THERE’S A NEW VAMPIRE IN TOWN

9 12 2018

A lot of people don’t realize that there are vampires in Nashville, even though those vampires are, in a fairly substantial way, responsible for the fact that our city is “The ‘it’ city,” while other  metropolises our size, such as Detroit, El Paso, Memphis, and Oklahoma City, are more like “she-it cities.” That’s because our local vampires have learned to turn the blood they suck into money, and spread that blood/money around town in the process of consuming it.. The new vampire has a different MO, however. He sucks metaphorical blood, which morphs into money just as easily as the red, sticky kind.

Gee…speaking of vampires, I am writing this around the death and funeral of former US President George H.W. Bush, whose father derived a good deal of his wealth from the blood of the young men of Europe and America, as well as the blood of European Jews, Gypsies, radicals, gay people, and anyone else who did not fit in with Hitler’s vision of “The Master Race.” The newly dead Bush’s father, Prescott Bush, was one of the chief financiers of Adolph Hitler and his drive to Make Germany Great Again. Without Prescott’s backing, the Wehrmacht, the Luftwaffe, and all those death camps might not have happened. Bush senior paid no price for this. He went on to become a U.S. Senator. His son became head of US intelligence, then Vice President and President, and his grandson, too, became President. All have shown by their actions that they possess (or is it “are possessed by”?) the ruthless selfishness that is the hallmark of all vampires,

I’ll mention, but don’t even have time to talk much about, how Prescott Bush was also part of the cabal of Wall Street bankers who plotted to overthrow the government of US President Franklin Roosevelt. Bush wasn’t prosecuted for that, either, nor were any of the other plotters. Perhaps the fact that they had names were Harriman, Mellon, Rockefeller, to mention a few, gave them a stay out of jail card.

Let me run that by you again: Prescott Bush knew full well what the Nazis were doing, had no problem financing them, and in fact tried to do the same thing here, and his son became the President of the United States, and now we are being asked to mourn that son’s death, even though it is clear from his record that the main lesson he learned from his father was to hide his sympathy for the notion of a master race that is entitled to ruthlessly assert itself, but nonetheless pursue the fascist program. Somewhere, Adolph Hitler is laughing his ass off.

But I digress. I was talking about local vampires, and about the new vampire in town.

The new vampire is named “Amazon.” I’m sure you’ve heard of it (Whatever their appearance and behavior, vampires are “its,’ not “hims” or “hers.”), although you may not have realized that it’s a vampire. Amazon’s “metaphorical blood” is the social fabric of our culture, as expressed in the nationwide network of local retail stores that we once had to visit in order to buy whatever we might need. In the course of going to stores, we are exposed to other human beings, and may interact significantly with people we have never met before–or deepen our relationships with those we know already.amazonvampire

Amazon does away with all that. We can stay at home, stay plugged in to our screen, and click on what we want. We don’t go out and interact with the sales person, or see our friends. The money goes directly to the largest retail establishment on the planet, without enriching the community we live in by paying salaries and taxes. What we want is delivered directly to us, by trucks which, we are told, will be driverless as soon as that is feasible. The fewer humans he hires, the richer Jeff Bezos gets. Do you understand why I am calling him a vampire?

Oh…by the way, it seems to me that enabling people to cocoon at home is a step closer to the world of “The Matrix,” where humans spend their whole lives plugged into a virtual reality, while their energy provides sustenance for the machinery that keeps them there. But I’m digressing again. So much to comment on, so little time.

We are told Amazon will bring “5,000 jobs” to Nashville. An article in Marketwatch points out that every job at Amazon eliminates 2-3 retail jobs, replacing them mostly with warehouse work–and I don’t think I have to remind you what it’s like to work in an Amazon warehouse. So, those “5,000 jobs” that will be created in Nashville will suck ten to fifteen thousand jobs out of the market somewhere else. Since, apparently, these Nashville jobs are not warehouse jobs, but management positions, they may be even more efficient at vampirizing our society. The effect of this on the US economy and job market has been huge. As Jon Swartz of USA Today writes:

The breakneck growth of Amazon is “upending” the retail industry, which accounts for one out of every eight jobs in the USA, says Stacy Mitchell, co-author of a recent report that concluded Amazon eliminated about 149,000 more jobs in retail than it has created in its warehouses.

