Today I am inspired by, and borrowing some great material from my good friend Tim Luedtke.
Change "Jews, Negroes, Free Masons and Catholics" to Mexicans, Liberals, Muslims and Gays, and you have a Tea Party campaign speech. We know how this story ends, don't be a sucker...
This is the desired end result. A people so ignorant and xenophobic that they can be easily manipulated, divided and conquered. There's a reason education is one of the top things politicians campaign on and one of their last priorities once elected. Smart people think before they act, smart people challenge authority, smart people decide for themselves, smart people can usually tell when they're being fed a ration of bullshit.
60 years later, the technology has changed, but the message and the techniques have stayed the same. It would be laughable how directly certain political parties, politicians and news agencies have lifted from the WWII propaganda handbook if it wasn't still so effective today. He who does not learn from the past...
"Today Christians ... stand at the head of [this country] ... I pledge that I never will tie myself to parties who want to destroy Christianity ... We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit ... We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theater, and in the press—in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during the past ... [few] years"
"Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith"
"We must close union offices, confiscate their money and put their leaders in prison. We must reduce worker's salaries and take away their right to strike."
"How fortunate for government that the people they administer don't think."
Any one of the above quotes has been uttered in some capacity by someone on the conservative right in the last 10 years. You can hear talk of "restoring Christian values" and eliminating "immoral influence" in our society by everyone from Sarah Palin to Pat Robertson, and they all blame liberalism and secular ideology for the decline of morality in the country. Similarly, Bill O'Reilly and other conservative pundits love to promote the concept of a "culture war" in our society. A conflict between fundamentalist Christians and secular progressives, and they love using hyperbole and scare tactics to drive home their agenda, and one of their favorite angles to work is the idea of public school being used as places of indoctrination, where children are taught to be Godless, to not only accept homosexuality but to envy their lifestyle. Anything and everything to scare ignorant, bigotted parents into fearing the "progressive liberal menace." And now, starting with WI Gov. Scott Walker and spreading rapidly throughout swing states across the midwest, is this "new" trend towards union busting. It's all about convincing the working class that their neighbors are the ones causing their financial problems by being greedier than they are, by working less and taking more and being unfairly entitled to rights that the other workers don't have. So, you have blue collar workers making less than $40,000 a year blaming teachers and state employees making just over $50,000 a year for all their financial woes. It's a tactic that has worked in totalitarian regimes since the beginning of political civilization. Divide the proletariat majority so that each segment can be conquered individually and brought into line with the help of their own neighbors. Convince the guy making $40k a year that his neighbor making $50k works less than he does, that he doesn't deserve to make more money, that he's taking advantage of the system and that the poor, overworked blue collar stiff is going to be expected to take up the slack and you have a guy who will vote to cut his own throat by getting rid of unions, collective barganing and all the benefits to the middle class that they have, and continue to provide. Convince the stay at home mom that schools want to teach her children that being gay is awesome and that God isn't real and that people who believe in the bible are stupid and you've just got a woman who most likely doesn't even have a college education to start homeschooling her children and raising a future generation of undereducated, xenophobic and largely fundamentalist Christian voters. Currently, 75% of all homeschooled children are evangelical Christians. There is a strong movement on the far right to raise "armies" of children "Christian soldiers" as a reaction to the child soldiers of Islam in the Muslim world who are raised from infancy to be ready to give their life to Allah when called upon to do so. Is this any different from the Hitler youth? The idea that Christians must start raising armies of mindless, indoctrinated child soldiers as a reaction to the actions of a society who is in constant turmoil as a result of it's blindly theocratic leadership is terrifying. "The terrorists hate us because we aren't like them, so let's be just like them only with our religion instead of theirs!" It seems insanely illogical, and yet it's increasingly becoming the mantra of fundamentalist evangelicals across the country. Then there's the movement among conservatives to reject science, to denounce global warming, to blame pollution on the environmentalists, all motivated by a desire to move people away from progressivism and intellectualism, towards ignorance, mistrust and blind faith. The faithful can be controlled through their religion. The non-faithful tend to question what they're told to do, and that doesn't work for a political party who's entire platform is built upon policies that destroy the middle class but who needs the support of the middle class to get elected into power. Blind faith is what leads people to drink the kool-aid. Hmm... I wonder where I hear that phrase used on a regular basis in the media?...
