Thursday, July 16, 2009

When Money Is Involved, Anything Is Possible

Recently Californians voted to ban Gay marriage last fall. Now, this state with a revenue base larger than that of many countries is broke, issuing IOUs to vendors and contractors and suspending vital services as it attempts to close a budget gap that is not so much a distance to be bridged, but an asteroid crater to filled: the budget is short by $26.3 billion dollars American. Gay marriage wouldn’t fly somehow in California (Utah’s meddling not-withstanding, it should’ve passed. I don’t care how many TV commercials the religious Right bought) but the legalization of Marijuana just might go over.

San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano introduced a bill this past February that would make it legal for adults 21 and over to grow and sell Marijuana within the state of California. Back in February there was the usual laughter by the establishment that insists on seeing a huge difference between drugs like alcohol and so called “narcotics.” We largely have William Randolph Hearst to thank for this distinction but that’s another story. Now a bill to tax and regulate marijuana in California (like the US does with alcohol) is appearing a little more attractive. The reason for this abrupt change of heart is pretty obvious. For California, taxing Marijuana production and its sales would generate nearly $1.4 billion dollars. The California State Board of Equalization has issued a report that “estimates marijuana sales would bring $990 million from a $50-per-ounce fee and $392 million in sales taxes.

Tom Gray of The Brains was right: “Money changes everything.”

I’ll go one further and reassert that while money does not buy happiness; it sure makes life easier for those who have it. Money makes the world go ‘round and makes the impossible practical and concrete. There was an old joke in the 1980s that went something along the lines of “If handling golf clubs gave people AIDS, we would have had a cure by now.” And so it is with so many things in our country and the world. Money drives policy, law and society. Those with enough of it, tell the rest of us to go to hell in different ways and fashions. It would seem that the only way for Lesbians and Gays to get a marriage bill passed in California is for them to threaten to leave the state en masse and move to one of the states that actually recognizes them with equal status under the law in the same manner and measure as their fellow heterosexual citizens; basically take their money: earnings power, spending power, savings and run for the hills.

If money really is power, or more bluntly, money is the highest power attainable in global society, (and it clearly remains so) then the poor in particular have no hope whatsoever other than to become their oppressors. It’s a bleak but undeniable picture of our country and our world. The philosopher, sociologist, critic and historian Michel Foucault once wrote: “Power is not an institution, and not a structure; neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with; it is the name that one attributes to a complex ‘strategical’ situation in a particular society.” One consequence of this line of thinking is that “power relations” are inescapable for human beings. You cannot abstain from them, not even by going to a deserted island and never so much as picking up a coin from the sands. Even as an isolated hermit, your contribution or drain on the economy can be computed by an economist or statistician in the way an engineer can compute “sag” acting on any physical object in any context or condition. I disagree somewhat with Foucault’s attribution of indistinct namelessness and formlessness to the notion of “power” because in our world society, that ‘strategical’ situation Foucault spoke of is legal tender: the dollar; the Euro; the Yen; and so on.

Marijuana legalization, Housing Reform, Immigration Reform, Gay marriage, Healthcare Reform and just about every other issue wherein people are being denied rights has to be “monetized” in order to gain traction in America, and that is just so fucking sad.



Jack Jodell said...

Sad and disgusting, SJ. Our materialistic lust and corporate dominance has reduced all human beings to a mere numeric entry on a greedy bean counter's balance sheet. We have become simple units of money, either units of expense or revenue, depending on the situation. Bring on the socialism; this capitalism is inhuman.

SJ said...

I'll take reform any way I can get it at this point; but it's depressing that the only angle "with legs" is hammering the Healthcare industry shills with data on how the insurance costs that crippled the automakers are about to sink everything else in America.