Everybody’s Crying Mercy
February 4, 2011
I just picked up an Elvis Costello CD (Kojak Variety). It’s a collection of covers of R&B, jazz and rock tunes, one of which I’d forgotten: Mose Allison’s “Everybody’s Crying Mercy,” which is an apt evocation of the depth of hypocrisy to which our politics has sunk. It could be our national anthem.
“I can’t believe the things I’ve seen,” it cries.
“I wonder about some things I’ve heard.
Everybody’s crying mercy
when they don’t know the meaning of the word.
“A bad enough situation
is sure enough getting worse,” it says
“Everybody’s crying justice
just as long as there’s business first.
“People running round in circles,” it moans.
“I don’t know what we’re headed for.
Everybody’s crying peace on earth
just as soon as we win this war.”
If that’s not an on-point summation our situation, I’m an empty hat. Sure, this is nothing new, but with the Internet and 24/7 news, it’s much more in our face. “So it goes,” Kurt Vonnegut sardonically remarked after he’d chronicled some new (or mundane) atrocity perpetrated yet again by fellow humans. As a prisoner-of-war in WW II, Vonnegut survived the allied fire-bombing of Dresden, Germany an experience that marked him for life. The world view that carried him forward after seeing such vast and senseless slaughter colored his novels from “Slaughterhouse Five” in 1969 to “Armageddon in Retrospect” in 2008.
But that was then and this is now. Today we run wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or wherever else the techno/arms industry can make a buck. But if we expect any mainstream politicians to actually wind-down the mayhem most of us loathe we’re seriously in need of a reality check.
President Obama (bless his heart) wants us to be civil with each other. Our politicians, however, are bound to talk out of both sides of their mouths to appease our national sense of moral superiority and the financial clout of the business sector. If they don’t, we show them the door. We call them socialists. We challenge their citizenship. We call them anti-American, irreligious, alien. You name it, we and our plutocratic superstructure have ways of dealing with such morally fussy outlaws (men and women who think the Constitution was not written for the tranquility of corporations, but for blood and guts humans; Americans who believe God did not create Mobile or Monsanto in his image).
But this is exactly where we are. In 2010, the Supreme Court ratified its cynical ruling of 1886, which gave corporations the rights of natural persons in the eyes of the law. The ratification came in the form of the court’s January 2010 ruling in the Citizens United case, which said that corporations may give as much money as required to bribe a congressman or president. Be it a million or a billion, the sky’s the limit the Supreme Court said. Such a perversion of rationality, common sense and democracy could only occur if the court itself was in the pocket of the business oligarchy; or is it “plutonomy”? In fact, the Supreme Court (along with a huge chunk of Congress) appears to be essentially geared to satisfying the wishes of a concentrated ruling elite; not just an American elite but a global elite whose allegiance is not to nations but to corporations and (especially) their own self-interest.
“In a plutonomy,” they say, there are no nationally identifiable consumers. “There are rich consumers, few in number, but disproportionate in the gigantic slice of income and consumption they take,” and there are “the rest … the multitudinous many … accounting for surprisingly small bites of the pie.”
The misguided Tea Party (which this elite must love for its distracting talking points) has it right when it says government is the problem, but they’re right for the wrong reason. They complain that liberal government steals their wealth and redistributes it among the impoverished and the lazy. But that’s not what’s driving us to the poor house. Conservative government is taking our wealth and redistributing it to the rich through its collusion with them in cases such as United America, the deregulation of financial institutions and subsidies to the oil industry.
For every American’s buck that finds its way through government to the poor I’d bet 10 —nay! 100 times that ends up in the fortunes of those who have no allegiance to any democracy. Even free-market apologist Alan Greenspan admitted last August on “Meet The Press” that in the wake of the recession high-income individuals … and major corporations experienced a significant recovery while the rest of the economy, including small businesses and a very significant amount of the labor force is still struggling.
“What we’re seeing is not a single economy,” Greenspan said, “but fundamentally two separate types of economy, increasingly distinct and divergent.”
Long story short; money is not running downhill through government to the poor in the direction the saints prefer to see it flow. Against all that’s good and holy (and gravity), by means of theft-by-legislation and juducial activism, it’s moving in the other direction like a serpent slithering up the trunk of the tree of knowledge of good and (especially) evil.
Beat up on the poor, loathe the foreigner, castigate the socialist, under this money-grubbing regime you’ll be left with nothing but spent bags of Sleepy Time. Your Lemon Zinger days will be done.
for The Greenfield Recorder