What prompted me to write this I do not know.
We have all heard the phrase history repeats itself however we seem to give it scant attention in the grand scheme of things. “History will repeat itself” has become an impotent phrase much like “have a nice day.” It’s only by recognizing that strange things are afoot at the Circle K of humanity in the 21st century in which we can finally acknowledge the power of this important statement. History is repeating itself and we are too nonchalant to pay attention to it. We are witnessing several interesting newsworthy events that counter the progress of modern civilization.
Income inequality has been steadily growing as an issue since 2008. It was brandished as a platform agenda item by President Obama during his campaign. Shortly after that the Tea Party made it an issue until their messaging and optics shifted towards the radical fringe and then the agenda was adopted by Occupy Wall Street since late 2010 and then again by President Obama and the Democratic Party in 2012 and 2014. Now the Republican Party is finally waking up to it, claiming to be sympathetic towards this growing disparity however the media would have you believe that this is a new phenomenon that happened as a byproduct of the financial meltdown of 2008 (the near-miss of a depression) when we all believed the world was coming to an end. But you know who else talked about income inequality? William Jennings Bryan and he did so in 1808 all the way through till 1815.
That’s right, 200 years ago as America started its first tech boom thanks to the railways from Vanderbilt, big finance from JP Morgan who also was instrumental in the spread of electricity in America, oil from Rockefeller and steel from Carnegie. It was a time of amazing prosperity huge stock market profits and innovation. They were the Google and Amazon and Uber of their time and yet with all that innovation, this was a time of no unions, no workers rights, no protections or worker’s comp, no minimum wages, and lax security and safety. While America was being touted as a land of opportunity the common person working these factory jobs had no chance of getting ahead; the concept of a middle class was positively utopian.
It allowed men like James Frick to hire Pinkerton detectives to murder and beat the living crap out of striking workers at a steel plant, or build a country club that ended up flooding whole town and killing thousands and getting away with it again. Williams Bryan was a presidential candidate who wanted to break these large monopolies eliminate the gold standard and improve workers rights and conditions things that the Republican Party of its time had ridiculed but so did people within the Democratic Party. It actually took a Republican, Theodore Roosevelt, to enact some of Bryan’s wishes and create the foundation upon which the middle class was born and it took World War 1 and World War II to finally help establish a middle class. Now some will argue that America needs some form of socialism to be able to generate a middle class again, however have a look at India which, although socialist in name, does not have anywhere near the social benefits one would expect in China or Europe. It has programs to the poor that are mostly corrupt, it does have crazy high taxation and bureaucratic quagmires (see ipaidabribe.com) and yet when it became more business-friendly it started to create an awakening in the late 1990s and the result was a very strong middle class; a middle class of mostly twenty year odds that have aspired for greatness and changed its political destiny. It did not achieve this by looking at for an examples of the US but by realizing its own shortcomings and failures. The problem is in America we refuse to do this, we are so divided by US versus THEM, Republican vs Democrat, it’s MY idea not YOUR idea, That we can barely move the needle on progress; however change did come gradually and history will repeat itself. It’s a pity that we can’t learn from it instead of having to relive it. For a good example of how we can compare the income inequality of two hundred years ago to the income inequality history repeat of today, check out this excellent series The Men Who Built America.
Then we have the craziness that is Isis and al Qaeda. And yes this is another example of the repeat of history. We are horrified by ISIS, we try to demonize them but at the same time. We argue that a Middle East problem and we tend to forget that America lit the powder keg by invading Iraq. Yes we were brutally attacked at 9/11 but nobody can draw a straight line between that and Iraq. It was a horrendous mistake and the ramifications are unimaginable. However this too is a repeat of history. In 1914 Europe went into a war of barbaric proportions. Trench warfare, mustard gas, well not the same as beheadings and burnings, were still cruel in nature. When one group of people charge at another group with bayonets and bullets and victory is declared that particular day but last man standing it is a senseless act. America was horrified that a civilization like Europe would descend into such barbarity and madness. All that changed however when we were attacked vis a vis the sinking of the Lusitania. Roosevelt wanted to get involved in the attack in a very big way. While we think of the Lusitania as a cruise ship it was carrying a lot of ammunition and firearms built at Bethlehem Steel to be sold by JP Morgan at a tremendous profit to the French military. The loss for these companies were not that substantial and yet suddenly the lobbying to enter the war started because it meant the production of war materials which would benefit the captains of industry greatly. The sinking of the Lusitania became a propaganda tool of its time to justify America’s entry into World War I.
What would have happened to World War 1 if America did not get involved? After all., nobody got involved in the American Civil War and eventually it work itself out. Yet World War I was the first taste of war as a profit center. The money made by the military and the war spending helped forge the middle class (unlike India whose middle class was spurred through entrepreneurship). As the Cold War faded the military had nobody to fight so the wartime budget was used for the defenses. After the first Gulf War Bush Senior was smart enough believe Saddam in power. I will not go into conspiracy theories but the evidence speaks for itself that we meddled in their affairs and now we are paying the price. As ruthless as Saddam might be, the possibility of the existence of ISIS would not be possible under Saddam’s watch (both were Sunni after all).
So now we have created a hell of our own making but we refuse to take care of it. We are the greatest military force in the world yet we are reluctant to go on a full on assault against a rag tag army of joy seekers who have come to fight with ISIS not mostly for deeply pious reasons but rather for access to sex slaves and to be able to belong to a group that respects them, something they lacked at their home nation.
We did not interfere prior to World War 1 and 2, we could have taken out or contained Hitler. We did not interfere in the Japanese rape of Nanjing, signaling to the Emperor that we were week. We did not interfere at Pol Pot, or Rwanda. And we are not interfering with ISIS except for a few milquetoast drone and air strikes. Jordan has done more in a week with their badass attacks then America and the allies have.
So what happens if we do not interfere? Have a look at history, and hit repeat.