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14 November 2011

Occupying Art

UPDATED 15 November 2011

There is a discussion under way in a forum on about a recent article posted on The Age. The reporter claims that RedBubble has grown to $10 million in annual revenue. Anyone who has ever tried to sell some art or a tee shirt design using an online print on demand (POD) site knows that the base price is exorbitant. an artist can only afford to mark up their work from a low end of 10% to about 35% and still manage to sell a bit each month. Of course, me being the snarky Socialist that I am just had to criticize the article and the company for its persistent customer service issues and increases in base prices. Naturally, the discussion ultimately became a matter of "us" versus "them" with "us" being "me" fielding accusations from the the regular cast of RedBubble supporters about my "negativity" and wanting that to which I am not entitled. As if that was not enough, another member attributing her success to her own hard work while simultaneously suggesting that I begrudged the wealth that has realized. Nothing could be further from the truth. I do not begrudge the wealth. But what I want to know, and feel I am entitled to know, is how much of that $10 million was paid in taxes to the United States since according to the article this Australian company has offices in Palo Alto, California, most of the management staff is located in Palo Alto and the USA is the company's biggest customer base? 

I was insulted by the suggestion that everyone is responsible for their own success or failure. The idea of rugged individualism reared its head in the forum and reminded me that America has poisoned the whole world with this selfish concept.

For those who think that if someone does not make it in America they just didn’t try hard enough, or work hard enough, or take a chance or make the right choices, and if you don’t know what the Occupy movement is all about:

I suppose you have never been discriminated against based on race or gender or age, and would you say that those who claim to have suffered discrimination and wage disparity are either liars or just lazy? Poor kids living in poor neighborhoods get a poor education because there are inadequate resources. By your logic their parents are to blame because they don’t make enough money in order to live in a more affluent neighborhood. People of color who are poor or discriminated against in wages and hiring are just liars or lazy and unwilling to take “the plunge” right? And all those women in America who earn 80 cents compared to every dollar earned by men are just lazy, or liars, eh? Or maybe you think they are worth 20% less than men? Homeless veterans are looking for a handout, right? People who have been tossed out of their homes by the greedy banks are to blame for their own misfortune. They should not have lost their job to outsourcing. If they were just more resourceful, worked harder, and tried a bit more they would not be homeless and unemployed right? Yeah, 47 million people, half of them children, living in poverty in the USA have only themselves to blame.

In America the more money you make the less you pay and if some people have it their way, the wealthy will pay even less than they do now. Being “middle class” it is my “burden” to pay for the roads and bridges and schools and libraries and subsidies to big farms, oil companies, car companies and the cost of running the government. Yes it is my burden and I don’t appreciate those who have more paying less than I have to pay. They get the frills and I get the bills. That’s what Occupy is all about. It does not help that this site, which is supposed to be about the artists, for the artists and of the artists boasts about millions in revenue when we get paid pennies per sale. No, it doesn’t help at all. As a matter of fact it reinforces and supports the contention that RedBubble is just another website among hundreds of websites all doing the same thing – looking to make money and lots of it while artists make next to nothing. I’m tired of selling my talent for pennies.

I’m sick of the lackeys who defend corporations by saying things like, “at least you have a job” or “look at all the company has done for you” or “they do so much for us.” The people get nothing for free. The people do not get paid the true value of their labor and talent.

The biggest problem in America is not that corporations make money, it’s that the people have a twisted sense of self and their place in this country. Rugged individualism is the idea that people make it on their own, by the sweat of their own brow. That is bullshit. If all it took to be a millionaire was hard work then there would be millions of millionaires. Instead we have millions living in poverty, millions more on the brink of poverty, millions unemployed, millions homeless, millions of people who work 2 sometimes 3 jobs just to eek out enough money to survive. We like to call them “the working poor.” Meanwhile banks and corporations continue to reduce their workforce while simultaneously posting record breaking profits.

