Look upon the city of New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast now,
and you see the true face of capitalism. Look upon the tens of thousands
of people who were abandoned, displaced, and then even disparaged by our government
and its media minions for being trapped there by poverty, age, youth, or disability.
They lived for days on end with no food, water, or shelter. They lived amidst
corpses and raw sewage, seeing the ill and elderly die with nothing but the
odd blanket or sheet with which to cover their bodies, watching babies being
born with only contaminated water in which to wash their tiny bodies, and being
promised that help would come tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, until tomorrow
never came for thousands.
What you see, in the majority of those people, is the productive labor
force that kept that city alive before Hurricane Katrina. You see the people
who rang up the sales of goods they could never, in their wildest dreams, afford,
who waited and bussed tables, cleaned houses, cared for the children of the
wealthy, and generally did all the work of a service industry that keeps a tourist
city alive. These are the people whose work produced the wealth of those who
were able to leave the city in safety. When, after days without food, water,
or adequate shelter, they attempted to appropriate the goods they had generated
the capital to produce, property abandoned by those whom they had supported
by their labor, they were shot at, vilified, and defined as criminals.
Yes, look at New Orleans, and you see the cold and cynical face of
capitalism. Our right-wing ruling class condemns the teaching of evolution,
because it seems to contradict the “Holy Bible” and the words of
Jesus Christ, in whom they profess to believe, but their brand of capitalism
embodies the most cruel and soulless application of Social Darwinism.
For whom does that process favorably select? It selects for the survival of
those who produce nothing of substance. It favors those who, by inclination
and aptitude, take from society, and from those whom they rule more than they
ever return. It selects favorably for those whose bottomless appetites, ruthless
will to power, and insatiable greed, threaten the survival of our entire planet.
I grew up in Texas, and have lived in the Southern United States all my life.
I immediately understood what the footage shown, and the reports of violence,
looting, and lawlessness were meant to communicate, and the effect they were
meant to have. Yes, the vast majority of faces I saw on the news coverage were
black, and although few in this country would openly admit to racism, I understood
very well the “spin” that the ruling class that controls the news
media intended to communicate, even subliminally.
The majority of the faces I saw on the streets of New Orleans were African
American. Their ancestors, as slaves, built this country, even as its original
inhabitants, Native Americans (whose only sin was not having a strict enough
immigration policy) were nearly eradicated by the divine imperative known as
But I did not see “black people (I know the word that many used, whether
they spoke it or not) out of control,” looting and lawless. I did not
see people undeserving of our compassion because they foolishly “chose”
not to flee to safety, or because they are somehow inferior in their sentience
No. Many of us saw ourselves -- working people of all races, who live
from week to week, month to month, often on far less than a living wage. We
saw ourselves, and our mothers and fathers and grandparents and helpless children,
abandoned by those who profit from our labor, but who return barely enough of
what we produce for us to afford shelter, medical care, and food.
I am not African American. Neither are most of my friends and coworkers. It
may then surprise our ruling class, of both parties, that we saw our own faces,
our own children, our own unburied, bloating, dead loved ones in the streets
of New Orleans.
It may surprise them that someone like me, a white woman with a college degree,
would see, in those thousands of stranded, desperate people, my sisters and
brothers, and that my heart would break and that I would be enraged. It has
obviously come as a shock to George W. Bush and his insulated cadre of neoconservative
imperialists that nearly everyone I know shares those feelings. We have spoken
by phone, communicated by email, talked in the break room where I work, in tears
and trembling with helpless outrage, over what appears to have been criminal
negligence approaching genocide.
We have known, at some level, for quite some time, that we are all
expendable to this government, this ruling class, the oligarchy that covets
our productivity, our taxes, and even the blood of our children for its wars
for profit. Yes, we have known this, but the images and reports from
New Orleans wrenched our guts and left us breathless with shock at this blatant
and ruthless demonstration of that fact.
The question we’ve asked among ourselves over the past week,
then, is “What more will it take?”
Yes, what more will it take for those of us who support the ruling
class in this country with our labor, our taxes, and even the lives of our children,
to say “No more!”
