#141 The Selfish Class (2005)

All Rights Reserved © 2005 Thomas W. Day

I wish this rant was only directed at the ruling class.  I wish the rest of the country was as disgusted and tired of a social system that discriminates against everyone from the handicapped to the working poor to the middle class who bear the burden of every responsibility this nation has taken on.  But it's not.  The real failure of our modern state is because more than half of the country is too damn dumb to think for itself and, on the rare occasion that group thinks at all, it only thinks in the most uncomplicated selfish terms.  Human evolution is the history of people learning to cooperate in the interest of their family group, community, and culture.  The Selfish Class has lost this evolutionary drive.

You could place a little of the blame for this wide-spread cultural suicide on the blitz of marketing that has been aimed at the general public, attempting to convince us that we "need" gadgets, toys, synthesized food, recreational drugs, overpriced personal vehicles and housing, and powerful international corporations to complete our lives.  Marketing has worked to create a society that is solely concerned with individual material solutions to social problems.  A lot of money has been spent in this effort, so you could say that is why we're so selfish.  You could do that, I can't.  I think anyone who buys a new car based on inspiration provided by a television ad is too dumb to vote, make important personal decisions, or breathe without instruction.  The state of modern marketing is so low-brow that it amazes me anyone ever watches an ad or buys a product that was mass marketed.

The existence of a television ad promoting a product means that product's value has been dramatically sacrificed to pay for the ad and the morons who conceived it.  But the Selfish Class is largely driven by the instructions they receive in "lifestyle ads" and those instructions run counter to the best interests of the culture.

The biggest share of the blame for the growth of the selfish cancer is from our lack of national leadership.  Or, to be more accurate, this disease is a result of of their leadership.  Like most degenerate cultures, we have a completely self-indulgent ruling class who are only interested in their own short-term immediate gratification.  The Bush's, the Gates', the Jobs', and our hierarchy of idle and semi-idle (executives, for example) multi-generational spoiled rich children contribute nothing more to the culture than poor role models for the working class and wannabe-rich-middle class.  Everything in society and business is top-down and if the "leadership" is foolish and short-sighted, so goes the rest of the country.

But I digress. 

The modern American average Joe or Joan is a proud member of the Selfish Class.  Mostly, participation in the class is how they are kept in line.  They labor mindlessly under the illusion that "anyone can succeed" and "if you can't make it here, you can't make it anywhere."  All kinds of people can't make it here: people with families, people with dependent adult family members, people who have had their lives interrupted by illness, people who have had their jobs shipped overseas for cheaper labor, and the usual cast of characters who fall through the growing spaces in our ever-deteriorating social net.  The Selfish Class doesn't care about the problems of the unfortunate many.  The Selfish Class can barely be bothered to care about problems within its own family and, when the kids become disobedient teenagers, the Selfish Class often "disowns" its own children and tosses them out like stale bread. 

The Selfish Class is particularly incensed when it finds itself on the outside looking in.  When that happens, they are usually convinced that the entire social net has been assembled to ignore their life-style-threatening problems.  Then, they vote to "fix" the system.  Of course, since they're perspective on what's wrong with the system is so narrow and erroneous, they vote ignorantly and short-term selfishly.

A couple of years ago, a conservative Selfish Class acquaintance (redundant, the Selfish Class is always conservative) found himself suddenly unemployed (for the third time in a year) with a ton of debt and no savings.  Unless a member of the Selfish Class has been thoughtfully provided an untouchable trust fund they are rarely able to save for more than a moment's pause in cash flow. After a few weeks of fruitless job hunting, he applied for state assistance and found that the state did not consider him to be particularly destitute.  After all, he possessed a garage full of motorcycles, three new upscale four-wheeled vehicles (for two family drivers), a home (with three mortgages), a house full of modern expensive gadgets, two kids enrolled in a high-priced private school, and a small collection of recreational club memberships.  The state implied that he could do considerable cost-cutting and make a few sacrifices in expenses and belongings before he would qualify for state assistance.  He was outraged.  From his perspective, everything he owned, every one of his activities, every extravagance in his life was "necessary" and justified.  That a lowly state employee could suggest otherwise was an affront to his status and self-image.

Because he is white, young, healthy, well-connected, and possesses a collection of employable skills (all obtained in a Minnesota public vocational education system that is now being abandoned), he was only out of work for a few weeks.  After his experience at the edge of being inconvenienced, he has become convinced that the social net is worthless and should be dismantled.  It didn't work for him in his hour (literally) of need, so it is obviously not working for anyone who matters.  This is a close to a perfect Selfish Class response as anyone could create.  "If it's not all about me, what is it good for?"

The Selfish Class is what put G.W. Bush in power.  G.W. and Co. may not be the brightest lights on the Xmas tree, but they can read these Selfish simpletons like an Archie and Veronica comic book.  All they have to do is act naturally, in fact, since current conservative leadership are the most selfish people on the planet.  To appeal to the Selfish Class, you only have to speak to their immediate self-interests.  The Selfish Class does not care about the fate of life on earth, they care about themselves now, today, this moment.  The Selfish Class has children, but they are supposed to be mirror images of themselves and if those children stop reflecting their parents' they are abandoned as easily as any animal leaves its offspring.  The Selfish Class is willing to sacrifice the health, security, and welfare of the people of the rest of the world for unlimited use of the world's resources.  And yet, they express horror and confusion when the people they have sacrificed strike back with the same weapons and brutality that have been used against them in the interests of the Selfish Class. 

The worst thing about our current state of egocentric self-interest is that it is self-sustaining and regenerating.  A top-down corruption is the worst system failure an organization or society can suffer.  When the entire leadership is corrupt, the majority of citizens simply follow their example.  This isn't anything new, something invented by the new right.  In fact, it's the oldest political system on earth.  It's also the most fragile.  A country mostly populated by lazy, selfish people is easily destroyed by natural catastrophe, internal revolution, external attack, or a combination of these forces.  The lack of community that is the core of the Selfish Class is also the downfall of that same group.  A community without an interlinking support system that protects the less fortunate, educates the ignorant and the young, provides for the common good to equalize opportunity across economic levels, and protects and listens to the canary-in-a-coal-mine voices of dissent is easily fragmented and destroyed.  We have become that kind of community and our vanishing personal rights and growing economic imbalance is just a sign of where that is taking us.

August 2005

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