FAT BASTARD and the Upside Down WorldFrom: Youtube
The comfort of the rich depends on an abundant supply of the poor. -Voltaire
...and the working and middle classes. -EJT
Perhaps this is a telling example of being utterly confused by one’s world view. Mini-me simply scoots away, of course, ironically into the loving arms of Dr. Evil, leaving Fat Bastard un-sated but still deliriously full of himself. Despite appearances, and our bravado, we humans on the top of the food chain are actually the most dependent beings in existence—we rely on everyone and everything “below” us. Author Michael Pollan’s lengthy and eye-opening essay in a recent New York Times magazine reveals to us that we humans are actually a mere 10% ourselves, the other 90% is actually an ongoing project of other beings, primarily bacteria and microorganisms going about their business. But for them we would be nearly nothing. So what sense does it make to imagine ourselves at the top? Don’t we ordinarily think of dependent beings at some sort of bottom? The child and the invalid are dependent on his or her caretakers. So too are we dependent on the entire structure of ecology—which, as we are just beginning to understand, includes other people. Perhaps we can understand Max Ehrmann’s line from the Desiderata in a new way.
“You are a child of the universe…” indeed.
And wealth works similarly, reflecting in parallel the imagined natural hierarchy. The wealthy suffer hallucinations, seeing themselves as above everyone else, independent, but in reality, they are wholly dependent on all of the people “below” them, from their own workers to the teachers who educated those workers, to the people who maintain and operate the means of transportation, systems of exchange and so on. The wealthy are utterly dependent on the entire infrastructure of nature/culture—they are dependents more so than any other economic strata. The wealthy are not inter-reliant; they are supra-dependent —they are held aloft by the work and servitude of others, some of whom they pay, or exploit or from whom they simply receive unacknowledged and unearned benefits. Yet many strut about the world, full of themselves, as if they fashioned it all from their own hands.
Thus, we ought to think of the wealthy as residing at the bottom of our system and treat them the same way they treat those whom they believe to be at the bottom. Reality is a bitch! Of course I’m just having fun. We certainly can’t cure dystopia with the same framework that created it--as Einstein was reputed to have said, "We can't solve problems using the same kind of thinking that created them." We need to treat the rich the way most of us try to treat the poor: we help them because we feel for them. Most of us are chock-full of empathy, even if it doesn't show that often. The older I get and the more I've seen, the more I cry, as if the world has been waiting for me to notice. How about you? We need to dismantle the synthetic scaffolding, the illusory hierarchy that leaves the wealthy supra-dependent, empathically poor and moribund, so we can welcome them into human inter-dependency. As Thict Nhat Hanh might have said, such a generous and compassionate act would bring multiple benefits, to those helping as well as to those helped. Who knows how far that wind may blow?
How do we help the wealthy and ourselves at the same time? We refuse to participate in their charade. We withdraw from and drop out of their hierarchically structured economy and build a new one that acknowledges our dependence on each other and all others. Think of this as an emancipating intervention--both self and outward directed. This new economy may take the form of public banking, co-ops and so on, but it would be a mistake to limit our ideas to those already on the table. Indeed it would be a mistake to think only of the economic. In fact, we need a new way to live. Fortunately, the world is a rich place for ideas. But to unlock creativity and enable a kinetic critical mass to develop, first we have to be unchained from the hegemony of imagined hierarchy. First we have to see more clearly.
The older I get the more I come to understand that reality is the opposite of the proffered convention—this because the profferers of convention have a vested interest in keeping the world structured just so. The poor suffer a lack of justice, which is what Voltaire was writing about. But willful poverty—call it neo-poverty or minimalism, if you like—is something to be achieved. Or better, it is something to be created, with others, as one might make art from detritus. It is a means and ends united, the wholeness of the individual secure in the inter-reliance of the community. Not that it will be easy. Yet it is a necessary dismantling of the hierarchy that is itself a direct and pivotal cause of suffering and planetary degradation. Free from the servitude that feeds Fat Bastard, the willful poor weaken him and are empowered to seek authentic concert with the world—with each other and the ecosystem—and thereby change the world.
April 16, 2013 (edited June 16, 2013)
 Some of My Best Friends are Germs, Michael Pollan, NYT Magazine May 15, 2013
 Supra [Latin, Above; beyond.] A term used in legal research to indicate that the matter under current consideration has appeared in the preceding pages of the text in which the reference is made.