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the Sneetches

November 23, 2011
The Sneetches and Other Stories
Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson memorial

The Sneetches by Dew Helmer

An answer in response to a criticism of a Wall Street banker’s rebuke of the Occupy protesters:

Really friend, do you think my parents did that bad a job?  Or should I say: “it takes one to know one”.   No that would be childish of me now wouldn’t it?   By the way when did you get your Dr. Phil-the-pill pop psychology license from the Right Wing Institute of things we should already know?  I’m still waiting for mine to arrive in the mail.  :  )  

I would suggest caution about questioning the patriotism of Occupy protesters, many are returning veterans from the gulf wars, others its true are just your average garden variety United States citizens who last I checked have a Constitutional right to protest and speak to power.  Not unlike another group of persons with whom you may be familiar i.e. the Founding Fathers of this nation and their fellow colonists.  They also objected their treatment and protested insisting to be heard eventually rebelling at the contemptuous nature of being ruled by those who did not want to listen.  And here’s an Interesting parallel:  Just like today many at that time called them disloyal even traitors to King and country.  A finger-pointing that sounds surprisingly similar to aspersions being cast recently both near and far.  And you know what; I think they even had a “tea party” (LOL!)  But their tea party wasn’t about “I’ve got mine, the hell with everyone else.” Theirs was founded in the ideals of the Enlightenment otherwise known as the Age of Reason and fueled by the writings of such world-class thinkers as Hume, Voltaire, Rousseau, Spinoza, Locke and Isaac Newton to name a few.  Their aim was to use the power of reason as a means to reform and re-order society by ending such unjust mores as: rule by “Divine Right”, feudalism, indenture ship, debtors prisons and slavery as well as the laws and edicts forbidding any but “the nobility” i.e. “those with the moneyto have a say in governance and the owning of property.  

Wow you know that sounds a lot like the democratic, capitalistic system the Founders had in mind when crafting the Constitution i.e. a democratic nation with a capitalist economy each maintained in its most fitting and just proportion.  For it is only when they maintain their proper cardinal order i.e. when the principles and requisite ends of democracy, trump the more myopic and atavistic cravings that drive capitalists and capitalism that the vision of the Founding Fathers is achieved.  An important note here:  Nearly all of the Founder’s were concerned about the corrosive effects that large, unregulated accumulations of capital would have on democracy especially if they persisted from generation to generation:  thus over time creating an ever greater imbalance between the “have’s” and the “have-not’s” which would, as is always the natural course in these matters portend the skewing of the “playing” field. 

In other words wealth and those controlling it would increasingly buy undue influence and power over those making the “rules” case in point:  the near total collapse of the world’s financial system in 2008 by which time bank, market, and equities oversight and regulation had for all practical purposes become merely a pointless act of going through the motions. One much more appropriate for Kabuki: the traditional Japanese theater dramas in which men play both the male and female parts than the essential business of protecting and overseeing the savings and investments of the American people.   But in the drama of 2008 the bankers, having gotten their way were allowed to play both roles in our vaunted market system i.e. themselves and that of the regulators thus allowing for the appearance of pro-forma proceedings and goings on, but which in fact lacked any comprehension or control over the market, its dynamics or the players therein.   

Of the Founding Fathers Jefferson was perhaps the most vocal saying:”Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise.” – Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1785, ME 19:18, Papers 8:682 and “Whether property alone, and the whole of what each citizen possesses, shall be subject to contribution, or only its surplus after satisfying his first wants, or whether the faculties of body and mind shall contribute also from their annual earnings, is a question to be decided. But when decided, and the principle settled, it is to be equally and fairly applied to all.” -Thomas Jefferson: Note to Destutt de Tracy‘s “Political Economy, 1816. ME 14:466, also; “The simplest system of taxation yet adopted is that of levying on the land and the laborer. But it would be better to levy the same sums on the produce of that labor when collected in the barn of the farmer; because then if through the badness of the year he made little, he would pay little.” -Thomas Jefferson to James Madison, 1784, Papers 7:558.  From: Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government.

They also held it as each person’s right, their “inalienable” right to speak to power, again sounds familiar, and that the just powers of government should come from the governed, meaning all of them not just those with 401-ks’, stock portfolios and houses in the burbs. They opposed intolerance and encouraged the exchange of ideas. They would have upheld and defended the rights of the occupy protesters even if they disagreed with them; which as is the case here would seem very unlikely because they viewed humanity as a whole made up of equally endowed constituent parts i.e. persons, and it’s society’s and nations as the necessary constructs of those parts again i.e. persons.  And not as is the case so often today, an ad hoc amalgam of divergent class’s or groups whose wealth and means are the deciding factors regarding their say in matters of commerce and state.   And certainly not as those whose mores and mantras ensued from the brutish creeds of the past such as “might-makes-right” or its more formal cousin “mors tua vita mea”; “your defeat or death is necessary for my victory or survival”, i.e. “your death is my life”. 

