The Oligarchs Quit Listening Long Ago

Not feeling heard? Almost as if there is no representation for your deeply held beliefs and concerns? That’s probably because in the America of 2024, there really isn’t anyone in power who is listening. There has always been a disconnect between the rulers and the masses, an iron fist being utilized to keep the rabble in check, but tragi-comically, many Americans, especially those in more protected demographics over the years, have earnestly believed that their beliefs and goals were being considered by those elected officials they put in office. It’s clearly a more recent phenomenon that much of the population is learning that the needs of the average citizen are of little concern to those in power. The tribal affiliations of party have kept the hordes at bay, ensuring that pitchforks are never turned on the powerful, but instead are used against others in similar situations. Average Americans fight over social issues designed to tweak the amygdala for fear hits, narrowing the ability to see and react to a broader reality.

Many factors have been at play to dissolve what small voice the average citizen had in the America of decades past, but perhaps Jimmy Carter said it best in 2015 when he called the United States “an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery”. He was referring to the horrific Citizens United Supreme Court ruling in 2010. When an individual who occupied the highest level of power in this nation utters a statement like that, it’s clearly not your imagination that the will of the people is not seeping past corporate edifice. I speak to the power the population had, not in some kind of saccharine homage to a non-existent Norman Rockwell America, but more in terms that if a vast majority of individuals pushed in a direction……..well that had some effect. This is no longer the case. Policies designed to at least marginally improve the lives of Americans and to combat poverty were being pushed throughout the twentieth century—yes, kicking and screaming along the way, but progressing nonetheless. In our time, however, we have seen nothing but stagnation in terms of basic advances, and often outright regression in terms of material comfort and basic rights of bodily autonomy. Perhaps the most glaring example of this is the fact that the federal minimum wage has been encased in granite since….oh that year before Citizens United, 2009. This isn’t by accident that it hasn’t budged since that year.

A lack of advancement in terms of meeting the basic needs of citizens is flagrantly obvious at this time, but some require numbers to believe. A recent AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs poll indicates that half of Americans now say that the response of Israel in Gaza has gone too far. This is fairly tepid I’d say, at least in response to a current genocide, but given the fact that much of the nation is consuming nothing but information from mainstream media, this is in itself noteworthy. Our large media outlets have been little more than propagandists for the Israeli government through it all, yet Americans are starting to note the inherent disconnect. Even CNN staffers have referred to the pro-Israeli constraints of their network as “journalistic malpractice”. A recent Guardian article discusses the staffers’ concerns that CNN was unquestioningly advancing Israeli government claims while ignoring and silencing the perspectives of the Palestinians. The fact that Americans are feeling disgust at the Israeli government is commendable through this substantial white phosphorus smoke screen. A grassroots, fairly bipartisan notion that this supportive and enabling policy in genocide is not acceptable, would—in a functioning democracy, bring about politicians eager for the support of that many individuals. They would give voice to these feelings even if it was in a craven vote-seeking manner. But even this is not occurring. With all the vitriol of the upcoming presidential election and the candidates posturing to seem different from each other, the support for Israel is without question—very bizarre when half the populace is starting to get a bit pissed about it all. Even RFK Jr, who seemed to want to exhibit himself as something of a maverick won’t touch that one. I guess he won’t get upset unless they force the MMR on Palestinians. Anyway, if voting for continued genocide isn’t your cup of tea, you have no options in the top contender candidates. The candidates who do voice empathy towards Palestinians and disgust at genocide will not have the support of the major parties. They serve to give the illusion that change is possible in the current system.

We are now getting used to this lack of representation, but we should never cede the common sense that tells you it’s bizarre, sickening, and not remotely how a society should operate. If leaders are not there to represent the goals of the citizens, what purpose do they have? They are nothing but organized crime heads protecting the “unlimited political bribery” Carter spoke of.

And this lack of voice the majority of individuals have in the United States is only becoming more pronounced. In 2023 (third quarter stats), the individuals in the lowest 50% income bracket had only 2.6% of the wealth. Those income and wealth disparity numbers are absolutely incredible and untenable. Anti-wage growth boogeymen have been bandied about as threats for inflation, when it is clear that rampant corporate greed is the root cause of that predicament. The fact that so many cannot keep their heads above water with one, two, hell maybe more jobs is an indictment of our whole capitalist experiment. It is nothing but inherent instability with leaders not listening to citizens and continuing to make their lives more difficult. All this while fueling lateral hostilities–it just can’t end well.

Having no power to enact change creates a stifling and tragic life; it can make one feel like nothing more than a farmed-out commodity. I’d say all Americans not in the top 5% know they have little to no control of their government in a tangible manner. This would explain the record depression Americans are suffering from. I’d even go so far as to say that this lack of control in the populace was a huge key in some of the more unhinged conspiracy theory developments over the last several years. At least thinking you are privy to some secret knowledge gives a sense of purpose and volition. The actual situation, that is, a conspiracy very much in front of your face, not hidden in adrenochrome fever fantasies is simply more difficult to comprehend. Most want a reality that has an evil few that can be taken down, more comic book narrative, than to know that the entire foundation is antithetical to human progress and life—well that’s a whole new level of angst.

So what are the politicians doing right now if not our bidding? Stoking nativist hostilities for one, proposing standalone Israeli government giveaways to the tune of 17.6 billion (because entering into a ten-year, 38 billion gift package in 2016 just wasn’t enough). For reference, Housing and Urban Development estimates it would take 20 billion to end homelessness in this nation, so we do have some things we could be doing with that pocket change. But anyway….our dear President Biden has been working on a few items “for us”. This week he shook his fist at the sky on the White House lawn in regard to airlines charging families a fee to sit together. That man has his finger on the pulse of the nation, doesn’t he? This after an earlier proposal to ban “junk fees” from concert tickets and hotel rooms. He said “these junk fees may not matter much to the wealthy, but they sure matter to working folks in homes like the one I grew up in.” I can’t speak to the trauma of the Biden household when Ticketmaster added a service fee on the Jenny Lind tour, but I’m sure it was a hardship.

It’s almost as if they aren’t even trying to fool the public that they are working on anything to make life better (or at the very least stop funding frank barbarism). But there is something of a freedom in dropping pretense. Where we go with that knowledge is the looming question.

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