Thursday, December 15, 2011

Serfs Don't Coming Hanging 'round My Door!

Drawing by John Tenniel from the 1868 edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll, from my own collection. 

"The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small.  'Off with his head!' she said, without even looking round." Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Rob Long (who didn't write Alice in Wonderland, by the way, we'll get to that in a minute) is a very funny writer whose credits include "Cheers." He is also a conservative who produces biting, laugh-out-loud satire for the political magazine National Review.

That's why I was surprised to read a serious Rob Long piece [National Review November 14, 2011] in which he focused--almost to his chagrin--on what he called "the kernel of truth" in Occupy Wall Street.

"There is something wrong with this country," a billionaire friend told Rob Long (who clearly travels in elevated circles) after an investment bank arranged to replace the billionaire's expired passport and have it delivered to him in person at JFK for an international flight with just a few hours notice. Even the rich guy found that kind of power disturbing.

After hearing the story and seeing what has happened to America during the last three difficult years, Long said he found himself reading the Occupy Wall Street placards and saying to himself, "Well okay, most of that is stupid, but I get where the dude is coming from."

And I agree with him. Something is really wrong.

This was so obvious to me when I joined four other thoughtful citizens this week in a city meeting where we hoped to have an impact on a set of "educational" materials that we, the taxpayers, are funding and that we, five citizens, felt were not transparent, honest, nor educational.

The materials are, to any other eye but this city council, marketing material for a $175M Civic Center our present City Council has decided to build. The worst part, to them, is that they are forced to go to the taxpayers for a series of bonds to fund this nightmare. Thus the materials. They want to soften us up first.

They saw the five of us coming, and first, tried to sneak the materials through by putting them on the Consent Agenda, which allows for no discussion.

Then, when we requested our right to speak, our new mayor moved the item to the end of the long, dreary meeting, hoping we would go home, or at least, that the local reporter would go home, before we had the temerity to address their august and very busy body.

We stayed, though our mayor was right and the room was empty by the time the agenda slogged along and finally ploughed into the obstruction of We the People. When we pointed out the challenges we saw in the taxpayer-funded "outreach materials" our mayor laughed at us and told us she "had an MBA in Marketing from Stanford" and we clearly didn't know what we were talking about. As I watched her chins jiggle in false merriment, this picture of the Red Queen popped into my mind.

My hands instinctively reached for my neck. I felt reassured to find my head still attached.

Then the council turned away as if we were invisible. Approved the materials and dismissed us. 

"There's something wrong with this country," the Occupy Wall Streeters are saying.  "There's something wrong with this country," the Tea Partiers are shouting.  "There's something wrong with this country conservative satirist Rob Long wrote.

"There's something wrong with this country," my little group of five said as we left our meeting with our heads (metaphorically) tucked underneath our arms.

We were all stunned. I'm a second-generation in this town and most of the rest have lived here almost all their lives. We had no idea how insignificant we had become.

But, like the billionaire who got the passport expedited by an investment bank--and felt uncomfortable about it--we learned a lesson that George Orwell articulated in his 1945 Animal Farm:  "... all animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others." It appears the average taxpayer is now least equal of all.

I tried to get a number of my fellow citizens to join the five of us in our Don Quixote quest, and though all were sympathetic, not one showed up.

It is possible they've figured out the deal and are going about their lives as best they can, buying Chinese flat screens and driving Japanese SUVs and thanking God they don't live in Syria, Myanmar, or Egypt. Still, looking away doesn't make evil actually go away. It just makes it invisible to you.

"'I don't think they play at all fairly,' said Alice. 'They're dreadfully fond of beheading people here; the great wonder is, that there's any one left alive!'" Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Another John Tenniel drawing from the 1868 Alice.

"There must be some kind of way out of here,
  Said the joker to the thief
  There's too much confusion,
  I can't get no relief."  "All Along the Watchtower" by Bob Dylan

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Jon Gnagy's Portfolio said...

As always, you hit it right on the head, Robin. Reminds you of Winter Park, doesn't it? But the picture is much bigger than your town or ours. Our granddaughter Isabell has been part of Occupy Greensboro, and we increasingly understand why and what she is trying to say for her generation --- and the rest of us.

Robin Chapman said...

It became clear to me at that council meeting that our Mayor really believed she was now Queen of the Duchy of Los Altos and HATED the fact she had to ASK taxpayers for the money to build her Versailles ... well, then I understood why she needed to send out marketing materials to "re-educate" her subjects in advance. It was Orwellian.

Call Isabell and tell her this conservative Republican just became a subversive anarchist. The oligarchs and money men appear to own our government at every level.

And we are partly to blame. We the People are mostly too busy to stop driving around buying foreign goods to show up.

I'm so disgusted!