Posted by: bkivey | 14 January 2010

Eat the rich

Today I’m going to expand a bit on a theme from yesterdays post concerning the mindset of people who think that ‘the rich’ don’t pay ‘their fair share’.

This attitude is crap.

By show of hands, how many people are employed by poor people? Oh, you work for the government? Where do government agencies get their funding? From the poor? Please. People who are considered ‘poor’ in this country are shielded from income taxes. If you live in a state with no sales tax and meet the definition of ‘poor’, your tax liability and therefore your contribution to the funding of the state is minimal to nonexistent.

There is a mindset among a large percentage of people that if a person is well-off that they have somehow acquired their wealth in an unethical manner, probably as a result of ‘holding people down’, or in some way ‘cheating the system’. Take a look around. Most people that are well off are in their 40′, 50’s, and 60’s. Most people who have reached a comfortable position in life have worked for decades to get there. Sure, if you are in your 20’s and see someone rolling around in a phat car while you’re struggling to put food on the table that can certainly seem unfair. You might think that ‘the sytem’ is rigged against the ‘little guy’.

Here’s some advice. Grow up.

About twenty years ago I considered a hypothesis that people who vilified those that were better off than they were people that had never grown out of adolescence (much more on this later). In the last ten years or so I have seen others develop this concept, but for today’s post we’ll concern ourselves with what appears to be a defining moment in the American adolescent experience: the reading of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.

As you may recall, this novel deals with harsh experience of a Lithuanian immigrant in early 20th century Chicago and his eventual introduction to and embrace of Socialism. The primary dynamic in the novel is the hopelessness of a world in which the rich and powerful are using and cheating ‘the common man’ and there is no hope of improving one’s lot.

This novel is required reading in many American high schools, ostensibly for it’s intense imagery and narrative but partly I suspect because it confirm’s many College of Education graduates’ worldview. It seems that many people read the book and take it as a description of how the world works today.

A few things you won’t get told in English class:

  1. Upton Sinclair had an agenda in writing this novel. He was in the pay of a Socialist newspaper while doing his research in Chicago.
  2. The novel takes place over 100 years ago. The America he describes hasn’t existed for over 70 years, especially since the massive government regulation that was emplaced in the 1930’s.
  3. The protagonist is hardly an example of the cream of the crop even in his native country. At the time the novel takes place American cities were flooded with millions of poor, illiterate immigrants. While there is no doubt that the lack of a social safety net and a buyer’s labor market made for a harsh life for immigrants, the fact is that millions went on to great success in American society, thereby putting the lie to one of the principal conceits of the novel: that it is impossible to advance in a capitalist society.

So when the average high-school graduate leaves their parent’s home and are confronted with the reality of having to make a living and pay their own bills, rather than consider that their lack of experience or education may be preventing them from becoming the immediate success that they have been conditioned to believe in, they think back to that novel they read in English class and think “Yeah, The Man is holding me down!” And so another person deprives themselves of only thing that can really help them; the belief in ther own abilities.

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