“Fleas dream of buying themselves a dog, and nobodies dream of escaping poverty: that one magical day, good luck will suddenly rain down on them – will rain down in buckets. But good luck doesn’t rain down, yesterday, today, tomorrow or ever. Good luck doesn’t even fall in a fine drizzle, no matter how hard the nobodies summon it, even if their left hand is tickling, or if they begin the new day on their right foot, or start the New Year with a change of brooms. The nobodies: nobody’s children, owners of nothing. The nobodies: the no-ones, the nobodied, running like rabbits, dying through life, screwed every which way. Who are not, but could be. Who don’t speak languages, but dialects. Who don’t have religions, but superstitions. Who don’t create art, but handicrafts. Who don’t have culture, but folklore. Who are not human beings, but human resources. Who do not have faces, but arms. Who do not have names, but numbers. Who do not appear in the history of the world, but in the crime reports of the local paper. The nobodies, who are not worth the bullet that kills them.”
– Eduardo Galeano, “The Nobodies”
There are three known social classes recognized in most countries – the upper, the middle, and the lower. These are broken down further, but that is not important in this narrative.
The middle class, presumably, is made up of people who work hard and apply skill or education to their efforts. The lower class is made up of indigenous people, those unable to get a good education or applicable skills for any number of reasons, and those whom we might call handicapped or disadvantaged either physically, mentally, or both. These are generalizations, of course; and as always, there are exceptions.
The upper class, as I see it, consists of people who have been born into wealth. Yes, we see many who seem to have made investments that paid off very well and many who seem to have toiled their way up with one success after another; but in most cases, they inherited good financial bases from which to start. They had names of distinction, they had the economic foundations, and because of who they are and what they had to begin with, they knew others who facilitated their ascendance further. Again, these are generalizations, and the particulars are not important.
Those of the upper class have the wealth and the power; and in this, there is usually corruption, sometimes in the manner of greed and sometimes in the way of apathy. As seen from the lower levels, what it means to be successful is that one can do anything and can get anything one might want.
Some years ago, I witnessed a violation in which a motorist nearly hit a policeman who was directing traffic; simply said, he was supposed to have stopped and didn’t. Any of us might have been charged with a possible attempted assault or attempted manslaughter, especially in view of the fact that the assaulted one was a police officer.
But the driver was a member of the NFL, a Minnesota Viking; and he got off scot-free. Undoubtedly, he bought his way out; and what I found particularly disagreeable about it was that the public seemed to accept it unflinchingly.
To the lower class, there is little difference between the upper and the middle; they both have what it takes to own things and to live well. To them, this is the mark of success. To be a little more specific, those who have the means can own property, can consume anything they want, and they can have cars. Cars are part of the means by which they can maintain their positions, and by which they can express their status; cars are symbolic of social identity and general liberties that others don’t have.
Here in America, most of us get in our cars and are not aware that in our sub-conscious minds, the car becomes an extension of our personal power; most of us rarely think about what life would be like without them.
There has been much reference lately to the 99%; it is an analogy of the premise that the rich and powerful are few, and the rest of us are many and would like to count ourselves among them. And what we are hearing and seeing in this context has to do with one country, a country that is viewed by the rest of the world as rich in natural resources and human potential. To the rest of the world, it is implausible that one would find any poverty, any hunger, or any homelessness in this country. Yet, what many observe is need and desire in those who already possess the comforts and conveniences that others do not have.
Recently, it was reported by the media that a certain entertainer is shelling out millions of dollars to ensure a perfect venue in the birth of her child.
There exists in this country a shadow of unhappiness and unfulfillment. Those who have little or nothing obviously cannot be happy in their lot, and those who have wealth, property, and power consistently seem to want more.
There are presently entire countries on the planet that consist of mostly lower class populations; it comes down to millions of people. These people are aware of the differences in the way they live as compared to the way others live.
I don’t know if it still goes on, but I do know that in some of the poor neighborhoods of Mexico, if one poor family was able to acquire a television, they would charge a small amount for neighbors to come sit on the floor and indulge in a little entertainment. Anyone with a car would be seen as someone of importance, someone with clout.
It seems to be part of the human condition that people want what they don’t have. And those who have it seem to want more of it . . . bigger, faster, better.
There is already a great deal of concern by many about the availability of certain consumables, mainly food and fuel, let alone a place that one might call their own. We are told that if the population of the world continues to increase, the planet will not be able to provide enough food for everybody.
We have been warned that as we continue to drain its resources, certain geological changes are being caused to occur. As we continue to burn fossil fuels, very dramatic changes are being effected in the global climate that are resulting in catastrophic upheavals, such as earthquakes and tsunamis. These types of calamities have always existed; the gist here is that we are now the cause.
We are depleting the Earth of the very fuel we seek. We are cutting down more and more of the forests we depend on for the oxygen we breath. In doing so, we are also taking away the habitats of wild creatures; and when they turn up in our backyards, we kill them or imprison them. In some parts of the world, these creatures are human.
The industrial establishments we look to for so many things are polluting rivers, lakes, and oceans; that compromises the foods we harvest from them. And this doesn’t even address the pollution of the garbage we produce on a daily basis.
All of this is the effect of what the well-to-do continue to pursue – the more, the bigger, the faster, and the better. And they are, metaphorically, the 1%. The poor of the world, the 99%, are trying to catch up or are merely trying to survive.
If the problem of poverty is resolved somehow, if the poor people of the world find themselves with money to spend, what they will want to buy is what others already have. To begin with, they will all want more to eat.
Is it possible for everyone on the planet to have his or her own tract of land? If everyone owns a car, what will that do to the global warming? Is there really enough fuel for everybody? If everyone wants a home, what will happen to our forests? People will want the comforts and conveniences that others have had, such as TV’s and stereos, electric or gas stoves, washers and driers, heaters and air conditioners, and good lighting.
All the things now held by the 1%, which have been causing the depletions and disasters that I have mentioned, will now be multiplied by one hundred. If the planet is already strained under the 1%, is it really feasible that it could sustain the 99%?
Now for the really scary part. The people in power didn’t get there because they are ignorant; they’ve been aware of this imbalance. Are the rest of us so unenlightened that we can assume that those in power are not purposely trying to prevent the under-privileged from moving up on the economic ladder?
In the industrial nations, the emphasis is on capitalism and free enterprise. To be successful in this kind of environment, one cannot afford to be sensitive or sentimental. One succeeds at the expense of others.
The plights of third-world countries are not unknown to any of us. And it is fairly clear that if we are to have worldwide economic equality, in order for the world to sustain it, those of the middle and the upper classes will have to change their lifestyles.
It falls on the people of good moral conscience to initiate the necessary changes; these would be the people of religion. Whom else might we expect to give up part of what they have so that others can also have? And if they do not, people will continue to be poor, to live in discomfort, and to always be hungry. At this very moment, there are people dying of starvation.
None of this narrative is of my own observation. It is all based on a book I read once. I do not even remember its title anymore, although I can relate that it was written by the author cited in the introduction, Eduardo Galeano. And it was translated and made available to the rest of the world over ten years ago.