Under False Impressions
May 7, 2003
I was at an estate sale recently, and overheard an appraiser
tell a potential customer that the reason the coffee table
they were discussing in front of them was made with such an
incredible attention to detail was that "there were a lot
of people working on each piece. Labor was cheap then, and
not only could they afford to pay people very little to do
a lot of work, but the labor force was so huge in comparison
to the number of jobs available, that only the most talented
craftsmen were employed."
Knowing that coffee tables didn't exist until the 1920's,
and judging from its stylings, the piece the appraiser was
talking about had to have been made during the Great Depression.
This got me to thinking about the history of the labor movement
in the U.S.
It seems there was a time that most people had to struggle
just to survive. There were numerous economic depressions
which put people in a state of absolute despair and caused
great hardship, wherein only the strongest survived; Economic
Darwinism, if you will.
From that sprang a group of people who were willing to make
great sacrifices in order to bring the working people out
of the depths, and laws were created that protected the proletariat
from the railroad barons and the J. Paul Gettys of the world.
They literally fought in the streets, were killed, jailed,
and blacklisted. And what was created out of that was the
baby boomers, who in turn gave birth to the Hippies, who in
turn gave birth to the X and Y generations.
Now we, the weaklings who never really put in a hard
day's work in our lives (I mean plowing a field behind a mule,
on an empty stomach) all sit in front of our surround-sound
televisions watching WWF and Faux News, while the powers that
be, who have lulled us to sleep, are convincing us that those
who are trying to wake us up and tell us that we're being
robbed of our future are nothing but a bunch of socialist,
Pay no attention to those people. Put a flag on your SUV,
fill the tank with Premium, and drive around aimlessly, because
ya can, because yer A'murkins. Leave the rest to us, we'll
tell you when to worry and what to worry about (liberals,
Never mind the fact that children at one time were worked
to death in this country, that accidents claimed lives at
an alarming rate, and that once injured, there was no recourse
except the charity of friends and family, or in their absence,
The right-wingers of this country, safely ensconced in the
warm protective bubble of workman's comp insurance, Social
Security (for the time being, at least), OSHA laws, and affordable
healthcare (though not by the standards of other first world
countries), actually believe what Michael Savage, Ann Coulter,
and other right wingnut pundits tell them about the evils
of socialism, all the while reaping its benefits and forgetting
the sacrifices of those in the past.
In places like Chicago and San Francisco, people picked up
a stick and waded into the riot, hoping to cause just a little
more concern to the powers that be, each individual risking
much more to themselves than they could ever cause to their
And when all is said and done, and when the Cheneys and Bushes
and Rumsfields of the world are driving their golf carts into
the sunset, we'll be left outside the country club, our hands
grasping the wrought iron gates and peering in after them,
wondering why we can no longer afford an SUV, or a plastic
flag to fly from it.
It's all been taken from us, one bit at a time, while we
were surfing between Fox, MSNBC, and CNN, wondering why they
all looked the same, why we even needed a remote for the television,
other than the fact the salesman told us we did.
We'll survive though, even if we have to send our kids to
work in one of Cheney's factories. The one without ventilation,
the one that no longer has to adhere to those pesky, now defunct,
fire codes, the one without safety guards on the machines.