How fortunate, indeed, for our government that the people don't think. If more voters thought about who, and what they were voting for, would they be so eager to hand over their rights and control of their country to politicians and their interests who want to treat the working class as a commodity to be tapped to depletion, like an offshore oil deposit? Would thinking voters really view unions as a bigger threat to their way of life than corrupt CEOs and executives who control the world's financial systems? So many Americans are like little puppy dogs at the side of the dinner table, begging and panting and waiting for a scrap to fall from the table so that they can fight amongst themselves over who gets the biggest piece of whatever the people sitting at the table don't want to eat. They keep begging and putting on a show, thinking that they will actually get invited to take a seat at that table and have their own plate of food to fill up on, and they vigorously defend the people sitting at that table. They idolize their masters because they actually believe that all it takes is hard work and dedication to be among their company. As if the billionaire families who have been in a position of power in this country for over a century have any intention of giving up their power and influence to anyone else. Sure, they will allow people to have success and accumulate some money, but you don't achieve real wealth and power in this country unless you're allowed to. People who still think the American Dream applies to everyone are like people who still think wrestling is real. It's not just a weird coincidence that the sons of senators become senators, that the sons of CEOs and executives become CEOs and executives, that the children of priviledge inherit priviledge. It's not coincidence that politicians often leave office to become executives for companies they helped become successful through legislative favoritism. Likewise, it's not a coincidence when executives who help politicians get elected are given positions in their cabinet. As George Carlin so eloquently put it "It's a big fucking club, and you ain't invited."
Now, we see this common tactic of totalitarian leadership at work in our country - union busting - and we're being told by the usual suspects on the right in politics and the media that unions are corrupt, greedy, out to rig the system in their favor and control the working class. But, who's telling us this? The CEOs of course, the bosses, the corporations, the people who are forced - by unions - to treat the worker like *gasp* an EQUAL! So, Fox News is telling us that teachers are greedy and they are overpaid and lazy... The average teacher's salary is $50,000. The average middle class income is $50,000... So, teachers are making the average income for a middle class worker and they are required to educate and supervise a room full of children 5 days a week. To teach them how to read and write, to teach them math and science and history, to push and prod parents into taking a more active role in their own children's education, to deal with children with learning disabilities or behavioral problems, to deal with children who were just flat out raised by shithead parents to be shithead kids. To make our future generations their number one priority... OH but they get 3 MONTHS OFF a YEAR! Oh, but they only have to work 6 HOURS A DAY!! You spend 6 hours a day, 5 days a week in a room full of other people's children, who act out, who are hyperactive and hard to control, who are all whacked out on ADHD meds and sugar, who automatically hate you because you're the authority figure and seek to undermine you at every opportunity. You fight with the 20% of the class who are a complete distraction and require constant nagging just to behave like trained animals, and still try to educate the 70% who struggle to learn the material as expected, all while not robbing the 10% who overachieve in the class the opportunity to learn at the advanced pace needed to keep their interest. Do all that while under the stress of constant budget cuts, potential job loss, and all the normal financial struggles of EVERY OTHER middle class family, and tell me you wouldn't need at least 3 months vacation at the end of that year? Tell me that $50,000 was MORE than enough money to do that job? If you think a teacher's job ends at 3:15pm, then I'll tell you that you don't know a single teacher. If you think teachers are lazy and only care about getting a paycheck, then you don't know teachers. Is that how your teachers acted? Probably not. In fact, like most Americans, there are at least a handful of teachers in your life who are a big part of why you are the person you are today. At some point in nearly every American's life who didn't drop out of school, there is at least one teacher who influenced them in a very real and positive way that still sticks with them today. You can't put a price on that, you can't give enough to someone who gave that to you, not because they were required to as per their contract with the state, but because they did their job with passion and pride.
