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SUPERIORITY OR SOLIDARITY
Author: Floyce White (160.227.22.---)
Date: 07-09-02 22:08
SUPERIORITY OR SOLIDARITY
April 1, 2002 by Floyce White
As a boy, I endured privation along with my family. Of course, the full extent of our want was kept hidden from me--children are protected from the awful truth. Yet no matter how wise the parents, the children learn at school: some people have more than others, and for this reason they are treated better. I asked why, and was reassured that we were part of the "lower middle class." This certainly sounded better than being called "poor." In many ways, it was a denial of ourselves and the community around us. Looking back, I can't blame them--folks just repeated the "lower middle class" tale because it represented the facts as best they knew.
I grew up hearing the family stories. As a girl, Mom had to go out barefoot in the Illinois winter to break the ice and fetch water every morning. Sometimes she returned with numbed feet and chunks of ice. Like everyone else, Dad's family stole coal off rail cars, and had to put up with cruel bosses whenever they could find work. For many months, Dad supported the whole family by enrolling in the CCC. Both Mom and Dad nearly starved to death during the Great Depression, and often had nothing to eat but beans. Both Mom and Dad lost a parent during those hard times.
By the 1970s, surrounded by luxuries such as the ice box, the TV, and the little car called "NSU," they still lived from hand to mouth. The ordinary setbacks and disappointments of life were just too much to overcome. Mom and Dad came down with serious chronic illnesses that made them unable to work. Even so, it wasn't hard to find people who were worse off--white, black, or brown. We made what money we could by picking pecans. Dad played the horses, so the rare trip to Juarez or Mexicali race books showed a living example of a society in permanent depression. There were always poorer folks, so this tended to reinforce the belief that we too were superior in some way to the lower class.
Boys become men, and illusions get dispelled. At six-foot-one, 137 pounds, with a mouth full of black cavities, I made it to adulthood. As a boy, I was told that being skinny or fat, having cavities or none, and other characteristics were due to personal hygiene. As a man, I learned that underweight and overweight are the twin diseases of malnutrition. I learned that juvenile dental decay occurs when a malnourished body robs minerals from the teeth to support bone growth. And I learned that millions of poor people repeat the same tales that reinforce the belief in individual superiority and inferiority. But long before I learned these lessons, I had already decided that the most important thing in life is how you treat others--and capitalism is a terrible way to treat people.
Capitalism is based on commodity exchange. Every person and every thing is constantly measured and evaluated as equal or unequal, better or worse. Every exchange occurs under conditions of advantage and disadvantage, for the purpose of increasing one's advantage--and the poor are extremely disadvantaged when it comes to trade. If one person says "no" to a job offer, another poor person can be found to take the job at the same miserably low wage. If one household says "no" to an overpriced rent, plenty of other poor families face impending homelessness and will pay. The rich always win at "fair trade." By increasing their advantage--by accumulating property--the rich increase the dispossession and desperation of the poor.
From time to time, every wage worker is unemployed. Many have been hungry and homeless. Others go without desperately needed items such as a car, diapers, or medicine. Savings are used up and credit cards are maxed out. These periods of destitution mean that most workers never save enough money to stop working, and retire with money worries. Generation after generation of poor people sell themselves into servitude. Generation after generation of rich people hire and fire. Society is divided into a rich upper class and a poor lower class. This theory matches the actual experience of life. Since this theory explains so much, it must be destroyed.
The idea of a "middle class" does not originate among the poor. High school and college textbooks, the news and entertainment media, business, and government promote this belief. Practically all professional leaders of the social hierarchy are obsessed with spreading this belief. They gush and prattle incessantly about the specialness of the "middle class" and the "Americaness" of the "middle class." Behind it all is the idea that having more money makes some people better than others.
The idea of a "middle class" apologizes for the exploitation of the small employer, landlord, merchant, or investor. Calling the petty capitalists "middle class" makes their accumulation of assets (from a position of social advantage) seem similar to the struggle for higher wages by employees (from a position of disadvantage). Calling well-paid or white-collar workers "middle class" looks at their temporary high incomes or better working conditions and denies their family histories of wage labor. Behind it all is a deliberate anti-communism that tries to annihilate the concept of a distinct class of capitalists and a distinct class of not-capitalists.
Within the supposedly "anti-capitalist" movements, rich people appoint themselves as the representatives of the poor. Comrades from capitalist family origins use every advantage they have to advocate their views, which means that they dominate the discussion. Furthermore, ordinary poor people are shushed in deference to preachers, union executives, party bosses, journalists, and other professional representation. Using this process, it is impossible to find out what poor people think--only the opinions of those already in positions of social superiority. Therefore, this process cannot possibly represent the poor. Democratic representation and dictatorial rule are opposite sides of the same capitalist coin.
There is only one way for working-class people to represent our views, and that is to speak for ourselves. We must abandon and criticize the method of allowing others to speak for us. Instead of relying on chosen speakers, we must grab the microphone and proclaim what we know to be true from our actual life experiences. Instead of relying on books by long-dead rich "leaders," we must use the pencil, the typewriter, the computer, and the photocopier. We must read, copy, distribute, and respond to each others' writings and speeches. Not everyone is good at writing. Mass expressions of resistance and rebellion, such as shoplifting, employee theft, absenteeism, and rioting and looting must be seen as genuine indicators of the political will of the working class. We must pay particular attention to the song, dance, drawings, and other artistic, sporting, religious, and cultural expressions of the poor. Only by listening to this voice can we learn how to organize. Only by speaking out do we announce our solidarity and give others the chance to learn from us. The process of long-term development of working-class unity resides in us--not in the say-so of the rich. The power to change the world always was and forever will be in our hands.
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SUPERIORITY OR SOLIDARITY new Floyce White 07-09-02 22:08
Re: as a pal new jaleel 03-19-05 09:27
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