The Peasants Need Pitchforks
By Robert Scheer
A “working class hero,” John Lennon told us in his song of that title, “is something to be/ Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV/ And you think you’re so clever and classless and free/ But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see.”
The delusion of a classless America in which opportunity is equally distributed is the most effective deception perpetrated by the moneyed elite that controls all the key levers of power in what passes for our democracy. It is a myth blown away by Nobel Prize winner Joseph E. Stiglitz in the current issue of Vanity Fair. In an article titled “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%” Stiglitz states that the top thin layer of the superwealthy controls 40 percent of all wealth in what is now the most sharply class-divided of all developed nations: “Americans have been watching protests against repressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few. Yet, in our own democracy, 1 percent of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income – an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret.”
That is the harsh reality obscured by the media’s focus on celebrity gossip, sports rivalries and lotteries, situations in which the average person can pretend that he or she is plugged into the winning side. The illusion of personal power substitutes consumer sovereignty—which smartphone to purchase—for real power over the decisions that affect our lives. Even though most Americans accept that the political game is rigged, we have long assumed that the choices we make in the economic sphere as to career and home are matters that respond to our wisdom and will. But the banking tsunami that wiped out so many jobs and so much homeownership has demonstrated that most Americans have no real control over any of that, and while they suffer, the corporate rich reward themselves in direct proportion to the amount of suffering they have caused.