I think the Witches’ Pyramid can be understood as a cycle: being silent and listening to the answers to tough questions, like “Why does the commissary take food stamps?,” is a way to gather knowledge to move into a new cycle of action. As I listen, this is what I hear:
It’s 1929 again. The only question is whether it’s 1929 in the US or in Germany.
We have the knowledge to deal with situations of extreme economic inequality and resulting social unrest. And we also know what can happen if we don’t use it.
The Tea Party and similar sentiments are a pack of lies peddled by rich and powerful interests who are succeeding in getting the 99% to actively work against their own best interests. Falsehoods about anyone being a “self-made man” and relying on no one but oneself are not just lies. They’ve been transmuted through political alchemy as bad as the worst of dark biology, weaponized into memes that infect the general population and replicate themselves, hijacking otherwise good and reasonable people and making them into agents spreading a disease that will cripple nearly everyone – especially those infected.
I mentioned previously the myth of how anyone can succeed in American society. Myths are valuable; even when they’re not precisely true, they can inspire and lead us to do more and be better, especially by giving hope. Today, that myth is a lie and it is being used not to give hope but to take it away. It is being used by the 1% as a weapon to hurt people, to ignore the 99%, to try to get the 99% to buy into the status quo, to continue being the 99%. That story is as mythical these days as “winning the lottery,” and a society where success is a lottery is an unfair, unjust society. As Noah Smith wrote:
A winner-take-all society is not very conducive to hard work; I’m not going to bust my butt for 30 years for a 1% shot at getting into The 1%. But I am going to bust my butt for 30 years if I think this gives me a 90% chance of having a decent house, a family, some security, a reasonably pleasant job, a dog, and a couple of cars in my garage. An ideal middle-class society is one in which everyone, not just anyone, can get ahead via hard work.
The fact that this is a winner-take-all society – and is becoming more so – is why conservatives can’t get people to work hard, and why progressive action towards social and economic justice is the only way to make hard work fashionable again – by making it worthwhile. That means social and economic justice.
The hard-core conservatives who are driving the movement these days aren’t just looking back to the (mythical) 1950s. They don’t just want to conserve the status quo. They want to undo the last century of progress and take us back to the Gilded Age, to the time of obscene economic inequality and injustice that gave rise to Hoovervilles and the Bonus Army. They’ve had tremendous success at doing so, and the news coming out of Occupy encampments reads eerily like the stories of a century ago, updated with pepper spray instead of WW I-era vomiting agents. Better living through pharmaceuticals, I guess.
Economists can give you thousands of charts that show the regression to 1920s-type income inequality, lack of social mobility, and so on. But I know that history doesn’t just go backwards. People will not simply submit to rolling back the last century, and when I look at what happened after that previous episode of upheaval, I am sore afraid.
We have the knowledge to work with this kind of situation. We’ve done it before. Back in the day, being progressive – meaning making sure that people weren’t sold chalk-water instead of milk – was a Republican value, and Teddy Roosevelt signed the law that created the FDA. (Incidentally, this is why I have zero patience for the forms of libertarianism – especially in the fusion form of the Tea Party – that would have us all pretend we can be Jeffersonian small farmers again.)
Back in the day, being progressive meant making sure that old women didn’t end up eating cat food just because they had the temerity to outlive their husbands but be too weak to work. We invented Social Security to prevent situations like that. Fred Clark has investigated one aspect of what it means, ethically, for someone to argue that “he who will not work, neither shall he eat,” unless that person actually believes that some people should starve to death, but the sad truth is that some people can’t work. You can either accept that reality and get busy coping, or deny it and get busy helping to kill those people.
We have the knowledge to deal with these problems. But many powerful groups are actively working to ensure that we don’t use it. This deliberate obliviousness is one of the most dangerous currents in contemporary US politics.
If we don’t use that knowledge, if we pretend obliviousness to the actual problems or their potential solutions, someone will have to come up with an alternate story for how and why so many people are so bad off. The 1% are already using their expert narrators to create a story about how it’s Those People’s Fault, to turn the blame on anyone but themselves.
We know from history that it is entirely possible for them to use social unrest as an explanation for why society must become even more militarized, more authoritarian, more unequal, and more dangerous for everyone. I do not want to see that happen.
That is why, as a Witch and as a citizen, I stand with the Occupy movement. I will continue to support calls for economic and social justice with all the means at my disposal: economically, personally, and magically. I put my will and my daring in action in support of badly-needed reforms and continue to follow the Witches’ Pyramid.
What will you?