Yesterday I finished the novel Serena written by Ron Rash of Appalachia. Taking place in North Carolina at the beginning of the depression, Serena is a riveting tale of greed and the obsession for power. The main characters in the book are the Pembertons, husband and wife timber barons hell-bent on cutting down every tree in the country. And they will stop at nothing. It’s not so much about money as it is power … to the point of being psychopathic.
Partially based on true events a major sub plot in the book is that the United States government wants their land in for a proposed national park. The park would eventually become The Great Smoky Mountains Nation Park. To counter this threat and accumulate more power George and Serena Pemberton buy politicians, law enforcement officers and kill anyone remotely suspected not being on their side.
The tale is Shakespearian, specifically Macbeth – with the Serena being Lady Macbeth, the driver in the relationship. She is the equal of any man in the mountains. Serena travels with an eagle that hunts rattlesnakes. The snake symbolizes the ruthlessness of their efforts and intentions.
It’s now 2013 and the Pembertons have risen from the dead. Only now it’s not just our timber and landscape being ravished. Now it’s virtually everything, down to basic tenants of the constitution this country was founded on. Whether it’s ravenous multi-billionaires; tax-evading, oil spilling, “above the law” corporations or even our own government … the resemblance is uncanny.
They are all addicts. Only their addiction is power, influence and money rather than heroin, cocaine or alcohol. Regardless – their addictions are just as strong. But while substance addictions are self-destructive, addictions of the former destroy others. And the others being us, the 99%.
Koch brothers, the godfathers of disgust and the gluttonous corporations such as Exxon Mobile, Wal-Mart, Morgan Stanley and Monsanto – are the Pembertons of today. And their henchmen are our beloved paid-off elected officials.
Even Barak Obama, the supposed president of change has not been above reproach. During just the last month he has signed a bill that includes the notorious “Monsanto Protection Act” absolving it from any mayhem and destruction its predatory generically modified crops may create. And if that isn’t enough, Obama is pursuing a European Union Trade Agreement which gives power grabbing mega-corporations rights virtually equivalent to that of sovereign nations. But worst of all is Attorney General Eric Holder’s policy declaration that several bank are too big to prosecute, no matter the crime.
The institutions created to serve us have turned on us and have become nothing more than pawns of the perverse nobility in their ivory towers. And it will not get better. These institutions will not magically become enlightened. Especially the government. The decisions they make benefit themselves, and only themselves … not us. And we are naive to think any different.
The democracy created by Jefferson, Madison, Adams and Franklin is long dead and nothing more than a relic of the past. In the beginning politicians were chosen to make decisions for the populus because they were more learned. Today I’m willing to bet that the people reading this piece are every bit as informed and learned as their supposed elected representatives, and a whole lot less narcissistic. And no mythical Phoenix will rise from the ashes in Washington or for that matter in any state house.
But not all is lost. In the tale of Serena, evil is eventually toppled through the nobel efforts of the people, and we can do the same. But as long as we let these obscene institutions and mega-companies keep us dependent on them … they will win – and we will be nothing more than modern-day serfs.
But we can recreate the American vision, a vision born from American compassion and self-reliance.
We must regain control of our communities and our neighborhoods. We must take back the streets where we live and work. We must take back our parks and create new ones. And must take responsibility for the preparedness of our young, the future of our country.
We must shun the Wal-Marts, the Target and rest of the Wall Street owned purveyors of Chinese made goods. We must treat them like the plague. We must do same to the McDonalds, the Taco Bells and the plethora of low quality chain junk food pushers. Our local restaurants, bars and stores are owned by our friends and neighbors. These are the people who dependent on us for their survival. And we can’t let them die.
Eventually we can starve these gluttonous behemoths until they wither from our communities and from our neighborhoods.
But most of all … we must ween ourselves from illusion that government is on our, the 99%’s side – by caring for each other instead. We can do it by sharing with our neighbor. We can do it by lending that hand when we would normally … normally walk by. And most of all we can do it by looking for opportunities to give … rather than for opportunities to receive. We all have it in us.
We just need to let it come out.
You can find me on Twitter at @clayforsberg