The Poor Wealthy


It’s always distressing to see people who either have all the outward show of being intelligent and well-educated or who are in positions of power behaving like the village idiot, clearly incapable of stepping back from themselves enough to look in the mirror. Granted, it’s a difficult thing to do, but one of the drawbacks of having power is that you have to use it wisely and to do that you have to examine your motives.

This is not about morality, it’s about practicality. Wield your power irresponsibly and mindlessly and you’ll reign supreme for a while, but ultimately whoever you’re trampling on will rise up against you with a force that your power can’t overwhelm. I’m not just talking about despots either, although they illustrate this beautifully. There’s almost a formula for how events play out.

They gain power undemocratically, or even democratically. Then it goes to their head and they begin to bleed their subjects dry. They surround themselves with sycophants, and convince themselves that they’re acting in the country’s best interests. Eventually they’re fit only for the lunatic asylum. One day their subjects begin to say we’ve had enough. They protest. They’re ignored. Their protests get louder and more physical.

Protesters get brutalized, arrested, violated. They get angrier and more violent. Further suppression follows, bloody and violent. Surprisingly no doubt to the despot, their power isn’t so effective any more. They go into denial. Their sycophants start deserting them. The world either intervenes or doesn’t but severely criticizes them and they become outcasts. They insist they are doing nothing wrong.

They refuse to leave. They say they will die in the country that they were born in. The sycophants that are left beat their chests with bravado as they nervously look around them and calculate the odds. The rebellion doesn’t stop, no matter how much and how bloodily the subjects are violated, no matter how more sophisticated the despot’s weapons of suppression.

The despot goes down still protesting. It never happens any other way, unless the despot has some capacity to step outside of themselves to look at the consequences of their actions and get out sooner. As in Egypt. In countries where the democratic process is more sophisticated, the violence is mostly absent, but the process is the same.

It’s always the middle class that starts out naive and believing, willing to work like dogs for the sake of God and country. Proud of their democracy, proud that change happens peacefully and that they can have a hand in it. Not always able to grasp the extent to which their good-heartedness and commitment get exploited. Not always that able to step outside of themselves either and see that they’re letting themselves be doormats.

But democracy has an inherent flaw. It’s supposed to be the best system for the exercise of freedom. It would work well in a country where there’s no greed, where leaders and all politicians genuinely work for the better of the individual and the country as a whole. But failing that perfect scenario, gradually greed and power takes less and less responsibility (pays less and less tax) and exploits the good qualities of the middle class who pay more tax and get lower salaries until their morale and their lives are eroded beyond endurance.

The erosion has only one possible ending. People start to protest! A new leader emerges who sees that the danger isn’t just imminent, it’s upon the country, and something has to be done to restore the middle class, because it’s always the engine of any society. The leader wants the middle class to get its just rewards, and for the wealthy to pay fair tax. The powerful class clings panic-stricken to its position, terrified of giving an inch. Which nicely reveals exactly how powerful they really are.

What’s mind-boggling is the childish transparency of their excuses. Namely if you raise taxes for the wealthy they will leave the country, you will discourage investors (the implication being that they only invest in the US because they can exploit and not contribute their fair share). The best one is that you will be taxing all the small businesses who will fold and job creation will cease. Enter John Boehner, with that sulky look on his face, moaning about the poor wealthy.

It’s mindless. Pity the seemingly civilized, educated, sophisticated individual who appears to not have much better of an understanding of what makes society run smoothly than a Middle Eastern despot.

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