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City Miles is an essay on an argument between Karl Marx and Uncle Sam that has spilled into a new century.
Published three books (The Stigma, Circles, The Cycles Building) under the pen name J. Floyd King. Maintain a popular blog at myspace.com/blinverted as well as a popular column at The Entertainment Magazine (emol.org).
AUTHOR'S E-MAIL ADDRESS
Sam is very old. He is much older now than Karl ever lived to be. Sam's birth was revolutionary, his adolescence was civil and now in old age he misses the chill of his relationship with Karl.
Karl was a social leader. His message spread like a red fire and the whole landscape was equally burned. Sam and Karl never saw eye-to-eye but there was an irony to their differences. In his old age, with Karl but one of many memories rattling around in is old head, Sam often remembers a discussion between he and Karl.
Karl looked Sam in the eye and said his vision of democracy is:
"One group of high-ranking officials running the country."
Sam looked to the ground, shook his head then returned his eyes to Karl’s. He spoke in a low whisper.
"My vision of socialism is one group of high-ranking officials running the country. But in my system we have checks and balances."
Karl looked to the ground, shook his head then returned his eyes to meet Sam’s. He was on the cusp of losing his temper as he clearly told Sam this:
"So you have rich men balancing the power of other rich men."
The two were on the cusp of an argument. Neither one of their ideologies was perfect yet they were both rigid in their defense of them. Sam thought Karl's social views catered to the wealthy and Karl thought Sam's democratic views catered to the rich. Yet the two could never see eye-to-eye.
Sam was able to watch the birth of the corporation. Karl was aware of the potential of corporations but knew they were a contradiction to his ideology. Karl knew that eventually corporations would be given the same rights as people and in a social system, that would mean that a corporation's voice would instantly be much louder than any single person of the proletariat.
Sam saw this slowly develop and has been powerless to stop it. It could have been the manifestation of a flaw in democracy but to have a dream means that all can dream it. The working class hold dreams that are every bit as ambitious as that of the corporations they work for. It is those corporations whom allow many dreams of the proletariat to come true.
Karl was adamant that his vision of social structure would divide the power of the corporation in a true sign of checks and balances. Karl held convictions that every person should have a collective part in their own success and that would lead to the collective success of an entire nation.
Sam is powerless in his old age as Karl's ideology seemed to have died, other than a few countries throughout the world, when he passed on. Sam sometimes envies Karl because Karl does not have to live to see the corporations he despised take the souls of those who need them to attain their dreams.
When a dreamer has no soul then what becomes of their dreams?
It's happening to me again. I am caught in this terrible situation and this guy in front of me is holding me accountable. His nametag reads David Miller. How many corporate shills are named David Miller? It's a faceless name to a faceless bank that keeps putting holds onto the paychecks that I earn.
I would bank at my corporation’s bank if that were possible but their bank is out of another state. Right now David is trying to be nice and see if I want to set-up direct deposit.
“With direct deposit there is never a hold on your paycheck.”
“Why is there a hold now? Again?”
“It has to do-”
"I mean, what's the difference?"
And now he is about to hold me accountable and tell me that it is the way I maintain my account. Who is this David Miller to hold me accountable? Just because he works at a bank he can tell me to have more money? I hate banks. I hate Corporate America and every David Miller that smiles while he puts my paycheck on hold.
I can take it to one of those check cashing places. The David Miller's that work there have less corporate rules and they never hold any checks. They suck my soul away by taking more of my money though.
Is this what it is all about? Am I not important because I don't make as much money as Mr. and Mrs. Jones? Hell, I don't even make as much money as this lowly bank teller named David Miller.
"Put the hold on my paycheck, I guess. What do I care? It's only money, right? Who needs money?"
I wonder when Sam stopped being my uncle. I wonder why Karl's way of seeing things is such a dirty word. Why do they have to hold my paycheck when I earned it and I am good for it? I think soulless people like David Miller still bother Sam even though he is too old to do anything about it.
"I had to hold this guy's paycheck today."
I looked at my wife and wanted to tell her so much more. I wanted to tell her that it was not fair. I wanted to tell her how badly I felt for our customers. I wanted to tell her how thankful I am that we maintain our checking and savings accounts in a way that is deemed acceptable. I wanted to thank her for holding me accountable so that when I go into the world I am not held accountable by strangers. I wanted to tell her that Corporate America has such a loud voice. My wife also works at a bank and she shared one of her travails from the day.
"This guy today cashed a check for one thousand dollars and wanted it all in fives."
"Did you have to count out one thousand dollars in fives?"
She nodded her head with a whimsical smile upon her face. Although it was inconvenient for her to do it, she was able to give at least one person what he wanted. That made me feel good and I don't know why anymore.
“The paranoid is totally rigid. His fixed ideas cannot be shaken and they dominate his life.”
Our paranoia revolves around the Jones family. We have tried to keep up with them by spending on our credit cards but in the end we never truly compete because while we pay back those loans with interest, the Jones family is paying with cash. Our paranoia is vanity that someone might think we cannot afford the newest toys. Our vanity leads to debt and we want to hide that debt from the Jones family. Our paranoia is that the Jones family might actually care about what we have but there is something we have lost in the paranoia and the vanity.
It is a philosophical dilemma that we have become too near-sighted to see anymore. The Jones family is trying to keep up with the Bush family and the Bush family wants to keep up with the Kennedy family.
It is democracy in its simplest form.
Socialism is a dirty word but we are told as children that sharing is not a dirty word. Democracy was once a shining star but the elite have never learned to share because they fear that sharing would lead to Socialism.
If only Sam and Karl could have ventured past the coldness and taken advice from one another. From one extreme to the other are both too far but the middle will always be there, between them and possibly holding a solution. Whether or not the solution is right or wrong can only be discovered through answers to unasked questions.
Corporate America is about procuring every last nickel and with that powerful voice telling us to give into our vanity, the paranoid will always think they need more. So now the paranoid look like you and me and Mr. and Mrs. Jones and Uncle Sam and Karl Marx. We all have great new toys and question why we are not happy. We are only happy when our toys stop working because then we finally have a reason to be mad.
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© 2010 Dan Smith
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