The Poor Rich

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2011 at 3:10 pm

Takoma Pk., 4th of July celebration, [7/4/22]

Takoma Park, 4th of July Celebration , 1922


We are each born wild.  We each replicate the transition from sea to land in our birth…conceived as mermaids, but hatched as runners, dreamers, and sometime fliers.

Like geese, we seem to imprint on early acquaintances with people, ideas, customs, and traditions.    Out of all the possibilities, we are born to one spot where its people and traditions compel us with the fortitude of their longevity and earnestness.

The accidental nature of being born in one era or place as opposed to any other is the very underpinning of freedom: the fact that birth itself is a mere whim means that all people, innately, “have” freedom.   From there, the boundaries or boundlessness of nations and private enterprises are defined.

So, in my case, Democracy was an amorphous dream, vaguely percolating from the edge of a public school elementary desk.  These strange concepts of colonists, tyrants, tea-partiers, taxers, and  Stamp Acts, thrown in a stew with massacres of Indians (only occasionally Native Americans) (who were sometimes friends with Colonists), and a fledgling trans-continental trade where slaves were  de-humanized to match the commodification of cotton, tea, spice, sugarcane and molasses…did not come across to me as a clear-cut, resounding Democracy!

I sat at my desk, listened, and, inside, kept switching allegiances.   At any given moment,  I felt sympathy to each player,  but I had my favorites.   And it is easy to gin up outrage when you paint one group into a “side,” and imagine and project yourself going back in time to be a valiant fighter against the tyranny of the King Georges, slave traders, and Hitlers of the world….but really start dissecting events, such as the American Civil War, realizing all your relatives today had ties to both sides…and, life, history, and nation collapse into a heap of complexity, unsalvageable from ready-made heroes and villains.

Yet salvaging the concept of nation, and, in particular, Democracy, from its hypocrisies is what shapes it away from corruption and towards Enlightenment.  Our country is, indeed, a continual “work in progress,” as the  \”High Noon\”editorial of the Times opines.

Thus, nation is the last perimeter between the raw person, their family, their religion, education, beliefs, and the primordial, existential and unnameable.  All such concepts are arbitrary, thus all are fully malleable.   Think of this: if the world were controlled solely by quantum physicists,  they may not have divided time by the second, but by Plancks’ constant instead–a fracturing of time that represents uncertainty more than it purports to constrain certainty.

So I conclude that the rich of today’s world, who supersede all national boundaries as predatory capitalists, hatching schemes to ship jobs where all risk can be socialized and all profit can be hoarded,  are fundamentally poor in lacking a preference for nation or a conception of Democracy…a conception of the inherent equality of all people, and an inherent dignity, worth, and freedom that is unencumbered by tawdry dollars.  Without such conception, they are cast back into the tiny shadow of themselves, a miser counting gold, that no matter how high it piles, will not be enough, because they lack the imagination and spirit to see the soaring, transcendent freedom of Democracy of all people.  Instead, hoarding wealth for themselves, they simply inflate the prices of objects, oblivious to the effect such inflation has on the millions around them who are not only not misers and hoarders, but are actually Democratists.

The concept of Democracy is passed through the generations because the fundamental ache for this nobler, grander, spiritual ideal of inherent equality of all people, and fundamental freedom of the human spirit, is not limited to one time or place.  It keeps igniting in the hearts of  people, which leads them to sing out, to lead marches, to write in the newspapers, to run for elected office, to serve the public– all public equally, as a peer to all peers, in whatever capacity they choose.

Thus, the people who collect their corporate profits and fly in their jets with a house in each country in the world are deluding themselves into thinking they “own” the world, as equally as British colonists deluded themselves into believing this “new continent” was “theirs.”

It is no more theirs than it is ours.  It is everyone’s and no one’s only to the extent that we see freedom as a shared possibility for any and all whose dreams would dare to grasp so high.  Dependence on predation of people for profit is the rich man’s shackles…he can exploit the world over, and never find freedom, never declare Independence.   Independence comes from uniting for the common good, gladly paying our taxes to further society, and working to ensure the blessings of freedom can be felt by all.  Happy Fourth of July to everyone around the world who yearns for such freedom!


Takoma Pk., 4th of July celebration, 7/4/22

  1. It is no accident, of course, that you post this essay on the 4th of July. That was confirmed when I reread it in the PDF version with its pictures of past July 4ths. Soon, on the 14th of July, one of your sisters in France will write something comparable in the French idiom about her notion of freedom. Fighter planes will fly over the Arche de Triomphe streaming that nation’s mix of patriotic colors, just as planes did here on the 1st of July over Parliament Hill in Ottawa and as they did yesterday over some grand monument near you in DC. Expressions of freedom and democracy and equality will continue to rise up in land after land until the calendar is filled with the world’s hope for a better, fairer day.

    Your essay is as elusive as it is lyric on the page, but the spirit is unmistakable and universal. What is our proper place? Do we wind chains around Nature just as we do our neighbors? What’s the point of spoiling the miracle we were born into? Where is the fair line between you and me and them. Should my fair share determined by my reach?

    These ideas, tentative and vague on their borders — unlike the strictly demarcated borders of jealous nations or the fine precisions of our marauding technology — are so much more refreshing to hear or read on national holidys than the fireworks of jingoism and self congratulation at the heart of so many official celebratory speeches. We should set aside more time for reflection, questions and expressions of wonder on such holidays, instead of the chest beating we have come to expect.

    Let’s see what we can do to bring it all about by next year.

    Jay – Ottawa

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