Last modified: 7:58 AM Saturday, 14 January 2017

Of incongruities and illusion

What follows comprises two comments I composed for the page. The first is posted; the second I could not post because of the site’s 1,000-character comment limit, which I learned of after typing about 3,300 characters.

Ian's Pizza blackboard

Ian’s Pizza blackboard, Madison, Wisconsin.
[ Image Source ]

The comment that was posted:

On the whole, this is an excellent story, but I do find one puzzling incongruity: Although I know from other sources that Egyptian protesters were among the pizza donors, I would not be able to confirm that using the image presented atop this story. Unless my eyes are failing, the word “Egypt” doesn’t appear on that blackboard.

The one that wasn’t:

[Commenter] RazorArrow is absolutely correct in one observation: The mainstream (corporate-owned and advertising-dependent) media do seek to divide us. The Romans called this tactic “divide et impera” (“divide and rule”), and it works as well in our day as in Octavian’s.

But today’s propagandist in newsman’s clothing can wield the same insidious psychological weapons as the advertisers on Madison Avenue who have become wizards in the creative use of the techniques of public relations, as developed by Edward Bernays and incalculably refined since his time, that corporations may free themselves from the strictures of the business adage “find a need and fill it” by instead manufacturing a “need” and filling it.

By such means, the ruling elite — as led by such luminaries as the brothers Koch, who are now known to be behind the anti-worker initiatives in Wisconsin — has hoodwinked tens of millions of Americans in low-paid, unbenefited, non-union jobs in the (corporate) private sector into resenting public-sector workers who have managed to survive all the pressures of propaganda, lobbying, legislation and increasingly conservative court decisions of the past three decades with their unions essentially intact. More astonishingly, these same Americans — in a country that has always prided itself on democratic ideals and a contempt for aristocracies — have been sedulously conditioned to kiss the shoes of the CEOs (now reported to make 976 times as much as their average employees) whose machinations have destroyed their ability to get a decent job and make their way into the now imploding middle class.

For all their talk of history and the Constitution, most of these Americans know little about either. As with far too many churchgoing “Christians,” they have not read their sacred text for themselves, and know of it only what their pastor, pundit or politician has chosen to quote. Nor do they trouble to ask about the reasons for his selectiveness.

I offer a challenge to all who would understand history from multiple perspectives; not solely the history of “great men,” the rich and powerful of their time, but also that of the rest of us: Read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.

In my opinion, Zinn chose one thing poorly: his title. The book really should be called something like U.S. History in Context, for context is precisely what is missing from both conventional history textbooks and the version of history that a corporate media environment has made the illusive subtext for a manufactured right-wing populism.

Read this book, and you will begin to appreciate just how much working men and women — and, sadly, children — of the past gave up for posterity. They endured arrest, dispossession, homelessness, beatings, humiliation, calumnious reporting and the frequent attacks of Pinkerton strikebreakers and police or military units, and often lost their lives. They did this not with any cheering illusion of imminent prosperity, but with resolve, fortitude and above all patience; for they knew that the concessions they wrested from a greedy and contemptuous mercantile aristocracy would accrue not to them, but to future generations.

What workers in the private sector still have by way of benefits, decent wages and safe working conditions was all won through the pain endured by their predecessors in their efforts to organize in the face of relentless opposition. What they have lost, in all those areas and more, they have lost because the unions their predecessors struggled so hard to build are no more — murdered by those who gained most from their demise, and forgotten or reviled by those whose welfare would have been all their care had they lived.

Originally published as a review of a good.is article on the Wisconsin labor dispute and the contribution to the protesters of pizza ordered by Egyptian protesters.

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