I recently read “The American Political System … by Edward S. Greenberg” – a study of the events, forces and interests leading up to the personalities gathered in the drafting and ratification of what we today know as the Constitution of the United States.
The work opens with a look at worker conditions in slaughterhouses; from the loss of limbs, deadly diseases, physical mutilations, poisoning (lead); all this in the urban industrial centers (Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, etc.) In rural areas, however, the spraying of fields with toxins was and remains a particular danger to all who toil it – which happen to be the expendable class (foreign born and temporary residents). Like most “good soldiers” they would endure the dangers inherent in an economic system indifferent to the plight of the worker, who fabricate our everyday consumer items and grow, cultivate and harvest the food, which necessitates clean water, and now at a great growing risk of becoming more toxic and contaminated through hydraulic fracturing. Other labor is, if not more hazardous than the one’s highlighted. My father died of cancer after years as a merchant seaman and long shore man at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Hudson River piers during and after WWII – a statistic and victim of asbestos pollution. Millions of Americans, and other imported/immigrant workers are physically injured, contract debilitating and deadly on-the-job-diseases, or die at the job site or contract various types of cancers.
An interesting fact is that more Americans and foreign-born workers (immigrants – legal or undocumented) die from on-the-job accidents and workplace diseases, than in the undeclared wars of Korea, Vietnam, Granada, Nicaragua, El Salvador, etc.
This brings us to the political system within which this carnage was and remains acceptable and permissible by our establishment political leaders and system. The relationship between business and government (elected officials); power and privilege, and how that plays out in our daily life across our nation, and in the Central Coast of California.
Historically, ours has been a political system based on the American Capitalist model – where power and work place decision-making (job security, wages, retirement, pension and work place safety) is in the hands of the heads of financial institutions, industry and manufacturing, (i.e. bankers, auto, mining, construction, mega agriculture and food growers) as well as other major industries.
Therefore, in our modern American civilization, we are constantly confronted with understanding where our values as a society, originate and where we stand, as a society, when it comes to our social contract, and where they intersect in the political and economic arena of interests.
This parallel debate of our times must be viewed through the prism of our founding documents and stated values and principles as a nation – the ratification of Constitution of the United States and the subsequent adoption of the Bill of Rights.
The Constitutional Convention of 1787 was an effort in controlling the masses, in this case the majority non-wealthy class versus the minority financiers, and wealthy landed gentry. They feared, following the leashing of ideas of individual freedom, liberty and justice – the basis for the American Revolution, and the prospect that threaten their position and wealth – sounds so today!
The Articles of Confederation which preceded the constitution on the other hand, were inadequate in controlling the economic affairs of a new and emerging nation, i.e. raising taxes, relationship between and among the newly created states, and devoid of any central authority to provide leadership and direction. Following the revolution, the landed gentry were very concerned with what was seen as the “leveling tendencies” as inscribed into the Pennsylvania State Constitution, also seen as the closest we have ever come to a “dictatorship of the masses." Individual states ratified their own progressive state charters as well.
To Be Continued ...
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