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A Tale of Two Tiers.

The Tower

During mediaeval times, serfs toiled on their allotted strips of agricultural land, assumed all the vagaries of the seasons, risked health to overwork and undernourishment, were deprived of education and literacy, were subject, to submitting life and limb, in battle fought at the whim of the lord of the land, in petty disputes with lords of other lands and serfs, and submitted the better part of the harvest to His Lordship, and an additional tithe to the Lord.

If for a moment, a serf thought, that there was in this situation some injustice, to whom could he turn, to air his grievance? Could it be to the aloof lord who would hardly have a moment for a groveling serf, let alone one with the seeds of rebellion in his heart? Or to the Priest, whose task it was to assure one and all, that all is according to God's plan?

Of course, what appears to be commonplace in one's own space and time, is naturally taken to be normality, to be the normal course of events, perhaps resulting from, and blamed, on some mythical quality of human nature. And what is normality is naturally taken for stability, and stability is taken for immutability.

What profit is there in trying to change the unchangeable, in trying to rise above one's station, in challenging the authority of those that God in His infinite wisdom has placed above us in the natural order of things? Why risk perdition, when by accepting our allotted burden and our place in the world, we can seek unlimited happiness in a better life after death?

And so we have serfs that know their place!

Slaves that know their place!

Servants that know their place!

Workers that know their place!

And subjects that know their place, under democratically elected tyrants!

In this 21st century we live in a world that despite its hi-tech trappings, is not too different from those dark middle ages. We live in a time when 90% of the wealth is owned and controlled by a privileged 10%, and a meager 10% of the wealth is allowed to trickle off the baron's table, to be fought over by the 90%, who are expected to compete, to fight for a meager share, like a pack of dogs over a bone, if indeed they can get into the fight at all. The disparity seems even more stark when one learns that more than 40% of the wealth is owned by the richest 1%, while 40% of the population collectively control less than 0.5% of the total wealth.

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The lords of industry and speculation rake it in by the millions and sometimes billions whilst the poorest of the working class, the unemployable, are forced to seek nightly shelter under bridges and in the doorways of merchants, a disaster more permanent, though less spectacular than any tsunami.

But of course we are just workers, and its not our place to change the way the world works, after all what is common place is normal and hence stable and immutable.

Besides, we are clearly outnumbered when there are only 90 of us for every 10 of them. And we are further disadvantaged by the fact that they own everything that we create and manufacture. They own the factories that we build for them and they have clear title to the vast tracts of land that they have stolen. And of course they are organized!

This is normality; keep turning that treadmill or look forward to being replaced.

This is admittedly a rather gloomy and pessimistic portrayal of the state of things, but there is unfortunately, some validity to it, especially when one considers that the capitalist masters have the power of the state in their pocket. A case in point, Wal-Mart is one of the largest financial contributors to Washington's political machinery.

Wal-Mart now employs Patton, Boggs and Blow, the powerhouse Washington lobbying firm. By March of 2004 more than 220 members of the House and Senate had receiving checks of $1,000 to $17,500 during the last election cycle. About 85 per cent of the money had gone to Republicans.

And those that pay the piper call the tune.

Under new overtime laws launched in August 2004 by the U.S. Labor Department, the cut-price retail chain stands to save millions from reduced overtime payouts and relieve itself of future overtime law liability suits. At least, that is what Wal-Mart hopes.

Incidentally for a readable in depth analysis of how Wall-Mart works on the business scene check out this link to read about 'The Wall-Mart You Don't Know'.

"If voting changed anything they'd make it illegal"  ...Emma Goldman.

We live in a democracy, so we are told, but where is it? Isn't democracy supposed to mean that the people are in control? Ordinary everyday people determining how they live their lives, determining the availability of employment and health services, determining the conditions of work, determining whether or not we should be doing something about the ozone layer depletion?

But when do we get to have our democratic input? Is it during the eight hours that we sleep?

Or is it during the eight hours that we work (if we are so lucky as to have an eight hour day). We know that when we walk in through the factory gate, we leave democracy on the other side of it; we know that any place of employment is essentially a dictatorship, where the boss is supreme ruler, and even if our suggestions are welcome, they have no force, even if a majority of our fellow workers approve.

So it must be that we exercise democracy at the end of the day, when we put our feet up to watch the telescreen. We democratically decide whether to watch the wrestling, or the news. So perhaps democracy is real, but only applicable to the most trivial aspects of our life.

A bit of information.

But of course we are forgetting Election Day! Now what is the smallest amount of information that can exist and still be a bit of information? Any computer savvy nerd knows the answer to this one; of course it is the 'bit'.

A bit is the binary difference between 0 and 1, an off or an on. And in an essentially two party democratic system, it's the difference between republican and democrat, labour and tory, liberal and conservative.

One 'bit' of information, the smallest quantity of information of which one can conceive, is the sum total of your contribution to democracy, that is what our leaders in their infinite wisdom, have decided to permit you license to exercise, and that only once every four years.

At this rate you'll be lucky to contribute a byte or two of information in your lifetime. A byte is typically enough information to specify a pixel of color on your computer monitor, or a letter of the alphabet. The 'X' on a ballot form is an exception to this rule, since it is the only letter-form recognised as acceptable for this purpose, it therefore contains only one bit of information (it may be present at a specific location, or it may not).

And when the election dust settles, we will find that we have not elected someone obligated to do the bidding of the majority, but rather someone with arbitrary authority, someone who can and will tell us what to do, in other words a 'boss' and almost invariably we elect someone from the 'boss' class. Have you noticed it usually takes millions of dollars to get elected into a significant position, the kind of money that only the 'owning', 'boss' class, person, has access to.

But don't worry; if the election does not go your way, you can always use the democracy of money to lobby for the democratic changes you desire, after all shouldn't the country work for those who can afford to own it?

Is the dream of democracy just that, a dream? I hope not, I hope that it can be real, but I think firstly, that the people have to realize that they don't already have it, and then they have to want it enough to fight for it, and by fighting for democracy, I don't mean forcing a phony version of democracy down the throats of people in distant lands, just because 'our' oil is under 'their' sand, but rather, struggling to achieve a real democracy in ones own home country, where people collectively decide what is in the best interests of people, and together devise a humane system of egalitarian fairness that will benefit all.

In Solidarity,
John Barker

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March 2005