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Letters from Downunder

Flying Feather

Submitted by Lindsay
Melbourne Australia!

Birds of a flock feather together
- Lindsay, 1998

(6/2014) We all know that there is strength in unity, and that like the birds, we are less able to achieve a goal on our own than with the help of others. The bigger the goal, the more the numbers needed. Once having achieved a certain point, those numbers begin to generate power, which is an attraction for others. Power bases are the stuff of politics, commerce, and the implementation of dreams, both good and bad.

Power and liberty are often spoken of together, as though one was not available without the other - but, as William Hazlitt said in 1819, ‘The love of liberty is the love of others, the love of power is the love of ourselves.’ Well, it is true that we all love power, or at least like the idea we might have some some of the time, but that kind is trifling compared to the real power; that is, the power to command others, to order their lives, to shape their destiny according to your wishes.

That, as Hazlitt says, demonstrates the love we have for ourselves, and that kind of power is rampant. Not just in politics, but in commerce and the media, power is an end in itself, a natural outcome of the ‘me’ generation, greed, and indifference to those below. This has allowed personal views of life to become part of the culture, part of the double-talk that secures their place in policy and law whether these are in the public interest or not. It is certainly true of the most potent lords of media, Rupert Murdoch, who sways decisions, especially on voting preferences, with subtle savagery.

And it is now true of a fairly new group, the lords of silicon valley. These former nerds, now turned nards (products from certain smelly plants) draw down what many believe to be obscene salaries, and are not prepared to acknowledge their debt to the lowly folk who buy their products. Silicon valley – aptly named, as nothing natural grows on it – now contains an unprecedented concentration of wealth, which is not of itself such a bad or remarkable thing, but the result is social dislocation, deprivation, and dismay, especially for the residents of that wonderful city, San Francisco.

It is not the only place to feel the zap of the stun gun, the ether of numbness seeping into its bones, but it seems to be the most vocal. The stories being told remind me of Versailles in the 18th century, when the aristocracy lived a life of pleasure, saw citizens as cattle, and were rewarded with la guillotine. Yes, there is cake to eat today, but not if you have to pay over $3000 a month for a two bedroom apartment; not if you see the cavalcade of limo busses ferrying the nards to their nardom (who wants to live in LA? Much better the sights of Frisco), not if you hear the Czars proclaim that people who protest about the busses are like the persecutors of the Jews in Nazi Germany.

A gentleman (I use the term very loosely) with the very ordinary name name of Tom Perkins, a billionaire and self-proclaimed ‘King of silicon valley’, has even suggested that the rich should get more votes than the poor because they pay more taxes. It would have appealed to Ronnie Reagan and the Bush’s , but the citizens began constructing wooden structures with suspicious metal blades - symbolically, of course, as suitable wood is in short supply – and the Anti-defamation league, (surely the oddest title to see the light of day in you odd country, for defamation is the lingua franca) offered what appears to be a defamed apology.

The rich have a place – they are always with us, after all – and they usually live in discrete harmony with us lesser fellows even as we traipse around viewing their mansions and oohing at their digitized lives, but when they forget and show us just how crass some of them really are, we begin to be resentful. When they treat us with contempt and like nothing better that a hall of mirrors in which to view the world, while the old, the sick, the poor, the hungry are left to live or die with negative help, well then revolt brews.

The poor, too, have always been with us, and have always been powerless to effect change in any real way, but until now the middle class has simply remained in the middle. (‘The middle class: The protein between the upper crust and the crumbs’). Now, however, the middle is thinning out, and is being weighted so much it is sinking – but the inhabitants thereof know how to take action, and have more resources - so the Czars, the Antoinettes, the dilettantes had better stop partying, for their reign is not immutable.

Even the government will join the fight, for these charming princes hide their abominable profits in tax havens, depriving not just the populace but the core of government with the wherewithal to do their job. Of course, the government may not be big or strong enough to fight back – the oil industry has had their measure for a long time – but it had better if the core values of a great democracy are to survive.

Can we blame the nards? They are, after all, products of the ‘me ‘ generation, where gratification was usual, self-indulgence the norm, greed the god. America was a land of success, and that’s what they were, so that makes them good Americans. NO!! A good citizen is one who cares for his fellows, who loves liberty instead of power, who refuses to live in protective isolation. One whose windows open onto the world, who know its horrors and joys, its suffering and glory, and is prepared to strive and work to embrace it all. They are not nardish lovers of themselves.

And, let it be said, not all nerds are nards. Many are generous, caring, proactive for good, and conscious of their true responsibilities. They help upwards, not downwards. Many hearts have kindness and tolerance, and while it is thus we live in wonder and horror at the continued presence of that tawdry underbelly. Which, as the title suggests, they inhabit by feathering together. May their feathers soon fly off.

Let me finish with a poem by one of Australia’s best cartoonists, Michael Leunig:

As God has dictated, The fishes, the fowls, and the forests have been put on earth for Man’s convenience.

Now it goes like this: The fishes, the fowls, forests AND friendly folk have been put on earth for Cluey man’s convenience –

The government is so much in agreement With God on this one that it has extended the idea.

Friendly folk, put on earth to be caught, used or harvested. It is an article of faith.

Lindsay, down under looking for feathers.

Read Past Down Under Columns by Lindsay Coker