Friday, October 31, 2008

Joe the Maoist

By Capt. Fogg

I picked up the clip below at A Silent Cacophony, one of my regular reads. Looking for Joe the Plumber in the crowd, John the Candidate tells the audience to stand up because they're all Joe the Plumber. I'm sure the man with umpteen houses and cars and a private jet wishes it were so. I'm sure the Man who has never had a private sector job, much less a blue collar trade, would like us to think of him as a man of the people, a Maoist hero.

The idea of the wise peasant, the log cabin born leader is nothing new and it's typically American, but it's also a central mythology of Marxism. We remember Mao Zedong's cultural revolution during which the professional, academic and educated classes were all but exterminated in favor of leadership by peasant farmers, coal miners and yes, plumbers. That one learns to swim by swimming was a Maoist cliche that implied that education was not only not necessary, but not desired. It took China a generation to begin to recover from the destruction.

The idea still lives here in America, despite our continuing obsession with Communism and Socialism. We still believe in the wise fool; in the wisdom of those untainted by information and intelligence and culture and we still believe in superstitious suspicion of all others. We still believe that Joe, whose name is Charles, and isn't a plumber and can't do basic arithmetic much less understand the tax codes, has the answers we need because he's one of us and not one of them. We're still yearning for the Worker's Paradise promised by Communism. We still admire Forrest Gump and marvel at his wisdom, but we still can't seem to differentiate between the people who exploit us by invoking our class identifications and snobberies and class prejudices, and people who actually serve our best interests. All we seem to see is the working class uniform and not the wolf wearing it.

Only in America would the accusation of Marxism arise from a plan to add 4% to the burden of the top 2% elite in the interest of recovering some of the debt we have incurred in making them rich. Only in America would the accusation of Socialism arise from restoring the top tax bracket we had under Reagan, the progressive structure advocated by Adam Smith and Teddy Roosevelt and that we have had during the most prosperous years of our history.

I could go on endlessly about the irony of invoking a worker's paradise and the bogeyman of Communism to sell economic feudalism, but odds are, if you've read this far, you don't need me to do that. It's the dumb people that can be fooled all of the time. It's Joe the Plumber and everyone who stood up when John the Rich Man asked them to who enjoy the flattery and the snobbery and the smug, stupid certainties sold to them by Sarah and the old man.



(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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