Something not everybody yet understands is that we need to work on our perception and mentality in order to solve our zoo of severe societal problems, such as our bad economy, our corrupt politics, denied healthcare, rampant debt and bankruptcy, the lack of good jobs with benefits, the lack of personal liberty, a world of repeatedly crushed dreams — a plethora of troubles that reflect a transition from a cooperative, neighborly, compassionate human culture to a wolf-eat-dog society.
Since we are so caught up in our current superficial fights over an economic band-aid here or a party-political tactic there, we are often too distracted to look at the underlying causes or even be aware of them. One way to bring them back to the surface is to briefly glance at our preceding generations in which our world changed to the messed-up world we live in today.
Glance #1: Most of our ancestral generations lived as hunters and gatherers, having no bosses to answer to and no money to worry about. Their work was authentic and genuine: hunt and gather food, make your own clothing, housing, and tools, and share with your tribe members as needed (both giving and receiving, thus everybody benefiting from strength in numbers).
Glance #2: The invention of agriculture changed this egalitarian society for many. Everywhere popped up land-holding aristocracies who had the farmers toil for them as their serfs or slaves.
Glance #3: The settlers who came to the British colonies and eventually formed our nation, came here specifically to escape this mafia-like aristocratic racket and restore to themselves their lost freedom. Once again they could work for themselves and suffer no bosses — bosses who would order them around, abuse them, take away much from their fruits of labor, violently oppress and draft them, and restrict their freedoms in many ways.
Glance #4: The agricultural revolution (meaning the advent of huge plantations, harvesting machines, fertilizers, pesticides, and the resulting monoculture) destroyed the economy for most small farmers, forcing them to seek refuge in cities where they were put to work in factories by controllers of big capital who could ordain the building of factories in their name and treat their workers little different from the way land-“owning” aristocrats had formerly done. All of a sudden the descendants of our settlers were once again controlled and exploited by a kind of aristocracy, one not based on land holdings but capital holdings measured in dollars. Hence these newfangled aristocrats were called plutocrats (from the Greek word for money), and our ancestors who had once again lost their freedom were very aware of this bad turn of events and invented a name for their new condition: wage slavery.
In this day and age, most of us find ourselves still living in this wage slavery. Unfortunately, over those few generations, we have culturally become so accustomed to this that we no longer call it wage slavery and instead are eagerly searching for employers to clasp the invisible chains of wage slavery upon us. After, all. We no longer own our own land, log cabins, fields, and cattle. We have to pay rent or mortgages with money that doesn’t grow on trees. And that money is controlled by our new money aristocracy, the plutocracy. The plutocracy that exploits and oppresses us from above either directly constitutes, or else hires, our bosses and forms our statewide, national, and global oligarchy. It is this oligarchy which makes all the big decisions while running a political dog-and-pony show that many of us still believe to be a democracy. In reality, the oligarchy decides in almost every single case who gets on our ballots, who can participate in televised debates, who has the money to pay for yard signs, posters, TV ads, and so forth.
In turn, these bought candidates, when they enter public office, then work for their wealthy donors rather than the people who voted for them, since their job is to hoodwink and betray their voters. After all, these paid politicians, have to work for their bosses (their wealthy donors in this case) and leave their liberty and integrity at the entrance to their place of work, just like you and me in our own wage enslavements.
Wage slavery has almost all of us enthralled today. Those near the top get paid well for helping to control those below. And we below should really start thinking about how we can regain our freedom and return to a more human-worthy society.
Regaining our freedom, when we are held in invisible, intangible chains that are formed from monetary need and a cultivated mentality which blinds us to the forces that control our lives, requires first a kind of self-therapy in matters of perception and mentality. We need to open our eyes to what’s behind the curtain and look below the veneer that covers up the very forces which control and exploit us. That’s the perception part. We also need to alter our brainwashed mentality that has so many of us approve of our current system of enslavement. Hallmarks of this mentality are a worship of a so-called “free” market, of capitalism as the only or best wealth creating possibility, or the myth that our corroded society is normal and natural and therefore impossible to change.
