I can’t breathe. I mean I really can’t breathe. I feel as if someone’s knee is pressing down on my windpipe. Pushing the air from my lungs. Snuffing me out like a candle.
Sometimes I feel like crying for no reason. But there is a reason. I want to cry for all the things that are wrong and broken and don’t need to be. I want to weep for all the homeless and hungry who don’t need to be homeless and hungry.
When George Floyd was killed by the American police officer Derek Chauvin for no reason, Floyd’s cry ‘I can’t breathe’ resonated around the world in a great desperate gasp as if the very soul of the earth was being crushed.
Floyd couldn’t breathe. The planet can’t breathe. Piece by piece it is being suffocated by self-serving politicians in league with the corporations that finance them and spin around in the revolving door and are them. They went to same schools. They wear the same ties. Their children marry each other.
John Locke (the Father of Liberalism; 1632-1704) said what worries you masters you. What worries the world worries us all. We live with uncertainty. We are afraid of everything. Our vulnerability. Covid. Inequality. Unemployment. Poverty. Homelessness. Those who are doing all right despair for those who are not doing all right. And if they don’t, they’ve already lost their humanity. People are emotionally broken or financially broken or both.
The end of the American Dream may have been the killing of George Floyd. But the beginning of the end started in 1980 in the United States, 1979 in the UK, with the coming of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher with the corruptible seed of trickle-down economics, bank hegemony, the shorting of liberal democracy, the fire sale of state assets.
They told us that public services owned by the people would be cheaper run by the corporations. It wasn’t true. Millions of jobs went offshore to China, Vietnam, Mexico. Every politician since has promised to bring the jobs back. They haven’t. Lies were needed to keep people logged into FaceBook, lost in reality TV, led by influencers. It is hardly surprising that the corruptible seed flowered in consummate liars like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson.
It wasn’t the American police officer Derek Chauvin with his knee on George Floyd’s neck for nine minutes – it was Donald Trump’s knee, Boris Johnson’s knee, Jair Bolsonaro’s knee. The cruel knees of power and greed, the false promises of all the populists and reactionaries and fascists.
What is the American Dream? What was the American Dream?
It was the belief that people could and should live in peace and harmony with access to a decent education and the opportunity to get their share of health and happiness – as it says in the Declaration of Independence. In its deepest sense, it is the quest for human dignity, equability and meaning. In the land of the American Dream, policemen do not press their knee down on the neck of a fellow American for nine minutes because the corruptible seed of reactionary politics means they will probably get away with it. Bob Dylan wrote this in his song Blind Willie McTell –
Well god is in his heaven. And we are what was his.
But power and greed and corruptible seed. Seems to be all that there is.
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