One of the things I’ve always hated about liberal intellectuals is the glorification of non-Western culture. I’m not saying that eastern cultures don’t have positives – they have plenty – but they also have many many negatives (just as we do).
I remember talking with a friend of mine who was preparing to head to grad school for Indian History. She began telling me about how the Indian government was so responsive to the people – responsive in a way that the American government isn’t. Specifically, she was talking about the Indian government’s attempts at dealing with the exponential increase in suicides among poor farmers.
I looked at her quizzically. In America, I said, we would never get to a point where poor farmers are so desperate that they start killing themselves – we subsidize farmers, we have welfare. I wasn’t saying that any of these solutions were perfect – the subsidies of Reagan should surely be replace by the revolving loans of Roosevelt; welfare plus promotion/creation of middle class jobs should surely replace welfare-as-slave labor, i’m sorry, i mean “welfare to work” – but the point was that in American, for better or worse, we generally keep people from killing themselves because of financial ruin.
Turns out that I was wrong. In the wake of the recent mortgage crisis (and I mean recent in the sense that it’s the direct result of 20 years of deregulation of financial markets and tearing down social safety nets of the New Deal), people have begun killing themselves rather then watch their houses – likely the accumulation of their life’s work – be sold off to the lowest bidder.
Is this seriously what America – and it’s lofty ideals – has come to? Seeing suicide as an effective solution – for debtors and creditors alike – to what generally amounts to wall street’s speculation and predatory lending? During the Great Depression – and don’t kid yourselves, this is Great Depression #2, we just have enough of the safety nets enacted by the New Dealers in place to keep the economy from complete and utter collapsie – people shot the bankers and cops who came to foreclose houses, not the other way around. The people said, fuck you – if you’re going to sell my house for a fraction of what I owe you and not give me the opportunity to buy it, I’m taking to the streets with guns and fire and stuff. Or something like that.
Ever since Bush got into office, I just cannot help constantly thinking of the old adage: “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” It’s become my sad sad mantra as I watch people throw away the very solutions to problems they are claiming to solve.
And repeat it we will.
Read the article The Suicide Solution by Barbara Ehrenreich at TheNation.com.