The statue of Robert E. Lee comes tumbling down.
Sir Donald says “NO MORE! I’ll protect our history from mobs of ultra left, anarchist, fascists” who want to promote a new history to the youth. Inadvertently, Trump is right. Old and incorrect history should be discarded. The statues of the treasonous south should be demolished. (They were mostly constructed long after the Civil War. With the resurgence of the Klan in the late 1800s, the white establishment wanted to create a new mythology of the South and re-oppress black people.) So we are at war over history.
About twice a week I cruise down Austin's Ben White Blvd. past the growing homeless tent cities and muse about Austin’s fake History. In 1963 Downtown was segregated as was “the drag” just off campus. Black and White protesters would sit at the lunch counters. The police would be called. Sometimes they would close the lunch counters, even sometimes arrest people for attempting to eat. And, Austin being a “progressive” city, demonstrators were not beaten with billy clubs in public.
As pressure built, there was a demand for an ordinance guaranteeing equal access to public facilities. I sat in the City Council meeting. Mayor Lester Palmer, of Palmer Auditorium, chaired the council and opposed a civil rights ordinance.
At one point in his most oleaginous manner he oozed to us demonstrators for equal human rights: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” Which was apropos of absolutely nothing. But for Palmer, Austin’s auditorium was named after him.
Ben White, already an elderly businessman, mostly slept during the hours of testimony at the city council session. At the end, Palmer poked Ben White with his elbow and semi-shouted into his good ear.
“How ya votin’ Ben?”
Ben White, half startled from being jarred awake, croaked “What we votin’ on?"
”Palmer (because this was progressive and polite Austin) replied, “The Nigra question.”
Ben White, without the slightest pause to demonstrate his concern, blurted out — “I vote NO!”
So racist Ben White got the major highway which will run to the new Tesla factory named after him. I know all this because I was there.
In every American city statues, buildings and highways are named after some of the most loathsome citizens. So Trump is right: history is at stake. His history. So I am cheering for each statue that comes crashing down. We had a home. Even at its worst it offered the cozy comfort of familiarity. Now we are about to wake up in a foreign country.
People suffered from the delusion that life would return to normal when the coronavirus plague ended. But the old normal has vanished. Few have recognized the reality yet. You can’t go home again.
In our technological age, revolutionary change happens when nobody is looking. Watch Manhattan street film from 1910. Few autos. Mostly horses and carriages; though a few streetcars. Then, what passed for smart people argued, "Autos are impractical. You have to find a place that sells gasoline. Horses can be fueled up anywhere there’s a vacant field.” In 1920 Fords clogged the streets. Few horses to be seen. In that revolution, like the recent decade when the internet transformed our lives, nobody voted on it.
So the bleak economic statistics I cited only a month ago, like the corona virus projections, seem optimistic now. The underlying economic reality we face is worse by the month. Much worse. We are headed into a great depression. America proved to be a vulnerable system without much resilience. One massive and manageable sickness, and our system is in collapse.
I will post a few graphs to back up my thesis but the evidence is overwhelming. Forty-two million Americans or more have lost jobs. The $3.5 trillion spent by the Fed has gone largely to the stock market, creating a bubble which benefits the top 15%. (Though smart establishment commentators argue if the stock market crashes so will pension funds. And it’s a brutal depression if older Americans like your Moms and Dads have worked all their lives to find themselves without the pensions.) A small percentage of that 3.5 trillion has gone to individuals, to the unemployed or small business loans. The Government bailed out Boeing, Walmart and Catholic Church because they have high paid lobbyists who are in Washington’s inner circle. Meanwhile, we small business people lack lobbyists and are filing bankruptcy at a rate never seen before. You can google The Money GPS (themoneygps.com), YouTube or U.S. Government Federal Reserve and do your own research about the economic catastrophe.
Like the virus epidemic, we’re careening into an overwhelming debt crisis without a plan. Renters and homeowners facing foreclosure. Tent cities are quietly multiplying in every city. Here in flourishing Austin are we ready for 50,000 to be camping on Town Lake? Incredibly, statistics show, our economic unraveling has far outstripped the pace of what we use to call the Great Depression.
As we know, the police do the work of the business elite. (Ever seen police intervene in behalf of striking workers and arrest business owners?) But in the last depression, despite laws to the contrary, NY’s Central Park became a huge illegal homeless encampment named Hooverville after the do-nothing President of the time. Numbers change laws. We already see in Black Lives Matter that the number of protesters has forced cities to bend laws to deal with the disgruntled majority.
As people can’t pay their debts many businesses will fail, compounding the economic disaster. So some cities will fail because their tax revenue will plummet.
One reaction already underway: Corporations designing robotic replacement workers that toil 24 hours a day and never protest. In many stores cashiers are already replaced by machines for self check-out. Fast food workers including fry cooks can all be replaced. Similarly, warehouse order processors will all be replaced by machines who don’t get sick and don’t complain. As will truck drivers.
Bottom line, when you are looking for a job in the Post Virus world, you better have skills that can’t be replaced by a machine … Or the imagination to create your own job that serves the need of the throngs of the impoverished.
In short, our living patterns and values will change. Consumption, or the pasttime of “shopping”, will evaporate. And the disparity between the Haves and the Have Nots will look like the Middle ages.
But there will be many positives in the new world. Already we see ethnicity and gender differences become meaningless among young people. There will be a welcome, and exponential growth in communities, because economics will force people to band and flourish together.
I’ve already been thinking deeply and reading about other societies in collapse mode to prepare for Part 3 —- an imagining of our world just around the corner. All of you should be thinking about what you are going to do next.
Unless you are one of the few who have rich parents you can move in with.
Jeffrey Nightbyrd Shero © 2020
Jeffrey was the original editor and publisher of the Austin Sun. He also created The Rat, America's first underground newspaper in New York City and was an editor of the Rag in Austin. He currently lives in Austin and has a talent agency, Acclaim Talent.