Jemez Mountains, driving south on US 550 near Cuba, New Mexico
A Rising Tide Sinks All Boats
In my world there are no protests, no protesters, no complainers. Truck drivers pretty much take whatever is dished out to them. We pay more for traffic violations, higher tolls, higher per hour rates for mechanics, more for our driver's licenses, more for insurance. At truck stops, where we eat and sleep, where we spend most of our time, besides that spent driving -- 10 or 11 hours -- and at loading docks -- another few hours -- prices are higher, too; a dollar more for the buffet than the buffet in town, and the merchandise in the truck stop store is overpriced, too.
There is almost never any talk of protesting against all this, let alone organizing into a union, among the over the road drivers. There are a few tiny pockets of unionized truck driving, but that is a different kind of trucking, mostly "local' driving. When, on occasion, truckers are standing around talking and the talk turns to some of the ways we get screwed and someone utters the word "union", invariably someone will pipe up and say, almost every time, exactly the same thing. "Then you'd just be givin' your money to the union."
The conversation always ends there. No one is equipped to counter an anti-union argument. No one has ever heard a pro union argument. No one has heard much of anything, except that Democrats and President Obama are Socialists and Fascists and want to ruin the United States. All the televisions in the truck stop restaurants now are tuned to Fox News, and drivers listen to the right wing radio talk show hosts that can be found at several places on the radio dial wherever you drive, from coast to coast. And besides an equal amount of right wing Republican Christianity religious programming, that is the only thing on the air besides repetitive top 40 country music and repetitive "classic rock" number one records of the past, and of course National Public Radio which has many, many shows and regular news segments coming from the business point of view but none, zero, about Labor or from Labor's point of view. Zero. Same with the BBC, which is also heard here and there out on the highway. No programs concerning Labor's interests. Nothing. BBC does have a religion program. No Labor programs.
Besides the onslaught of right wing ideology we are exposed to, it seems that Clearchannel, the massive radio station holding company, which own most radio stations now and provides the repetitive music that plays from coast to coast, even slants things in the music it selects. For example, the old Rock and Roll band Paul Revere and the Raiders had many number one songs, and many of them, although not overtly political, through their wild, utter abandon, reflected the rebelliousness of the time, but the only song your ever hear by the group is the more subdued "Kicks" which has a strong anti drug message. And it was station mangers and program directors at these same stations who tried to destroy the career of the country music group the Dixie Chicks, by blackballing their music, when one of their group mentioned being against the US invasion of Iraq while the nation was being coerced into that fiasco by then President George W Bush.
I now read a new set of statistics showing that the the decline in the US standard of living is occurring more rapidly than the usually quoted statistics indicate, in an article in Alternet by Joshua Holland. The American working class says nothing about this and sits staring at the television watching programs about whether Anthony Weiner's indiscretions will get him kicked out of congress. We are like the mute, dumb giant pictured in the Jack and the Beanstalk stories of my youth. A big, dumb, grinning ogre, whose standard of living, still the highest n the world, is and always has been on the backs of working class in the lands our capitalist class exploits even worse than they exploit us.
My whole life I have read statistics showing that the US consumes lion's shares of the world's energy, oil and other resources. Liberals and environmentalists have long quoted these statistics to urge us to cut back on fossil fuel consumption and to find other ways to maintain our standard of living. I've always read how we are the world's consumers, that our consumption of "consumer goods" is what keeps the world economy going. By consumer goods they mean the new cars we still buy every few years, the color TVs, of which many families own one for every room in the house, the computers, DVDs and Blue Ray players, the central heating and air conditioning systems, the refrigerators and freezers, the power tools, the lawn mowers and garden tractors and on and on.
We still have all our consumer goods, and no one, no one, has ever suggested that we accept a decline in living standard so that we live more like everyone else, so that everyone else can have more. American Exceptionalism is such that not only do we continue to insist on a living standard that requires that other peoples don't get their share, but we also sit around and decide what those people should be doing to confront their problems, which we, by our consumptive habits, in large part have caused. But with the acceleration in our economic decline, which is the fruition, after all, of Neoliberalism, or Thatcherism, or Reaganomics, which is now Obamanomics, that might possibly change.
I also read now about massive protests in Greece, which usually don't even make the news, where the people refuse to accept Reaganomics, and in Spain, likewise, and Egypt. We've seen the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, where people are facing down bullets to protest, and in Iran, where people are somehow finding ways to fight back against one of the most oppressive governments of all time.
Here in the US, where we have the freedom, still, that we could go downtown and shout "union" all day long but where it's hard to find somebody who will whisper the world, we of the Left are really taking heart at what is going on elsewhere. It often brings tears to my eyes. I've read other people say this, too, especially expatriates of some of the Middle Eastern and North African countries who never thought they'd see this day.
So we have a meek, American working class in decline, and the working classes of other countries are rising up. One nice thing about our decline is that we will get used to having less. The wealth being taken from us isn't being spread around to those who deserve it yet. It's being amassed by the already hideously wealthy ruling class at the top. But you can be sure that the people of Iran and Greece and Tunisia and Egypt know where the money is. And perhaps it will happen, no, I think it will happen, that when things get bad enough here that we realize that we have to do something, and we look around and see that we cannot, that, by then, we will be humble enough to ask our brothers and sisters, over there, for help.