There is something eerie and anachronistic about visiting the Post Office these days. The buildings in which this mighty and important institution are housed retain an impressive facade, or remain in a central and important location within our communities. However the inner workings of this essential government service is tenuous at best and doomed at worst. What makes this situation even more depressing is that this destruction was part of a conscious choice by a segment of this country that does not need the government, and was enabled by an electorate that was simply fooled into believing that the “government is the problem”.
Last year during one of John Boehner’s campaigns to hold the entire country hostage by threatening a government shutdown we were treated to this remarkably stupid exchange on the Fox News;
This came only five years after this wonderful demonstration of what happens when the Federal Government decides to let the market take care of an essential government function:
But beyond the ludicrous notion that people would not be “hurt one bit” by the Federal Government disappearing over an inane budget debate, this way of thinking exposed (for a moment) the essential truth about modern American conservatism. In today’s world the powerful and elite feel independent and “self sufficient” enough to deny the need of any form of government, especially one where lower classes of people might have a say in how society is run. Today’s interconnected fast paced society has finally allowed rich people to feel powerful as god himself, albeit one with a nemesis in democracy as a concept. This realization has necessitated the outright destruction of all institutions and services available to citizens in this country, and anyone who opposes this campaign is a dirty fucking socialist.
Today we have conservative state governments that are purposefully annihilating the public sector under the farce of “budget concerns”. Beyond the insane (and false) idea that austerity somehow betters an economy, the real purpose behind firing teachers, police officers, or clerks is to prove the conservative theory that a non-profit, service based function of society is essentially flawed or simply “does not work”. Once a government service is “demonstrated” to be inefficient and terrible (through starving its ability to properly function) that same service can be privatized and literally handed over to a member of the elite in order to serve that segment of society without any democratic control. Once privatization occurs, the draw down will of course continue to the point where people are not receiving any assistance whatsoever, so they start to believe that no service exists at all. Then the peasant class goes quiet and refuses to challenge those in power.
For those who have never had to collect an unemployment check, fill out a food stamp application, or who simply had college paid for in full, I say congratulations (on your outrageous fortune). But to the other 99.9% of us who have had to ask for a little help in order to make our way in the world there is no excuse for the outright disparaging attitude that we have all exhibited towards public sector workers over the last thirty years. Not only is this treatment insulting and unfair, it is also hypocritical as these institutions are quite literally the embodiment of democratic choice and a functioning society. In other words, when you are hating on the DMV you are quite literally denigrating America itself.
The easiest analogy to make here is to point to the almost universal admiration for our armed forces, the brave 1% of this country that now volunteers to work for the benefit of society. There was a day when supporting the military as a concept was actually controversial, and servicemen and women were subjected to unfair treatment (particularly after the Vietnam conflict). However today the horrors of war and the personal sacrifices that usually accompany a military conflict (like the raising of taxes) are totally removed from most peoples lives, leaving a society that is incredibly quick to stand up and clap for a soldier returning from war but unable to conceptualize or empathize with this individual commitment to citizenship. Today’s modern person cannot imagine what it is like to work for the benefit of the rest society as this requirement is so (purposefully) rare, making it inconceivable to cut benefits to members of our Armed Forces. Unfortunately that same respect is not granted for the millions of those working in the rest of the public sector, as their diminutive benefits are increasingly portrayed as “greedy”. The elite has successfully created the understanding that unless you are willing to die in the service of the country (or Haliburton), your government job is pointless.
I have always wanted to work for the government or for society as large. I am agnostic in my religious beliefs, but I personally find it objectionable or immoral to work for personal profit or wealth at the expense of someone else’s welfare. Since Reagan however, individual success at any cost has been the one shared value within this country, allowing people to (frankly) act like completely greedy assholes to each other in the name of some half baked religious like devotion to Objectivism. The result behind adopting this philosophy has been a record percentage of poor people, accompanied by historic levels of distrust and paranoia between the various segments of society. Basically in one generation our government by and of the people has been undermined by strong commitment to place ones own narrow interests above the rest, and goddamn the consequences.
We live in a unique and historic democratic society buttressed by strong (and supposedly universal) individual freedoms. For over 200 years we have demonstrated to the rest of the world the utopian belief that a government can function and succeed when power is shared by the entire everyone society, not just given to elite or through interpreting divine intervention. We created the modern concept of a citizen. This creation however, is only protected by an incentivized and nationalistic understanding that we as individuals are ultimately responsible for the welfare of every citizen, especially those who have not “succeeded” as much as we supposed have. At the end of the day the elite will always be able to take care of themselves. They have the resources to hire an army to protect their goods, employ people who will make their food and take care of their children, and enough wealth to make sure that they die in peace. Our only way to ensure an analogous future for ourselves is through our numbers.
The 99% today has lost its wealth, and only retains that most essential American right to decide what our government does. However the government purposefully being deconstructed by the plutocrats of this country via their enablers within the halls of power. Now our right to speak, vote, or protest are all at risk, meaning that the essential freedom to exist as a citizen is being eliminated. Fight back. Don’t let anyone tell you that public schools, social security, or a minimum wage are “luxuries” of a bygone era, rather they all are essential human rights in a democratic society. Simply put, when someone attacks the public sector, they are attacking you.