This is the 1st graded blog entry
As a child I grew up conservative, I believed in weapons over education, trickle-down economics, and the like. However, it is after coming to college, when my mind's castle and moat of conservative ideals passed down by grandparents, aunts, and a parent is assaulted and ultimately conquered by the breadth of new information, but more importantly, new experiences, that has swung my beliefs (some would call them political) in the other direction. Clearly we have a need for welfare, workman's compensation, and federal laws that regulate how employers treat their employees.
The reason I bring up my past is because though I may be at risk of an ad hominem fallacy, I find it juvenile that any person could call America a "free country" if they are utterly opposed to the idea of lending those who wish to make their dreams come true, and can't, assistance. And when I say "assistance," I mean money. "Life in the Iron Mills" is only outdated in the sense that it captures older technology, but the reason the story is important is because its sentiment still resounds into the 21st era. A moderm equivalent may be a single father working at the assembly line in a General Motors factory who suddenly has his wages cut because the company is outsourcing or feels they can make more competitive prices if production is amped up at another factory. This father, who because his family was poor and could not afford to send him to a private school, or even a decent public school, can do nothing else but his job. He finds that he now must devote all of his time to his grueling job, assembling and disassembling car engines in a smoking factory, inhaling fumes that aren't supposed to kill him-- unless he's inhaling them 16 hours a day. Oh yes did I forget to mention that he needs to work double shifts so that his two daughters can eat, go to school, and have a roof over their head? Don't even get me started on their college education. It would all be O.K. except the US government's definition of "poverty," in pure number terms, is a hundred dollars less than what he makes... but this worker needs that hundred dollars to pay for his house utilities and therefore finds himself stuck, enslaved to his monotonous job and the CEOs who decided that it'd just be easier to give themselves larger Christmas bonuses and give their employees nothing, saying that the company is losing too much money. This father might sue, but attorneys need money to eat, too, and if he had the access to perhaps the ACLU they might be able to help him, in 10 years, when he has lung cancer and an amputated arm from a factory accident. In fact, a factory accident would almost be welcome, because then at least Workman's Comp. might come through.
The enslaved working man is not a myth, or an extinct species, but a common sight today. If it weren't the case, why would popular movies like "John Q." win 2 awards and be nominated for 7 others? I checked, it's not just because Denzel Washington is a fantastic actor. I find Mike's summarization and coincidental shrugging off of the idea that the "system" (which I am unsure of which system he means here) is "set up to ensare the poor to benefit the rich" outright obtuse. I would ask Mike to recall that Ronald Reagan's idea of "trickle-down economics,"-- an issue still widely considered viable by the Conservatives-- is just a financial approach that says, if the government gives money to the rich (in the form of superior tax breaks and financial support to already monstrous companies) that the rich will spend more money and somehow the cash will "trickle" it's way down to the average blue-collar working man. Obviously Ronald Reagan forgot what "avarice" means.
We can't forget that big business and big money is tied almost exclusively to the development of new technology. Ever wonder why Paris Hilton has a better Blackberry than you? You can't afford it, but she can. Until machines can self-replicate, but then you find one of the largest dangers outlined in the beginning of "Why the Future Doesn't Need Us." Sure, we may find ourselves experiencing extra longevity in entirely silicon bodies, but if a wo/man isn't made of flesh and tissue anymore, is he really a man?
Marcuse is absolutely right; our freedom is not given to us au gratis. The people who master technology convince the masses that they need it and then have them work endlessly producing it, hoping they may too one day have that one thing that somehow makes their lives easier without realizing that it could be detrimental to their physical and mental health and their social life. Am I going to work double shifts to buy some crappy car that spews atmosphere-annihilating chemicals and can only manage 14 miles per gallon when I have free mass transit or could even, G-d forbid, partake in some physical activity and just walk? No!
I hate to pick on Mike's post, but there's a reason my grandmother's addages and aphorisms aren't law-- they have too many fallacies to them. Anecdotal evidence like "my grandmother said so," is not valid and it's use is wrong. That little saying is meant in the sense of farming, where the individual was his own man and would only produce as much as he was willing to work. I am not a botanist, but if I planted a carborater I'm pretty sure I wouldn't get a Mustang. Marcuse talks about "free competition at administered prices" and "free choice between brands and gadgets," showing us the paradoxical nature of "fixed retail price." It's not because the employer has to pay his employees minimum wage that we have these prices, or even because of the ingredients used to make whatever the next little toy to come along, it's because the CEOs decide that a million and a half dollars a year is just not enough to afford two yachts instead of just one. This idea may sound jaded, but to quote the late Don Marquis "When a man tell you he got rich through hard work, ask him: 'Whose?'" and I believe that sentiment traverses into today.
I do believe that Marcuse is trying to dissuade us from the idea that technology is what makes us "free." Really it is how we choose to use that technology that ultimately is the freedom.