The Burdens We Bear
Previous Next Random Photo
The Burdens We Bear • Posted: Jan 09, 2015 17:09:33Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

For many years I lived in Chicago. As a young man, as a married man, as a father. By day, the city is a blur of activity, lives intertwined in struggle, accommodation, invention, tiny triumphs, intermittent solace, and soul draining frustration. But by night, most everyone retires to home base, licking wounds, complaining, berating, planning anew, enjoying brief moments of escape, and remembering, remembering why it seems necessary to do it all again on morrow.

It's that "why it seems necessary" part that burdens so many of us. Daily occupation is not a merry game for us, a game of ever widening horizons as ever increasing profits roll in. No, on the contrary. It's more like 90% of every ounce of somehow inspired energy we can muster has been sucked from us to someone else's advantage. And that precious little 10% left over is all we have to sustain us and build our dreams upon. And 10% is just not enough, no matter how we scrimp and save or try to reinvest.

Consider something. 30 years ago, a very modest city house like the one pictured above in a not so prestigious neighborhood would have sold for maybe $75000. And a very reasonable mortgage rate at the time was 8%. Paid down by 2015, the total bill for principle and interest would have been $198000, more than twice the original price of the home. And what would the same house sell for today? Maybe $100000, amounting to a loss of $98000. You see what I mean about having the life sucked out of you to someone else's advantage? It doesn't seem right, does it? But that's the way our economic system is set up to work right now. It offers huge advantages to a few, while heavily burdening and exploiting the rest of us, burdening us unto our graves, with very little to show for all our earnest efforts.

Labor unions, once upon a time, broke the cycle of "haves" endlessly exploiting the "have nots". Profits from worker's collective labors were more equitably shared than they were before, or are now, now that labor unions are being legislated out of existence and conveniently erased from our consciousness. The fact is, very few of today's workers are unionized. And sadly, very few of today's workers even understand what unions are meant to do, have done, or could do again.

That's not to say that labor unions, as institutions, didn't have their problems. Some suffered from corrupt leadership. Funds collected were at times pilfered. And bargaining positions were often extremely short-sighted. For instance, while unions achieved the 40-hour work week, extra pay for over-time, paid holidays and vacations, progressive discipline, safer working conditions, health insurance, and substantial pay increases, labor unions have never, with few exceptions, gone on strike for higher quality products and services, for a more transparent and participatory form of management, or for a more environmentally sustainable and socially responsible supply chain. One notable exception was the air-traffic controllers, who went on strike in the early 1980's because they felt the current system they manned was unsafe for air-travelers. President Ronald Reagan, at the time, summarily fired them, implementing his anti-union, smaller government, trickle-down, privatization policies, policies that led us directly to a less effective government, the great recession, and an historically unprecedented concentration of wealth within a very tiny portion of our population. And those same policies still inform the obstructionist, anti-government, anti-regulation, social-darwinian, climate change doubting, Bible thumping, political rhetoric we hear today from the political right.

A newly elected Congress is today in the process of taking control of government here in the U.S. In a very real sense, it is a self-anointed, pigheadedly arrogant, self-servingly ignorant, monied aristocracy that has taken the people's government from our hands. Mostly because, in our distracted, frustrated, sometimes negligent, confusion, we've let them. Very soon. we will see that these newest managers of our government do not have our interests at heart, or in mind, but purely their own. And we, the common folk, will be left paying the bill with absolutely nothing to show for our payments. Such is the ever increasing burden we now must bear.

When, I ask, will the negligent distracted blindness be lifted from our eyes? When will we see what must be done by no one other than by ourselves? When will we shed the curtains and walls that have been erected to shield us from our brethren, keep us from knowing them, seeing they are as one with us, knowing that they too understand that something must be done, seeing that they are full of knowledge and ideas that can only add to what we know and understand, seeing that they too are willing to stand, discuss, shout, intelligently debate, and act for meaningful substantive equitable change that benefits the many, instead of just a greed-blinded, selfish, power-hungry few?

Monday, January 28th, 2013
Villa Park