In an article titled “Has the American Dream Become Our Nightmare” appearing today on Alternet admonishing the middle class to live a little less large and rethink what the “American Dream” really means, Dr. Mary Sykes Wylie misses the boat — by a long shot.
First off, to couple capitalism with democracy is as paradoxical as fucking for virginity. In her word salad of Machiavellian psychobabble, Wylie says:
“…like the threat of imminent extinction, our current troubles concentrate our minds wonderfully, or at least enough to consider possible alternative meanings of “wealth”, besides frenetic getting and spending.”
That “frenetic getting and spending” might mean a trip to the shopping mall — for her. For many others a hell of a lot less fortunate (like the 6 million poor, uninsured jobless/long-term unemployed whose sole income is food stamps), it means scrounging enough money through begging for crumbs of inadequate help from charities and collecting aluminum cans to keep the electric and water from being terminated after the gas and telephone were cut off from inability to afford basic needs. Or worse: It may mean scrambling desperately to get the funds in order to travel across state to a Planned Parenthood clinic, or to pay for an abortion resulting from a rape, or contraceptive failure, when you have no health care and no economic security in your life thanks to a legacy of exploitation, discrimination, and dehumanization.
I have a few other quibbles about the article, too. What Mary Sykes Wylie, PhD, author of the article, missed was the fact that all of humanity can be divided into three groups — A, B, and C.
Group A is made up of those who live primarily off of stock dividends, interest payments on their bond investments, royalties on their land and mineral rights, inherited money, and rents for their real estate. In other words, Group A derives its livelihood from passive or unearned income generated from the capital it owns.
Groups B and C comprise the remaining 99% of humanity. Group B lives primarily off of wages, salaries, tips, commissions, fees or pensions. Group C are those remaining billions of people across the world who don’t even get that — they live hand-to-mouth on whatever crumbs they can scrounge. Group C can be thought of as “the reserve army of labor” that is deliberately socially excluded and economically marginalized and only permitted by Group A to exist to keep Group B “in line” (although the ravages of poverty often takes its toll on the poor people’s employability).
Group A obtains wealth by imperialist or colonialist measures by deracination— driving the people off of the land either by genocide, incarceration, or other means of expulsion, and de-skilling and disenfranchising the remainder by forcing them to work for subsistence wages out of lack of options. Group A can also be called the “Owning Class” since they own most of the world’s resources and means of production. Group A also owns a lot of the government or the state.
Group A has very politically active elements that make careers out of protecting the interests of Group A. Those politically active members of Group A become presidents, parliamentarians, prime ministers, Congressmen, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of the US Department of Defense, CIA directors, Joint Chiefs of Staff, FBI directors, military intelligence, etc., whose function is to keep the world safe for the Fortune 500 companies — the people in Group A — so that they can extract the value from the natural resources and exploit the surplus value from the labor of Group B, and squash any populist uprising.
I don’t know what world the article’s author lives in, but it sure as hell isn’t in the “Other America” — the no-man’s land of the Underclass that nobody gives a fuck about where kids get to go to Prisonyland instead of Disneyland; where poor white women have no opportunities for the few remaining living wage blue-collar male-dominated union jobs or the opportunity for college and grad school (unlike the author, who has her PhD that landed her a good job with dignity), leaving only two alternatives for making enough money to afford food, shelter, basic utilities (and MAYBE some health/dental/vision care): prostitution or strip dancing.
I am talking about the “Other America” where, if you’re a poor woman, you’re never “good enough” to “deserve” to be loved, married, and supported by some middle/upper class woman’s law school bound son (or some middle/upper class widower) because everybody “knows” that poor women are nothing but “trash”, “gold-diggers”, and “whores” who get pregnant just for the “windfall” of that paltry (non-existent) welfare pittance.
Meanwhile, affluent demagogues with narcissistic personality disorder and delusions of grandeur denounce abortion and contraception for poor women and expound the merits of marriage as the end-all cure-all anti-poverty program from their talk radio and Faux News pulpits — making their pile by promoting discrimination and their ideology of classism, racism, sexism and misogyny under the “family values” banner cloaked in the “respectability” of religion, “morality”, freedom, and liberty.
There is no “freedom” or “liberty” for those in poverty who never got a fair fighting chance in the “land of opportunity” — due in no small measure to the inherent exploitative nature of capitalism. And it is very easy to target a group of people to oppress, discriminate against, dehumanize, and exploit when they’re a different gender (except for the few token “winners” among the ranks of the dominant class).
But nobody wants to talk about that.
Classism, like feminism (the crazy notion that women deserve equal rights such as having the right to their own bodies), is a taboo subject.
The blindness of unearned privilege — middle/upper class privilege — ignores the realities of America’s poor, 84% whom are women and 63% whom are white, who aren’t even seen as human enough for harm against us to matter.
The author also says:
“For generations we’re told that “money doesn’t buy happiness”, which probably nobody in America believes.”
There’s a difference between believing and thinking. In the middle of “believe” there’s a “lie.”
When being poor, jobless, and uninsured means you get to go blind from undiagnosed and untreated glaucoma, or prematurely lose your teeth to dental caries, or join the ranks of the 45,000 poor uninsured Americans who die for lack of access to health care each year, or from any other malady caused directly by poverty (like loss of winter heating utility service); capitalism is the problem because it takes money to buy the only things that make a shot at happiness possible: your health and your life.