In other words, we must begin to dig deeper than we are accustomed to. When it comes to the money shackles, for instance, some people clamor for a better economy via things like trade wars to roll back the sale of so many good industrial jobs to cheap labor countries. But will this really work? Can the clock be wound back? May it not be too late for that? Or how long will this take, and do we really want to give up on imports like tasty fruits and seafood for example?
Others clamor for a Federal Job Guarantee which, if successful and well conceived, could employ more job seekers than currently have a chance in the private job market, raise wages, provide an escape route during times of massive private market lay-offs, and make possible useful community work to improve our towns, roads, and what not, and maybe improve child care, patient care, elderly care, and possibly education as well (which are things we really need). On the other hand, this approach does little about the faulty mentality that it’s OK and normal to leave our liberty (and dignity) at the door when we enter our places of work, and – probably connected with this – our readiness to be politically disenfranchised no less than we are in our working lives, this then leading to our current fake democracy.
This approach also doesn’t raise our awareness of unearned income which is a huge part (I suspect, even the lion’s share) of the income produced by today’s economy. It maintains the illusion that all income is earned through human labor, through each of us producing something useful for other members of society, when it isn’t.
Take a look, because it really isn’t! Think about it! One example is the huge portion of the nationwide income which flows into the vaults of the rich, not because they work hundreds of times as much as you or me in our daily jobs, but because they hold ownership over “assets”, you know things like stocks, equities, real estate property, purchased patents, and so forth, which mean that when you work for the corporation they own in full or in part, a hefty portion of your fruits of labor are diverted into their vaults (and the pockets of the CEO they hired to keep that unearned income flowing).
Another example are all those telemarketers and advertisers who bother us constantly in our scarce spare time to make us want to buy stuff we don’t need. Another example are bank employees signing us up for subprime mortgages, then selling them as alleged safe assets on the stock market until the global economy crashes when this Ponzi scheme bubble eventually bursts.
Another example are lobbyists and politicians who direct government spending away from us, the people and taxpayers for whom the government spending is intended, instead steering the money towards the rich banksters who caused the stock market crash in order to bail out their banks and let these shysters ride off into the sunset with multi-million dollar bonuses. In the meantime, we the people who in theory own the government and all its spending, don’t even get bank equities in return from these banks who gladly took our money. In the business world of our system, banks and corporations trade assets for money with each other.
If we were not constantly betrayed by our wealth-bought politicians, then we would likewise get the value of our bail-outs of the banks and of government subsidies for corporations in the form of bank and corporate assets which we could then put into a public fund creating a citizen dividend that would pay us back year after year, the same way the rich are always paid for their paper-alleged ownership of assets. What are assets such as stocks? Assets are documents that reflect our world which, ethically speaking, belongs to all of us, not a few holders of ill-gotten paper deeds. But slick goons of past generations invented pieces of paper that reflect our world and handed them to a small group of thieving types (themselves). And how do the few who today, according to the papers in their possession, own almost everything arrive at their lofty position of god-like privilege? How do they get those papers? Usually through inheritance, and sometimes through corrupt activities edified in the corporate media as “business success” or “entrepreneurship” (which somehow always fails to mention the employees who do the heavy lifting during countless work hours and years, usually receive no company shares, and are laid off with nothing to show for whenever it suits the owner class).
Now, when you look at all these unproductive jobs I described (and many more), jobs which do no-one any good or which even harm us all, you can see how so many jobs are worthless to you, me, and the economy. So, why do folks get money for those jobs? How does this match with the idea that money can only be obtained by providing useful work? It obviously isn’t the case anymore. In the old days, only a few generations back, say the early 19th century and all the ages before that, almost every working person was working in food gathering or agriculture to produce the food that humanity needed to survive. When I was a kid, the number of farmers and other agricultural workers had dropped to a mere 4% of working people. It’s my understanding that the number has dropped even more since then. The same is true for industrial goods. With more and more of our physical and even mental work being done by machines, robots, and software; less and less of what our economies produce is actually created by human labor. The same is true for services. Just think of what happens when you call a customer service. An electronic answering system picks up the phone and you have to struggle and fight to get to talk to a real person.
