Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Plague of Locusts

"We have nothing to fear but fear itself"

This snippet is occasionally recalled, but not the rest of FDR's exhortation -
" So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory."

This was from his first inauguration speech, in March, 1933, when millions were unemployed and hungry.

Now, of course, our rulers prefer us to be in a state of nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, exactly because it paralyzes us, and makes us more malleable to their schemes. Instead of FDR, we have Hitler, invoking the homeland and terrorizing us into submission to an overwhelming police state.

Back in FDR's day, communists and socialists were on street corners and soapboxes, asking why the ruling class was allowed to shut down productive machinery, when people were willing to work, and goods were needed. Why was food being buried or destroyed, when people were hungry?What kind of crazy system would allow such waste?

So FDR addressed this in his speech-

"In such a spirit on my part and on yours we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunken to fantastic levels; taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone.

More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment."

And then he acknowledged the obvious, that which no President today would ever say-

"Yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply. Primarily this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men."

Ooh, did he say that? Snap!

He acknowledges that Nature and workers create wealth, not the "rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods".

Yet today we are told that the rulers create the wealth! And that we must grovel before them, and beg them for "jobs", no matter how destructive those jobs may be to Nature, or our fellow human beings.

FDR rejected the rulers calls for more money, for more credit, in 1932-

"True they have tried, but their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They know only the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

The money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilization. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of the restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit."

"Faced by failure of credit they have proposed only the lending of more money". Sound familiar? This would be the Bush/Obama/Geitner plan for prosperity - borrow more money to "get the economy growing again".

Growing? There are limits to the bounty that Nature can provide, and there are 4,000,000,000 more people on the planet than there were in 1933. Unlimited growth on a small planet is clearly impossible to rational people. Like the unlimited growth of cancer, unrestrained growth will kill its host, our Mother Earth.

What is FDR talking about, there are values more noble than mere monetary profit? What kind of commie hippie was he? No wonder the Right hates him so-

"Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy and moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men."

Now he's talking about "work", instead of "jobs", implying that WHAT a person does is as important as just getting a paycheck.

"Recognition of the falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live."

Now he's saying that the rich, as well as the poor, must have ethics! Can you imagine a President today saying such outlandish things?

"Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. This is no unsolvable problem if we face it wisely and courageously. It can be accomplished in part by direct recruiting by the Government itself, treating the task as we would treat the emergency of a war, but at the same time, through this employment, accomplishing greatly needed projects to stimulate and reorganize the use of our natural resources."

Again, he refers to "work", instead of "jobs". What is the difference?

"Work" implies that something of value will be done, that something of value will be created.

"Jobs" simply implies people will do anything for money, whether it be blowing up mountains for coal, or blowing up buildings and people in other countries, or building the bombs to drop on those buildings and people, or locking people in cages and guarding them, or building a vast repressive "Homeland Security" apparatus, and giving people badges, so that they can badger everyone else, or any of the other "jobs" that people now fight to get.


"Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. "

What needed to be done? The Dust Bowl, caused by plowing up prairies, was fought by sending men to plant trees. Millions of people were given electricity by the REA. The National Parks were improved. My Dad was in the CCC, and fought forest fires with a gunny sack. I grew up crossing a bridge everyday in LA, built by the WPA. Here in southern Illinois, the Shawnee National Forest was expanded and a beautiful lodge was built, which still stands.

Writers, photographers and artists were paid to produce plays, photos and art! The last remaining slaves were interviewed for posterity.

And for the victims of capitalism, unemployment insurance, workman's comp, and Social Security, all under attack now, instead of being strengthened.

And what about now? What do we need, besides help for the victims?

We need trees planted, to capture carbon and water, and to stop erosion of topsoil. We need art and plays. We need new sources of electricity. We need our houses retrofitted to save energy. We need our children to be educated. We need public transportation. We need safe and healthy food.

We need to put our money and our people to work providing for our needs!

Why are we spending on war, oppression, road widening and bank bailouts? Only a people reduced to begging for jobs, instead of demanding work for our common good, would assent to such a travesty.


Mike B) said...

Well argued, Wage. Money is the symbol of the wealth we create. We're ENTITLED to all we create. Great point about Nature and labour power being the only sources of wealth, not the capos.

engineer said...

Like they say, no profit in what's good for the earth.

Unbelievable that people can still have instant electrical power failure! Pump liquid fossil stuff into a tank on the go cart! Endless.

Work done by machines has steadily replaced that done by hand, while the number of human animals increases.

So the one man - one job thing is gone and humans exist in spiritless camps or some retreat is made in wealth compression. A good model is "public utilities" (gone in the 50's), where there was a power company and phone company in every town, along with the redundancy in clerks and company presidents. But what is the point of it all, for humans, if not that redundancy?

"What is needed is education".

All philosophy. "What really is terror?" "Should Abe be glorified over the citizens killing each other for the wealth of the industrialists. Why not draw the line on the ground and exist on your respective sides. These lines come and go." "Are USans really so much better than the rest such as to call for arrogance? Why?"

No more flag pumping! No more "your can take that to the bank".

annie said...

Well said. I can't tell you how disappointed I have been in Obama since the very beginning. I thought he was a man of integrity and it turned out not to be. I hoped for another FDR but we have another Bush in office.

Skribisto said...

This is a good analysis of FDR's speech.

We must not forgot WHY FDR did as he did; he feared the socialists, and he feared the mass of working people aligning themselves against FDR's political clique and expelling them from power--and from history.

What we have in Obama is an FDR in words, but not deeds. Obama road to office on a genuine progressive movement, real grassroots action got him elected.

But once in office, the man who would represent the majority of working Americans who demanded socialized healthcare, expanded education, and more quality work got instead, like annie pointed out, another Bush.

FDRs historical roll was to preserve capitalism for another few years, and he did so by plastering over the problems that spring forth naturally from capitalism's very foundation.

Obama is doing the same thing, but in a country devoid of class consciousness, he only has to present the facade of change (he is a brand, suited to the modern lifestyle consumerism where you buy what you buy to state your identity, not to fulfill a need except maybe to place an emotional band-aid over the psychic bullet wound of alienation) to become popular and defended by liberals even today, while unions and other representatives of the oppressed and exploited have been denouncing obama in protest (LGBTQ activists and the anti-war movement) and votes of no confidence (in the case of teacher's unions recently).

wagelaborer said...

Yeah, I pointed that out in the fourth paragraph, that when a class conscious working class starts asking why they put up with going without in the midst of plenty, the capitalist class will give a little to keep a lot.

Now, with the perfection of mass brainwashing, and the demonization of class based politics, they get away with murder. Mass murder.

Mətušélaḥ said...

Hi Wage,

I want to commend you on your blog. I've always enjoyed reading your comments on JHK's site. I've added your blog to my Google Reader RSS subscriptions. Looking forward to reading more.


Pangolin said...

The presumptive premise has been that if you were "presentable" and could speak, read and write decent english you would always have a job in america. We now know that to be false.

Now you have to have a personal history that can escape the nitpicking scrutiny of instant internet search engines and data-mining companies.

The presumption that americans could get a "fair go" at middle class prosperity has about as much legitimacy as the games of chance at the county fair. Sure, somebody can throw a basketball through a hoop that's only 2 cm wider than the ball but most can't.

It's a lie. We've been sold out by both parties and what's left is to present our case in the streets.