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The Top 1 Percent

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Posted on Aug 5, 2011

Al-Jazeera’s slick video news magazine “Fault Lines” investigates the incredible income disparity in the United States that now sees 40 percent of the nation’s wealth in the hands of the top 1 percent. Spoiler alert: The rich get richer, and it’s not very pleasant.  —PZS

(Via Common Dreams)

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Anarcissie's avatar

By Anarcissie, August 13, 2011 at 7:41 am Link to this comment

No, diamond, I’m not demonizing the poor, nor am I idealizing them.  I’m saying that they’re like everyone else.  Human beings in general have a big problem with violence.  They will never be able to deal with it by pretending it isn’t there, or by always attributing it to other people (usually, an ethnic or religious minority).  The difference between the rich and the poor is that the rich can hire someone else to do their violence for them, whereas the poor have to do their own.  But at the moment everyone worships it together, whether at the movies, the ballot box, or in dark alleys.

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By diamond, August 13, 2011 at 1:43 am Link to this comment

“Fortunately, I’m trying to understand and describe the world, not earn credit points.”

No, you’re not. You’re trying to demonize the poor and by extension anyone who is not like you.

“I have lived among poor people and, at least in my experience, there is a great deal of violence, destruction and cruelty among them, but it is poorly organized, and they generally turn it against themselves and each other rather than against their oppressors and persecutors (whom they often admire).”

And you think this isn’t exactly how the 1% want it to be? It suits them perfectly for the poor, the ignorant and the disadvantaged to kill and brutalize each other rather then their oppressors. And they will do everything in their power to keep them poor, ignorant and disadvantaged too, by keeping their own trotters in the trough and making sure no one else gets a share. One of the ways they do this is by making education so expensive that working class people simply can’t afford to send their children to college. There are many other ways they segregate the working class from aspiring to better things and none of it is accidental. The class system in America is alive and well.

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By Anarcissie, August 12, 2011 at 8:15 pm Link to this comment

diamond, August 12 at 3:10 pm:

“Gerard—I don’t think you’re looking at the whole picture.  Human beings are pretty nasty, like some other primates.”

Your Hobbesian view of the human race does you no credit at all. ...’

Fortunately, I’m trying to understand and describe the world, not earn credit points.

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By OzarkMichael, August 12, 2011 at 5:28 pm Link to this comment

When Obama and Hillary Clinton praise a foreign news service while hoping to outlaw Fox News we have to wonder if the problem isnt Fox news but Obama and Clinton.

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By diamond, August 12, 2011 at 3:10 pm Link to this comment

“Gerard—I don’t think you’re looking at the whole picture.  Human beings are pretty nasty, like some other primates.”

Your Hobbesian view of the human race does you no credit at all. Human beings are as good as they’re allowed to be. When they’re put in a Darwinian struggle where they’re not allowed to be good if they’re going to survive then they’re not ‘good’ and they become nasty. I defy you to look into a little child’s eyes and tell me that human beings are born bad. That is absolute crap but it’s a handy excuse for those who want an unjust system and an unjust share of the pie.

Assad was raised by a tyrant, his father, who slaughtered 30,000 Syrians in a previous uprising. You shouldn’t extend the guilt for the actions of one brutal monster to the entire human race. If you stop supporting government, as a concept, you will have anarchy: which is why government was invented in the first place. It’s one of those recurring pipe dreams that each person can just be good on their own and not work collectively for the common good. Governments that don’t work collectively for the common good but only to support an elite are the problem, which is what this report was about.

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By Anarcissie, August 9, 2011 at 8:37 am Link to this comment

I have lived among poor people and, at least in my experience, there is a great deal of violence, destruction and cruelty among them, but it is poorly organized, and they generally turn it against themselves and each other rather than against their oppressors and persecutors (whom they often admire).  So the atrocities do not come to public notice.

