Thursday, December 01, 2011

No One Could Have Forseen This Coming

Dispossessed families, foreclosed from too-big homes, living in their next largest asset: the family car.

Never has unemployment been so high for so long. And as a result, more than 16 million kids are living in poverty - the most since 1962. It's worst where the construction industry collapsed. And one of those places is central Florida.

We went there eight months ago to meet families who'd become homeless for the first time in their lives. So many were living day-to-day that school buses changed their routes to pick up all the kids living in cheap motels. We called the story "Hard Times Generation."

Now, we've gone back to see how things have changed. It turns out some families are losing their grip on the motels and discovering the homeless shelters are full. Where do they go then? They keep up appearances by day and try to stay out of sight at night - holding on to one another in a hidden America - a place you wouldn't notice unless you ran into the people that we met in the moments before dawn.

But hey, those one-percenters, they have their yachts and second and third homes to live in if by some queer freak chance, they were foreclosed on by the banks, right?

Look, I don't want to sound alarmist, but I think the country...the in deeper trouble than anyone realistically wants to admit. We seem to be devolving from a middle class society, with strong middle class values and an economy dependent on our middle class for both production and consumption, into an almost feudal serfdom, with itinerant workers grabbing scraps of work where they can and putting down their heads wherever they can.

Desperation sets in and pretty soon all sorts of behavior becomes the norm in places where there is no security, no safety net. Right whingers complain about the Occupy movement, claiming it's just a bunch of shiftless, spoiled kids who ought to take a bath and get a job. But as the people in the linked piece demonstrate, nearly all of them want to work, want to be productive members of society, but society has been slowly closing the gates on productive work paying a living wage that anyone can do in favor of the affluent and their minions.

It's going to stop, to be sure. and if the Right Whingers think Occupy is a sham movement fronting for socialism, well, they ain't seen nothing yet. The hungry, the destitute, the desperate, once they begin to march, they won't be polite. They won't be respectful. They won't merely shout and obstuct, they will be violent and raging, and tearing things up and down.

Once those folks no longer have homes and jobs and prospects for work, they will turn their attention on those who do. Human survival, ultimately, comes down to ensuring your own personal survival first. This is what I would call "the capitalism of the cave."

If economic capitalism is defined as each individual acting in his own self-interest contributing to the greater good, the cave-capitalism will be equally cold-blooded. If economic competition is defined as being that much better than your rival, cave-competition is going to incorporate that, but on a scale that will not be limited to lawful means of satisfying your self-interest.

There will be no safe places. I don't care how carefully guarded your gated community is, or how many security cameras you have or attack dogs. At the end of the day, if fifty starving people swarm your walls, maybe five or ten will be caught. That still leaves forty to ransack your home, steal your car and things, and eat your food.

The Statue of Liberty has a line in its commemoration plaque:

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Translated to 21st Century language, it says "We were kicked out of all the cool countries because we didn't fit in with their notion of proper society."

You really expect their descendants to be any different?

The great liberal, John F. Kennedy, wrote in Profiles In Courage, "A man does what he must — in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers, and pressures — and that is the basis of all human morality."

But he also said, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable."

This is not a war the 99% choose to wage, but we are willing to battle.