The phrase, gnothi seauton (know
thyself), which later became the motto of the classical Greeks of the
Golden Age of Athens, would have been virtually meaningless to
Achilles, Odysseus, Paris, Hector, Agamemnon, Priam, and other
Homeric heroes, who were men of action, not reflection…
Despite their lack of knowledge of money, it was very near the walls
of Troy that money was born.
Weatherford, The History of Money
It was fall and late in the
afternoon. Returning from a classroom building, I see A---- leaving
the apartment building where I live. She’s on her way home.
Home, for A----, is a small
corrugated abode about a half mile from the campus gate. Throw in
another quarter of mile for her to walk to the gate from my apartment
building, after a day’s work of gathering water, cleaning
apartments, washing clothes, and cooking for five faculty members,
that’s a bit of walking for someone not so young.
I reached out to stop her and,
asking that she wait, I turn to the driver who drove me less than a
mile from the classroom building. I asked if he could drive A---- at
least to the gate.
“No!” He gets in behind
the wheel and engine starts and we hear him yell, “She can
walk,” as he pulls out of the parking space.
I see A---- look away and then back
at me. I reach out and hug her. I think neither of us saw beyond
ourselves at that moment. We are silent, and it’s as if all the
other white linen-covered, veiled heads are silent too. Twenty or
thirty of them, walking toward the gate. Cars and trucks seating male
drives hired by the campus, pass by us. By them.
I stood watching A---- as she walked
down the road, becoming absorbed into the flow of all the Ethiopian
women on their way home. Tomorrow is another day.
Do I see Lucy?
How does that happen here? How does
this happen in the birthplace of humanity? Unthinkable—and yet…
This is 2002, and Jeff Bezos has
founded Amazon eight years before. His world is anything but silent.
The arch of justice seems to be bending Bezos’ way.
The Clinton administration, in 1994,
responding to the buzz of progress, puts the saxophone down and picks
up his pen: We are now tough on crime! And nodding to the right-wing
in the US, Clinton locked them up! Us,
mainly black, Latino, Indigenous. Mostly the economically poor.
mass incarceration of whole groups of American citizens didn’t
possible that most of his current 613,000 employees weren’t
born in 1994.
that year, too, Bezos, looking toward his future, deciding the road
for him to take, would probably have let A---- walk too. He would be
a devotee of the hierarchical system in which the poor black women
anywhere is dehumanized. Bezos would see himself, on the other hand,
as a deserving member of society. Entitled—unlike the older,
26-years later, on the floor of any Amazon warehouse these days,
employees watch as Bezos rises, ascends into the ether, for all
practical purposes, Bezos doesn’t live on the ground on which
the world’s wealthiest human being, Bezos is indifferent to how
his employees are forced to struggle to live in a world increasingly
disadvantaging them for the sake of Bezos’s advancement. How
many have resorted to applying for food stamps to eat?
what cloud does Bezos eat?
possession of $157 billion for the moment while the median income for
his workers is between 23,000 and 28, 440. According to The
Washington Post, August 23,
2018, US taxpayers are charged $153 billion a year to subsidize
workers at Amazon, McDonald’s, and Walmart.
Sanders, when asked about the so thoughtful contributions of these
corporations, he had this to say: Bezos and the Walton family of
Walmart “enrich themselves off taxpayers assistance while
paying their workers poverty-level wages.”
workers are ordered not to speak in public about working conditions,
but some bravely do so despite the threat of losing their jobs.
During peak times, one employee explains in New York state, workers
put in 60-hour work weeks. At a fulfillment center in Staten Island,
explains another employee, “a picker” must pick “400
items per hour,” that is, “pick each item every seven
know what this kind of labor sounds like to me, as
an older black woman in the
are not robots,” said a young Amazon worker. “We are
2018, Amazon workers in Spain, Italy, Germany, and Poland staged
strikes, some lasting as long as three days, protesting working
conditions on the floors at Amazon warehouses, of course. According
to a Vanity Fair report,
written two years ago, ambulances were called to a UKAmazon warehouse
600 times. But as far as Amazon is concerned, these reports are
nothing more than “unsubstantiated anecdotes.”
is busy. He’s still flying towards his future.
kind of world does the super-wealthy class envision?
they, as we used to joke during the Bush Jr. years, want to establish
a colony on Mars, leaving the rest of us behind?
they see a world in which there’s no more poverty, no more
poor, homeless? Even no more working class? No more talk of racism
and sexism? No more anti- this or pro- that?