When I have spoken and written of a revolution of the working class
against those who live from the products of our work, and who rule us by propaganda,
lethal force, and murderous negligence, many have objected. Revolution is equated
with violence, and often for good reason. If the ruling class resists when the
people demand the power due them, and reasonable rewards for their labor, in
the form, at least, of living wages, it is in the nature of that ruling class
to resist with lethal force. Lethal force, in self-defense, then, has often,
historically, been the only recourse for those who would demand that the power
reside in the people.
Even now, those who did not leave New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina slammed
into the Gulf Coast are characterized as products of a “welfare state,”
and as people who depended upon the government to their own deadly detriment.
What the smug, right-wing pundits do not, or pretend not to understand, is the
fact that resources for evacuation were not available to tens of thousands in
that city. They do not understand what it means to work for the minimum wage,
or even for a few meagre dollars above it. A wage of $8/hour cannot pay rent
on safe living quarters, provide health insurance, provide adequate food for
a family of two or three, or pay for a vehicle, or even for the commercial public
transportation out of a city in the face of certain disaster.
The fact is that casualties have already been sustained in this class
war. The dead in New Orleans are only the most dramatic, and most recent, of
those casualties. We cannot doubt that there will be more natural disasters,
for which our government, if it continues in its imperial wars for corporate
profit, will still be unprepared. And in the guise of a “war on terror,”
there will surely be more war, more resources diverted from the protection our
own people, even though we pay our taxes, in faith, for that protection.
This is not the last assault upon us. It is also not the last in which
the casualties will be “low-balled,” by the corporate media, in
which the dead and dying will be held accountable, and their lives regarded
as necessary “culling” in the scheme of global corporate Social
Darwinism. There will be more. There are, in fact, more being inflicted
on a daily basis - silently, without media attention. The shameful infant mortality
rate in this country. The incidence of homelessness. The fact that racism is
one of the several “elephants under the carpet” that can then be
used to divide working people along class lines, gender and race lines, and
dissolve the solidarity against the ruling class that would be essential to
mounting resistance toward those who practically deny us even the privilege
of existence, while profiting off our labor.
It is time, sisters and brothers, for a revolution. How can we not
look at the city of New Orleans and see that it is time for those of us who
work and support the Bush administration, the Democrats who play polite political
games with them for a chance at the same hegemony they now exercise, for us
to band together and demand a new nation, an new government. How can we not
understand that we are expendable? That we are merely resources that represent
the capital they covet, and for which they produce nothing, but demand everything
New Orleans is now up for grabs by the corporate empire, and Halliburton
has been one of the first to start counting its money before the people of that
city can even begin to count their dead.
How much more do we have to suffer? How many lives? How many lies?
Give me a number. Please. Give me a number.
Tell me, please, how many lives do we, the working people of this country,
have to give up. How many lives, in countries throughout the world,
will it take?
One life is precious beyond accounting, but we live in a culture in which numbers
of lives apparently define our response, and can be manipulated by the news
media and government and corporate entities. However many figures they present
to us is simply too many for me, and for many others, who know exactly why those
people are dead, and then there are the numbers of the displaced, who have lost
everything - hundreds of thousands. Is that not a relevant number, as well?
Give me a number. Tell me what that number will be, tell me what it will take
before we will all arise and shout, with a thunder that will be heard across
the world, “NO MORE!”
This class war has been waged since the first African American slave
took flight from bondage, to be hunted down and killed like a worthless beast.
It has been waged since the first Native American realized the need to stop
the incursion of the European invaders, and saw entire villages of women and
children and elderly destroyed by the “righteous” wrath of European
invaders. This war has been waged from the first strike by workers who valued
their own lives, and believed that their humanity was worth more than corporate
gain, and then found themselves in the sites of the guns of the corporate empire
of the robber barons. It has been waged from the first time, in all those cases,
that those people were injured, killed, and even set against one another by
the ruling class, who hoped they would do the dirty work of culling the compliant
from the defiant for them.
So it seems there are two questions here, that must be answered. How much more
slaughter and mendacity and patronizing platitudes will we endure before we
rise up and take the power that is ours? The power and productivity that support
these parasites, is ours. What will it take for us to force them to face that
The second question, and one that must be answered even by those on the so-called
left in this country, who have been on vacation this summer, and who now seem
primed to dialectic, but not truly visceral and decisive action, is this:
“Which side are you on?”