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By gerard, August 9, 2011 at 8:20 am Link to this comment

Anarchissie:  Thanks.  One more comment, then I’ll shut up!  Re: Lipton’s “atrocity-producing situations” so “structured” (by someone, something) ...
  One would think that years of deprivation, cruelty etc. would automatically qualify as “atrocity-producing”, yet the fact is, masses of people will go down to weakness and death without managing to get together and mount a credible resistance, atrocious or otherwise. Then we have today’s London, which the Brits found a word for in the Guardian: “exclusion from consumerist fulfillment.”  Don’t know whether to laugh or cry!

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By sand11, August 9, 2011 at 5:40 am Link to this comment

Al Jazeera is a reliable source for news and commentary.  It does not have to boast about being “fair and balanced” because it is fair and balanced and that is precisely why governments fear and hate it so…..especially the U.S. government and its right wing.  Thank-you again, Al Jazeera, for a thought-provoking piece of reporting.

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By Anarcissie, August 8, 2011 at 7:26 pm Link to this comment

gerard—Actually, there seem to be two different kinds of atrocities.  There are the kind which are committed by people who are under severe psychological pressure, like men (and women) in combat.  After a few days in an environment in which people are trying to kill them, many people will become sort of crazy by everyday standards; they will begin to exhibit hair-trigger aggression, reckless behavior, extreme cruelty.  This is simply nature’s way of enhancing the probability that they will survive, and evolved, no doubt, during the tens of thousands of years that humans have been fighting and killing one another in groups.  My Lai was an example of this sort of atrocity.  It is hardly surprising to find that threatened animals will behave in an unpleasant, hostile manner whether they are human or some other kind.

Then there is another sort of atrocity, the kind exhibited by, for instance, Adolf Eichmann, or indeed anyone who plans a war of aggression, concentration camps, purges, terror, and so on, while not in or near combat.  We could include most of the U.S. government at the time of the invasion of Iraq, and at many other times.  Such people believe their behavior, and that of those they command, is legitimated by law and justified by good policy—implying the support of the people, the state, history, the gods.  Non-human animals do not do this; they seem to be incapable of the necessary abstractions.  Hence, perhaps, this sort of behavior should be what we mean by ‘humane’; perhaps we should call it ‘man’s humanity to man.’

I don’t know if the second sort is contrary to reason for our great leaders, but it certainly seems so for most people.  Most people don’t really want to get down into the blood pit, except in the movies.  Hence I am fond of the epigram I quoted about reason as the last resort.  I’d like to think of a way of provoking an earlier onset of reason, but thus far I have been unsuccessful.

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By gerard, August 8, 2011 at 12:04 pm Link to this comment

Anarchissie:  Quoting from the article on this current TD article regarding Robert J. Lifton:
“The My Lai massacre led him (Lifton) to the concept of the atrocity-producing situation: ‘an environment so structured, both militarily and psychologically, that an average person—‘no better or worse than you or me,’ as I (Lifton)was fond of putting it—-upon entering it, could be capable of committing atrocities.’
  What “atrocity-producing situations”,  structured militarily and psychologically, fashion heartless behavior which (apparently) replaces compassion in leaders, elites, that are then reflected in government policies, legal judgments etc. etc.?
  I know these are huge imponderable questions, but ... they keep nagging to be asked somewhere, somehow.

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By gerard, August 8, 2011 at 10:26 am Link to this comment

Anarchissie: “Human beings employ reason only when every other method of dealing with a problem has failed.”
  Like all generalities, yes and no?  Considering what we know about history over millenia, with the many exceptions of violence, both personal and sccial, reason (more or less) has won out (more or less). Otherwise it’s unlikely humans would have survived this long. Whether these interludes of “peace” were learned or inherent can’t be known for absolute certainty, but ideas like “teach peace” and “gonna study war no more” indicate fairly broad general awareness that violence, while it may be innate, is not inevitable. A large component of military training is aimed at dehumanization.
  So my question is not so much “Can humans become humane?” It’s more “Why don’t they?”  And for me, that’s the question that begs for study and experiment. So, for example, what makes Assad etc. tick? Is it “curable?” “remediable?” And conversely, what are the best ways to avoid becoming inhumane?
And of course “degree” (all the way from commission to complicity) comes into consideration.
  What seem to be gross abstractions like this are easy to shoot down. Language is sort of set up to shoot them down.  But ... they are staring us in the face, nevertheless.
  I’d be happy to know your response if this string stays up long enough. Thanks.

