Watching The Rich & Famous From The Jobless Sidelines

Now here’s a peculiar trio: The dead lawyer Clarence Darrow, the ditsy blond Paris Hilton, and the declamatory ex-governor/lover Arnold Schwarzenegger. Each in their own way helps reflect our times.

Darrow always advised: “History keeps repeating itself, which is one of the things wrong with history.” Then as if to prove it, Schwarzenegger just donated an 8-foot, 600-pound statue of himself to his hometown in Austria, while Hilton has been busy being photographed handing out $100 bills on the impoverished streets of India. Both reminding us once again how history really is the same old story: The rich & powerful busy being rich & powerful; while the rest look on with a combustible mixture of admiration and resentment.

Usually this mixture doesn’t combust. Usually we’re kept pacified by our century’s version of ancient Rome’s bread-and-circuses. We call them movies-and-malls. Or kept pacified by Yankee humor as in Hallmark’s latest card for your jobless friends: “Don’t think of it as losing your job; think of it as a time out between stupid bosses!”

But then pacification lasts only so long. After awhile — watching Congress be Congress, and budgets being busted by foreign wars — the jobless grow restless. Crime rates spike. Dropouts grow. Sit-ins and street-protests flash. In cities like Cairo, London, now New York. The rich & powerful are distressed, even disturbed. How is is that the poor & powerless expect us to save them from their own stupidities! How is it that our recently criticized municipal workers (eg. cops, firefighters, teachers, street crews) can’t do a better job with the ignorance and criminality of this rabble!

In Europe as well as the United States there have been some long-standing theories on these matters. They have to do with whispered theories about race…nationality…family values…IQs…musical tastes …blue jeans and even climate. That last one is one of those enduring theories which in Europe pits the Teutonic work ethic of the North against the Mediterranean happiness ethic of the South. Ditto the states north and south of our own Mason-Dixon line.

What’s going on here?

The Middle East may not be the only streets where this mixture of admiration and resentment catches fire. Once fires start burning, it’s hard to predict them. Harder to control them. As with every large-scale forest fires, there’s an upside and a downside. The down is the vast destruction of the grand forest that was once there. The up is the prospect for a whole new and grander forest.

Of course if you’re not interested in forests, there’s always the movies and malls….

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