Friday, March 24, 2006

Heresy

I missed these studies the first time around:

Two years ago, the American Political Science Association produced a study entitled Democracy in an Age of Rising Inequality. The report said people with wealth – privileged Americans – are “roaring with a clarity and consistency that public officials readily hear and routinely follow” while citizens “with lower or moderate incomes are speaking with a whisper.” The study concluded that “progress toward realizing American ideals of democracy may have stalled, and even, in some places, reversed.”

The following year – 2005 – the editors of The Economist, one of the world’s most pro-capitalist publications, produced their own sobering analysis of what is happening in America. They found great and growing income disparities. Thirty years ago the average annual compensation of the top 100 chief executives was 30 times the pay of the average worker; today it is 1000 times the pay of the average worker.

They found an education system “increasingly stratified by social class” in which poor children “attend schools with fewer resources than those of their richer contemporaries.” They found our celebrated universities increasingly “reinforcing rather that reducing” these educational inequalities.

They found American corporations no longer successful agents of upward mobility. It is now harder for people to start at the bottom and rise up the company hierarchy by dint of hard work and self-improvement.

The editors of The Economist studied all this evidence and concluded – and I am quoting a pro-business magazine, remember – that the United States “risks calcifying into a European-style, class-based society.”

Let that sink in: The United States “risks calcifying into a European-style, class-based society.”

That's Bill Moyers, in a fascinating speech he gave earlier this month at Wake Forest Divinity School, where he and his wife were being honored with the creation of a scholarship in religious freedom in their names. After tracing the history of religious freedom in this country and comparing the courageous role of early Baptists with some of their theocratic modern brethren, Moyers says this is again "a time for heresy":

We need such courage today. This is a time for heresy. American democracy is threatened by perversions of money, power, and religion. Money has bought our elections right out from under us. Power has turned government “of, by, and for the people” into the patron of privilege. And Christianity and Islam have been hijacked by fundamentalists who have made religion the language of power, the excuse for violence, and the alibi for empire. We must answer the principalities and powers that would force on America a stifling conformity. Either we make the heretical choices that will inspire us to renew our commitment to America’s deepest values and ideals, or the day will come when we will no longer recognize the country we love.

1 comment:

leolabeth said...

God bless Bill Moyers.

However, if becoming a class-locked European style country could get my kid an education similar to say French or German students, I might become a NeoCon today.