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Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Selective Compassion and the Pathologies of Inequality

Fran Shor

“We believe in second chances and second opportunities,”
declared the senior vice president for marketing from the Cleveland
Cavaliers.   This pronouncement
accompanied the offer of an announcing job to Ted Williams, the homeless man
whose “golden” voice and impoverished visage went viral on a YouTube
video.  Beyond his elevation by the
media to visible and viable economic status, Williams became a clear example of
the selective compassion of both corporate America and its consuming public.

More than 50 years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded
us that “true compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not
haphazard and superficial.  It
comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” What
is this edifice that generates the millions of homeless that populate our
cities?  Why has poverty now grown
to an unprecedented modern level of almost 50 million, exceeding even the
statistics and reality of what Dr. King observed in the 1960’s?

Clearly, the inequality deeply embedded into the variety of
contemporary capitalism practiced in the United States is the source for this
continuing and growing rate of poverty. As noted by the recently passed social
critic, Tony Judt, in his essential text, Ill
Fares the Land
: “Inequality, then, is not just unattractive in itself; it
clearly corresponds to pathological social problems that we cannot hope to
address unless we attend to their underlying cause.”  Yet, we remain, to a great extent, paralyzed by our own
individualistic and privatized response to those social problems.

Compounding those problems, from homelessness to poverty, is
the runaway growth of inequality in the last decade.  The top 1/10 of 1 percent of Americans now earn as much as
the bottom 120 millions of us.  The
expanding inequality is further evident in the exceptional fact that the top 1
percent owns 70 percent of all financial assets.  Not only is there no political effort to address this massive
inequality, there is, in fact, a counter movement by both political parties to
embrace a politics of austerity that would impose even more financial burdens
on the poor and working class in the United States.

This same corporate-controlled political class deliberately
eschews addressing another key source of the economic imbalance that
impoverishes our federal budget – the ballooning expenses of the maintenance of
empire.  Beyond the 700 billion
dollar Pentagon budget, the costs of wars and far-flung military bases around
the globe, accounts for trillions of dollars.  The indictment that Dr. King made in the same cited speech
above retains its moral urgency: “A nation that continues year after year to
spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is
approaching spiritual death.”

It is hard to imagine that the slide towards spiritual death
will be salvaged by the redemption of one person at a time.  Irrespective of the feel-good nature of
the salvation of Ted Williams, we need to address the larger context of the
persistence of pathological inequality. 
If we cannot mount the collective effort to transform this system from
the extremes of wealth and poverty, there will be no second chances for our
nation and our democracy.


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Fran Shor

Fran Shor

Fran Shor is a Michigan-based retired teacher, writer, and activist.

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