No they were nothing at all like today’s “tea-party” no matter how rancorous they’re insistence that they are.  As evidenced by the fact that today’s “tea-party” boasts as its spokespersons such luminaries (LOL) as: Beck, Bill-O, Bachman, Hannity, Palin and various other blonde ingénues and uncomprehending Ken doll talking heads along with a supporting cast of rag-tag trolls who, posing as experts regularly trounce, talk over, shout at, and insult the usually hapless but otherwise well meaning “guest-victims” allowed or should we say deceived into their coliseum-cathedral on the pretense of participating in a fair informative debate.  You decide.  And who as a function of their “profession”, on schedule obsequiously regurgitate whatever swill, dogma, hyperbole, vitriol, mistruths, half-truths and lie’s their masters have prepared for their collective gullets that news cycle.  And all of whom so far as I can tell amount to nothing more than a shrill chorus of prejudice, fear, division, bigotry and hate whose aim is to poison any real discussion, quell dissent and cause division between as the great Dr. Seuss would have said, “the haves and the have-not’s” otherwise known as the Star Belly Sneetches vs. those “other Sneetches “which as their i.e. “the tea-party’s God” would have it, possess no Star.  (FYI – it’s a story about discrimination, prejudice, ingenuity, and materialism.)   Ah but now back to the “chorus”: none of whose main or minor characters have or is likely capable of having or offering even one real solution for the plight of this country as a whole – this our nation otherwise known as the United States of America for if so then surely to hear them speak they would have done so by now.  But no, instead they advocate the moral equivalent of heaving one or two of our less fortunate brethren out of the life boat so that those still remaining won’t be so crowded and uncomfortable; all the while sanctimoniously declaring their warrant to do so comes from                        “the Christian values” they swear this nation was built upon and that they piously follow.  What???  It makes my head hurt…  

I for one refuse to be lectured to by such nits.  

Which leaves me to wonder:    When did this nation become so narrow-minded, fearful, negative and bigoted?  It can’t have always been this way; it’s just from time to time I guess.  Not convinced: Think monopolies at the turn of the 19th century and the “capitalist” Robber barons which owned them, or the “capitalist” plantation slave owners before the Civil War or the “capitalist” carpet baggers that followed it or the “capitalist” banks and bankers who foreclosed on millions of farms and homes before during and after the Great Depression or the Oil tycoons or the “capitalist”… I hope you get the picture because the list goes on and on and on… and on…    and on.

Question: Does anyone really suppose that multinational corporations or those that run them really put God, country, patriotism or community before privilege, power, personal gain or profits?  Really, think about it.  If they did then why do they ship U.S. jobs overseas?  Why are they currently sitting on nearly a trillion dollars of cash while millions go unemployed and our economy flounders?  Why do they pay legions of lobbyists to influence policy makers and craft legislation to their advantage knowing full well the damage it will cause to society? 

If they do then why are there problems?  To hear them tell it capitalism is the ultimate in efficiency, the fairest most moral inventive creative force ever conceived by man on earth, so much so in fact they claim it is also God-given?  What?  So how can there be problems to big or complex or difficult for these masters of the universe who claim to have God’s ear and good will to handle?  Many times before we’ve done as they’ve asked:  They said “fewer regulations” and then Lake Erie started on fire while during the same time the perennial Robin once as ubiquitous as their complaints became nearly as endangered as our national symbol, the bald eagle.  They said “deregulate the stock market”, soon after came the Great Depression.  “Let us control water rights” we were left with The Dust Bowl.  “Trust us with your money” our repayment then the “great recession”.   Shall I continue?  Should I go on?  “Sam I am”, you know the guy with the “Green eggs and ham”, but we don’t want “green eggs and ham” Sam, we just want good old regular eggs and ham served nice and hot with a delicious side order of equality and justice for all … Don’t believe me, just look for your selves; humankind’s history is replete with examples of calamities and disasters stemming from the “genius” of those claiming to “know better”, “know more”, “know the truth”, “know God’s will”, or whatever other slogans, causes, visions or solipsistic fugues they were able or allowed to foist upon the masses at the time.

Whether or not you agree with the Occupy protesters point of view is your concern.   But furtively suggesting or implying they are not patriotic, well that’s just silly.  It would be like me suggesting or implying that you’re a racist or a fascist, you’re not are you?   Of course you’re not; and it would be just as silly and unkind of me to voice it. 

But are they, the tea party minions and their masters?  Of them I’m not so certain.  They march around with flags, carry guns to protests, bully and harass those who disagree with them and assert they have God and country on their side and their side only.  They claim they love democracy while at the same time demanding they must have their way even though they have no majority; in fact far from it.  They refuse to discuss or compromise but exact it from others.  When asked a pointed or unscripted question about their beliefs, ideas, goals, policies or previous statements they scurry away claiming they won’t play with the “Got Ya” media.  They say one thing on one day and another thing the next as it please them.  They act as if words have no meaning and we should all just pretend we don’t know the tale of the “boy who cried wolf” and how well that worked out for all those concerned.  Truly, if they did these things on the school playground they’d be put in detention at best or thumped and relieved of their lunch money at worst; and no one would play with them the next day.  

