Plantation America

And here you thought slavery was a century and a half behind us.

Who ‘owns’ us now?

Well, it’s a complicated question and not quite as clear as in 1861, when black people in chains were actually sold in markets and counted toward a man’s wealth.

By the way, that square in Washington where Trump held up a bible was a one-time slave market.

One can argue about whether there are other types of chains that fetter employment in these modern times, but the instruments are there if one cares to look. Today’s ‘wage slaves’ are independent contractors, which is a very upscale term for jobs with no benefits (JWNBs, you heard it here first).

Here the luxuries of such assets as the employer-contribution side of social security, healthcare benefits, profit-sharing, retirement programs, paid days off for sick time or personal needs, child-care and life insurance, paid vacation, flexible work schedules as well as workplace perks like on-site snacks and meals aren’t part of the deal.

Wow, that’s a lot of stuff you don’t get as an independent. Maybe the plantation isn’t so bad after all.

As an interesting aside, a strong case was made in the mid-1880s slave-states toward freeing black slaves and re-hiring them for wages. That conversation was not held for moral or ethical reasons, but because some said it was far cheaper. Nothing came of it at the time for fear of reprisals for lifetimes spent in bonds.

On the ‘ownership’ issue, ordinary jobs in ordinary companies chain  employees to the company by providing the very perks discussed above. As the song says, breaking up is hard to do.

Healthcare itself is a major issue. If your company’s present insurer is covering you or members of your family for serious illness or disability, changing insurers may find those cases to be ‘pre-existing conditions’ and fail to cover them. Something to think about. But free to choose, free to leave and free to tell the boss to go to hell and find a job elsewhere are all complicated concepts.

What are Walmart and Amazon but plantations?

Those are the two largest employers in America, so they make an easy target. But just like in the old south, plantations come in all sizes, from mom and pop to Bezos and the Waltons.

One thing rings true and that’s that the smaller the plantation, the closer the owner is to his slaves. The local machine-parts manufacturer may have only 100 workers, but if turnover is high, he’s in a constant bind for quality-control.

Amazon and Walmart operate with bureaucracies that are larger than many nations. You may get fifteen bucks an hour, but the time management and parcels handled per hour are deal-breakers. But where else to go for fifteen bucks? Turnover and burnout rates are very high and the toll on mental health follows right along. But it was always tough on the plantation.

Old times there are not forgotten, look away, look away, look away, Amazon.”

Plantation politics

Now we’re getting pretty close to the bone for a lot of readers.

So, sit down, sip a cool one and recognize that both parties, Republican and Democrat, are basically plantations. They’re run for the profit and aggrandizement of the occupants and the voters who ‘elect’ them are the least important part of the deal they made among themselves.

The deal they made was to do away with those nasty old terms like bribery and corruption. It was of course a Faustian bargain, and they gave up their souls to get it, but they don’t give a shit. A soul is too nebulous a thing for a politician, the next election is a far as their self-centered little minds can concentrate. So, they made payoffs and dollars-for-votes legal through campaign contributions and other marginally ethical shenanigans.

But they’re crooks and any of their class of felons who couldn’t stand their company, folded their tents and went home to do honest work, like holding up a Seven-Eleven or selling used cars.

Have a look at what that bought us

I Googled politicians and checked out what comes up under ‘skills and knowledge.’ The parentheses are mine:

  • legal knowledge including court procedures and government regulations (enough to stay out of prison)
  • an understanding of society and culture (so you can work on their fears)
  • excellent verbal communication skills (to obfuscate any interaction with a journalist)
  • analytical thinking skills (clearly useful when understanding the quickest way to the biggest buck)
  • active listening skills (gotta know the shorthand for lobbyist-speak)
  • the ability to think clearly using logic and reasoning (how much, when and in what currency)
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail (don’t forget who you work for)

So, it’s no small wonder we are where we are

And I apologize, because I left out an important branch of government—the Supremes. I call them that because in their modern iteration they remind me of MoTown. Every step of the way, they enabled the crowd of gangsters who claim to represent us.

They eviscerated the 1965 Voter Protection Act at a time when racial discrimination is rampant in more than half our states. Their song-and-dance routine includes recognizing corporations as individuals, assuring their civil right to pump money into elections, defunding the unions, upholding the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and…oh never mind, it just goes on and on.

But there’s always a little more toothpaste in the tube

So says Bill Bryson, one of my favorite travel writers.

And I have found that to be true on numerous occasions, so we can expect more of the same in upcoming segments of Plantation America. Stay tuned for:

    • Week 17: Gerrymandering for fun and profit
    • Week 18: Shutting down those black and brown voting opportunities

More to come, so stay tuned and watch for us at the Emmys.



Image Credit: The New York Times

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