I went to sleep early last night, instead of joining in the artificial revelry of New Year’s Eve at a time of such pain for the faltering middle class.
There didn’t seem to be much to celebrate as I looked backward upon a year in which our representative democracy breathed its last, and forward to the rising police state and the robber barons at its helm. It’s pretty clear to those of us who understand what’s happening that those who refuse to bow to our new economic royals are now excess population.
In short, there’s not much to celebrate in our increasingly dysfunctional society. Other than its rapid transformation from democracy to corporate oligarchy.
A world that once labored under the failed leadership of hereditary kings and queens, now has equally tyrannical presidents and CEOs. In lieu of over-entitled princes and princesses, we now have sheltered buffoons like Chelsea Clinton, Donald Trump and Tucker Carlson.
The tyrannical dockyard foremen who once decided who worked and who starved have been replaced by human resources specialists. The plantation overseer by intelligence consultants. Both professions are modern Sonderkommandos who tell themselves they’re “just following orders” as they do terrible deeds to their countrymen and women to secure their privileged existences.
If you joined the revelry last night, I would very much like to know what you thought you were celebrating.
The rise of a global police state?
The demise of the free press?
The death of free speech and expression in the privacy of your home?
The rise of a global labor market with no regulation or worker protections whatsoever? AKA slavery.
A true jobless rate in the U.S. which rivals that of The Great Depression?
Perhaps you didn’t know that while the official U.S. Unemployment Rate is 4.9 percent, the true percentage of Americans without a job, ages 16 to 54, is 22 percent. For the entire population – 40 Percent.
I spent the first day of 2017 thinking about former colleague Amy Swann, a fellow journalism lifer at The Savannah Morning News and The Augusta Chronicle. She suffered from congestive health failure and lost her home shortly after being laid off by Morris Communications in 2007, after 18 years with the company.
Morris is one of many news organizations which routinely and habitually place profit growth ahead of the welfare of their own employees and the needs of their readers. They’re part of a failed mainstream news media which engineered the rise of clickbait and fake news now being exploited by the Alt-Right,
Swannie’s healthcare needs were apparently too costly for Morris. Even though decades of overwork contributed to this former editor and columnist’s chronic illness.
Swannie was a tough lady who loved to champion the needy and confront the bullies of the world. She was a good scribe, too. However, once she fell into the wandering pool of laid-off journalists she never regained her professional footing as a full-time employee.
Tens of thousands of other journalism lifers have been tossed to the curb in recent years under similar circumstances, as the news industry has gone from serving readers first to serving monied interests. Its owners very much prefer clueless grads now, who are more receptive to unethical innovations than experienced scribes.
When I was exposing institutional racism in rural Georgia Swannie always let it be known that she was on my side. Even as other colleagues surreptitiously sabotaged my efforts. She continued to back me up in the newsroom even when my reporting generated stories about a high school in her hometown of Claxton, Ga., with separate student governments; separate prom kings and queens for blacks and whites; and an unofficial policy against interracial dating.
Swannie died on Christmas Day after spending Christmas Eve alone at age 53. The Chronicle gave her a nice obit afterward. Apparently, they very much prefer their journalism heroes dead than alive.
Swannie pulled back from the world this year, neglecting her chatty Facebook Page after begging for help from friends for several years. I would send her $100 or $200 whenever I could, but what she really needed was a full-time job and the employee medical insurance that goes with it.
Because getting sick before 65 is now a financial death sentence in our nation for nonunion workers. More and more of us are facing this unpleasant end as workers are asked to work more unpaid hours each passing year by the forever profit growth crowd.
I used to dream of opening a home or cooperative farm for displaced journos if I ever cashed in with a book. I always imagined Swannie (left) being the first resident. It just took me too long to get my act together – thanks to the same kind of layoffs she encountered.
Meanwhile, many of you were celebrating last night.
Maybe you didn’t realize that there are tens of millions of Swannies in America right now. People who played by the rules, got their degrees, worked hard, made sacrifices for the greater good, and have been tossed to the side like excess population.
Because that’s the kind of garbage country we’ve become.
We are now the dregs of the modern civilized western world. The kind of toxic nation whose woods are full of homeless veterans. Where voters are given the choice between a Wall Street crook and a racist Wall Street crook at “election” time.
Deaths among working age whites from suicide and drug abuse are up more than 20 percent in our failed society since 1999. Approximately 22 military veterans now take their own lives every day versus a daily death rate of just 0.8 during combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Those suicide rates are comparable with the rate of 15.4 suicides per 100,000 Americans recorded during The Great Depression.
Maybe you were celebrating the re-emergence of a hereditary ruling class last night?
Or a world in which primae noctis has been replaced by discretionary income and comparative credit scores?
How about the impending destruction of 4.4 million jobs due to unnecessary self-driving technology? On top of the 650,000 jobs destroyed by the The North American Free Trade Agreement trade deal.
Or the ongoing rise of global oil and gasoline prices being orchestrated by the price fixing OPEC cartel?
Maybe you were celebrating a world where middle class children start their adult lives as debt slaves, living in their parent’s basements as they struggle to repay inflated financial aid debts?
Or our transformation from a nation of homeowners into a nation of renters?
What about the surreptitious tyranny of social media organizations like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn which have made millions of us unemployable by prying into our personal thoughts and collating them for sale as corporate intelligence?
Maybe you were celebrating the rampant corruption of Silver Spoon Mofo Donald Trump’s incoming robber baron administration?
Or three decades of double-digit profit growth by the medical and pharmaceutical industries which have made medical bills the No. 1 cause of personal bankruptcies in recent years?
Perhaps you were lauding a jobless recovery which has completely missed most of us, while enriching the predatory 1 Percent which inhabits our nation’s bowels like a tape worm.
Or the comfortable doctors, police and privileged union members in Percentiles 90-99 who have turned a blind eye to the suffering of their fellow Americans, while yapping about the mythical free market their protected employment circumstances betray?
How about the predatory lending, for-profit education, and payday lending scams orchestrated by the private equity and hedge fund industries? Or their recent attempts to grab the assets of the U.S. insurance industry, and privatize Social Security and Medicare?
There’s just so much to choose from.
I think not. I’ll pass this year.
Because “Outside it’s America,” to paraphrase Bono and U2.
Being told to celebrate in such desperate times feels a lot like being told to smile.
When our nation’s worthless elites give the faltering middle class in the United States a reason to smile again I’ll smile. Until then, not so much.