The other day I heard something that made me appreciate Karl Marx.
My friend who watches Fox News exclusively was bemoaning the movement to abolish Thanksgiving. (I have a confession to make: I am lover of Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as a devout Obama Democrat.)
“Where did you hear that?” I replied in shock.
He said, “On Fox News.”
It brought back a memory of my undergraduate days at Virginia Tech more than half a century ago where, as a philosophy major, I took a course in Marxism. It was taught by Guy Hammond, who had doctorates in engineering and philosophy and was an ordained minister, Methodist, as I recall. He taught the course in Marxism cold turkey, without personal bias.
A Marxist concept that Hammond explained was that of “false consciousness.” It is the system of lies that the bourgeoisie invents to prevent people from voting for their interests.
I suspect that the inventors of the lie about abolishing Thanksgiving want you to vote against something that they know you would vote for, sort of the way a pickpocket distracts your attention before stealing your wallet.
“Get the government off our backs,” is one such ruse. It’s code for, “Get the democratic process off our backs.”
Case in point: Once upon a time in America, lenders had to qualify borrowers. Before a developer built a high-rise, the banker would ask, “Who’s going to occupy the building? Who’s going to pay off the construction and transition loans if the project goes belly up?”
Then, in the mid-1980s, the federal government deregulated the savings and loans, and the government underwrote those loans.
This led to a free-for-all of unscrupulous lenders and developers that cost the American taxpayer $100 billion. Those developers and lenders took their huge profits, and middle-class taxpayers picked up the tab: Socialism for the rich, and free enterprise for the rest of us.
You’d think the American people would say, “Well, that wasn’t a very good idea.” And we did, but we were drowned out by another chorus, a smaller one with a louder megaphone.
When Wall Streeters saw that they could get public underwriting for their speculations, however dangerous and irresponsible, they clamored for more deregulation.
They couldn’t say, “Hey, middle class taxpayer, we want to pick your pockets.” What they did say was, “Big government is a problem. Get the government off our backs.”
What was really being taken away, though, was our voice, our vote and our consumer protections, until they created the financial collapse of 2008.
And now, more than a decade later, the false consciousness that the oil, health insurance and gun lobbies have created is so well orchestrated that the democratic process in our country might already have been irreparably damaged.
I feel that Utah’s congressmen and senators have helped create this problem. They listen to the purveyors of false consciousness who feather their nests. But, this year, they need to listen to us.
Whit Wirsing, Salt Lake City, is an interpreter at the University of Utah Medical Center, teaches night school in the Granite School District and English as a second language at the University of Utah, and is the author of “The Ultimate Spanish Phrase Finder.”