Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Remembering the Past

It was George Santayana who said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Generally speaking I tend to believe the past never really repeats itself as things do inevitably change, the same conditions do not usually exist, and even people’s attitudes and values change dramatically over time. However, something is happening now in the United States that may very well prove Santayana right.
The best example of this is occurring right now in Michigan although this is just the most recent manifestation of what seems to be happening more widely throughout our country. We seem to be approaching the brink of a repetition of the terrible labor wars of the 1920’s and 30’s, when the labor unions fought and finally won concessions from the “robber barons” and corporations that were so shamelessly exploiting them. The current corporate interests and the obscenely wealthy that have benefitted so generously in recent years seem to have forgotten the lessons of the past. They are currently attacking labor unions in a blatant attempt to destroy them and so far have been moderately successful. The terrible imbalance between the haves and the have-nots is every bit as great now as it has ever been and very similar to the conditions that led to the great union wars of the 20’s and 30’s. I guess people have forgotten just how terrible these “wars” were, when corporate thugs and “Pinkertons” were hired to beat and kill union organizers and the workers fought back so violently. At the moment the focus seems to be on Michigan where the labor unions are believed to have come into maturity in the city of Flint. But that was not the only locus of union activity by any means. Right here in North Idaho, in the silver mines around Wallace, Burke, Gem, Mullan, Kellogg, and other small mining towns, the battle was joined between the two factions. At one point union members commandeered a train and dynamite and blew up the Bunker Hill Smelter in Kellogg. This was after years of violence during which both miners and strikebreakers lost their lives. And of course there were the famous garment workers strikes, the automobile strikes, the longshoremen’s strikes and so on. It was a terrible time and out of the violence finally grew the 40 hour work week, Sundays off, the eight hour day, vacations, health care, and so on. I’m sure that one of the reasons the labor unions have been weakened in recent years is because so many people alive today do not remember this history of violence and tend to take for granted the 40 hour work week and etc. Either they are not aware of what conditions were like prior to the union movement or they have simply forgotten. Twelve hour work days were by no means uncommon, there were no benefits, the pay was meager, and the suffering was great.
I suspect that some of our current billionaires and multi-millionaires are aware of this history and are now rather begrudgingly suggesting that perhaps they should pay a bit more in taxes before it is too late and the people with their pitchforks will once again arise. Even these more enlightened souls are not offering a great deal, just enough to placate the threatening masses, but their less enlightened peers seem unmoved by the plight of ordinary citizens and are still clamoring for more and more. So far there has not been much violence but we have now seen the divisiveness they are creating between the pro-union workers and those who prefer to benefit from the unions without paying their fair share of the costs. A bit of violence broke out in Michigan when a Fox reporter was punched out. I think there is little doubt that the frustration engendered by Governor Snyder’s sneak attack on the unions in Michigan could very well eventually lead to aggression and violence. In fact, if things do not change and the terrible imbalance in wealth continues I would not be surprised to see the whole country rise up in protest. The re-election of Barack Obama sent a clear message of where public sentiment lies and if Obama fails in his attempt to change things I can only imagine the situation will get worse. And it’s really not much that Obama is requesting from the obscenely wealthy, a paltry 3 or 4 % raise in their taxes. Republicans are making a serious mistake if they persist in insisting on protecting the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. They don’t seem to perceive they are waving the red flag in front of the bull. They have now successfully robbed the middle class and the poor for years, weakened the unions, reduced wages and other benefits, plunged millions into poverty, stolen their homes and pensions and still want more. I do not believe this can continue much longer, nor should it, and if it does the consequences may be far more serious than is apparently anticipated.
I would not be surprised to learn there has already been more violence and conflict than we have been told about by the MSM as the media itself is in the pockets of the oppressors. They will not tell us the truth about anything that does not serve their purposes.

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