The Rule of the Rich and the Last Hurrah
An Essay of the Man from the North
By Rivera Sun
Rich people rule, make no mistake. They have ruled for centuries, and the toll of their reign has been high. At their feet can be laid the bodies of every child starved in a world with surplus food; every person who freezes to death in the streets while there are six empty houses for every homeless person; every death from lack of affordable healthcare; and the incalculable casualties of the world’s wars – which have all had the wealthy at the helm.
Colonization’s genocides, slavery’s murders, and the living death of mass incarceration can all be added to the oligarchy’s tally.
Most damning, we can now add the looming threat of mass extinction to the track record of the rich – for they are the ones who obscured climate science, who promoted denialism to protect fossil fuel profits, and who still obstruct the necessary transition to sustainable practices. Make no mistake: the rule of the rich has been a deadly epoch for humanity.
We cannot compare the effect of the rule of a whole populace empowered by democracy. In this country, the wealthy hijacked the idea of democracy starting in 1787 when the Constitution excluded everyone but propertied white males. There are few examples of full-constituency, class-balanced democracy throughout human history. In no case can the scale of destruction be compared to what the rule of the rich has done.
We owe them no allegiance. They have shown their reign to be dangerous, deadly, and destructive. We owe it to ourselves, our communities, humanity and the Earth to utterly resist their continued rule. We must reject their propaganda. We must recognize it on billboards and movie screens. We must learn to see how it masquerades in education and spouts from the mouths of politicians. Every sector of our lives currently serves to prop up the rule of the rich, their ideologies and worldviews. Effective resistance begins by silencing our cheers and breaking our silence when the next dose of propaganda is being spoon-fed to the nation.
It is not a matter of “good” billionaires vs. “bad” billionaires. Like benevolent dictators, the system itself is rotten to the core. It will never represent the needs of the people. There are no safeguards against tyrants. Those who cheer on their favorite gladiator of a billionaire are deluding themselves about the nature of power and wealth. Billionaires can turn the sharp swords-edge of their power against you. Their economic empires will subjugate you for profit. It is foolish to applaud philanthropy without examining the sources of the fortune.
Do not let the rain of money blind you. Beneath the glamour lies a complex equation that nets a savings for your favorite wealthy darling of a donor, privatizing the use of money while robbing it from any hope of democratic application that taxation might have offered. Those fortunes showered on charities and foundation grants have been skimmed from wages, market manipulation, high-priced products, and often government—taxpayer—subsidies.
There are no “good” plutocrats, not when you look closely. You can have democracy or you can have the rule of the rich. You cannot have both. On their side, the rich offer a hedonistic last hurrah, an orgy of plundering and partying for a brief firework-explosion of a moment before the unending eternity of extinction. On our side, we lift the glimmer of hope, the tendril-seed chance of life.