And how has our city responded to the news of a new bloodsucker moving in? Mostly, by shouting “Hurray!” Us usual suspects, of course, are quite dubious about the idea, and we’re not the only ones, which is heartening, but the new owner of The Nashville Scene, our local weekly which used to boast that it “needles the bizpigs,” wrote a smarmy editorial about how great it is–but hey, as a real estate magnate, that new owner is a vampire himself.

So yeah, real estate vampires are one of the kinds of vampires thatare already ensconced in Nashville, and it is their greed that is largely responsible for the shortage of affordable housing. Money talks, the rest of us can go live under a bridge.

Another large category of vampires is the so-called “health care provider” clan. They suck thirty to forty billion dollars a year into the Nashville area’s economy.  There are two prominent examples of individual health care vampires that we can examine: Bill Frist and Phil Bredesen, Both are rich from drinking the blood, and money, of poor and middle class Americans who became snared in the web of our health care system, which, even when insurance is involved, tends to drain its victims’ blood, I mean its patients’ finances, dry. . This is the only country in the world in which large numbers of people go bankrupt due to their health problems. The land of the free to go broke.

The Frist family tossed us the crumb of an art museum, which they have the nerve to charge a high admission fee for, and spawned a Republican Senator who did all he could to defend and serve his fellow vampires. Phil Bredesen claimed to be friendlier to “the people,” but one of his principal acts as Governor of this state was to deprive thousands of low-income Tennesseans of access to affordable health care, a deed for which he is well-remembered. What were the state’s Democrats thinking when they nominated him for a US Senate seat this year? Even so, his Senate run against Republican Marsha Blackheart–I mean, Blackburn–was close, until, in an apparent bid for Republican votes, he said that he would have voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh as a Supreme Court Justice. That remark may have discouraged enough voters to cost him the race. Again, what was the state’s Democratic Party thinking when it nominated him?

Even Karl Dean, their other statewide candidate, only got to where he is by marrying into a clan of energy-extraction vampires. His wife’s family fortune was built on the blood sacrifice of thousands of coal miners, their families, their communities, and the whole ecology of the territory in which coal is mined. Now, Karl can’t be blamed for the deeds of his wife’s father, and being the inheritor of vampire wealth, much less marrying such an heiress,  is not the same as putting out the effort to generate it oneself. Dean even seems like a decent guy, within his limitations, who had the chutzpah to make “The Handmaid’s Tale” a community-building read in this town. I appreciate that. If I hadn’t been certain that he was going to lose, I probably would have voted for him–but that was the one Tennssee race where we Greens had a candidate this year.

To sum up: our city’s wealth is largely due to the activities of the many vampires in this town. They are fast approaching the point at which the availability of the blood they depend on is going to drop off rapidly, as wealth inequality mounts to the tipping point and the technology for changing blood into money falls apart due to climate change, sea level rise, and resource depletion. The vampires will die in a desperate, intense, but brief, paroxysm of greed, and then those of us who survive that transition will be free to do our best to build a saner world from the debris that remains.

What I’ve been calling “vampirism”is, in all these instances, less poetically described as the natural logic of capitalism: the more you have, the more you can get, there is not reason not to grab as much as you possibly can, and those impoverished by your self-centeredness have only themselves to blame. It doesn’t matter whether the grift the capitalist/vampire uses is retail trade, health care, real estate, manufacturing, or whatever. The object is to transfer wealth from the many to the few. To attempt to reform such a system is a futile battle. Until we change the system, or it falls apart due to its inherent contradictions, it will keep creating the same power and income inequities, and the same ecological catastrophe.

The sane alternative is a culture based in democratically governed co-operatives and neighborhoods, a culture whose economics are cyclical and stable, not based on the unrealistic linear fantasy of infinite growth. We lived in a cyclical reality for thousands of years before we got all crazed out about compound interest, vast wealth, and clever technology,, and I would like to think we can do it again, with the added benefit of all that we have learned from our failing experiment with linear time, etcetera.

I would even like to think that we can return to our sane roots, at least in part,  by voting sane candidates into our current political institutions, from local school boards to Metro Council to the Presidency of the United States, and that is why I support The Green Party, rather than a party whose deeply entrenched leadership proudly proclaims that it is pro-vampire–I mean, capitalist. You know, the donkey people. The way back to sanity may well entail more disruptive transitions than mere voting can bring about, but, even so, a political party that calls itself Green–the same color as so many of the organisms in the natural world of which we are a part–seems like an appropriate vehicle for educating and organizing towards that change, however it takes place.

I can’t think of anything better to do.

 

 


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