Tuesday, April 3, 2012

So much for the "L" word.


My  Peace Corps friend Jud, whose Russian language skills were limited but surpassed my own, has recommended the book Death of the Liberal Class by Chris Hedges.

I ran to the library to get it, and it’s now sitting next to my bed. Jud warned me it was rather depressing reading, and he was right.  I’m just into the book, and I’m not sure I want to go on.  “Hedges paints a detailed picture of how money, corporate power, and a go-a-long to get-a-long attitude is doing us in.” 

Fair warning.  The book could be called the “death of the American dream.”   Here’s an excerpt:

“In a traditional democracy, the liberal class functions as a safety value.  It makes piecemeal and incremental reform possible.  It offers hope for change and proposes graduate steps toward greater equality.  It endows the state and the mechanisms of power with virtue.  It also serves as an attack dog that discredits radical social movements, making the  liberal class a useful component within the power elite.

But the assault by the corporate tsate on the democratic state has claimed the liberal class as one of its victims.  Corporate power forgot that the liberal class, when  it functions, gives legitimacy to the power elite.  And reducing the liberal class to courtiers or mandarins, who have nothing to offer but empty rhetoric, shuts off this safety value and forces discontent to find other outlets that often end in violence. 

The inability of the liberal class to acknowledge that corporations have wrested power from the hands of citizens, that the Constitution and  its guarantees of personal liberty have become irrelevant, and that the proper consent of the governed is meaningless, has left us speaking and acting in ways that no longer square with reality.  It has lent its voice to hollow acts of political theater, and the pretense that democratic debate and choice continues to exist.

The liberal class refuses to recognize the obvious because it does not want to lose its comfortable and often well-paid perch.....In elite schools such as Princeton, professors can earn $180,000 a year, and enjoy tax-exempt status as long as they refrain from overt political critiques.  Labor leaders make lavish salarres and are considered junior partners within corporate capitalism as long as they do not speak in the language of class struggle.  Politicians, like generals, are loyal to the demands of the corporate state in power and retire to become millionaires as lobbyists or corporate managers.  Artists who use their talents to foster myth and illusions that bombard our society live comfortably in the Hollywood Hills.” 

What a rant.  But it’s just the beginning.  Hedges also rages against the Democratic party itself. “The worst offender,” he calls it.  He feels the Democratic party “has consciously sold out the working class,” initiated attacks on welfare for the poor, refuses to help the millions who have lost their homes and their savings.  “The liberal class has become a useless and despised appendage of corporate power.” 

I must say, Loren, ever the progressive against patriarchy, would smile at this, and some of it resonates with me, too.  For one thing, I am among the millions of Americans who are losing their homes to the disastrous housing market in Florida and elsewhere. 

”We trust our savings and our investments to a financial system run by speculators and thieves,”  Hedges laments.  Shades of Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, and all the others who got government bail outs but now refuse to do anything but go after more profit.   

I bought my condo for $172,000, put $40,000 down, and now cannot sell it for more than $50,000. Yep, $50,000.  All I can get.  I still owe about $128,000 on the mortgage, which I’ve been paying on steadily since 2004. I’m in the process of a short-sale, and now I’m being harassed to death by the bank.  I won't see that $40,000 again either. My realtor in St. Petersburg thinks it just the bank needing information.  I have sent the same information over and over and over, going on 6 months.  I sent bank statements 4 times.  I got threatening emails in San Miguel.  I get emails at 6:40 pm on a Friday warning me to send tons more information within 48 hours or risk having to start the process of the short sale all over again.  If this isn’t harassment I don’t know what is.  

I am a retired woman living on a fixed income, a returned PCV, and I am being hounded to death because I want to unload a property that continues to go down in value.  Can I come up with $3000 at closing. Nope, unless I empty my savings.  Okay, we  need more information.  Next step is foreclosure, I guess.  Just walk away, something that goes against my grain. 

So I am not hopeful. And reading Hedges makes me feel worse.  The news is equally depressing: the useless costly wars abroad, the disturbing violence at home, the Supreme Court undoing anything positive, the lies and distortions of another presidential campaign.   

I’m going back to the library to get some Tony Hillerman and other mysteries.  They are, at least, a respite from disillusionment.   Also, I'm busy with this short-sale.  I have to send more tax and social security information to the bank to prove I’m retired.  “But I sent the SS information and the 1099 with my 2011 income tax.”  Not enough.  ”We need the social security award letter.”  Gotta go.   
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