When Will the Inevitable Come?

I was thinking about trends. Nothing new, yet the wheels of my brain were going round and round. I can’t help but wonder how long this can go on.

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. Big business profits steadily increase as the middle class disappears and wealth inequality grows. The unemployed and underemployed are getting to around a quarter of the population and growing. Poverty and homelessness is on the rise. A large number of people are on welfare or in prison.

If you counted all these Americans, that might be around a third of the population (or more) that has become an apparently permanent underclass, a discarded and oppressed people, the so-called “useless eaters”. And there is no hope in sight of it reversing. If anything, it will just get worse and worse.

This is my theory for why the the prison population grows so much (even while crime decreases), more than most other sectors of the economy. The Prison-Industrial Complex is Big Business, the second half of the Military-Industrial Complex (the latter being the single largest part of the US economy). How many citizens have to be imprisoned before it can be declared we live in an authoritarian/fascist/corporatist police state?

I think we have long gone past that point. What is the step that follows authoritarianism? Do we go to more overt forms of concentration camps? Does the government create more perpetual wars in order to send all the excess population off to die fighting the poor and desperate people in other countries?

It isn’t even just the US. It’s not like immigrants are taking away our jobs for jobs everywhere are disappearing. Many people in other countries (most people in quite a few countries) have also become a permanent underclass. The same big businesses and big governments driving this trend in the US are driving this trend around the world.

I’m always surprised by how few people seem to see this happening. It is the one thing that rarely if ever (certainly never fully) gets discussed in the MSM. It will almost inevitably lead to world war, revolution or genocide. How this story ends is completely predictable in the broad terms: mass suffering and violence. The only thing stopping this from happening over night is the twin forces of the welfare state and the police state. Even my respectable upper middle class conservative father basically agrees with me that revolution would follow if the mass welfare and imprisonment suddenly ended.

The answer conservatives always offer me is that there needs to be more private charity, just put a few more band-aids on the gushing wound. Or else they say all these ‘lazy’ people just need to work harder. Really!?! What a brilliant solution! As soon as they can find work or get out of prison, they’ll certainly try that working harder idea.

I just never can figure out why those in power want to push the world over this ledge. The temporary gains for the powerful are alluring I’m sure, but the consequences are going to be ugly for all involved. How will all their wealth comfort them when the mobs rise up, when the bombs start dropping on their mansions and gated communities, or when the desperate armed men show up at their offices and boardrooms? You’d think the plutocracy would understand they have a vested interest in avoiding this tragic result of their own making.

The saddest part of all is nothing in this post is an exaggeration nor a conspiracy theory. It is just a simple explanation of the world we live in and where it is heading. People aren’t disappeared in our country. There is no need to speculate about it. We know what happened to these people. We know where they are. They are in prisons and jails, in inner cities, in poverty-stricken communities, in projects, in homeless shelters and on the street. They are hidden in plain sight. Their numbers are growing and at some point their numbers will be too large to control.

None of this had to be this way. It wasn’t always an inevitable outcome, but sure seems to be getting that way. We came to this point through a few decades of choices. The clear trends of this growing inequality didn’t become apparent until 1970s and could have been reversed early  on. Even with the 2008 economic debacle, major changes could have been put in place. People could have been held accountable and regulations could have been strengthened. Instead, the plutocracy just doubled down on the exact same type of actions that brought us here in the first place.

It feels like a collective madness. I guess we’ll just have to play it out and let events resolve the issues we are afraid to face.

I’ve said this all before and I’m sure I’ll say it all again and again.

4 thoughts on “When Will the Inevitable Come?

  1. Having conservative parents gives me regular insight into the conservative mind.

    I was talking to my mom before work. I had mentioned that a friend on disbility lived in city-owned subsidized housing. I wasn’t trying to start a debate, but my mom took it as a cue to state her opinions on the problems of subsidized housing.

    Her argument was that there never can be enough subsidized housing. As you offer it, more lazy people will magically appear to take advantage of it. I pointed out that, however large, there is a finite number of impoverished and disabled people who need subsidized housing.

    In my mom’s mind, the third or so of Americans who are part of the permanent underclass don’t exist as long as you don’t acknowledge their existence. But like stray cats, the moment you feed them or treat them with the simplest of kindnesses they will begin breeding out of control.

    My parents are upper middle class and they’ve livedmost of their adult life in upper middle class neighborhoods. The permanent underclass doesn’t live in those neighborhoods. My parents neighbors and friends are mostly upper middle class, not the permanent underclass. So, they don’t exist in my parent’s personal sense of reality.

    Of course, my parents know that poor people exist. They volunteer and so they occasionally interact with members of this permanent underclass. But they don’t know these people or experience their lives. Such people aren’t full real. Someone like my mom has absolutely no clue about how our society has ruthlessly fucked over a large segment of the population. Those poor desparate people elsewere don’t really exist because they don’t really matter, that is they don’t matter until some of them move into the community because of sbsidized housing.

