Them or Us
That is how it was put by Romney and his group in the last election, as Richard Wolff reminds us in his presentations. Such as this one. An economic Us vs Them but not entirely. This country is and has been unique in that it is one of the few countries that is not made up of a majority of people from the same racial, ethnic and religious backgrounds. So there has been at least an undercurrent of racial/ethnic/religious animosity from the get go.
Add to that the economic and social differences, it’s actually pretty amazing we have not been at each others throats all along. There was great debate as to whether voting should be limited to only those who owned land or were bankers and merchants and yeoman farmers and on and on.
For a while Us was was limited to white anglo saxon men. And then divided up to men either those with money and prestige or those without IE workers and farmers etc. Depending on which group one belonged to. But it did not include and minorities or homosexuals. It included women but only as second class members with – for a while – no voting rights.
Racial bigotry wasn’t limited to blacks. There was Native Americans, Italians, Irish, Jews, Japanese, Chinese and even Germans. Some of it outrageous and some of subtle. Stereotypes and caricatures galore.
Social too. The Hillbilly and Farmers and Southerners and rednecks and city slickers etc. In movies and comic books and on TV and radio…….
And all was fine as long as They kept their place and kept quiet. The war or animosity between the business owners and the workers is nearly as long and in a way rather ironic and most of those who became business owners originally here, came from the working classes over there. Both groups convinced that They are the ones who do the work and They are the ones who make the country great and They are the ones who deserve respect. And that the Others should be grateful and are lazy and uncouth etc.
After WWII and the availability of higher education came another group of educated professionals that did not exist in such great numbers who also spit but this time along more ideological lines of US vs Them. Neither one fully or actually identifying with either of the previous groups. Since they were not part of the rich elites or the working classes. A new bourgeoisie as it were or elites wannabee. Wishing they were rich and quite often trying to live like such.
But then another group emerged. One I first had contact with in the late 1970s. Baby-boomers who rejected the college educated crowd and intellectuals. Who felt that they had been somehow betrayed by them. Angry, disenchanted people who wanted to relate to the proletarians or working stiffs but were quite often well educated. Distrustful of the educated liberals who they thought had betrayed their ideals but not really from the working classes either. An Us vs Them that is not nearly as well defined.
So maybe when Richard Wolff and others ask how come We and not rising up against Them in outrage, it’s because We are not all that sure who We are. Not nearly as clear now as it was in the past.