What we have here in America is a serious case of “normalcy bias.” People just refuse to admit that there is anything wrong with America. They like the normal way of things and refuse to acknowledge the severity of the issues in this country. They think if they just pretend everything is normal, then everything will be normal. Boy are they gonna be freaked out when they wake up one morning to discover that the dollar is worth less than zero and has been replaced with something like Patriot Dollars. Think . . . Germany. History has something to teach us, but we have to be willing to learn.

There were 3.1 million millionaires in 2010.

There are 312 million people in the USA.

3,100,000 millionaires divided by 312,000,000 people means that 0.0099% of the population of America is a millionaire.

The poverty rate in the USA in 2010 was 15.1% That’s 47,112,000 people living in poverty in 2010. The rate is probably higher now. 47 MILLION people who do not have enough money for food, shelter, clothing, utilities.

The average national unemployment rate is reportedly 10.2%. For minorities the figures are much higher at over 16% nationwide. For some perspective, the unemployment rate in the USA in 1931 was 16.5%.  Several counties here in Kentucky have unemployment rates approaching 19%.

The most basic element of the American philosophy is money – earn it, steal it swindle it and keep it. I am not dividing the country into the haves and have-nots. Our economic and political system did that long before I was born. Think about the Robber Barons, Guilded Age and the Great Depression.

Wall Street is king of America. Multi-billion dollar PACs run elections. Corporations buy and sell Senators and Representatives like stock on the NYSE. And all this is the fault of those who just don’t work hard enough? The right wing blames the poor the left wing blames the rich. Truth be told we are all to blame for the terrible state of the USA and indeed the entire world. Our attitudes must change. We must stop blaming the poor and hating the rich. We must require the wealthy and the corporations pay their fair share of the burden of financing this great country. We must each accept our responsibility to our fellow human beings to help feed and house them. Rugged individualism be damned. No one is an island. No one “made it” in this country on his or her own. There was someone there to support them when they needed support.

Those who mock and criticize the Occupy movement seem to be thoroughly propagandized by those who wield economic power. They have been taught that the people who are poor are lazy; that those who have little or nothing must be immoral or drug addicts or drunkards; that those with all the money and power earned it; that anyone who criticizes the wealthy and powerful are un-American and a threat to the peace and stability of this country. WAKE UP! It’s all a big lie people! The 1% control this country. They control the money and they control our government. They control the flow of information by their ownership of the media. They sell your their ideals and you have bought into the lie. You don’t need a new car, a dishwasher a memory foam mattress or a $700 vacuum cleaner. You need food, shelter, medical care and clothing. Everything else is icing on the huge shit cake they made you bake and now you are eating it. You know it’s true. You’ve heard the saying that justice belongs to those who can buy the best lawyer. The same is true of everything in this country. Freedom belongs to those who can pay for it. I say we cannot afford to live this way any longer! WAKE UP! for your children’s sake if not for your own!
Tonight, one in eight children in America will go to bed hungry and wake up tomorrow with nothing to eat. If you go to bed tonight with a full belly and no thought or care for them, then you should be ashamed of yourself. If you blame their parents who are working and paying the taxes that paved the road that you drive on in your expensive, gas guzzling car then you should hide your face.

There is a rising tide of discontent in America. It is not only the poor, the minorities, the feminists, the liberals, or the homeless. It is your next door neighbor, the small business owner who faces bankruptcy thanks to companies like Walmart. It is the old and the young, the students, the unemployed, the union workers and the person waiting tables when you go out to eat. The Occupy movement is about income inequality. It is about the rich getting richer by exploiting the poor and the workers. It is about the Wall Street speculators and the criminal bankers getting off free and taking more of our money with them. It’s about bailouts and corporate handouts. This is about the millions and millions of people working every day, paying taxes every paycheck, and getting nothing in return except a greater share of the national debt and deeper in the hole themselves. This is about the obscene million dollar bonuses paid to the bank CEOs with our tax dollar bailouts. It’s about companies posting billions of dollars in profit and paying ZERO in taxes and actually receiving a refund in the hundreds of millions of dollars. But more than anything, it’s about fundamental fairness and compassion for our fellow human beings.

You can’t row against this tide. Sweeping change is coming.


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