So, as just explained, much of today’s paid work is useless or even harmful, and to a large extent it is done by machines. This paid work stands in stark contrast to a lot of useful and vitally necessary work that does not get paid! Say, what about all the mothers who, for generations, have raised their children and cared for elderly family members? They have never been, and still aren’t, officially counted as members of the workforce. They receive neither wages nor an earned retirement income to retire on as they get old, having to depend on their husbands’ social security income and pensions, if those husbands haven’t in the meantime divorced them, that is. Why, I ask, does our government replicate the injustice suffered during our working lives in which some have “earned” excessively much (taken out of other people’s fruits of labor when the income was excessive) while others were grossly underpaid or not paid at all? Why is the size of our social security check calculated from those past strokes of good or bad financial luck and the inequality created by rampant exploitation? Didn’t our founders famously state that we are all created equal, with equal rights to life, liberty, and happiness, and provided with a government that exists to govern by our consent, serve us, and “provide for the general welfare” (meaning a good life for all, not a heaven for a few privileged and hell for everyone else)?
What happened to these ideals? And when you consider the useless or even harmful jobs I mentioned above and how few jobs nowadays still produce anything useful, plus the fact that useful work such as child and elderly care is typically not compensated at all, plus how much of the national and global income flows straight into the vaults of a tiny number of super-rich billionaires who do little or no work at all... — when you consider all that, doesn’t the idea that income is always earned through labor become a total farce? It has become a myth with which to control us from above.
So, when this is a farce, a false myth, why then must we leave our liberty, our personality, sovereignty, and often even our integrity at the entrance to workplaces based on the argument that this is how we pay for our tiny share of the world and our right to exist? Didn’t we obtain our right to exist when we were born? Weren’t we all born into the same world and should therefore own it equally together?
Imagine we drove the corrupt politicians out of office through local volunteering and countless small donations plus a new mindset by which we never again vote for an “R” or “D” candidate unless we know the candidate well or have it on good authority that he or she can be trusted. Imagine that we from now on voted only for independents and third party candidates lest the “R” or “D” candidate were a well-vetted, trustworthy people’s candidate? We would thereby destroy the corrupt twin party tyranny and allow a true people’s party or coalition of people’s parties to arise. We would take a true democracy for our own by simply acting the way electoral democracy is supposed to work rather than obeying the oligarchy’s instruction to vote for the allegedly “lesser” evil. Imagine, we then implemented a Federal Job Guarantee, so that when you are getting abused too much by your private sector employer, you could walk out. This could force private sector employers to start treating and paying us better.
Still, the Federal Job Guarantee, just like other government programs before it, might disrespect and mistreat you, too. Take my example: a guy who worked in science, computing, and education, to name some of my main careers, and who has a knack for writing, but who now suffers from disabling chronic diseases. Imagine that a government agent charged with assigning federally guaranteed jobs commanded me to work on repairing the town’s roads. How long would I last under this toil that my body can no longer withstand? With medical science having failed me for more than a decade, I might not even be able to get a medical certificate to excuse me from that unfitting task.
