As I See It: How we became Old World peasants in the New World

  • Jon Huer FILE PHOTO

Published: 9/22/2023 5:00:42 PM
Modified: 9/22/2023 5:00:02 PM

Political observers are unanimous in predicting events in 2024: It’s unpredictable. Just now, change in American society is so ubiquitous that nothing seems to remain the same. Except one cardinal fact: Virtually unchanged and unchallenged, the super-rich in America continue to rule the common masses. In so many ways, the super-rich have become our new aristocrats — and we, the commoners, their new peasants.

Let’s retell this small episode to get our thinking going. On July 31, 2014, Conrad Hilton, a 20-year-old scion of the Hilton hotel magnate, had a drug-induced meltdown on his flight from London to New York, in which five flight attendants struggled to restrain the young man. The drug-crazed millionaire made sure they knew who he was and who they were: “I f-ing own everyone on this flight. They are f-ing peasants!” He screamed in no uncertain terms, “You peasants!”

The young member of the super-rich family, eventually restrained and pacified into deep slumber, was quite right. We are all his peasants.

When the U.S., as the “New World,” was created in 1776 (the only nation ever created by intelligent design), it denounced all remnants of feudalism, known as the “Old World.” Among them, the bloodline class system whereby the few families, blessed by the king, kept the power and wealth of society all to themselves. The rest of the population, the vast masses of society, known as “peasants,” barely survived on the bread crumbs handed out to them by the privileged few at the top of their kingdom’s hierarchy. Many men and women couldn’t even mate without their lords’ permission.

The United States, the new nation, the very first modern republic, vowed to itself and to the world that such injustice would never happen in this new nation. This promise was kept for the most part in the first century of the republic, both as ideal and as reality, the only time it happened in human history, thanks to open land available to all in a predominantly farming country.

Then came capitalism on the back of industrialization, and the egalitarian Golden Age ended. Soon, the emerging economic system, now called capitalism, turned the masses out of their farms and made their sons and daughters the new hired hands in the capitalist system. The first step toward the new American peasantry was taken.

The new “class society,” a vast majority serving a tiny minority at the top, began to resemble the Old World it had left behind and vowed never to allow in the New World. The capitalist class, helped by science, technology, government, and all the idea professionals including professors and writers, and their mass-media propaganda machinery, became the new ruling class, just as privileged as the old ruling class in Europe.

The old peasants from Europe, who were briefly free in the new nation, have become the new peasants in the New World, which now looks very much like the Old World.

The New World nation of America became another Old World European nation, the top 1% controlling 95% of the nation’s wealth. The once free and independent Americans became victims of perfected propaganda and advertisement with advanced tricks of technology and psychology in conditioning their thought, while law and law enforcement controlled their actions. The New World became another feudal society, and the new men and women of a free republic became peasants once again.

In the meantime, changes occurred in the old Europe, brought about by the two devastating World Wars: It decided to become more like the New World. They abolished the kings as real power holders; aristocrats lost their privileges; the common masses, now unionized and united, became the main holders of power with their votes and voices — in politics, economics, in lawmaking, in labor unions and cultural forces and, not the least, high taxes for the rich.

For job security and social welfare in health care, education and housing, for freedom and equality, and intelligent life for the masses, we look to Europe for equality, not to the U.S. Europe is the haven of the common man who demands and gets bread and peace and, above all, lives with good common sense (just think how many food substances that we devour every day in America that are banned by the European Union as unfit for human consumption).

Fortune seekers and shysters still come to America for quick fortunes and easy successes, while Americans who wish to be artists and philosophers still go to Europe.

The United States, where a new peasant is born every two minutes, has become a semi-feudalist state where the capitalist class makes up the new lords and masters. Young millionaire Hilton, one of our new lords, was quite right about our status. Physically, peasants — European or American — do all the dirty work, creating the nation’s wealth to make the rich richer, fighting and dying in wars if commanded.

Largely low-brow and gullible, they have been easy targets of manipulators, first by those in religion and now by those in mind-bending entertainment and corporate propaganda. Physically and mentally, the American peasants presently serve their new corporate masters, just like the old European peasants who used to serve kings and lords patiently and silently.

We claim we are both democratic and free. But that claim cannot be squared with our new status as peasants. Nor can we claim, as it is fashionable today, that “nobody is above the law” as we all know that rich people are above the law. So, what happened to Lord Hilton, for his flight disruption — a 20-year imprisonment offense if a “peasant” committed it?

He got off with community service and a $5,000 fine for his punishment.

Jon Huer, columnist for the Recorder and professor emeritus, lives in Greenfield.


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