Sun. May 26th, 2024

By-Astra Navigo
Eaten By America – A Cautionary Tale

Ants are gathered around an old tree.
In a choir they sing, in harsh and gravelly voices,

Old Etruscan songs on tyranny.

Toads nearby clap their small hands, and join the fiery songs, their five toes trembling in the soaked earth.


The cry of those being eaten by America,
Others pale and soft being stored for later eating.

The mass sinking down;
The light in children’s faces fading at six or seven.

The world will soon break up into small colonies of the saved.


–Robert Bly (“Johnson’s Cabinet Watched By Ants”, and “Those Being Eaten by America”; 1967)

Last week, Elizabeth Warren, who chairs the congressional oversight panel in charge of the banking-bailouts, made it clear regarding the middle-class in America that “…We’ve hacked at it and chipped at it and pulled on it for 30 years now. And now there’s no more to do. Either we fix this problem going forward or the game really is over.”

Today, I got a phone call from an old friend.

He’d started a business a few years ago, and wound up being one of the faceless casualties of thirty years of economic mismanagement. While Obama dithered over the best place to put the bailout money, my friend did his best to manage the sinking of a ship he’d worked most of his life to realize.

His ‘reward’ for following the rules and believing his government was a debauched currency; an economy devoid of life thanks to a government which believed it possible to cut taxes and continue spending – ironically; the philosophy of the ‘conservative.’

The liberal/progressives did no better, with the result that we now have bankers with fat bonuses – while their banks literally bet against the America we’d like to believe in. (Now, the administration thinks it’s a good idea to put bailout money in the hands of small banks, which have more ties to local business – a good idea indeed; at least a year too late to do much good).

My friend asked for money. Anything I could spare.

He’d been forced to follow his small business into bankruptcy. Now, he lives in an apartment on a combination of welfare and food stamps; hoping he can find a job.

Good luck.

Most businesses won’t hire a person who’s filed for bankruptcy – the ‘fresh start’ promised people who take this route is a pipe dream. His state-funded relief ends in June; to add insult to injury, he now has a warrant to seize his remaining personal property in order to pay back employment-taxes; the result of the failure of his business. Seven thousand dollars. It might as well be seven million.

I remember him from better times.

He had a fine home; the result of good years as an employee of a fast-growing business. Venturing on his own was a risk; but a calculated one – the economy was growing quickly, and he’d picked an extension of what he’d done before – ground he knew how to cover, and a profession in which he could make good money.

He had a retirement fund; good medical insurance; a woman in his life who shared his rise and supported him emotionally.

All that began to change three years ago, as the economy imploded. Now, his home is gone; one of the one-in-forty-four in the local area, making Portland 61 out of 100 top real estate markets in America in terms of foreclosures.

His business was gone before the home – having four employees look at him with vacant eyes while he told them that their livelihoods were now a matter of statistical record did nothing for his morale.

The insurance was now gone, also. He now suffers from depression (and probably PTSD); likely severe – but there are no health services for former employers.

His is a metaphor for all of those like him in America – he’s a couple of months away from living on the street, and absent a miracle, that’s where he’s going to wind up.

Failure is an orphan. That’s never been more true than in this case, and in the thousands upon thousands like it, all across the Formerly Greatest Country On Earth; regardless of his education, talent, and creativity, my friend is now considered Worthless.

His woman is gone. So are most of the people he called ‘friend’; they don’t return phone calls. Uncomfortable ‘best of luck’ statements are what he gets via email.

Then, the government came calling.

They now want his furniture; ‘back employment taxes’ are the reason. They will not negotiate. His bankruptcy attorney can’t help; the trustee distributed the money and ‘somehow the state employment people fell through the cracks.’

The same government which destroyed the currency through inflation; deregulated the banking system until the predatory inmates of that particular asylum had the keys, and ran it as such – the same government which failed in its trust to preserve, protect, and defend – now wants what little my friend has in life.

I gave him what I could spare.

“I now know why people become revolutionaries,” he told me. “I now know why people blow up buildings – because they’ve nothing left to lose.”

We are living in a dangerous place. There is no place left to hide. Having created a nation of dispossessed, we now await the spark which will carry us to Tomorrow.

By astranavigo

Astra is one of the clever monkeys occupying space on the Third Planet From The Sun. While it was an early wish of Astra's to be one of the first to go to Proxima Centauri, he knows this is not to be; instead, you can find him here (some of the time) using simple tools to create communication. Holding up a mirror and saying 'Looky! Mistofer Emperor! Y'ain't wearin' no clothes!" is but one of the services he provides here. Others are subverting prevailing wisdom, peeing in people's Cheerios, trashing on their Imaginary Friends (he does this a lot,) and shifting paradigms without benefit of a clutch. He lives in Portland, Oregon, where he hopes he'll never have to learn the true meaning of some of his dystopian fiction.

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10 thoughts on “Eaten By America”
  1. Will, one of the things I like about your piece is the obvious despair you have of the present situation and the lack of a way out.

    Let me put that differently: I appreciate your honest presentation of hopelessness. It’s depressing but it’s real.

    So, where are those revolutionaries today, apart from the Tea Baggers Without a Cause?

    And thank you for introducing me to Robert Bly. I must read more.