the democratic socialists, are they?
then I’m reading Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole.
the wealthy as a collective—in pain. Suffering. Governments,
particularly the ones not beholding to them one way or another, under
pressure from the unfortunate “masses,” want them, the
wealthy, to pay taxes. To not fatten oneself and family on profits,
to contribute to the well-being of the whole society, to be one among
imagine flight! Not just of money landing electronically at a bank in
the Cayman Islands, but a flight of people, at least metaphorically,
envisioning the “right to escape.”
the UK, the people are to believe they, as in the whole of “England,”
is exiting the European atmosphere. But that is not true, O’Toole
argues. Not at all. Only the super-rich of the English are escaping
is writing about the UK—not the US; yet, in his description of
the wealthy class chiseling a space out for themselves alone, I see
Jeff Bezos. I see his workers, not all, but a sizable number,
becoming the angry class that votes for Trump to remain president.
isn’t the US and US isn’t England. But the US is an
what’s to stop the capitalist class from joining hands and
encircling the world with their vision is grounded in the “old”
imperialist ordering of humanity? The “old” master and
slave dichotomy? Hasn’t this event been happening in plain view
for the last fifty years?
a display of indifference from the wealthy class concerning the
health and safety of workers (any human being) no longer matters to
the general population, look around you
for the brown shirts and Enabling Acts to follow!
spreads like wildfire. It’s contagious and leads to the
O’Toole writes in Heroic Failure, Brexit and the
Politics of Pain, the wealthy
class has turned heads away from any strategy that would begin to
solve the crises we are facing as a global community, instead opting
to point out “a ready and visible target” for a
population “looking to blame” the usual suspects for the
nation’s “economic and social ills.” Who’s
available for scapegoating if not blacks, immigrants. In the UK,
O’Toole argues, the black and brown people fuse with the whole
of the European Union. Contaminated.
Where have we, in the US, heard this rhetoric before?
the UK, the wealthy want out, claiming they’ve suffered long
enough while in the US similar grievances are uttered by white
working class men claiming to be oppressed. Never
mind the nation’s historically oppressed
racial and ethnic groups, most importantly the Indigenous population
and privileging of white skin!
elaborates on the effort to recall the heroes of the Empire and even
mythical figures of long ago, in a last ditch effort to suppress the
angry from the working class and poor. Failures-made-heroic because
of the Empire’s series of failed attempts to never let the sun
set on any land that wasn’t a part of the UK. It’s
defeats turned into symbols of heroism—the stiff upper lip is a
sign of bravery under the pressures (unfair, to be sure) of life.
when the superheroes begin to fail with the working class, the
wealthy class resorts to acknowledging themselves as gods. Who will
save the UK from the shackles of the EU? Who will keep the black,
immigrant, poor, working class at bay? Only the wealthy class! Boris
Johnson and the like who “feel your pain.” Only the
wealthy class has a vision “fantasy of liberated
ultra-capitalism.” writes O’Toole. In this wave of the
magic wand, the capitalists become gods!
insists that an understanding of the wealthy as gods of
“international capital,” precludes any ridiculous talk of
democracy. Justice, please!
who sees itself as suffering and from what? Who has the vision and
the capital to materialize their dream?
the flight is at T minus 0, there will be no talk of climate change,
and, therefore, no talk of democracy. “Mass democracy and the
concept of citizenship,” O’Toole explains, “will be
“the elite will, in the early twenty-first century, free itself
from all the constraints of nationality, citizenship and, of course,
taxation.” The goal of controlling the wealth and military
power is a model for the new elite. This new elite, O’Toole
continues, excites a vision in which the lower classes are “walled
inform those blindly focusing on the “target” at your
peril, particularly if it is you as a black or Latina or Indigenous
or immigrant not from Norway. In the UK, O’Toole points out,
some of an older generation pretend there never was an Empire;
therefore, targeting the target is purely an innocent (far from
historical thing!). Here in the US the “targets” of hate
and anger are the source of Americans dreams. What would Americans do
without them? All visions of a future America for the wealthy dance
atop the bodies of America’s historical targets of hate.
of Brexit’s wealthiest and hard-right champion, William
Rees-Mogg, unabashedly shares a picture of the future.
lower classes will be walled out. The move to gated communities is
all but inevitable. Walling out troublemakers is an effective as well
as traditional way of minimizing criminal violence in times of weak
it the future, for the US? The right for capitalists to escape?