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Lay off 'The Man' 

The populist bloodlust toward old white men has gotten out of hand

click to enlarge PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
"Damn the man,” some say. Recently it’s more like, “The man is damned.” Have you noticed as I have that the old white man, in this country at least, has endured a malicious public lashing? The populists out there enjoy bashing “Whitey” or “The Man” for no reasons other than he’s rich and powerful. Yet the power of “The Man” and indeed his wealth has slowly eroded.

Unfortunately, the meager defense of rich, old Caucasian men mostly comes from rich, old Caucasian men. As a low-income Caucasian man I’d like to clear the air a bit because I, too, aspire to join high society.

Consider the 2008 presidential election: For a majority of Americans, it was a time of joy and hope and change. But change from what? Change meant the removal of the established oligarchy that, as far as I can tell, has done a fine job at the helm of this country since its creation some two centuries ago. Some will say a few powerful mysterious puppet masters have prominent roles behind the curtain to the detriment of the lesser class. But is that so bad? Perhaps the changing of the guards in this case may lead to our eventual demise. After all, ousting the established political and financial demigods thrusts us into uncharted waters. In essence, I fear many have too eagerly decried those in power and the ultimate consequence could be the bungling of our country at the hands of poor, doe-eyed newbies.

Back to that election: On the Democratic side, there was no true representation of affluent Caucasians. Instead, the choice was between a black man and a woman. Affluent yes, but with no real established corporate background that indicates experience and an ability to properly handle such power. Not to hold any prejudice, but it was the first time when the only class of political candidate I have ever known wasn’t on the ballot.

The choice eventually was between a black man and a white man, namely John McCain. But his candidacy was hardly a reasonable option: He would’ve made it two or perhaps three weeks on the job before passing away from stress due to his old age. Had he assumed office and died we would once again be at the mercy of a minority president: Sarah Palin.

Increasingly the richest and whitest are becoming the targets of vicious name-calling. It’s become an ugly environment in which a Goldman Sachs banker might feel persecuted simply for having a privileged childhood and through pluck—or even inheritance—achieved a deserved level of influence. Why should the meek and poor have the power?

Consider that Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein generously chopped his bonus roughly in half this year: from his usual payout of $15-$20 million to only $9 million. And even after he slashed his taxpayer-backed bonus, he was still lambasted by the public and media, being called such lurid names as “fat cat,” “vulture,” “soulless greedy licker of Satan’s taint,” among other deplorable insults I’ve heard. Unfortunately, few admonish such name-calling and, in fact, the practice is tolerated and even supported by our supposedly tolerant culture. The so-called “corporate whores who snort money like so much cocaine” suffer unnecessarily and that’s just plain wrong.

To this day, we hold them to sins dating back hundreds of years. Despite criticism that the wealthy elite hold the power, the elite’s power is shriveling and they continue to suffer the demonic image painted by much of the public.

In 1983 the top 1 percent of American earners owned 42.9 percent of the nation’s wealth, according to a University of California Santa Cruz report. As with all things financial, you might expect this number to increase steadily over the years. Instead the top 1 percent shrank to 42.7 percent control of the nation’s wealth by 2007 while the lower class, the next 19 percent, increased their hold from 48.4 percent to 50.3 percent.

Even the prevalence of such drugs as Viagra seems indicative of a population so emasculated by the raging dregs of society that they need pharmaceutical help to remain sexually potent.

The United Nations defines discrimination as “any distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based on race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.”

As a country we’ve made great strides in a quest for a tolerant world, but this new trend has since taken two steps back after a step forward. Just because as a culture we’ve realized the error in suppressing minorities, that does not pave the way to demonize the majority or the elite. I say shame on all of us. They’ve never steered us wrong before.

Staff Writer Colin Rigley is intolerant of all intolerance.

He can be reached at crigley@newtimesslo.com.

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