But incredibly instead being labeled as frauds, charlatans, and crackpots, they are paraded in front of TV cameras and given a forum from which to utter their most recent accounts of reality along with their self-proclaimed  perspicacious comprehension of it followed shortly there-after by their latest ill-considered fresh off the top of their pointy little heads and tips of their little forked tongues conclusions and remedies for the “let’s just pile it higher” talking-point of the day as if their previous words and actions were but the ghosts of proclamations past that never actually happened and so need have no impact on their ramblings now; and we by implication are all to just pretend not to notice.   You know come to think of it they should be on the play ground because apparently they are only six-years old.  On the other hand I’ve met six-year olds with more shrewdness and firmer grip on reality.

Why do put up with such behavior?  It’s a mystery I guess, but not really though.   We allow it because at least for some of us and likely if the truth be known all of us are guilty of having at one time or another found this miss-placed sense of truth about our world is just what we wanted to hear.  It is then, at these times in our lives that this kind of mendacity vindicates our self centered wishes, alleviating our responsibility and our guilt.  It gives us cover and makes room for our prejudices.  It speaks to our fears and rationalizes our choices.  It’s the snake oil we need to rub on the raw spots of our happiness from the pain of others as we run from what’s right and fail in our duty.   It’s the indifferent hazy cloak that we can put on to look like the others of similar mindsets while we pretend that being in a group hides our shame and sanctifies our transgression.   Just think white pointy hats and you’ll get the picture.

As for the Wall Street bankers:  Let them compete with the single mom who must, as in it’s a total imperative work two jobs just to get by; but with no personal assistants, shoppers or car service.  No secretaries, expense accounts or bonuses.  No birthright, no prep school, Ivy league or private education, no trust fund or family connections, no inside track or pedigree to open the doors or grease the skids, no favors to call in or friends in high places… and so on and so on and so on…  With only a second-rate education from a mediocre (i.e. a poor school district), nothing but miserable choices between this wage-slave job or that one, with “at-will” employers’ keen to “separate” you from your life line, i.e. a paycheck for the slightest miss-step or to gain a negligible increase in the share price of the company stock.  Sporadic mass transportation, pay-day loans at usury interest rates should you have an emergency and the constant oppressive grinding certainty that one missed pay-check or illness or injury will mean having to live in a car-dominium with the kids instead of con-dominium or cheap third floor apartment. 

How special talented and industrious would they, the Wall Street bankers claim to be then?  How fabulous and entitled, how rule-exempt, or consequence free would they feel  if getting a parking ticket or having their car towed spelled total ruin and disaster, period end of story!  How superior and condescending would they sound from a bench at the laundry matt while they wait for their blue light special cloths to dry?  How “master of the universe-ish” would be their swagger or contemptuous would be their scowl’s; not very at all I should think.  Rather it would be more akin to the sounds of sniveling and self-pity, for they have all those good things now and yet they are sniveling and self-pitying.  Theirs would be a tedious mix of weeping hissing and cursing at the unjust and evil nature of the world, but most especially their current and by their own accounts “truly” undeserved stations in it; sanctimoniously meted out with slouching postures, sagging shoulders, bags under their bloodshot eyes and vacant bewildered stares their minds completely consumed by the question: “How could this happen to wonderful superior me?”  Hmm…Reminds me of something I once heard: “it’s said that a person all wrapped up in themselves’ makes for a really small package.”

Most earnestly though I must offer my condolences for I can see how one might be tempted to think in this way having once lived it for myself.   But I have come to realize the idea that we, any of us, do “it” all on our own is nothing short of hubris: an excessive pride and ambition that usually results in a variety of unpleasant things.  Yes we should reap rewards from our effort’s but we must also try to remember that at least in some measure those rewards are possible because of the efforts, support and contributions of others including those persistent relations both past and present that built the society i.e. the nation of which we are a part.   That is if were ready to be fair about it. We could follow the example of Isaac Newton who said “If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

I’ll leave it at that.

P.S. It is not my intention here to offend, accuse, or condemn, however if the shoe fits go ahead and wear it.  I simply wanted to retort to what I saw as “whining” by a group of over paid, over pampered, self-indulgent ingrates’ whom: after collectively steeling a trillion dollars of property market values in 2008 from your home, mine, our parents, our friends, their friends and anyone else who owned a home or some land in this country; not to mention the destruction of millions of jobs and the untold damage to the future lives of those who depended on those jobs i.e. all those  men, women and children:  Then had the conceit and temerity to be offended that some of us might be upset.  Well some of us are.

Oh one more thing:  Why is it a victory for democracy when they protest in Egypt or Tripoli, but not when US citizens protest here?  Hmmm..???

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