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Archive for February, 2011

In the Matrix, we get glimpses of people who have been turned into fuel sources for an ambiguous controlling elite (of robots); this is just one example of a ‘cell-people’ theme that runs through a lot of Sci-Fi.  Another obvious example is the Borg, where individuals have become entirely subsumed into the ‘collective’ and basically serve as worker drones for a hive mind.  There are other variations where people are simply raised for food.  The main recurring elements in this genre are that people have almost no space in which to move or exercise independent action (because they docilely inhabit tiny cells), and are essentially kept alive for the purposes of others.

The reason why this type of story has resonance, is because it calls to mind some salient truths about the present, and also provides a warning about various metaphorical futures for humanity.  In this post I would like to point out that the world is actually heading in this direction, in a much more real sense than is usually perceived.

There has always been slavery; (more…)

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I am definitely amongst those who believed that the unions got too bloated and too corrupt, and really weren’t that necessary there for a few years in the 1980s, while life in the US was reaching its peak of prosperity due mostly to its being the sole superpower, and before China and India began gobbling up resources because their people were desperately poor.  But now, after 15 years of us losing most of our rights to have any benefits, or any dignity at work, and now having to work 80 hour workweeks, if we can find any job at all, it may well be time to start some new unions.     I don’t really trust any of the old ones left over from the 1930s – too long, too much rot has set in.  The need to organize is all the more apparent as the Wisconsin governor is talking about using the national guard to break a strike by the last workers in the state who have any benefits or the right to claim any.

Thankfully someone at least out there gets that this is indeed a step back to the nineteenth century, and who also gets the fact that we could all, if we wanted to, legislate ourselves much better lives, if only we wanted… and I might add, without, if we were smart, ruining the economy due to over-socialization.  We, including the mainstream left, are much smarter about economics than we were in the 1970s – we know how to keep things moving.  But the people need to realize this, and as the person quoted below writes, we need to realize that we are indeed being subjected to quite the storm by those few who control the media, and use scare tacticians as their mouthpieces.

This was appended to an article ab0ut the Wisconsin situation.  Yay writer!:

 

“No Unions No Country Worth a Shit.

One of the underlying agendas of the right wing assault on the Nation is to get rid of unions. People have been bombarded with propaganda that unions are evil for decades and far too many who need them think they are the enemy. Before unions kids worked in coal mines for five dollars a day, thirteen days on one day off, twelve hours a day as did my grandfather at age 14 when he came here from Italy as an orphan in the 1890’s.

If we allow the right to destroy the unions we will be right back there in very little time at all. Why so many working folks don’t get this is beyond me. One thing you can be very sure of….the captains of industry are very aware of the increased profits they can make off our labor if we have no collective bargaining rights. The argument should not be….gee the private sector workers don’t have job protections or health care or bargaining rights so why should public sector folks have such…..the goddamn argument should be that we should all have these rights!

Corporations are not intrinsically kinder or more enlightened in the 21st century than they were in the 19th century. Labor laws and workers rights were fought for with blood and suffering by our ancestors. It terrifies me that we as a Nation might just let it all go while we focus on who is winning Dancing With the Stars.”

From this salon article:

 

http://www.salon.com/books/history/index.html?story=/politics/war_room/2011/02/18/taylor_wisconsin_national_guard

 

 

 

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I am certainly opposed to the harsher aspects of “capitalism,” and I am all for worker’s rights.  I believe that people have a fundamental right to dignity and happiness.  Remember “the pursuit of happiness?”  And I believe that in the last 15 years, the people that I call the ‘MBA efficiency people’ have systematically crushed the middle-class out of many occupations.  Building a middle-class occupation is a choice.  Occupational parameters, people have yet to realize, are basically legislated by the government.  Doctors make a lot not because they are worth it, but because they have always had a monopoly of a certain type of power and prestige, which has enabled them to win legislation which protects their incomes (tho HMOs have been eating steadily at this).  Lawyers ditto.  If their occupation were totally opened up to the “free market”, there would soon be so many people competing for their jobs, that law students would be starving.  (Some claim they are, but generally, still, they aren’t.  The fact that the “bar” keeps many people out, in effect creates a monopoly which allows a large number of lawyers to maintain higher-than-basic lifestyles).

Marx was right to a degree:  if there were no laws legislating otherwise, everyone would soon be earning an absolute minimum starvation wage.  The only reason that employers have to pay you something, is so that you can barely survive and reproduce enough so that you and your children will keep working for them.  In the end, that’s the only economic argument there is for wages… or is there?  There is also the fact, discovered in the 20th century US, well after Marx’s day, that the capitalists also have to pay someone enough money so that they can buy luxury and other consumer goods.  This keeps the economy flowing.  So, businesses used to realize that they have a vested interest in keeping some people middle class, so that they can keep making money – after all, if you just pay people starvation wages, they can’t buy the stuff you make.  So, the US model was to keep people in enough money, pay them just enough, that they can keep buying stuff.  It used to be, that this meant that many jobs were kept “middle class” i.e., you worked a 40 hour work week, and you made 2, 3, or 4 times the poverty wage rate, and you got to enjoy your white picket house.  Now, you can get some jobs like that, but they work you 80 hours, due to “efficiency creep,” which in the 90s realized that there was no effective labour law left to keep this from happening. (more…)

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