I’m sorry to not post more lately but I’ve just been too busy and haven’t had my heart into blogging lately.
Partially it is because way too much bad stuff is happening in the news right now and it is hard to even know where to begin in trying to find some kind of sane answers to it. Our society is in such a terrible, terrible place, but what can be said about it? I don’t even know where to begin, except to say that our nation and state is moving rapidly towards an extremely classist society where the poor are trampled by the boots of oppression, and the rich live in increasing abundance and waste.
On the local scene I am struck by the horrible timing of so many things — the Oklahoma lottery starts on Oct. 12th (I’ll give more thoughts on it on another time… but my beef with the lottery is that it makes gambling too convenient for those who have no hope.), and then on Oct. 17th BARF becomes the law of the land (Bankruptcy Abuse Reform Fiasco), coupled with the fact that gas prices are about to jump up again (prices at the pump are falling right now but that won’t last as crude prices are going up… I think gas prices will be over $3/gallon by the end of the year unfortunately), and natural gas prices are DOUBLE what they were in February 2005… all of these factors come together to create the makings of a tremendous amount of suffering this winter for those who are already down.
But what is the answer? I’m not completley giving up on politics and law as a means to achieve positive good, but I have to say that the problem with law and politics is that it insists that the poor follow the rules (even if they are getting screwed by the system), while the rich always are able to rewrite the rules to accomodate their misdeeds (the occasional prosecutions of folks like Martha Stewart are just the occasional sacrificial lambs that are used to placate the people and make them think that the rich actually are subject to the same laws that poor folks are).
That concept (that laws are used to keep poor folks compliant to the misdeeds of the rich) really became real to me last night. Over the last few days I have been involved in the great clean-up opperation (thanks to the help of a dear friend, my two rented rooms are now neat and tidy instead of the monstrous mess they were previously), and I came across my old copy of The Grapes of Wrath. As I looked through it, I came across a note from a friend who encouraged me to read chapter 19 of the book, so I followed her advise and read the chapter again.
The chapter is pretty powerful and gives a compelling picture of what was going on at that time, by starting back to the early days of California, when white settlers took the land from the Mexicans, struggled and finally became the rich land owners of the 1930’s, and that the farms (like everywhere) became larger and larger, and the landowners increasingly became agro-businessmen (Steinback didn’t use that term, but rather called them “shopkeepers”) and the actual work of the farm was done by migrant farm workers. Then when the dustbowl hit, the dispossesed of the Southern plains started coming to California after hearing the siren calls of the handbills that promised easy work picking crops, but instead when the Okies got to California they found out that thousands upon thousands of the those **** handbills were sent out, so that way too many workers would come to California, which would create a cheap labor market that the rich landowners could easily exploit.
However, the landowners made one mistake. They forgot how determined (and even violent) that hungry people can be (particularly when it is their children who are hungry too), and that the rich folks were being outnumbered. So, the landowners struck back. They used the law to keep the dispossed moving, moving, moving. They would burn down their Hoovervilles, and they would arrest or even kill any of the dispossesed who happened to be articulate and who could see that the poor could simply TAKE THE MEANS OF PRODUCTION from the rich, if they would all unite together.
The end of the chapter was even more telling. It told of a little baby who died in the night of a condition brought on by malnutrition. As they buried the child and prayed, Steinback said that there would be a time when they would quit praying (and the pregnant pause gave the implication that when they quit praying, they would act together).
But we know the history. They didn’t ever reach the point of taking the means of production, and the Okies have been on the run ever since. The rich since day one have kept poor folks from uniting against the rich oppressive class. The rich did this by crushing the early Socialist movement in Oklahoma (and the movement’s call for poor whites, blacks and indians to unite). The rich did this by taking the labor of the dispossed at slavery wages in California. The rich do this today in Oklahoma and lots of other places, by use of laws and policies that deprive the poor of hope and deprive the poor of the means to take care of themselves and be free.
So I guess all of that to say is that I’m not sure if the LAW is simply a tool that the rich use to keep poor folks down and to keep them spinning their wheals instead of taking direct action to better that state. Maybe it is time for the working class to seek to find autonomy and freedom by means of mutual aid and direct action.