Chuck Klosterman had an interesting question during a Bill Simmons podcast recently. He put forward an idea that various controversies filling the headlines that could not seem further apart – Charlie Sheen’s antics, the Detroit Pistons mutiny, the NFL labor negotiations, and the protests in state capitals around the country – are really all about the same idea: redefining the place of labor in the economy. First, let me say that politically, I’m sure that the public sector union employees of Wisconsin and Ohio would prefer not to be lumped in with the millionaires. Fighting for the right to bargain collectively is also different than the “divvying up the pie” issues of the others.
Yet isn’t it possible that the fact that we are seeing labor standing up to capital a radical change in contemporary American politics? The extrapolation based on the past 30 years would have to be a labor movement trending quickly to zero, and perhaps this moment will be just a blip on that downward slide into nothingness. However, it does not seem to be so easy to ignore. The millions of service workers and cubicle denizens might actually be thinking of themselves as laborers and against the “businessmen” who reap the gains from their efforts. We will see.
On the other hand, in China, we do not see the same kind of awareness in the economic elite. From a Bloomberg news story on the billionaires that are members of the National People’s Congress which is having its annual meeting:
“Rich people are investing their money, creating more jobs,” Zong Qinghou, chairman of Hangzhou Wahaha Group Co. said. “If rich people all get killed, nobody is going invest or build factories, there will be no jobs.”
One might think that with the example of Egypt so close, those that have profited from the largess of the party-state industrial complex might try to take a moment to not rub their wealth in the faces of the masses. One would be wrong. The willful blindness and arrogance of the obscenely wealthy cannot be contained, even for a moment.