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Monday, August 07, 2017


Billabong's story

by Tom Sullivan

It has not been that long since Montana congressional candidate Greg Gianforte body-slammed journalist Ben Jacobs. So this bit of video from a health care rally at the Capitol Building has been eating at me for a couple of weeks.

The large fellow in the Billabong tee gets angry about The Opposition reporter Jordan Uhl filming him "celebrating a woman who survived cancer losing her health insurance.” But there is a 1st Amendment right to shoot video in a public space and a policeman is looking on. It's not clear Billabong ever touched the reporter.

"First amendment right to film? Okay," he sneers. "That's what you've got, dude? Your First Amendment right to film? You're a f#cking kid that's never worked a day in your life," he assumes, as his young son looks on. We too can assume: his young son has never worked a day in his life.

"And [you see] people like you are the reason this country sucks now, dude. Because you never worked in your whole life and you're here recording me," he continues. "I pay for all my employees' health insurance, 'cause they actually work. F#ck you and everybody else here who just wants free sh*t and a free f#cking ride. Seriously. Bunch of lazy f#ckers."

As if health insurance is free and people in the crowd aren't already paying for it. And for 900 overseas military bases, the world's premier air force, and 10-11 carrier strike groups, for that matter. But wanting to preserve government spending for health care? Free ride.

What's striking besides the man's underlying personal issues (and the upbringing his son is getting) is the presumption that the young reporter's rights have not been earned. At least, through a work history Billabong recognizes as a work history. One suspects the same standard does not apply to his young son, but only to "takers," to those insufficiently subservient to their elders, or to "lesser thans." He's not alone these days in questioning somebody's citizenship by her/his perceived relative utility to the economy.

Welcome to the world of homo corporatus, where America's founding beliefs take a back seat to economic utility. It is a far cry from unalienable rights "endowed by their Creator" to "never worked a day in your life." In Real America, 1st Amendment rights, voting rights, etc. are provisional, contingent on a street-corner assessment of work history. Among the lowest capitalist castes, one's work defines your worth. Among the highest, net worth does. Fritz Lang would recognize the culture. Those adapted to dystopia, maybe not.

Richard Eskow worries that "the Democratic Party’s rhetoric has been ‘Uberized’ by a creeping free-market ideology" like this. He writes at OurFuture.org the the party's new "Better Deal" rhetoric, while an improvement, paints a picture of a future where workers "scrabble like crabs in a barrel for low-paying piece work – or worse, as with Uber, are pressured to go into debt for car loans they must assume in order to 'compete.'" Ah, freedom. No wonder Billabong is so on edge.

Eskow writes:

Americans are a highly individualistic people in many ways. But we are also a nation with strong communitarian values. Those values can be found in our admiration for those who make sacrifices in times of war. They can be found in our willingness to help one another when disaster strikes. They can be seen in Fourth of July parades, or in clothing drives at the local fire station.

There is a yearning in this country – a yearning to belong to something greater than one’s self. Rather than asking workers to “compete” with each other, the new leaders of the American left should ask them to collaborate – in labor negotiations, in new forms of public service, in acts of selfless devotion to one another and the nation as a whole.
Who knows what Billabong's story is? Maybe he has a severe case of last-place aversion, feels himself slipping down the socio-economic ladder, and needs someone to look down on to feel better about himself. But if his assessment of his neighbors' worth is as bottom-line as it appears, no wonder he is so dissatisfied with the America he lives in.

Law? Meet jungle. Dog? Eat dog.

Kinda gets you right there don't it?

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