Thursday, December 4, 2014

Facebook Discussion of Eric Garner's Death

This Facebook exchange was triggered by Jon Stewart's response to yet another death by police.
Click on the comments icon to see who said what, but what follows is the part I want to keep.
BA This just looks awful. But it's the big picture of a growing underclass of all races that portends a nasty future here.

JB  And in this instance we can't blame firearms. It's abundantly clear to me that a dangerous and growing trend to embrace authoritarian control is strong and growing. It is a military-style, chain-of-command, patriarchal, class-oriented social trend that reminds me of accounts I have read leading up to some of the most despicable chapters of human history. 

People everywhere have always responded to promises of a more abundant life and have been willing to die pursuing it, even when they don't really need more. I think it has more to do with control than material needs. In this case, a guy was selling cigarettes which is against the law. But in the aftermath of his death, there is little mention of the bizarre fact that it triggered an altercation with the police that cost him his life. The argument is not about cigarettes or the law. It is about control -- who has it, who doesn't and how much control is appropriate.

BA  On a more prosaic level it's the accurate perception that only the rich are prospering, everyone else is losing with no end in sight. This will not end well if the wealth is not spread by a more egalitarian system.

JB  That was where I was headed. The illusion is that "poor" doesn't mean the same everywhere. It's hard to determine poverty, for example, when portable phones and even broken down pieces of junk cars are part of the baseline -- when such things would be considered luxuries in other places. Then there's the phenomenon of "food insecurity" whis means some children haven't enough food at home and their only meaningful food supply is through school food programs. 

When I was in Korea years ago being fat was a sign of prosperity, but now obesity has become a global problem thanks to global distribution of junk foods. It's such a mixed picture, this rich-poor divide. That's why it's so important to distinguish between income and wealth -- two very different variables commonly spoken of interchangeably.

BA  "We didn't know we were poor..."

JB  And that's true, you know. I recall old people who lived on farms telling stories of the depression. They saw plenty of poverty, but they themselves had enough to eat and even share with others, as well as shelter and the means to keep it weatherproof. Doing without new clothes or indoor plumbing is not nearly as tough as not having enough to eat or a place to sleep.

During the Great Depression trains stopped for water would often lose coal from the loads being carried. Sometimes people would even climb up and toss coal out where it could be collected by hand and used for heat and cooking where that might be their only source of fuel. I've heard that story more than once from old people.

That's not a lot different from selling cigarettes in Staten Island.

BA  I remember a story about a family man in Ga. who owned a hardware store, maybe in Atlanta, at the beginning of the Depression. He hung on as long as he could, giving out credit to his impoverished customers until it was obvious it wasn't working. He sold the store and bought a farm in the country. Later his grown kids said the quote I posted above. They had a house, a garden, the big outdoors and plenty of love.

AS  My father got shot in the leg when he was eight years old and picking up pieces of coal that had fallen off a railroad car. The man who shot him worked for Southern Railway. No charges were filed on either side, as it was considered normal.

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