    As always, my intention isn’t to pick on my mom or any other individual. My mom is completely typical as an American conservative.

    This maybe answers my question. My mom isn’t part of the plutocratic ruling elite. She is actually from a working class family, although she hasn’t known what it has been like to be working class for many decades now. Still, if someone like my mom can be so blind to the glaring reality of a massive and growing permant underclass, I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that the plutocratic ruling elite is even more clueless.

    I can say that these downtrodden people aren’t hidden, but my vantage point is on a fairly low rung of the class ladder. It wouldn’t take much to cause me to become part of the underclass. It is easy to forget how disconnected some people can become from the world around them.

    My mom honestly doesn’t see poverty as her problem and so she accepts no responsibility for the society that has given her so much privilege at the cost of others. There is probably nothing I could tell her to make her understand that which isn’t real in her experience. If violence suddenly erupted, people like my mom would be genuinely surprised.

  2. My parents do make a good comparison and contrast.

    Both come from similar backgrounds. They were born around the same time and place, mid-20th century Indiana. They both went to the same conservative university, Purdue, in the conservative era that preceded the late 1960s.

    As for differences, my dad didn’t quite have the same working class background.

    His father was a minister in an affluent small factory town which meant his family was very respectable and received a certain amount of automatic deference and privilege. My dad was expected to be a successful leader from a young age. On top of this, his father had a taste of the good life as he grew on a very wealthy estate (as the son of the head gardener) whch led my father to spend his childhood summers on one of the wealthier estates in the US.

    As an adult, my dad was always in a leadership position and even became an expert in his field. While being a factory manager, he had the opportunity to advance his career which could have made him a very wealthy man. But he didn’t like the ruthlessness of the business world. And so instead he became a business management professor and a business consultant. In this capacity, he had the opportunity to socialize with many business leaders and other relatively important people.

    My dad has more expeience of the upper classes of society than most people do. More importantly, he is both a moral and thoughtful person. He genuinely believes in business ethics. He is fairly well read which includes viewpoints that challenge his own.

    For all these reasons, my dad has more of a sense of the problems I describe than my mom. He doesn’t agree with me about everything, but we both have a similar moderate personality. I don’t want violence to happen any more than he does, and we both understand how realistic that possibility is.

    My mom shows her roots of having come from a family that was lower class whites that were from rural Appalachia. Her dad got a good factory job that moved the family up the class ladder a bit. He seems to have needed someone to look down upon, whether blacks or poor whites. My mom has more of that attitude of being self-made and so owing nothig to no one. There is also the Southern fundamentalist influence that predisposes one to think in terms of individual salvation rather than community-oriented good works.

    Maybe it was my dad growing up as a (Methodist) minister’s son that caused him to have a stronger sense of social obligation toward society. Plus, he thinks more deeply about big issues and actually is concerned about humanity’s future, not the type of thing my mom worries about. He would be closer to my mom’s opinion on subsidized housing, but he would understand my argument and the kind of data that supports it. Furthermore, to some extent he could understand the moral urgency that I express.

    Considering that my dad is relatively closer to the plutocratic ruling elite than most people are, I wonder how representative or unrepresentative he would be of the upper class, especially among white conservative males. How many rich people are genuinely well read, deep thinkers and morally motivated? One in a hundred? One in a thousand? One in a hundred thousand? How many are required to stop the rest of them from taking us all over the ledge?

  3. [Quote] “I just never can figure out why those in power want to push the world over this ledge. The temporary gains for the powerful are alluring I’m sure, but the consequences are going to be ugly for all involved.”

    These gains are not temporary. The Elite’s dream model is like Bangkok. A loose circle of cronies who own and run the govt and business economy at a governed speed to their liking and can crook a finger to draw on an enormous, beholden pool of labour comprised of both “hands that speak” as well as a large number of those that are intelligent, educated through self-funding and willing to work for peanuts to get a break.

    There are no pesky safety regs or other oversights and there is never a recession for the Elites. They only run the economy at 3/4 power at any one time anyway and simply let the peons absorb any downturn through lowered wages or layoffs.

    This is America’s present and future. There will be no riot. It’s wishful thinking.

    • You might be right. I understand that prediction. It is plausible. But I can’t shake the feeling that the system is unstable and unsustainable according to its present order and trajectory.

      All of this rapid change, however, could be just a temporary shift toward a new status quo that will be established. I’m sure some of those in power hope to create a stable system of power that can be sustained. Maybe I’m wrong to doubt their ability to create a long-lasting dystopia.

      The main thing I see is a whole lot of wild cards as society becomes increasingly globalized. It doesn’t seem easily predictable, even by those with the most power, influence and control. As new orders are created or attempted, emergent conditions arise that can’t be foreseen according to the understanding of previous orders.

      As always, time will tell.

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