Sunday, April 20, 2014

Are You a Conservative?

In a conversation recently, someone whom I had just meet asked me if I was a conservative. Nothing unusual about that I suppose, especially considering this chance meeting was at a political event with some 3500 presumably likeminded individuals. Naturally, rather than give the perfunctory response, I paused and asked exactly what they meant by the term "conservative"? If it was intended to mean whether I was in favor of "conserving" our present political regime or our present form of government, then my answer was a decidedly "no". There was nothing about the present occupant of the White House or his retinue that I was especially proud of, nor could I think of anything about the current direction our government was taking that especially excited me. I mean, was I a supporter of our current gerrymandering system which has, in effect, perfected a professional political class, created for the benefit of a political party that I may or may not support, help me? And if I happened to be an opponent of that individual; their policies, or that of their political party, it meant that I, in effect, was unrepresented for the duration of their term, which could be for near perpetuity. Obviously, the answer was nope, I don't.

Well then, did I want to preserve a system which has created a surveillance system akin to a police state; one where I am constantly monitored, recorded, or tracked "for my own good"? Certainly not, and it doesn't stop there. It extends to a commercial world where every key stoke, every selection, every site I visit, every purchase---from books to dinner---goes somewhere; to keep track of my personal preferences without my permission, then again, I have to say no. My personal life is just that---my personal life. What I like today, I may not like tomorrow. There's no need to keep track of it or send me a reminder. And while I'm at, who I call a friend or significant other is no body's business either. Along the same vein, what about a government that wants to monitor what say or write (especially about my government, and of course, assuming I'm not threatening to punch someone in the nose); or try to curtail my right to own a gun or my choice, especially when I'm a veteran and trained in its care and usage? What I decide to do with it is pretty much my business. Or what if I want to get together with some friends? Once again, that's my business too. Government also has no right kicking in my door without a warrant, or deny me the right to know the charges, or provide me with either the opportunity to face, and I mean face, my accusers or to speedy trial. None of this sneaking around garbage. And why do I "think" I have these "rights"? Because the Founders of this country said so, and they enshrined it in the Bill of Rights, which was attached to a thing called a Constitution; neither one of which does it appear that those elected to represent us are familiar.

But, perhaps that's not entirely true since these same people seem to believe that artificial entities called "corporations" have many of the very same rights that I, as a person, do. In fact, they believe corporations actually have more rights than I do. Case in point: freedom of speech. It seems that some of these...ahem..."honorable" men and women think that money and the free spending of such is one and the same as free speech. Well, I don't quite see it that way, but here it goes. You see, by giving money to the person, party, or cause of your choice is the same as expressing your personal preference, ie: "free speech". However, this would imply that the poor have less to "freedom" than someone who is middle class. And, to give the appearance at least of some measure of equality, everyone is capped in the amount they give (assuming the poor can scrape enough money together to donate). Well, while that sucked even in theory, two recent misrulings by the US Supreme Court (FEC v Citizens United and FEC v McCutchins), said that while you and I are still limited in our "free speech", corporations weren't. They can give what they want. In effect, we got snubbed and the very rich get to openly buy elections. Do I want to conserve this kind of mentality? Absolutely not!

Thankfully, we've wised up some. We've learned to see wars or "conflicts" for what they are; not spreading democracy or protecting America, but acquiring or securing assets and making certain companies and their stockholders very rich at the cost of the lives of mostly ordinary men and women who likely were otherwise unable to find a job in an artificially depressed economic market. Did anyone really believe that invading Kuwait was anything more than liberating oilfields? Human rights were the cover story to get the populace to go along. Same was true with Iraq, and has been true with efforts to become engaged in places like Libya, Syria, and the Ukraine, or for that matter, overthrowing duly elected governments in Latin America or Southeast Asia because big business didn't like their politics. We send billions in aid overseas to countries who hate us, while we have thousands here without enought to eat. Nothing about this concept I want to save. But on the other hand, despite demands made loud and clear, nothing has been done to secure our southern border. We have some 12 million illegal immigrants in this country. ICE and border patrol agents are told to do nothing; do not engage; do not enforce existing immigration laws. Not even states are allowed to enforce existing immigration laws. Employers of illegal immigrants don't even rate a hand smacking. Unions are, contrary to common sense, pushing for amnesty alongside big business. So what gives?

Simple economics really. More labor, more competition for the few jobs out there. That drives down wages and cuts benefits. Businesses get to pick and choose from the available talent, which they can pick up for less. Unions, who are cash/members strapped, are hoping to pick up workers and thus, more union dues to keep them afloat. All this also helps to keep and maintain a docile workforce---everyone is scared of losing their jobs by rocking the boat. Meanwhile, those not working continue to use taxpayers based services which are already starting to fail. The wealthy? Don't worry about them. The disparity between the top 1% and everyone else is greater than it's ever been and they're not affected by the drain on the system. In fact, they are safe and secure behind gated communities, so crime really isn't much of problem, and neither is the price of meat, eggs, bread, or gas. So, from their perspective, all is well, and if it isn't, they have the offending policies changed. Nope, this isn't a system I want to conserve.

We asked to reformed healthcare to one that most Americans could afford, especially the poor. What we got was a system no one wants and no one can afford. We demanded better schools, and we got a dumbed down curriculum and no discipline. And when the economy tanked because of poor monetary policy, those who promoted it; encouraged it; and got slap happy rich off of it, were the ones who were bailed out with taxpayer money---they were "too big to fail" despite the public's outcry---while the average working class family lost everything. They were too poor to save I guess. Frankly, I can't see anything worth keeping here either. So, where does that leave us?

We are nothing more than liabilities on a balance sheet---to enhance the bottom line and then to be discarded. We are no longer proud citizens, but consumers whose loyalties are measured by market share and brand names, not personal sacrifice. I guess we should count ourselves lucky that we aren't forced to wear barcodes with expiration dates, at least not yet anyway. We are told what we should want; how we should look; what we should think and how we should act, all while amassing massive debt to the tune of advertising pipers to keep up with the imaginary Jones. Mediocrity, especially in education, has become the acceptable. And to keep people from questioning the corporate-government duopoly, we're given the illusion of choice through two "competing" political parties while the serious decisions are made elsewhere, and if that fails, we're preoccupied with bread and circuses, only now they're video games, TV shows, and fashion magazines. Am I a conservative? Well, if that means do I want to conserve or protect any of this, the answer is an emphatic no.

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