Friday, January 6, 2012

Last Inch

For a moment I got excited about the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations: a spark of revolution, vocal expression of discontent. I had the flash of an idea a while back that a way to get students involved, because they must be involved, was to show them that they’re being ripped off, lied to, manipulated.

Education in California at UC, CSU, community colleges used to be nearly free.  With state residency, every student was entitled to equal access to a fully degreed education for a mere $200 in annual fees.  That was up until 1970, until Reagan became governor and revoked that very successful 100 year old policy which stated that every California resident was entitled to an excellent education.  Now students in California pay exorbitant sums to be educated by a system that has declined from number one to one of the poorest in the nation.

The revocation of that policy was his punishment for student demonstrations in the sixties and seventies.  He said the state of California was not going to pay for the education of those who disagreed with state or federal policies.  So he set in motion an ever increasing cost of state education that relegated students to what amounts to indentured servitude because they have huge loans to pay off.

This reality has spread to education across the nation, effectively muting student voices which were so integral to the movements of the sixties and seventies.  These days, if it ever did, a college education does not guarantee a good salary, better than a student’s parents’ salaries.  Most of a student’s salary will go to paying off loans.  Even the Obamas only recently paid off their loans and what did that get them?  A presidency of no authority.  Authority still is in the hands of the one percent, still resides on Wall Street (or so we are led to believe).

For decades, perhaps centuries we have been deluding ourselves in amerika.  We have believed that there are multiple classes.  There are only two, there have been always two because we live in a dressed up feudal system.  The middle class, upper middle class have never been strong even though we believed that was so.

The middle classes and the carrot of the hope of achieving middle class status are a delusion that helped to create the virtual world economic realities of this century.  What’s in middle class wallets are credit cards; what’s in their bank accounts are loans.  I learned by hanging out with middle class people that they have no more cash in their wallets than I do.  I learned that there is not enough real cash in the world to match the figures that represent personal wealth (especially among the one percent) or the figures that represent profit margins.

For quite some time most citizens of amerika have been one paycheck, one late payment away from poverty.  That is a lie too; it is a threat to keep us believing in the controlled mentality of indentured servitude.  We have allowed ourselves to accept that servitude because after all we have deluded ourselves to believe it’s better than the enslavement of poverty.

Ninety-nine percent are subjected to the stick of poverty of money, house, car.  The poverty really to be feared is one of courage, independence, freedom as well as uncorrupted, nonmonied valuation of wealth.  Every dollar we make and spend  ends up in the hands of the one percent, their corporations, governments, wars, institutions, laws.  They made money; it’s theirs and it is used to control, manipulate, divide, confuse us.

Wealth could be something else.  While Occupy Wall Street is probably well intentioned, it accepts the premise that the one percent have authority over our lives, perpetuates the premise that the economics of money has meaningful value. or has any meaning at all.  I’d suggest a movement called Abandon Wall Street.  Since some of the OWS demonstrators have taken to wearing Guy Falks masks worn by V, I will quote the lesbian character in the movie V for Vendetta:  “Our integrity sells for so little… Yet, it’s all we really have; it’s the very last inch of us.  In that last inch we are free.”