“I get it now. I don’t get it. I’ve been trying to say that I understand how you feel, but, I’ll never understand.”
Stan, South Park Episode 1101 “With Apologies to Jesse Jackson”
In many ways, it was inevitable. The shooting spree of Eliot Rodger was bound to happen some day to a young man surrounded by wealth and a sense of entitlement. The rambling screed he left behind made it clear that this was a flip-side to the ridiculous standards of beauty foisted onto women. Misogyny is a poison that affects everyone.
But the reaction to the shooting was not as inevitable – yet long overdue. The first wave of social media comments included some horrific cheers for the shooter, later met with cries that “Not all men” are like this. No, we aren’t, but that doesn’t matter. Somewhere, deep inside millions of women, a rage bubbled out because the point was being missed. All women have to deal with misogyny and fear that any man, any time, any where they are vulnerable might be a threat. Yes, all women.
As discussed here previously, the distribution of income has changed in the US since 1970, or about the time that income inequality started to grow. In that year about half of all income was earned from wages, the other half from income came from investments (routed through corporate profits). Since then it has fallen steadily by year to 42.6% overall by wages, a difference of about $11k per household per year.
That suggests that the basic social agreement about what “work” is has changed. In the postwar period, through the 1960s, a fair day’s labor was supposed to be rewarded by a fair day’s pay. How does that work now? It turns out that Gallup has been polling people about this since 2001, and the trend shows that there is little faith in this basic arrangement of our economic “golden era”. The social agreement has, in fact, broken down.
The scraggly oak trees intertwine their branches in a tall ceiling that shades the entire drive. Here, the appropriate view of the eternal isn’t blue and bright, but sheltered and close to the ground. The rows of marble and granite dazzled by bright flowers have their own quiet redemption as the slow speed limit and a gentle wave from each passerby gives the setting grace.
This is Oakland Cemetery, Saint Paul’s municipal cemetery, founded in 1853.
Jobs are scarce and workers are feeling the pinch all around. Republicans would have you believe the government is to blame, limiting growth through bureaucracy. Democrats would have you believe that companies are simply greedy. But is the income of American workers really limited by a lack of growth or the avarice of a privileged few?
The short answer is just a bit more complicated. The distribution of the income has changed substantially since postwar America changed sometime around 1968. It’s not a failure of government or even the greediness of corporations, but a change in the most important market there is – the market for the talent and hard work of ordinary Americans.
After the mechanized cruelty and destruction of World War II, two important works of literature tried to capture the feeling of despair. Along with well known 1984(1948) by George Orwell, there is the lesser known Age of Anxiety (1947) by W H Auden. Both of these cast a shadow we still live under, twisting our language to defy and define a mechanical world not entirely fit for humans. Auden’s more romantic treatment is worth the read if for no reason other than its resonance today. Continue reading