Imagine, though, that we had also implemented a citizens dividend (A.K.A. Social Security for All) that evenly distributed to everyone much of that unearned income which now mostly goes to billionaires. This kind of financial safety cushion is often called a universal basic income (ubi) and is much like the Alaska Permanent Fund that let’s all Alaskan residents partake in the income derived from Alaskan oil drilling. In this case, I’d be able to walk out of an unsuitable FJG job as well. This, in turn, could force a badly implemented Federal Job Guarantee (FJG) to become better. If nothing else, the two programs could pick up each other’s slack. For example, I am currently spending a lot of time taking care of a dying relative, but I also am forced to look for a job since my last employer, a small business, went under as so many small businesses do all the time. A well done FJG could compensate me for this care work and relieve me from the unemployment office’s whip that currently demands I search for and accept a paid job that isn’t well suited for me and wastes my time, the time I need to help my relative (and also to write articles and share videos that help to educate the public). But what if the FJG wouldn’t offer to pay me for my family care work?
In my case, I’d prefer to opt for a lesser income consisting only of the UBI, because that comes without a boss diverting me from the things I am most required, suited, and eager to do for the world I live in. I’d prefer a basic financial existence over buckling under a new boss for merely more money, a boss who would force me to do something other than I am interested in and best cut out for, something that some other person would be more suited and willing to do, but who in our current system is forced to compete with me in the application process for that job I don’t even want. Wouldn’t we have a better world if people could actually choose their work and do it with passion?
Martin Luther King, whom we celebrate every year, supported both ideas, the FJG and UBI (or so I have heard), as well as an end to our country’s military imperialism (specifically the war in Vietnam which, by the way, was based on a lie just like our invasion of Iraq and meddling in Syria). He was probably assassinated over the latter, even as the propaganda media these days only remember him for his fight for black civil rights. He was a great man, far greater than the credit given to him by our propagandists today. He fought against the “triple evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism” and warned his African-American followers against seeking a place at the table inside a burning house. He wanted the fire to be extinguished.
So, this is my suggestion: rather than seeing only a small piece of the big picture and dividing ourselves into different political gangs who demonize each other over the particular piece of the picture they recognize and the piece of a better future they are fighting for, let us delve deeper, come to understand the underlying forces of our troubles, and solve them fundamentally by reinventing our system, keeping or recovering the good things from the past (like democracy and liberty, including at work!!!) and combining them with good things we come up with (like a UBI and FJG, the two of them working better in conjunction than alone), while tossing away the bad things that have accumulated (like hoarded wealth and control by a few), and do it all in a fashion that doesn’t just act at the surface like band-aids do, but underneath like the setting of bones and suturing of internal injuries do. After all, our entire set of major problems is connected by the underlying forces.
For example, healthcare is often denied to those who need it by health insurance workers who work as wage slaves and are forced to prioritize profit-maximization for their masters, the insurance company owners. Healthcare then becomes ridiculously expensive because doctors and hospitals must employ staff to, in turn, wrestle with the health insurance workers over the denial of insurance pay-outs. Meanwhile, corrupt politicians and lobbyists (who get paid amazingly well) maintain this cruel current system of healthcare denial that kills tens of thousands of Americans each year, as well as our system of wage slavery and the denial of our fair share in the world we together inhabit, because they also get paid by the plutocrats with prosperity stolen from the rest of us. Our corrupt system maintained this way, in turn creates the plutocrats at the top of the dungheap society we get from this setup. And they naturally seek to maintain this corrupt system lest they slide down the dunghill themselves. Who are those plutocrats? Insurance company owners, banksters, Wall Street predators, factory owners who sell our jobs overseas or replace us with machines without compensating us with a share in the thereby newly created unearned income, and so forth.
It’s a self-reinforcing system of cruelty, idiocy, and destruction which is built out of structure, perception, and mentality that we must break with in order to break our invisible systemic and mental chains.
The only truly successful and long-lasting way to fix our big and growing problems is to change the underlying forces. By doing so, we can create structure which creates good lives for all and spreads a mentality that endorses such a structure and vetoes things like unbalanced world ownership by a few billionaires and disenfranchisement of the rest of us. By changing our shared public goal from maximizing profits for a few to ensuring a good life for all, we can end horrors like poverty and wage slavery, once loudly denounced by our forebears, and imprudently accepted by us since then.