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By Anarcissie, August 8, 2011 at 8:45 am Link to this comment

gerard—I don’t think you’re looking at the whole picture.  Human beings are pretty nasty, like some other primates.  One of the ways they try to work this out without getting their hands dirty is to follow great leaders who enact nastiness for them—Assad, for example, or our own string of sociopaths who have caused the unnecessary deaths of millions of people worldwide for abstract goals like national power, political advancement or corporate profit.

The only way I can think of dealing with this problem is to take responsibility for one’s own actions and to stop supporting lunatics and criminals, that is, governments, when possible.  But since this is a rational approach, it is not likely to ever become very popular.  Humans employ reason only when every other available method of dealing with a problem has failed.

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By gerard, August 7, 2011 at 6:28 pm Link to this comment

Anarchissie:  When one considers what’s going on in Syria, (just one radical example of power at the top and the inevitable reaction to gross injustice) it is totally amazing to me how come Assad et al can’t plainly see the handwriting on the wall of inevitable democratization (more or less) in that part of the world with that kind of repression going on and on for literally centuries.  In the face of international travel and communication?  In the face of hordes of unemployed young men?  In the face of the internet and its capabilities?  In the face of sheer irrepressible numbers?  In the face of even a smidgeon of ethical education of any kind?
  What could anyone on earth possibly “get” out of shooting your own people in the streets?  Out of hoarding and repression and antique reactonary reflexes?  Out of being almost universally hated? Out of trying to resist probably indomitable social- intellectual trends—a worldwide technological tsunami with the potential to destroy the entire environment?  How can anybody be that stupid and bull-headed? And is a powerful person like that impervious to change, even though it costs him billions—and even life itself?  I just don’t get it, and I don’t think anybody does.  I wonder who is
thinking about it, learning about it, proposing reasons?  I’m no longer satisfied with the time-worn rubric “It’s just rotten human nature.” Or “the devil makes him do it.” Or “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Billions of people prove wisdom and kindness every day they live—and feel better for it. There is something perverse at work in conflict that it creates iits own “double-binds” that is an almost entirely secret menaces. Or am I nutz?

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By Anarcissie, August 7, 2011 at 5:19 pm Link to this comment

I think the means by which ruling classes maintain their rule is necessarily malign.  Of course they could not continue to do this without popular support.  Whether that support is due merely to the bad influence of their rulers, bad luck, or is embedded in our genes, I don’t know.  It certainly seems contrary to simple reason.

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By gerard, August 7, 2011 at 4:14 pm Link to this comment

Anarchissie:  Maybe not.  But 1% controls a lot of what goes on among the “lower” classes, and if the 1% would suddenly humanize their behavior across the board (which seems very unlikely at this point, though it’s not entirely out of the question yet)
there would be more prospect for the future. “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”  Yes? No?

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By Anarcissie, August 7, 2011 at 11:17 am Link to this comment

gerard, August 5 at 4:29 pm:

‘... Strange that (in a minority of so-called educated people) the abstract “power to oppress”, “power to kill” and “power to cheat”  has more appeal than “power to help, to improve, to give, to save lives, to create peace. It’s as though the “ruling classes” are stuck in a pool of glue.’


It’s not just the ruling classes, unfortunately.

