So I’ve been reading The Condition of the Working Class in England for my history class. In the book, Engels explicitly outlines the extreme misery of the proletariat life in 19th century Britain. It’s fucking tragic. Seriously, it is fucking tragic. Nevertheless, what fascinates me the most about the book is not the horrid conditions that these people live in, but the fact that these conditions still exist. They haven’t changed at all. Read this excerpt.
“It often happens that a whole Irish family is crowded into one bed; often a heap of filthy straw or quilts of old sacking cover all in an indiscriminate heap, where all alike are degraded by want, stolidity, and wretchedness. Often the inspectors found, in a single house, two families in two rooms. All slept in one, and used the other as a kitchen and dining-room in common. Often more than one family lived in a single damp cellar, in whose pestilent atmosphere twelve to sixteen persons were crowded together. To these and other sources of disease must be added that pigs were kept, and other disgusting things of the most revolting kind were found.”
Today, if you visit any ghetto, slum, project, etc., the tale you hear may vary a little bit, but nonetheless, you will essentially hear the same story as seen above.
Capitalism has been producing the same inequalities since its inception and these inequalities have actually evolved in some instances. Why does capitalism still exist? Are we really this corrupt? Obviously, yes. We all participate in this system. In some way, some other person’s comfort is the opportunity cost of our comfort. Even we “Liberals” that view ourselves as champions of justice are guilty. After all, how many of us (including me) are doing anything other than discussing and thinking? How many of us are active? Honestly, even if we are active, after our marches are marched, our vitriolic emails are sent to representatives, our crazy protests are publicized and our incendiary notes are posted on Facebook, most of us go home and rest our heads on a pillow (and some of us feel like we’ve really accomplished something.) We may be less than selfish the robber-baron bastards waltzing down Wall Street, but we’re still selfish.
Notice that I always use quotations marks when I refer to “Liberals.” I use those quotation marks because I feel like most of us are sell-outs. We self-identify as “liberal,” but our actions prove otherwise. “Liberal” no longer means anything (if it ever did). “Liberals” are merely people that vote for [insert “Liberal” party].
Okay. In our defense, we cannot help others if we cannot help ourselves. On planes, the safety video played before takeoff always says, “In case cabin pressure drops, make sure you secure your breathing apparatus before helping anyone else with theirs.” This makes sense. However, most of us are not subsisting or living on the bare minimum. Most of us are taking extended, lung fulfilling breaths before deciding to help our peers, and even when we do decide to help them, we offer as little assistance as we can spare. It’s fucked up. We are Liberals*. We are liberal only under certain conditions. We help people only if we can still be comfortable while doing it.
So, basically, just in case you didn’t know, you’re just as accountable as the dirty politicians and mega-capitalists you criticize. You can either reform your selfish ways via authentic humanist liberalism, continue to ignore them as you do now and be happy and “Liberal”, or do what I do and acknowledge my selfishness and anticipate my death during the inevitable “Extreme Reign of Terror” that Engels predicts in this passage:
“…The English middle-class, especially the manufacturing class, which is enriched directly by means of the poverty of the workers, persists in ignoring this poverty. This class, feeling itself the mighty representative class of the nation, is ashamed to lay the sore spot of England bare before the eyes of the world; will not confess, even to itself, that the workers are in distress, because it, the property-hold ing, manufacturing class, must bear the moral responsibility for this distress. Hence the scornful smile which intelligent Englishmen (and they, the middle class, alone are known on the Continent) assume when any one begins to speak of the condition of the working-class; hence the utter ignorance on the part of the whole middle-class of everything which concerns -the workers ; ridiculous blunders which men of this class, in and out of Parliament, make when the position of the proletariat comes under discussion ; hence the absurd freedom from anxiety, with which the middle-class dwells upon a soil that is honeycombed, and may any day collapse, the speedy collapse of which is as certain as a mathematical or mechanical demonstration; hence the miracle that the English have as yet no single book upon the condition of their -workers, although they have been examining and mending the old state of things for no one knows how many years. Hence also the deep wrath of the whole _working-class, from Glasgow to London, against the rich, by whom they are systematically plundered and mercilessly left to their fate, a wrath which before too long a time goes by, a time almost within the power of man to predict, must break out into a Revolution in comparison with which the French Revolution, and the year 1794, will prove to have been child’s play.”
Hmmm, on second thought, I think I’ll go with reforming.
Incidentally, I am personally really disillusioned, so I know that any radical, potentially order-threatening revolution, thought, action(s), etc., would immediately be decimated by propaganda and/or sheer federal force, so even though I support such ideas in theory, I actually have no faith in their success. Nevertheless, I think that using that as an excuse is a bitch move, so do that shit anyway. I damn sure will.