Saturday, November 07, 2009

Dickensian America: The "Haves" and the "Have-Nots"

I read somewhere recently, perhaps in Rolling Stone Magazine, that rap music was never the cause of violence, obscenity and despair in the ghetto -- but rather only its symptom. Did the ghettos of America start producing these shocking and ugly lyrics because the people who wrote them only wanted to be iconoclastic bad boys with hit albums under their belts? Or did they begin to write and sing these violent, stark and gritty lyrics because they reflected and described the actual harsh realities of their lives?

Did Charles Dickens write "Oliver Twist" first, causing 19th century London to attempt to become more like the city that Dickens had invented? Or was Dickens' book only describing symptoms that already existed?

Originally I started out here to describe some of the basic underlying causes of on-going bitterness that has been welling up in the hearts of many people in Israel-Palestine due to the grim contrasts between the wonderful freedom and abundance enjoyed by so many educated, well-off Israelis and the chained, controlled, life-threatening poverty endured by their Palestinian neighbors.

"The dramatic tide-line between wealth and poverty in Israel-Palestine seems to closely resemble the wealth-and-poverty tide-line that existed in the nineteenth century in Dickensian England," I told a friend yesterday. "It's like when poor orphaned Oliver Twist dared to ask for more."

Or else it's like when American Indians' lands were brutally stolen and they were herded like animals down all the roads and into reservations, where they lived in poverty and were severely cut off from any chance of having the freedom to search for a better life.

Many Israelis have swimming pools these days, while many Palestinians only have access to enough water to take one bath a week. Many Israelis have access to grand universities. Many Palestinian children go to sub-standard schools. Yes, it is very much like Dickensian England -- with its "Haves" and "Have-
Nots" living close enough to each other so that the "Have-Nots" can see the wealth and comfort and freedom of the "Haves" -- while Israeli neo-con characters similar to Mr. Limbkins laugh at them, call them outlaws and attempt to delegitimize them if they dare to say, "More, Sir?"

In fact, the whole Middle East appears to represent some sort of Dickensian tide-line, where the rich meet the poor -- and the poor refuse to shut up.

Then I got to thinking that perhaps America too has its "Haves" and "Have-Nots" -- with the terrible grinding poverty of the ghettos, where children join gangs, commit crimes and are tried as adults because there are so few other avenues open to them, acting harshly because their lives are so harsh.

And then I got to thinking about Wall Street and our recent
housing foreclosures and our current 10.2% unemployment rate and our decaying schools -- which are rapidly creating new kinds of "Haves" and "Have-Nots" in America. And then I started wondering, "Why is it only Palestinians, ghetto dwellers and Native Americans who are demanding access to more freedom, better education, better jobs and a bigger slice of the pie?"

Why are Palestinians, Native Americans and rap singers the only ones who are saying, "More, Sir?" Why aren't more Americans saying that too?

PS: When I asked baby Mena to help me out by making a video and saying, "More, Sir?" with regard to the new emerging Dickensian America, she said yes. But judging from the results, Mena must have thought that she was going to be on "America's Funniest Home Videos" instead.