In 1906, Upton Sinclair wrote a book called "The Jungle" It was the story of the troubles facing the middle class, and in particular the deplorable conditions and corruption in the meat packing industry. This book is largely heralded as one of the most influencial exposé pieces that helped to bring about radical changes in the line production industry. It led to public outcry that helped to usher in a regulatory revolution from the government that not only directly improved the lot of the working class through state and federal protections, but also paved the way for the rise of unions as the collective voice of the working class, that they may stand on equal footing with the heads of business and have their voices heard in unison. In the decades that followed the publication and success of "The Jungle" and the ensuing legislative changes, conditions for line workers improved to the point that, by the 1950's, working on an assembly line in a factory, warehouse or similar business was one of the best, safest and most secure jobs available to the average middle class American. Now, fast-forward 60 years... Today, meat packing employees are once again on the bottom end of the pay scale. Line workers are increasingly comprised of uneducated, often illegal immigrants, people with criminal backgrounds or people living in poverty in inner cities or other economically depressed communities. They have little or no benefits, and the turnover rate is exceedingly high. The average line worker in the U.S. will have his job less than 2 years before quitting for largely financial reasons, or being fired or laid off. So, what's changed? Why did the line production industry go from deplorable corruption in the 1900s to being one of the most enviable jobs of the 40s, 50s and 60s, to now once again being one of the worst and most dangerous jobs in America? In a nutshell, increasingly laxed regulations, unrestricted corporate mergers building megacorps with more and more political power and influence, leading to even more laxed regulations. A steadily decreasing union presence, due again largely to legislation restricting collective barganing rights for workers in those industries. It's not a coincidence that factories love to hire illegal immigrants, people without a college education or people with a history of legal problems. These people typically will put up with whatever conditions you impose upon them because finding work is harder for them than anyone else. They accept their lot as given, they don't unionize, they don't question their bosses, they're just happy to get a paycheck. When the growing corporations realized they couldn't bust up the unions, because they were too big, they had too much legislative protection and they were too popular with the employees, they simply got new employees. They laid off long-standing, hard-working, loyal unionized employees, blaming a need to cut costs and keep the company profitable, and replaced them all with undereducated, unskilled laborers who they could pay a fraction of the old salaries and who would likely reject the unions and their required dues taken out of their already barely adequate paychecks. The result, less and less union representation in the industry, less and less money to help the unions fight for employee rights, until eventually things became the way they are today. Now they want to do it to our educational system, to our state services, to our federal services. It's not an accident, it's a carefully constructed plan that has been in place since the minute the federal government started breaking up the trusts in the 20's. Take away the collective voice of the working class, and you've taken away their strength, their organization, their power to make you do anything you don't want to do. Make the middle class feel LUCKY to have a job in this economy, let alone have the collossal BALLS to expect competitive pay and benefits too! Lower our standards gradually, so that, just like the puppies at the foot of the table that we are, we beg and plead and perform for table scraps and fight amongst ourselves for the biggest piece and are happy to get them! Turn us against each other, so that we're too distracted to see who's really pulling the strings, who's really making the disgusting profits off of our labors, who's really bleeding us dry.
When 2% of the country controls 95% of the wealth, there's no scenario in which fighting over how much teachers get paid makes any logical sense at all. When CEOs and bankers are writing legislation, handing it to congressmen to sign into law and taking cabinet positions so they can write even more laws that favor them and only them, there is no scenario in which unions are the greediest and most dangerous people in the country. When our country has spent 20 of the last 30 years led by a republican president, and 12 years being led by the same family, there's no scenario in which it's the Democrats who are destroying our country. Not when they've only been in power 1/3 as long. Not when 8 of the 12 years they were in power ended with the only budget surplus in the entire 30-year span. All we hear from the right these days is how we need to "Take back the country" from the liberals who are sending us on a downward spiral to strife, despair, Godlessness and bankruptcy. However, conservatives have had control of the country for twice as long as liberals have. They've HAD the country this whole time. The worst financial crises in the last 30 years have ALL happened under a republican president. The biggest corporate scandals in the last 3 decades all happened under a republican president. The biggest increase in the gap between CEO and middle class employee salaries all happened under a republican president, and the biggest spike in crime rates all happened under a republican president. The way I see it, you guys have had more than enough time "taking back your country" to prove that you can't handle the responsibility. The policies of the right over the last 30 years have been singularly focused on one clear agenda - weaken the middle class to the point of wage slavery, exploit the proletariat for the benefit of the wealthy, de-educate the masses so that they will be easily manipulated under this corrupt system which acts in direct opposition to their best interests. You know where you are? You're in the jungle baby, you're gonna die...