Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Class Warfare

For several weeks now this notion of "class warfare" has been bantered about in the media. Actually, it's been used before, but recently it's been gaining in popularity, and I completely understand why. Do you?

Let me begin by introducing the word of the day: demagoguery. Excuse me if I borrow the following from Wikipedia (mostly because I like the goofy letters used in pronunciation keys):
Demagogy (/ˈdɛməɡɒdʒi/[1]) or demagoguery (/ˈdɛməɡɒɡəri/[2]) (Greek: δημαγωγία, from δῆμος dēmos "people" and ἄγειν agein "to lead") is a strategy for gaining political power by appealing to the prejudices, emotions, fears, vanities and expectations of the public—typically via impassioned rhetoric and propaganda, and often using nationalist, populist or religious themes.

The concept has been discussed since ancient times, as far back as we have been able to trace intelligent persons willing to discuss the tools their leaders use to increase the number and dedication of their followers. Look at that definition: impassioned rhetoric, prejudices, emotions, fears, vanities - anyone think these are positive qualities? Anyone think these are tools to making good decisions? Anyone think decisions based on demagoguery will lead to a better future?

So back to "class warfare." The phrase brings to mind a battle in which one (or more) classes is pitted against the others. It implies that there is an attacking party and a defending party. If there is an attacking party, said party may be attacking justly or unjustly. The same can be said of the defending party (defending their position, whether that position is defensible or not). The Grand Old Party maintains Obama has called the middle and lower classes to arms against the upper class.

I must say, I like John Fuglesang's observation: 'Class Warfare' is when the bottom 98% fights back (http://twitter.com/#!/JohnFugelsang 19 sept 2011). What I don't like is that this presumes we are fighting a war - which I think Obama is trying to avoid. It presumes that asking people to pay "their fair share" (jeeze, whenever I say or think that I hear it falling out of the Governator's mouth) is tantamount to the opening salvo at Lexington on April 19, 1775 or Gavrilo Princip's two shots on June 28, 1914. At this point, Obama has only asked that those who have more, give more.

Let me use an analogy: Jeff has a decent income. He is neither rich nor poor. David and Betty make much less, and Carla and Rebecca qualify as legally 'poor.' Theo is a multimillionaire. They are all "friends," and Theo says, "Hey, let's go to dinner at El Torito Grill."

Jeff orders Surf and Turf, which consists of a 6 oz filet mignon and 8 oz of lobster tail. $45
David and Betty each decide on a 1/2 pound hamburger with fries. $25 each
Carla and Rebecca go along reluctantly, mostly due to feeling socially obligated, and split an appetizer. $9 each.
Theo also orders the Surf and Turf, but since he eats at El Torito Grill at least 3 times per week and always brings a bunch of friends, his meal is comped by the chef.

Is it fair for Theo, the richest of the group, to not have to pay for his meal, while Carla and Rebecca have to pay $18 for an appetizer? Would it be "class warfare" for Jeff to mention to Theo, "Hey, maybe you should talk to the Chef and ask them to not comp your food, since you can afford the meal much more than Carla or even I?"

I don't think this should be a war, and it only is because of demagoguery: the Grand Old Party knows that by mentioning "class warfare" they will get a visceral reaction from their constituents, a gut instinct to vote against yet another war.

As John Stewart says, let's tone down the rhetoric and make some sane decisions to get our country back on the right track.

1 comment:

  1. Great analogy! Something I wouldn't usually agree with, but your example is excellent :)