America’s Extreme Make-over
These are exciting though scary revolutionary times, akin to the constant acrimony in the fourth-century BC polis, mid-nineteenth century revolutionary Europe, or — perhaps in a geriatric replay — the 1960s. This is an era when the fundamental assumptions of the individual and the state are now being redefined, albeit in a weird, high-tech, globalized landscape.
Radical But Well Off
A word of caution: we are not talking about hoi polloi versus hoi oligoi, or the commune on the barricades fighting the estate owners. No, not this time around.
Instead, the present attempt to remake America is the effort of the liberal well-to-do — highly educated at mostly private universities, nursed on three decades of postmodern education, either with inherited wealth or earning top salaries, lifestyles of privilege indistinguishable from those they decry as selfish, and immune from the dictates they impose on others.
Such are basically the profiles of the Obama cabinet and sub-cabinet, the pillars of liberalism in the Congress and state legislatures, the public intellectuals in the universities and foundations, the arts crowd, and the Hollywood elite. Let us be clear about that.
The Distant Poor
They are all battling on behalf of “them,” the poorer half of America, currently in need of some sort of housing, education, food, or legal subsidy, whom the above mentioned elite, in the way they live, send their children to school, socialize, and vacation so studiously avoid. (The New York Times owners are likely to follow the cut-throat business practices of Wall Street, live in the most refined areas of New York, and assume privileges indistinguishable from other CEOs; the difference is that they so visibly care about those they never see or seek out).
Note well the term “poor.” These are not Dickensian or Joads poor, but largely Americans who by the standards of the 1940s would be considered lucky. Partly because of globalized Chinese consumer goods, and partly redistributive practices of a half-century, our current “underclass” has access to clothes, electronics, entertainment, apartments, cell phones, transportation, etc., undreamed of by the middle class of the recent past. I live in one of the poorest areas of one of the poorest counties in a bankrupt state; and those I see poor are not like those I saw 40 years ago in the same locale.
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