Monday, November 28, 2011

I Am Not the 1%

See, now I went and did that thing so many teachers (or ex-teachers I guess, too) do when discussing a particular topic.  Call it playing Devil’s advocate, call it discussing rather than pontificating, or call it downright annoying (I’m going with the last one), but there are always at least two sides to every debate.  So all you One-percenters out there (Does anyone actually in the 1% read my blog? And if so can you recommend a better accountant...preferably one without “dot-com” in their name?), or you wannabe, someday One-percenters, you’re not getting off so easily.  Not if I can help it.
Perhaps, as children, the One-percenters were regaled with different folklore than most.  Instead of coal in their stockings at Christmas if they were naughty, perhaps they were threatened with tiny replica windmills or mini solar panels, instead.  Instead of monsters under their beds, there were the ghosts of Karl Marx and V.I. Lenin.  Instead of being taught to share their cookies, perhaps they were taught to hide them away in tax free, high-yield cookie jars. 
Whatever it was, they see Socialists around every turn.   And radicals.  And environmentalists.  Oh my!  And their over-the-top fears of populist revolution, as well as their skill at employing just the right code words, do more to stifle actual discussion than the Occupiers could ever hope to do.
I believe our higher education system should more closely resemble that of most European countries, where education through the university level is contingent upon one’s ability and hard work, not one’s (or one’s parents) bank account.  European students do not come out of college with the equivalent of a mortgage’s worth of debt strapped to their back.  But many, many American students do...and if we want to keep up with the rest of the world, well then, there's gonna have to be considerable government assistance in all this.  Of course, by suggesting this, in fact the mere mention of the European manner of doing anything has the One-percenters shouting, "Socialist!"  as if they were the long lost children of Joe McCarthy himself.  But I believe it all the same.
I believe that laissez-faire, completely unregulated capitalism is unjust and inhumane.  It's a nice sounding idea to people who think their taxes are too high, that the government is too big, and such, to suggest removing the government almost entirely from daily life.  But suggest to the One-percenters that government has an important function beyond assuring the security of the country and protecting property and out come the code words...liberal, radical, socialist. 
I believe that global warming is real, and that oil is not our future unless we want to one day make the Kevin Costner movie "Waterworld" into reality.  And considering what a god-awful movie that was, why would we subject our descendants to such a thing?  Of course, to most One-percenters that makes me a tree-hugging, hippie, environmentalist.  In truth, I have never actually hugged a tree, and I don’t (and never will again, I’m afraid) have the requisite hair to be a hippie.  But feel free to call me an environmentalist.  I can live with that...even if you mean it as an insult.          
So many of the One-percenters can be just as wrong and counter-productive as the most radical element of the so-called Ninety-nine percent.  Anyone who refuses to, or will not engage in, rational discussion on these most serious matters, is little more than an angry child stomping their feet in the hopes they will get their way eventually. 
The Occupy movement failed because it lacked any sort of real direction.  I drove past the “occupiers” of downtown Savannah a few weeks ago and amongst the two or three dozen there (and I’m being generous in that estimate), there were not two signs that spoke to even remotely similar points.  They just looked like a bunch of angry folks with nothing else to do than stomp their feet.
And the One-percenters do the same.  Only instead of stomping their feet they draw lines in the sand, refusing to entertain any sort of compromise and clinging to their code words, as ever.  They scare enough folks (those who would never be confused with the One-percent) into thinking that a tax on millionaires is the equivalent of the British Tea Act of 1773.  So those folks go and dress up like angry colonists and do the One-percenters' bidding.  Funny thing is, the actual American Revolution was quite liberal for its time.  Radical, you might say.  
So no, I am not the One-percent...and having more money will not make it so.  Nor do I believe that the so-called Ninety-nine percent is represented by the Occupy folks.  I am somewhere amongst the grown –ups, the people willing to have rational, spirited debates with an aim towards reasonable compromise and practical solutions.  And I do not believe I am alone.  

Of course, that doesn't make for very good content in the 24 hour news cycle, so don't expect this movement to be covered.  Perhaps that's for the best though.    

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