  2. A moving and depressing piece indeed. My heart goes out to you friend and thousands like him. What is it going to take to remidy this problem? We need banking reform, regulations and oversite. When we leave these things up to the “private sector” we get screwed. Continually. It’s greed. We do need a revolution. I hope that we as citizens aren’t so disallusioned that we can’t mobalize and unify to push for change. I think we need to focus locally on those around us and in our communities to start to make a change. Thank you for giving what you can to you friend.

  3. The word that I can use for this article is empathy; I was in a similar situation as your friend, though I wasn’t as strong – my ego did not allow for me to call friends; they simply assumed that either I had once again gone off into no-man’s land or finally had ended up in a shallow dug grave on the side of the road. It is not so much the depression of failure but the anger – directed at those who seem to get a hand up while you don’t, the anger at others for not seeing the value of your business but the majority of the anger is self directed and, for me, was very self destructive. It took awhile for others to trust that I could succeed, three times longer for the self-belief in that I could succeed yet with a reserve of doubt that constantly nags in my ear even now. I hope your friend chooses to envision the horizon rather than focus on the building that blocks it.

  4. “I hope your friend chooses to envision the horizon rather than focus on the building that blocks it.”

    I imagine he will.

    The American middle-class, in general, is creative rather than destructive; the saving-grace of this nation has been this fact over our history. People like my friend aren’t going to go in search of buildings to blow up or other likeminded activities; although he – and I – now fully understand why those things are done.

    In the 1930’s, America closely avoided a Communist revolution, triggered by the Great Depression. When you read the internal communication in the White House during this era, they were never so fearful of the Japanese Fascists or the German Fascists as they were the Communists – because we had only ourselves to blame for the economic calamity we permitted to happen, and that by lack of government oversight.

    The regulations passed to prevent that sort of thing in the future were neatly done away with beginning (largely) during the Reagan administration; the result is what we have today. Bankers and brokers have gotten obscenely wealthy based on these changes (that’s why the stock-market drops nearly 300 points at the very hint of re-regulation).

    Regulation gave us a stable currency, a stable economy, and generally-boring-if-profitable business for the fifty years between the passage of those regulations and the beginning of the ’80’s.

    It’s ironic that Mr. Conservative, Ronald Reagan, was the architect of this mess.

    A middle class revolution? I doubt it. The revolution will be started by Tea Party types and other Neofascists and their handmaidens, the religious Right. Sinclair Lewis was correct in this; when Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag, carrying a cross.

    This time, the revolution will be televised.

    I’ll bring the popcorn.


  5. It’s not possible to have a middle class revolution because the middle class is too accustomed to believing the overall administration of government is right; that disagreement must be primarily their error. That failure to thrive within the disagreement of error is a personal shortcoming, not poor dictation of government policy. Americans believe with every fiber of their being that anyone can become President; that all it takes to succeed is imagination, intelligence and will power. They believe this, despite evidence of favoritism beginning in early school years, despite taking jobs where back stabbing and lies are the surest avenues to promotion, despite the carpet bagging of their individual assets.

    They will continue to believe there is “something wrong” with those who join the unemployment lines and homeless list until they become one of the numbers. I was recently displeased with a very large poster that was placed on a local community bulletin board. At the heading, in very large letters, it said “jobs”. Underneath it said:

    Erase your credit card debt.

    Re-finance your home.

    Receive a tuition paid college career.

    Secure a high-paid position in society.


    The risks are not mentioned. The bulletin doesn’t say your commitment will probably include a year of duty in Iraq. It doesn’t say there is a good chance you’ll come home in a body bag or maimed for life. It doesn’t say the children you are hoping to support may end up without a parent. The widows, both male and female, stare from the windows of their middle class homes and wonder if it was all worth it.

    Perhaps the first step would be to get over the idea that we were ever the greatest country on earth. National pride is good, but it should retain a realistic definition of what makes one proud to be a part of that country or nation. I am proud of the of the craftsmanship of the U.S. Constitution. I am proud of the speeches of great statesmen, the literary work of great authors, America’s music and art. I am proud of America’s humanitarian efforts. However, are we the best in these areas? The greatest? Not really. When you compare a sunset to a sunrise, you can’t really say which one is greatest. Each country has its own greatness, its own best that was given to share with all humanity. We’ve reached a state where many Americans can not only sympathize but identify with the third world countries struggling to feed their masses. Maybe that too, is for the best.

  6. Another reason the middle class can’t revolt is because they are too busy treading water. It won’t be until everything is lost and there is no middle class that anyone will think of revolution, by then it will be too late, and history shows us by way of things like the French Revolution, the Liberian revolution, heck, the end of Rome, that when the poor revolt it is rarely constructive.

  7. In destroying the middle-class, the government has destroyed its main support. The mob is what’s left, and the mob is driving American politics, for good or ill, right now.

    The middle-class still “believes”. It’s that belief that keeps things going.

    Once the middle-class is gone, we have no reason to be a country.

    This is the lesson Germany learned in the ’30’s. National madness was all that remained.


  8. [quote=Will(“Astra”)]The middle-class still “believes”. It’s that belief that keeps things going.[/quote]

    Which is why I’m anti-belief – as long as people believe in a social order it can operate with impunity.

  9. I fear that we’re going to see much more of this. People don’t realize how prevalent this has become. Those shouting, “They should go get a job,” haven’t been out in the job market recently. They THINK they are secure in their own jobs, but I fear that many of them are in for a rude awakening.

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