Mandela’s Lesson…and Class Apartheid

Mandela left for humanity this lesson: enemies can transform themselves, with guidance, into an emergent unity. Do we even have the wisdom to understand the broader relevance of his lesson, much less any even remotely qualified guiding figures? Mandela today, let us be frank, would quickly be labeled a “terrorist” by ruling circles and dismissed, without any consideration of his specific proposals.

Mandela has left us on our own, to remember and apply his lesson. Readers can identify problems of their own whose solution depends on such a Mandelanesque transformation of two enemies into something new and cooperative. Global justice for Muslims is an obvious example, but the one I wish to “put on the table” is the “class apartheid” of the West. Half a century ago, this was seen as a solved problem. New Deal reforms combined with WWII victory and, in the last great bastion of racism, official rejection of that former “American way of life” appeared to have set the whole West on the road to moderate but steady reform and rising egalitarianism, with the natural result of spreading popular participation in politics. All that, over the last generation, has been reversed by, in the U.S., a broad bipartisan plot by ruling politicians lusting for lifetime membership in the small club of the super-rich that essentially constitutes the U.S. ruling elite.

Not satisfied by the Reagan era with its already vast influence and mindless wealth, this elite has, since then, moved with increasing determination to reverse the historic growth of the middle class by impoverishing that broadening majority and aggregating as much of national wealth as possible in their own hands. Politicians lusting for global empire and the CEO’s of war profiteer corporations found much to their liking in this class war of the rich, and the war took off in earnest but brilliantly cloaked in a world-class propaganda campaign extolling the middle class and democracy precisely as they worked to eliminate both. But by 2008 the elite had gone a step too far and was forced to turn to exploited for salvation. Hoodwinked by craven politicians, the people missed the opportunity to change the system, and today the ruling elite has returned to the attack (read, for one recent example, the two concluding chapters [26 and 27] in FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair’s book Bull by the Horns for a moderate Republican[!!] analysis of what Washington has failed to do to end financial fraud and exploitation since 2008).

One solution to this rising Class War by the Rich against the rest is laid out in awesome detail by Solzhenitsyn in his Red Circle series of novels explaining the Russian Revolution that resulted in 1917 from the whole society’s disgust with Tsarism. Almost any American who bothered to educated him- or herself about world affairs would find that prospect distasteful. After all, we still have a lot more than our chains to lose.

The other solution would be to apply Mandela’s lesson. Unfortunately, evidence that the American people have either the will or wisdom to do so has yet to be detected. But then, when Nelson Mandela was spending 27 years in jail, convicted of wanting freedom for his people, not much evidence had been detected that he would succeed either.

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