Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why are we still sacrificing canaries?


Back in the day of coal mining's heyday,  disasters in the mines were common. Dangerous gasses built up in the tunnels and an errant spark ignited fiery explosions, killing miners, destroying both the mine and the product itself, and necessitating large scale rescue and emergency response operations to mitigate the death and damage.

After a while, people recognized that the gasses that blew up were also toxic, but the miners weren't always affected by the fumes enough to notice before it was too late, so they began a practice of sending a caged canary into the mines with the workers. The small birds were more sensitive to the gasses, and when the canary stopped singing, the miners took note and were able to evacuate and purge the passageways before death and destruction resulted.
Caged Canary -- credit: gauchemanitoba.blogspot.com
Today coal, though the least-favored, most-polluting fossil fuel, is still mined, and co-occurrent gasses still accumulate, but canaries are no longer sacrificed; better technologies have been developed to monitor the air quality.

The practice of sacrifice for the greater good has been a human belief since the days of ancient demanding gods: mythology records that the volcano deity expected virgins for appeasement; weather gods demanded portions of the harvest. Over time, powerful earthly representatives of the gods took charge of the sacrifices: priests collected offerings and tithes to appease the wrathful gods; as time continued, lesser beings were turned over to divinely ruling monarchs in order to maintain the touchy equilibrium of truce in abutting kingdoms.

The sacrifice of canaries and virgins may be over, but the sacrifice of the many for the few is still prevalent. In fact, over the centuries it has been institutionalized into common fact. Hierarchy protects those at the top and axes the minions below to keep the status quo: bureaucracy calls the practice reduction in force; corporations "restructure" their operations; generals send platoons of soldiers into battle. Today, the masses of common laborers are the pawns of executives just as slaves were at the beck and call of the landed gentry of yore.

Times continue to change. The voting restrictions documented at America's founding have been whittled away, giving more power to those previously constrained by established rules. Societal mores evolved, extending protections of law more equitably to those previously without legal rights. Slaves were freed. Laborers organized and demanded better working conditions. Women were emancipated and joined the ranks employed outside the home. Students and underprivileged minorities agitated concessions from the political system. Worldwide, patterns shifted.

As equity became more achievable, the sacrifice concept lost its allure, disrupting the power structure. More and more competition threatened the traditional overlording controllers who scrambled to enact measures to re-establish their positional power. And so they established the theory of "trickle down economics".

Without sacrifice from the masses, the hierarchical power structure cannot exist. By purporting that anyone can rise through hard work, the system retains its structure while controlling access; the few rise while the rest struggle, and as the power is more firmly established at the top, the ante is upped by increasing disparities, requiring more sacrifices from minions while bolstering the attainment at the top. As long as the ranks of aspiring midlevel achievers fail to recognize the Ponzi scheme they are playing in and succumb to the allure of possible triumph, they perpetuate the system. And those who are fated by socio-economic, racial, ethnic, or educational underprivilege to serve as the underpinnings of the system are destined to not just perpetually fail but sacrifice more and more for the success at the top.

Prove it to yourself:  This is no fairytale theory. 

Today's wealthy elite manipulate in the background, funding the politicians to manage their "trickle" process. Those marginalized by gender, racial, ethnic, or religious categorization, the old, the disabled, the hungry, the poor, all are targetted daily for more sacrifice while the rich controllers are rewarded with inappropriate spoils. Women are prevented from controlling their own bodies; blacks can be killed for seeming to be threatening while their white assailants get out of jail free with "stand your ground" laws. Taxes are cut for the wealthy, and public lands are leased to their corporations for a pittance of their value to be exploited by unsustainable extraction processes that pollute the air, water, and land itself for generations to come.

Until we realize that "trickle down economics" is a trick of the wealthy to perpetuate their status and diminish the rest of the world's quo, we underlings of the system will continue to remain caged, abused, disposable, and unaware that in this system, we serve as the sacrificial canaries.
I wonder... what you think.
* Photo Credit: gauchemanitoba.blogspot.com

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