by Glenn Reed
(Swans - July 14, 2014) "Wow, Dow!"
This was a headline on the Huffingtonpost.com today. Not that I ever spend time on that Arianna ego-driven, corporate/status quo Web site. Sometimes it's just interesting to surf the Internet and see the stark contrast in realities that are portrayed.
Ah yes, it's quite the affluent world staring through the shades of msn.com, yahoo.com, Huffingtonpost.com, and other sites that reflect the corporate view offered by virtually all of "mainstream" television, radio, magazines, and newspapers.
It was not missed on me that this Dow surge occurred the day before the 4th of July -- the birthday for American independence. It was, after all, a day when an earlier headline boasted of a 6.1% unemployment rate and crowing of that being the lowest since the October crash of the US economy way back in 2008.
Hey, don't you mind that suit behind the curtain blowing smoke over the figures of those who have given up looking for work and fallen off the unemployment rolls. Don't look for those stats showing the millions who are under-employed, who are working part-time with no benefits, who are applying for food stamps a few years after earning advanced degrees. After all, it's July 4th. So let's all join in a patriotic cheer of "USA! Wow, Dow! USA! Wow, Dow!"
Oh, but I'm being none too subtle. My sarcasm is as thick as the fog outside that formed after a line of thunderstorms that passed through this evening. It's curled up in the surrounding valleys on this dark summer night. Dare I say it reminds of a T.S. Elliot poem once again? The fog that curls....déjà vu, déjà vu.
Just shoot off the fireworks and give a hoot for the joy of unbridled capitalism! "Wow, Dow" indeed!
Few even wonder any more why the mainstream corporate media pitch this blatantly transparent economic news as good for the majority of us. We know that they take us for nothing but eternal suckers. A target audience to be entertained and distracted and led by the capitalist carrot a few feet in front of us, dangling and forever out of our reach. Some of us are too worn by cynicism, others too numbed by the endless barrage of BS, some too obsessed with that carrot to the point of frenzy.
So "Wow, Dow!" and watch the Wall Street traders high-fiving at the end of a record-breaking day. Savor those gluttonous grins! I'm sure the unemployment figures were a key factor in their glee. I'm sure their joy is from more Americans working! Break out the hot dogs to roll on the grill and don that red, white, and blue in pride while you wave your little flags at the parades down Main Street. The economy's bounced back and so has America!
Let's just try out this cheer on that Main Street.
"Wow, Dow!" I say to the elderly woman at the Dunkin' Donuts shop. But she doesn't smile. In fact, her face reads "how the hell did I get here? I believed in some 'American Dream' and now I can't even consider retirement. I'm popping pain-killers because of the bulging disks in my back that are aggravated by standing too long and here I am wearing a ridiculous hat, handing coffee to impatient customers for six hours, unable to pay rent, and with nothing to look forward to at all."
I can almost see tears welling up in her eyes at one point. "Have a good 4th," she manages as I depart.
"Wow, Dow!" I tell my friend who was laid off from a job, unemployed for over two years, who ended up homeless and couch-surfing with friends, but who finally "landed" a minimum wage job, with no benefits for only 20 hours a week. Ah, I'm sure those Wall Street traders were happy for him in that picture!
This friend works at one of those "dollar" stores that attract hordes of struggling people who can't afford to shop anywhere else and who are desperate to save a few cents, since most of them work at the same Mc-jobs for similar low wages. This friend is in his 50's and is unloading carts and stocking shelves, despite bad knees and constant pain. His boss frequently reprimands him for being too slow and reminds that he needs to give "110% for the corporation!"
For the sake of the stockholders. The corporate CEO too. Oh wait...the latter was just let go with a golden parachute. For the sake of those grinning jackals on Wall Street. Oh, there's that extra cream sarcasm again.
No, for his chance at the "American Dream." With a job that isn't even subsistence, and with no chance for a raise, more hours, advancement, or a key to a better job.
"Wow, Dow!" I offer to the veteran of the First Gulf War that has been referred to me at my non-profit job because he's desperate for help. He's still waiting on his V.A. pension, which may take up to a year to be approved, has been denied SSDI (Supplemental Security Disability Income) twice, is homeless and has zero income. Utterly stressed out and on edge, he tells me he can't even afford to clean his clothes at the local laundromat.
I don't offer "Wow, Dow" too loudly to this vet because he suffers from PTSD. Just a little trauma, you know, from watching a friend get blown to bits in the desert.
But, you know, he was protecting our freedoms and such. Needed that oil so that Exxon-Mobil could charge us close to $4 per gallon while they drill and frack the shit out of the country and plot to ship it all to China.
"Wow, Dow" for this vet who was fighting for an economic system that offers record chasms between the richest and the poorest, while giving us more "opportunities" for minimum wage jobs at dollar stores selling cheap, imported shit from China. He fought for the freedom of the few to maximize the stock options of the 1%, you know. He fought for the freedom of those who high-five each other in glass towers and on the fairways of exclusive country clubs. Who build the profit margins by cutting hours and wages and eviscerating hope for the future, then fill the airwaves with patriotic paeans to the so-called "American Dream," while red, white and blue streamers quiver, sparkle, and inspire across big-screen TVs.
"Wow, Dow," I offer to the co-worker as I groggily help clean up a soiled bed from a schizophrenic older woman at 2 a.m. in the part-time job that I'm forced to work because I, too, am under-employed. This co-worker has been trying to finish a research paper that her sadistic psych professor sprang on the class a few days before. She works a night shift here and tries to balance it with an internship and classes during the day, so she can get her Master's degree in a field that'll offer a couple more dollars an hour. These dollars, of course, will be more than eaten up by the $40,000 to $50,000 in student debt with which she'll be saddled in order to work in a "helping" profession in a heartless system where all that matters is "helping yourself."
And it's "Wow, Dow!" I'm thinking as I stare at the bulletin board at the small-town store, where someone has just posted an ad on a small index card. It reads: "Mature man looking for odd jobs. Recently had hours cut. Will paint and am handy with tools. Please help."
The story of tens...for a few hundred...of millions.
I'm thinking of giving him a call to lift his spirits on the 4th. After all, who wouldn't feel better after a hefty cheer of "Wow, Dow!"?
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About the Author
Glenn Reed is a freelance writer who has worked in the non-profit world for nearly 30 years, both as paid staff and volunteer. He is also a lifelong activist for social, economic, and environmental justice. He currently resides in Fair Haven, Vermont. (back)