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By diamond, August 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm Link to this comment

“Blah, blah, blah.  The “poor” in America are not poor. The folks in the Sudan, Kenya, and Somalia are poor”

Well, of course there are no poor people in America. That’s why the park directly across the road from the White House is full of homeless people. You need a good kick up the behind and you need to go and live on the street yourself even for one day. You have no idea what’s really going on in America or how dire the situation is. ‘Self-responsibility’ is just another way of saying that the poor are poor because they’re irresponsible and lazy, sinners in other words. This is not true and it never has been true all through history. But of course you wouldn’t know anything about that because you obviously know nothing about history, especially your own. When forty percent of the wealth is in the hands of 10% of the population and the other 90% are left to fight over what’s left you have a problem and pretending it doesn’t exist will neither solve it nor make it go away. Destroying unions and sending manufacturing off shore so you can pay the workers who do it $1 a day and letting the rich get away with paying clearly inadequate taxes is not the way to create a just and moral society. And people like you are part of the problem not the solution.

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By Azcat85, August 5, 2011 at 6:57 pm Link to this comment

Blah, blah, blah.  The “poor” in America are not poor. The folks in the Sudan,
Kenya, and Somalia are poor.  An individual with multiple TVs, multiple cars, owns
a house, owns game consoles is not poor. Self responsibility in the last three
decades went out the window with the drive to continue to live beyond their
means.  Those that saved and lived frugally got ahead.  Self Responsiblility is the
way out of sub-standard lifestyle.

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By gerard, August 5, 2011 at 4:29 pm Link to this comment

This ties us very clearly to the “Arab Spring” by showing the ultimate results worldwide of extreme class inequality (rulers versus ruled), mass unemployment of the younger generations, and the inevitable struggles for economic and political justice. The internet makes it all visible now, and we can never turn back and pretend we don’t know the indecent difference between Wall Street and Somalia.

Strange that (in a minority of so-called educated people) the abstract “power to oppress”, “power to kill” and “power to cheat”  has more appeal than “power to help, to improve, to give, to save lives, to create peace. It’s as though the “ruling classes” are stuck in a pool of glue.

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By Timothy Blackmon Jr., August 5, 2011 at 1:46 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This was a great video. I am very young but I am sick and tired of being a victim of Capitalism, and a Prisoner of Government and Politics.  The same polluted system of centralization, ousourcing, consumation, and capitaliation that got US here, shall be the very same system that brings US down.

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By thethirdman, August 5, 2011 at 11:48 am Link to this comment

All that dancing and head bobbing in the streets.  If I were rich, I wouldn’t be all
that scared.

Academics always throw out the caveat that the rich should be worried by their
lopsided policies, because one day, the general populous will snap.  It’s not 1789;
there are no guillotines.  People just don’t have it in them anymore.  Instead of
rebellion, I see passive acquiescence.  “Just as long as I have a job everything will
be okay…”

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By Hulk2008, August 5, 2011 at 10:48 am Link to this comment

The fact that the guys who take in the most profit are called the “TOP” of anything indicates the basic problem.  Our culture only acknowledges monetary intake as virtuous. 

    Doctors, educators, social workers, police, soldiers, and anyone who serves the poor are automatically given a lower tier of respect - The Sucker Class, while athletes, hedge fund managers, and speculators rake in not only outrageous fortunes but also the lion’s share of admiration. 

    Our culture has been perverted toward obscene accumulation of possessions. 

Bad News for the “Top 1 Percent”: 

You are ALL going to die someday and sommebody else will end up with your stuff.

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By Gmonst, August 5, 2011 at 10:24 am Link to this comment

Wow, real news!  Calm, objective, giving all sides a chance to make their case. I like it.  I think Al Jazeera will find there is a big hunger for good reporting like this in the United States.

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By PatrickHenry, August 5, 2011 at 9:55 am Link to this comment

Al jazeera and Link -TV, god bless them andI hope they keep up their good work in reporting unbiased news, the way it should be done.

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By SarcastiCanuck, August 5, 2011 at 7:26 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Do you want to know why the government hates Al Jazeera and calls them liars,then watch this.Funny how no libel or slander lawsuits have been filed against them.

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