“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.” – Frédéric Bastiat
In her 2014 book A Fighting Chance, Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts points out “the game is rigged.” Over the past few years, I’ve slowly made that realization myself after years of naively believing that, as they say in Ragtime: here in America, anyone at all can succeed!
Tonight it really hit home as I watched the documentary Four Horsemen… and it quite nearly made me sick to my stomach.
The modern-day four horsemen — a rapacious financial system, escalating organized violence, abject poverty for billions, and the exhaustion of the earth’s resources — are riding roughshod over those who can least afford it. They gallup unchallenged because the cognitive map that’s been put in place by our schools, our universities and our media, does not encourage us to question accepted norms. Instead, there is apathy.
That apathy has allowed corporate interests to coalesce their power into a maleficent plutocracy right under our noses — undermining real democracy and capitalism in America in the name of pure, unadulterated greed. We allowed them to regulate themselves and they responded by creating a system that redistributes wealth from the bottom to the top, exponentially growing the income gap in their favor, while the middle class disappears and the impoverished languish.
In this rigged system, the rich and their lobbyists have stacked the deck to their advantage. With one hand, they’ve used tax loopholes and bankruptcy laws and predatory lending practices to reach into the pockets of ordinary Americans and rob them of their meager earnings, and with the other hand pat them on the back and tell them it’s “necessary in order to preserve the free market.” And we, of course, we have largely bought it — hook, line and sinker.
From the film:
As long as banking empires pursue infrastructure and debt deals in pursuit of profit, the west will continue to export injustice through finance. Millions more will be displaced, terrorism will thrive and neocolonialism will continue to end more and more lives around the world.
Maybe soon Americans will wake up and see the Orwellian transformation that took place while we were gloriously distracted by Duck Dynasty and the Kardashians and the omnipresent Fox News alert heralding the latest tidbit on today’s mass shooting. If not, I worry the once great empire of America will go the way of all once great empires.
But, there is hope. From Prof. Richard Wilkinson of there University of Nottingham:
What we have to take away from this is a recognition that most of these problems can be very substantially improved by making our societies more equal and reducing the income differences. And that also helps us to solve the environmental problems. We can reach a society that is qualitatively better for all of us.
That means first restructuring the political process to take the power (i.e. lobbyists and campaign contributions) out of the hands of corporate interests and the wealthy elite, and give average citizens their voice back.
Then it means having the courage to admit we’re not perfect and the commitment to do whatever it takes to tackle the hard things like fixing our broken education system, fighting global poverty, addressing our housing and debt crisis, and yes, combat climate change.
Ultimately, it means having the vision to be bold once again, the compassion to put cooperation above individualism, and the candor to dig deep to once again find our true American spirit. After all, these crises have been created by humans… which means they can be changed by humans.