A Capital Idea Part 99: The United Fiefdom of Vespucci
Once upon a time (yeah, right) in a land far, far away -- it surely couldn't be anywhere near here, right? -- there was a place called the United Fiefdom of Vespucci. Fancying themselves to be enlightened Lords, the Lords of Vespucci held elections every four years just before Christmas, sort of a Christmas present for the entire fiefdom. However, only the Lords were rich enough to run for public office, so the only choices to run the government, for all of the serfs and vassals of Vespucci were from among the small number of Lords of Vespucci. As a consequence, the 99% of the population who were serfs and vassals, did not have true representation in their government, and the government's policies were essentially run by the Lords of Vespucci, who designed them in such a way as to keep the serfs and vassals poor, and the Lords of Vespucci, rich, pampered and powerful. After all, in the view of many Lords of Vespuccci, the Lord of Lords had given them Vespucci and placed them through the holy inheritance of the lucky sperm club, in positions of wealth and power. In reality, the wealthy ancestors of the Lords of Vespucci and their loyal advisors, who comprised the 1%, had achieved their positions largely through greed. These were the kids who refused to share their toys, and many of them grew up to be prototypical cases of Antisocial Personality Disorder and/or Narcissistic Personality Disorder (not to mention Avaricious Personality Disorder). To be sure, some of them had achieved their positions through skill and talent, and some of the 1% were truly good people, but far too many were pathologically self-centered.
Over time, there were many small uprisings among the vassals and serfs of Vespucci. However, these were always put down by the brute force of hired militia -- oops, I mean police -- and failed to spread given that communications were rather poor in those olden days. Eventually, some genius serfs invented the internet and cell phones, however, which turned out to be a game changer. In the next rebellion, the serfs and vassals communicated amongst themselves extensively, and the 99%ers Occupy Lords' Boulevard movement grew to massive proportions. Yet, as had happened every time before, their movement was squelched by force. Armies of hired militia -- oops, I mean police -- moved in to tear down the Occupiers impromtu encampments. Furthermore, the Occupiers were blamed for their own movement. The news of the day described them as a bunch of dirty (because they had no means of bathing themselves), ignorant (because only rudimentary education was available to serfs and vassals) socialist (as though something is wrong with that), commie (no way -- democracy is not communism), miscreants (the Lords should look in the mirror if they want to see a miscreant) troublemakers (as though it wasn't the Lords of Vespucci who had created the troubles of the serfs and vassals). How dare these "little people" try to upset "the natural order of things" and upset the wonderful "gravy train" of wealth in The United Fiefdom of Vespucci's supposedly enlightened society! In fact, many local governments decided to sue the "Occupiers" after their forced removal, adding insult to injury. This happened even in some of the more sympathetic cities. The media, through its well-financed and coordinated propagandistic actions directed by the Lords of Vespucci, even managed to get 99%ers -- in addition to being recruited to put down the protests for pay -- to blame each other at times for their problems.
However, ultimately, this morally grounded movement for economic fairness, opportunity and true government representation, was too powerful to fail. The serfs and vassals managed to cooperate, using the power of their high-tech communication tools, and decided to select and vote for progressive-minded candidates from amongst themselves in the next election. After all, voting was the one great tool for promoting change which was granted to them. There were two political parties in The United Fiefdom of Vespucci, the Lords' Party -- which was beyond hope of reform -- and the Politicians' Party -- which had some truly civic minded representatives but was mostly lacking in moral fortitude and as in love with money and power as was the Lords' Party. Thus, the serfs and vassals decided to run their chosen candidates primarily as progressive, civic minded candidates who wanted to advance the public good by creating a more fair and representative government which wasn't run by money. Since they lacked access to "The Mainstream Media," the candidates from among the 99%ers had a hands-on campaign approach, attending local events at which they gave campaign speeches and recruited campaign workers. After all, the 99%ers knew that they would win hands down if they collaborated and voted for candidates from among their number. When the election came that Christmastime, the serfs and vassals candidates were swept into office. This was their Christmas gift to the world. Some of the more sympathetic Lords were also re-elected, but the entire composition of the government was transformed by that election. They proceeded to change campaign finance and election laws to no longer favor the rich, opting to use public financing instead. They outlawed lobbying, and prosecuted the worst offenders among the Lords, who were given long jail terms. They also enhanced the education system to make a good higher education widely available and inexpensive for all, and began the withdrawal of their empire-making soldiers from foreign lands. And these steps were just starters in a new, more enlightened United Fiefdom of Vespucci, as the momentum of the peaceful revolution continued and further reforms followed. The gig was definitely up for the Lords of Vespucci. Ironically, the transformation of society which occured, not only benefitted the 99%ers, but also benefitted the 1%ers ultimately, as quality of life as a whole improved, crime rates decreased, and everybody had a society they could be proud of. Furthermore, the democratic transormation of the United Fiefdom of Vespucci allowed people to become better, more evolved and enlightened people as a whole, including the families of the former Lords and their loyal advisors. And thus happily ends my story of The United Fiefdom of Vespucci.
I seem to recall a story often told at Christmastime, about a man who lived about 2,000 years ago, who advocated peace, love and understanding, but at the young age of 33, was branded as a troublemaker, blamed for problems he did not create and was tortured and crucified. That he was -- and still is -- believed to be God by his followers, does nothing to change the tragedy of his story, nor of the untold stories of countless others who suffered and died for the sins of others. As my mother says "That's too bad about Jesus being crucified and all that." Maybe, a tragedy is just a tragedy; lives are wasted sometimes. But if we are wise, we can learn from their tragic stories, and use what we have learned to transform the world for the better.
I have been reminded in recent days, of how the innocent are still being blamed by those with more money and more power, for their own problems, as well as their peskiness in upsetting the gravy train of wealth that the 1% enjoys. On the local news a few days ago, there was a report that Occupy Los Angeles is being sued (or a lawsuit is under consideration) for $2 million dollars due to the mess and damage that their encampment reportedly caused. If anything, the city of Los Angeles should be suing the people that the Occupiers are protesting against, people such as the Koch brothers, Karl Rove, Grover Norquist, et cetera -- people who fight against our democracy tooth and nail in order to keep their elite positions. Yesterday, I was reminded again of this phenomenon of victim derogation, as I filled out Christmas cards. I found an envelope with several Christmas cards in it, sent to us by one of the places that my wife Eunice (Zunliang) donated to in the past year. On the outside of the envelope, was written, "Innocent but punished for the crimes of the guilty." It was referring to children in poor nations who are homeless and ostracized for one reason or another. As I was listening to my radio yesterday, I heard an interview on Pacifica Radio of a man who studies things such as global sustainability. He said that the overuse of global resources is essentially a problem caused by approximately the richest 10% of world's population, around 600 million persons. I couldn't help but think that these children could be well taken care of and no longer have to live as outcasts, fending for themselves, if the "haves" of the world would learn to share their wealth with the "have nots."
For sure, issues such as overpopulation, environmental degradation and global warming -- among others -- must be dealt with as well, but I suspect, when people are better taken care of, better educated, and men and women are treated more fairly and equitably around the world, they will be much better equipped and motivated to do so. It will take a peaceful, democratic revolution in order to make this happen, just the sort of thing that the OWS movement seems to be leading to. We must continue its momentum and translate its energy into voting and political activity in favor of progressive reforms. That such a peaceful, democratic revolution become a reality is my Christmas wish, and this post is my Christmas gift to the world.
By the way, "America" is strangely, named after the given name of an early explorer of North and South America, Amerigo Vespucci. Thus, I chose the name, The United Fiefdom of Vespucci for my story.