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General Interest

AT WHAT PRICE CULTURE?

Doesn’t it seem that around half the grand architecture in the world is built for the very few by the very many, never to be enjoyed by those who built it? In the case of the Egyptian pyramids, they were built for one guy, the Pharoah, and then only after he was dead. Not only that, fabulous fortunes in gold, art and jewels were buried with these delusional clods, treasure lost to society. These dopes thought you really could take it with you. Worst of all, the old bastard had a whole lot of healthy people killed and buried with him so that they could continue to be his slaves in the afterlife, making a mockery of the idea that death released you from a lifetime of drudgery. Slaves for eternity? Bummer. All of this was done in the name of religion. Some religion, eh? Had to be invented by the privileged few, no doubt.

All archaeologic evidence points to the fact that the priests of this faith lived almost as fabulously as the kings and other assorted royalty. The rest of the Egyptians? Their lives closely resembled the lives of any other average Joes of their contemporary cultures. In other words, not so good, lousy even. So for all their grand architecture and hieroglyphic writing, Egypt was just as barbaric a place as any other back in the day. Whatever culture they had doesn’t really count for much since it was enjoyed by such a tiny percentage of Egyptians. Until democracy came along, you can say pretty much the same about all the ancient “great” cultures. Why they are revered as anything but the monstrous exploitation that they were is a true mystery.

Does anyone seriously believe that ordinary citizens took pride in the fact that their king or their emperor lived in golden splendor while their children had the rickets and grandpa dropped dead of old age and utter exhaustion at 39? When they were clothed in rags and living in cold damp huts and their teeth were rotting in their skulls as a result of a poor diet, how many people figured it was the highlight of their day to get mud splashed on them so they could glimpse the golden carriages bearing some fat duke and his family around their miserable village, trumpets blowing and expensive flags waving? How many wanted nothing more than to shove a trumpet where the sun don’t shine up this clueless slob who taxed them mercilessly, owned the land upon which they lived and worked and made them bow as he passed?

And we’re proud of the castles we built for these clowns? Oh, but they kept us protected, you say? From who, other castle-dwelling usurpers whose boots we licked for the privilege of living in a mud and straw hut within view of their sculptured gardens and gilded pavilions? When you are property, what difference does it make whose property you are? You could say “By your leave, Guv’ner” to pretty much any of those interchangeable inbred swine who called themselves royalty. Why join their armies to kill some other hapless serfs living under some other fat slob’s boot? The idea that enforced this servitude, this misplaced loyalty to monsters and usurpers and the automatic acceptance of this state of affairs? Just like in Egypt, religion. And just like in Egypt, most officials of most religions demanded the same sort of bowing and scraping to their exalted personages, and their punishments for deviant thinking and perceived disrespect was often even crueler than that of the ruling elite, no easy feat in those brutal days.

This was true all over the world, no matter what the so-called culture or how much or little history took note of them. The notion that common men and women’s lives had every bit as much worth as the lives of the “higher-born” was not even a point of debate since the topic never came up. Everyone assumed that the masses were expendable dogs and the wealthy and powerful were exalted and enlightened beings ordained by God himself. LIttle by little, things like the Magna Carta and the creation of Parliaments and Assemblies somewhat modified the life and death power of royalty but it was not until the next logical step of democracy as epitomized by the American Revolution did the radical idea that all men are created equal arise. This was such a departure from the norm that even the vast majority of the world’s oppressed underclasses gasped in horror at the idea of self-detemination. Could such a thing be possible, they wondered? Who would be king? A whole lot of peasants had a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome, identifying with their captors and recoiling at the thought of being released.

Then when the American government declared that there would be a separation of church and state, that really set people free. Those ancient layers of oppression, royalty and religion, held no sway over Americans, who were allowed to invent themselves. Freed of these dual yokes, they proceeded to build the most prosperous, free and most interesting country ever conceived, a nation not tied to any one ethnicity or tribe, but to an idea and a set of ideals. The monuments we built for posterity were for all to use and enjoy. The labor of men was for the benefit of themselves and their families. The idea was that everyone would pay their fair share of taxes to a government of our own choosing, not for the elevation of our leaders to godlike status but to do the public business, period. The culture we created is the culture of all our people, not just the exalted few.

Royalty and religious leaders the world over recoiled in horror at America’s success, especially when uncounted millions of their most enterprising servants left the only homes they had ever known, braved dangerous ocean voyages and built new lives in America. In this new sort of nation their labors would mean something and their individuality, their contributions and their very lives had real value for the first time in history. The royal ruling classes knew their days were numbered, and squeezed their subjects all the harder trying to prevent their own downfall from unearned wealth and reverence. They hung on as best (as savagely) they could but one by one their heads rolled until in today’s world monarchies can be counted on one’s fingers. The nations they hold by force of arms and barbaric religious persecution are generally backwards shitholes.

Quasi-royal dictators have replaced kings and emperors in many places, and like their predecessors surveying the omen of the American Revolution, uneasy lies the head that wears the braided military cap. America is not alone in her freedom anymore,  half the world now gets to choose their own leaders and live the lives they choose. Those of us who live free have an obligation to the exploited masses of history and of today to remain free, to never return to the bondage of ignorance, fear and inequality that reduced our ancestors’ lives to mindless drudgery and servile poverty while the tiny minority stole their wealth and lived as human gods among us.

Which is why it is time to dismantle the new ruling elite here in America, the 1% of Americans that have somehow amassed the majority of this bountiful nation’s collective wealth. They have usurped our economy itself, making it their plaything to be manipulated for their own aggrandizement. When it is depleted, it is refreshed from our pockets when they foul up in their sleight-of-hand parlor tricks. They cheat us out of paying their personal taxes or corporate taxes, and siphon money from our treasuries for themselves. They are taking what we have all built together as their own, selling our jobs, evicting us from our homes and stealing our wealth.

As Americans we owe it to ourselves and to history to correct this imbalance. Too much blood, too much backbreaking labor and too much pride in our individual liberty and abilities has gone into building this new sort of government to let it slip from our grasp. Democracy is still in its early childhood compared to the millennia enjoyed by oppressive monarchies. The rest of the world, the half not yet free to determine their own fates, looks to America to be the beacon of freedom and equality that gives them hope in their misery. If we slip back into the royalty and peasants mode, mankind itself takes a dozen giant steps backwards. As Americans we need to overthrow the ruling corporate elite who would lead us back down that horrible road. Either that, or get used to kneeling in the mud, doffing our caps to our “betters” and saying “By your leave, Guv’ner.” No, thanks. Been there, done that, have the whip scars to prove it.

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