I was entering the BART transit system last week and I saw BART workers handing out informational flyers. Suddenly I heard someone yelling "$30 an hour".
Some middle-aged, white guy was yelling at the BART worker that they were getting $30 an hour. "I'm not making $30 an hour," the guy complained loudly. I didn't hear the BART worker reply, if he did.
I don't know why, but I felt compelled to walk over there and give my two cents.
I approached the guy who was complaining and without introduction I said, "Mister, you are right."
He turned to me, slightly surprised but pleased. But before he could say anything I said, "You DO deserve to make $30 an hour."
The complaining guy started to respond, and then stopped. And then started to say something again. And then stopped again.
I think I could just faintly hear his mind being blown.
I walked away without waiting for him to form a response.
I don't remember where I first learned that you need to listen to what someone means, rather than just what they say.
But it seemed obvious that if this guy was rich he wouldn't have cared less how much the BART workers were making. He only cared because they were making more than him. The media had appealed to his petty side and struck gold.
If people have a choice, they would rather move up in the world than pull everyone else down to their level. But if they can't move up, then they sure as Hell don't want the next guy to.
Yes, we really are crabs in a bucket, and the right-wing, corporate media knows it.
It's the same sort of pettiness that inspired impoverished white racists to support Jim Crow laws, eventhough they gained almost nothing by it except a false sense of worth. It's the same sort of pettiness that inspires a schoolyard bully to victimize a smaller kid because he needs an outlet for his anger.
It's a shame the BART worker couldn't have articulated a decent response, but that is the sad state of labor unions today. When they ejected all their communists and socialists they also rejected the rhetoric and ideals of worker solidarity. They became nothing more than collections of guilds. They lost the ability to inspire.
If the BART worker was a real union man, he would have told the guy exactly what I said. Because that's what union people do - they try to help each other up rather than drag each other down. Then he would have pointed him in the direction of a helpful union hall and gave him some words of encouragement. Finally, he would have said a few things about worker solidarity. Because that's one thing that the Occupy movement had figured out - it really is us workers against the ruling elite.
We need to step outside of the paradigm that the politicians and right-wing corporate media has created. The guy next to you really isn't your enemy.
That's how I blew the complaining guy's mind.
He was so focused on how he was being victimized that when I turned his primary complaint on its head his mind locked up like the transmission of a truck when you suddenly shift into reverse on the highway.
I clearly remember in the days after 9/11 how every politician wanted to have his picture taken next to a firefighter or policeman. Those guys were running into burning buildings and towards gunfire. You couldn't pay them enough.
Now they are Public Enemy #1.
What changed in 10 years? Did firemen stop running into burning buildings? Did policeman stop running towards gunfire? Or did someone decide that the lives of firemen and policemen weren't worth as much?
I'll give you a hint: its the last one.
I remember back in the 80's and 90's that comedians used to make jokes about how little public school teachers got paid. Now they tell us that teachers are paid too much.
What changed? Did teachers suddenly start getting paid like Wall Street bankers and corporate executives? Or did someone decide that the value of educating our kids wasn't worth all that much?
The complaining guy is right to be angry. Most likely he's getting poorer and so is everyone he knows. There's inflation and depression and war and crime. His list of reasons to get mad is exactly the same list as Howard Beale's.
He's mad and he isn't going to take it anymore.
That's what we have to understand here. The Tea Party people have legitimate grievances. The problem is the paradigm of their thinking.
Their righteous anger has been misdirected. They've been taught to think that their real enemy is the guy that is shlepping next to them. They can't get their minds around the idea that the source of their suffering is not the people most removed from power, but the people who actually shape and direct the policies and laws of the country.
When you think about it, it seems obvious that if your financial position is shaky then you should blame the people who set economic policy for the hundreds of millions of us rather than some illegal immigrants, welfare mothers, public school teachers, or the people picking up your trash. The political paradigm of today is all about blaming other victims rather than the guys with the whips.
The illogical insanity of this sort of thinking is maddening. And that is the mastery of it all. The right-wing corporate media has created a paradigm that defies logic.
They've molded an insane world that creates its own anger, and then they direct the anger towards ever more insane thinking. It's destructive and evil, but it helps maintain the status quo, and that is the only objective.
Ridiculing the Tea Party people will do nothing but push them further into the embrace of the same insanity they currently suffer from. What is needed is to expose their illogical thinking for what it is.
To do that you don't just have to out-think the Tea Partier. It's not hard to intellectually defeat someone who is suffering from insanity. You need to out-think the architects of the right-wing, corporate media - a tougher challenge.