– by ‘tamerlane’
In one scene in the 1963 film, THE GREAT ESCAPE, a prisoner of war, played by Donald Pleasence, fixes a pot of tea for his fellow POW. As he robotically fetches the leaves, boils the water, and fills the pot, Pleasence apologizes for reusing very old and weak tea. What Pleasence tries to hide is that he is virtually blind, and has carefully rehearsed the steps involved in brewing the tea to fool his comrade.
The present day “Tea Party” movement (“TP”) is reminiscent of Pleasence and his stalag tea. Theirs is a thin and weak substitute for that first, potent brew. Today’s protesters hope that by blindly aping the motions of an earlier era, they can can create a brew as potent as the original.
No Sons of Liberty, These
The current TP gang thoroughly misinterprets and perverts the objectives and principles of the 1773 Boston crew. The Sons of Liberty were not protesting taxation per se, only who had the right to tax — a distant parliament, or their own representative bodies.
The Patriots certainly didn’t seek to abolish, or even limit, government. The colonies all had robust legislatures, enacting broad regulations and imposing numerous taxes, which the Boston Tea Party and other protests, and the ensuing rebellion, sought to preserve. Most tellingly, immediately after securing their right to self-rule, the Americans sat down and created a very complex and overarching system of national government, with the Constitution as its operating manual.
Modern TP activists routinely call for the elimination of that system created by our Founding Fathers, with the repeal of much or all of the Constitution they wrote. The original tea party was a question of the form of government, the modern movement questions the very existence of government.
The TP was unquestionably astroturfed by libertarian/anarchist agitators who for decades have harbored a master plan to kill the government that interferes with their rapacious greed. But the masses of average Joes and Jolines now filling the TP ranks are motivated by inchoate sentiments of anger, resentment, and powerlessness. Still unformed in their minds — or their movement — is a set of concrete objectives or even fundamental principles. The various TP splinter groups are just now getting around to holding rancorous debates over a platform.
Only slightly more in focus is a target for their bile: the ‘undeserving’ ne’er-do-wells (not exclusively, but often coincidentally, minorities), and the government that allows them to free-load off hand-outs paid for by TPer’s tax dollars. In directing their anger at those a rung or two below them on the socioeconomic ladder, instead of at the corporate oligarchs who thieved and cheated their way far up that ladder, the TP masses have allowed themselves to be mightily duped. For there is no greater recipient of federal largesse than the big corporations — cash handouts to airlines following 9/11, token lease payments for federal land to ranchers and drillers, bailouts of AIG, GM & Goldman Sachs. If this corporate welfare elicits any ire at all in the TP luddites, it is always directed at the feds issuing the checks, not at the corporations themselves who lobby and bribe.
There’s no denying that the leaders of the American revolution were nearly all affluent planters and merchants partly concerned that Parliament’s sundry excises might crimp their trade. To their credit, the Founding Fathers were also motivated by firmly-held principles derived from their egalitarian, commonwealth heritage. In contrast, the unspoken goal of the TP leadership is nothing less than a return to a pre-Magna Carta feudal society, with impoverished vassals bound in servitude to wealthy and omnipotent lords. That the prospective vassals are actively working to bring about their loss of liberty indicates that, intellectually, they are the functional equivalents of medieval peasants.
When The Sheep Empower the Wolves
The real oppressor of the people is not the government. It is the unregulated free market, with its sociopathic corporations and robber barons who habitually act in their own self-interest and against the interests of society. When they cannot sufficiently exploit their American workers to meet their insatiable avarice, they simply fire them and find new workers in foreign countries that permit unbridled exploitation.
A major role of any government is to protect its people from the selfish acts of anti-social individuals. Before our federal & state governments began “meddling” with the free market, America was home to virtual slave labor camps, known as mining towns. Before the government saddled business with “onerous” regulations, factories routinely used child laborers, paying them a pittance for 10 –12 hours’ daily work. Before the government “stifled productivity” with environmental protection, industrialists and mining magnates cut costs by dumping pollution, poisons, even radioactive waste, thereby forcing society as a whole to subsidize their obscene personal wealth.
The benefit each of us derives from our government’s intercession on our behalf far outweighs any minor burdens from 1040s and the DMV. The ignorant fools who comprise the bulk of the TP have no idea of the ruin and suffering they are working to bring down upon their own heads. They are like sheep, who, resentful at being herded by the dog, kill the dog, unwittingly exposing themselves to the predation of the wolves.
(c) 2010 by ‘tamerlane.’ All rights reserved.
My grandfather was a “breaker boy” who earned a quarter a day picking out slate from coal heaps, and I concur despite my own dissatisfactions with much of our government that without it, no child labor laws or minimum wage or safety standards would have passed, or been forced upon, Big Capital. The TP’ers do indeed miss the target in blaming the Feds for the bailouts rather than addressing the whole system that we’re entangled within and kept down and divided by. I’m slowly reading Thomas Pynchon’s “Against the Day” set sometimes at least in anarchist resistance to the excesses of a century ago and find myself rooting for the underdog. But part of P’s lesson is that neither the rebel nor the conformist can achieve a quiet life: both find themselves unsettled and torn by the constant struggle. As we all are, a century later, worldwide.
My grandfather, too, in the anthracite fields near Wilkes-Barre. The full realization of this TP / libertarian wave will take us back to those cruel times. And the TP grunts won’t be permitted a second protest to correct their mistake.
This piece is brilliant. Thank you.
Mine was in Avoca. Maybe we share Molly Maguire’s kin?
Wow. This is spot on. Thank you for this…
John, Kara, you flatter me. Thank you.
“Thomas Pynchon’s ‘Against the Day’: Book Review” mentions your entry– thanks as it inspired thoughts for mine.
Absolutely brilliant analysis. The question is how and why do so many of our fellow citizens get the target of their anger so wrong?
Keep on writing, please.