisively to anything but utter calamity. Standing before the gates of hell, we suddenly dig in our heels and refuse to be thrown into the all consuming fire. Thus started the labor movement and at the end of the 19th century the Progressive Movement.
Americans were educated to this ultimate negative set of circumstances by journalists who were dubbed by those in control of everything ‘muckrakers – people who exposed realities without the paint and varnish to conceal it. The political leader of this movement was a Republican, President Theodore Roosevelt. Today it is as difficult to think of a progressive Republican, as it was Republicans who represented the power in this country. Few Americans recall today that Abraham Lincoln, liberator of slaves, was the first Republican President of the United States. Fewer still are consciously aware that the Republican Party has contributed great leaders and very low quality candidates for office. In my opinion the Republicans deserve high praise for Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and the lowest of marks for people like Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon, George H. W. Bush. And his idiot son George W. Bush.
What makes for good government in my opinion is a government that is not under the foot of any special interest control group. A government that is only beholden to labor movement organizations is horribly corrupt, and one that is primarily beholden to the interests of the wealthy and of big business may be counted upon to bring forth great economic collapses and wide separations between the extremely wealthy and everyone else, as well as vast corruption going in the opposite direction.
After World War One conditions were very tough. There was a glut of returning military people and not enough jobs to go around. Wages dropped and privation was pervasive, just as it has recently been in the post Bush era. There was an endless repeating rhyme – I go to work to earn the cash to buy the food to get the strength to go to work – and on and on ad nauseam. The abuses of big business and big banks were beyond imagining, and without economic regulation they eventually brought the Great Depression here and in Europe.
At the end of the second term of the G. W. Bush administration we were racked in treasure and in blood in the Middle East that served no interests other than those of big oil, and in economic collapse because the federal government refused to enforce existing laws prohibiting investment fraud. Big banks and insurance companies had been allowed to sell something called mortgage backed securities where the supporting mortgages were largely worthless. So many people lost their homes and their employment due to the policies of the two Bush Republican Presidencies that only generations will begin to erase the agony. We repeated under a Republican lead government the laissez faire attitude toward big business and refused to curb known abuses that actually were felonies under existing laws. These were the same failures of government that caused so much damage in the Great Depression of the thirties. Many of our supposed eternal institutions went bankrupt, as in the instance of General Motors.
We are fed absurd propaganda about establishing western style democracy in Iraq and later in Afghanistan. The idea of such a thing being possible in a tribal society that had not in many thousands of years ever felt it convenient to experiment with democracy is absurd on its face. However, the government could count on the fact that Americans know little or nothing of foreign socio-political constructs and could also be counted upon to be too lazy to look into the relevant history and become knowledgeable. Almost anything can be sold to the ignorant, and that is government’s wedge into influencing the voters. We are by and large socialized to do as little work as possible and rely on “the system” to work and to provide. All we have to be is “team players”, asking no intrusive questions and having no original thought inconsistent with the propaganda. That is also the current template of management of all companies. You drink the Kool Aid or face ostracism. So few of us are able to make it on our own that the fear of exclusion is the socio-economic equivalent of a gun to one’s head. That servitude mentality also enables people to believe that thirty years in corporate management makes them competent business people capable of doing investment due diligence in their future opportunities. They line up in bankruptcy in legions after being fleeced by crooked investment scams into which they had no insight whatsoever.
Today the Republican party is in the pockets of the worst of our political alternatives – people who want the rich to pay for nothing and keep everything and who do not give a tinker’s damn whether the middle class, the poor, minorities or immigrants ever get a chance at a decent economic, political or social opportunity. Public education is in the ditch and curricula are highly influenced by religious Neanderthals who insist that the Bible is a snapshot and that life in conformity to reasonable principles of decency is inherently sinful and should be impeded, as well as educational programs of current relevance. For example, sex education in Texas high schools is so limited that we enjoy the nation’s highest rate of teenage pregnancies.
These same Tea Party Neanderthals refuse to consider Obama Care that provides medical care for people who can’t afford medical insurance and have to resort to using hospital emergency rooms as their primary source of medical care. That is far more expensive and provides much lower grade medical service than under the Obama Care program, but the thought that the poor might obtain better care at lower cost to society as a whole is deemed Socialism or worse and vehemently opposed.
And then there’s FORNICATION! FORNICATION is being promoted by providing sex education and family planning services, especially to women. They become pregnant and cause all the extra expense for right thinking taxpayers. Men, of course, never become pregnant and they don’t get sex education. What is the matter with these women? Didn’t God tell them to shut the hell up and do what we men tell them to do? Gee whiz! I mean, Really! Women must like doing what we tell ‘em to do, or they wouldn’t vote Republican. Every woman who votes in support of those who denigrate them deserves the mistreatment. What are we dealing with here? Simple. It is a total failure of militancy. When people want fundamental changes that others insist upon denying them, resort must be had to the streets and to every other available battle ground. Until women realize and commit to that, they will continue to be subjugated to the will of those who really know what’s right for them. Aren’t they satisfied that we let them vote and drive cars? Maybe those were our big mistakes. Give ‘em the finger and they want the whole hand.
Of course my knowledge of the FORNICATION issue amongst the young is based upon my own social observations and my youthful experience as a horny little bastard. From about age eleven through at least college FORNICATION was just about all I ever thought about. We didn’t have sex education in school in those days either, but we had the Florence Crittenden Home for Unwed Mothers a few blocks away from our high school – dear old Rivers High where the boys lived only for a glimpse of some girl’s anatomy and the hallucinations that were produced by that view. That more of us didn’t end up at shotgun weddings in our own honor is simply amazing. Of course the girls who ended up at the Crittenden Home never expected to be pregnant because they had their own ignorant superstitions, but they sure didn’t want to be married to the boy with whom they had been intimate. Furthermore, abortions in those days were a form of Russian Roulette. That lack of competent abortion service is precisely what the religious right is seeking to accomplish today. Additionally, boys in those days, including of course myself, were really disgusting.
In any event, we are now reliving my youth as the result of imposed ignorance about the most basic instinctual human drive that teenagers experience. Being a Methodist, I have a rather rational approach to all this. I don’t believe that Jesus thought of ignorance as the path to salvation. In his generation girls were kept locked up by their families until their fathers told them whom to marry, usually around age eleven or twelve. That is one alternative to the dangers of FORNICATION, except that today a girls would run away from home rather than submit to that kind of regime. Of course education is one alternative. Too bad that education is so frowned upon.
Oh well. Today’s big issue is the trashing of Vladimir Putin for doing to Ukraine what Abraham Lincoln did to the southern states. If you seek independence from the union in America you get Antietam. If the Russians want Ukraine to be a part of Russia as it has been for centuries, we call that cruel dictatorship. Don’t you see the logic of our position?
By Seamus Muldoon, Himself
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