Death uniquely focuses the mind. It is a philosophical starting place for me. This will be my second Christmas without my Mother-in-law. She died relatively young (60) and nothing says “shit happens” quite like a premature death.
Lately I’ve seen quite a build-up of shit that just happened.
The recent near universal rough times experienced by my friends and family have made a big impression. The economic number propaganda lies. Middle class unemployment and under-employment is rampant. Middle class savings are being crushed by rising medical expenses. While our “leaders” don’t want to call it a crisis, I don’t know what else you call it when so many hard-working Americans can’t afford good health care anymore. What ever the indicators say, the ones that count to real people are all down.
It was a hard lesson for a die-hard capitalist: unfettered capitalism stinks.
If I had not already learned this lesson, I am certain that the stampede of IT jobs to India would’ve convinced me. Nothing like something hitting your own pocket book to grab your attention. While hard work and grit are prerequisites to prosperity, it doesn’t always lead to riches or even middle class American bliss. Like Death and Illness, a lot of this stuff is just outside of our ability to control or even prepare for effectively.
Believe it or not, I’m just now figuring this stuff out. I’m a slow learner.
By temperament, I’m still a capitalist. Globalization is inevitable in my view, and we have to deal with those pressures sooner or later. But just like the situation with NAFTA, it seems like the resulting social turmoil doesn’t help anybody. OK maybe it helps the super rich and has the positive effect of raising the fortunes of other nations, but it doesn’t do much for the bottom 99 percent of Americans.
I worry as the gulf between the haves and have-nots widens. Ultimately the most dangerous group may turn out to be the used-to-haves. I sense a growing fundamental dissatisfaction and while I don’t think we are on the cusp of a violent outburst, I no longer discount it completely. At the rate we are gutting the middle class, I think we could see huge shifts in American attitudes in the very near term.
And I haven’t even touched on how the working poor are getting screwed.
My new political credo would make for an odd political animal: libertarian progressivism. All the capitalism we can stand and no more. I originally converted to libertarianism primarily out of disgust over the power elite and the resulting distrust of all things from inside the DC Beltway. I still don’t trust them, but as a friend of mine says, the government is the only shot most of us have for a break.
Our ruling elite is determined to give us a lot of capitalism, smug in their knowledge that we are all masters of our own destinies. Smug just like I was back-when.
That death thing can really get your attention.