I had just been “friended” by a dead mother on Facebook, and was poring over photographs of a happy home life that is no more, when Wolfgang sent me a link today to “The Fields of Athenry,” a song that tells the story of another family’s tragedy during the Great Irish Potato Famine of 1847-49.
The so-called famine killed over two million people by starvation and, as the song says, caused many formerly law-abiding people to steal food in order to keep their families alive. Many of these desperate offenders were jailed and made slaves of the state.
What the history books don’t tell us is that Ireland was a food-exporting nation during the whole length of the crisis. Only the potato crops, which were grown on Ireland’s poorest soils by Ireland’s poorest people, had failed.
Wheat, rye, barley, corn, and other staple foods were exported from Ireland to England in more-than-adequate quantities to have fed Ireland’s starving millions each and every year of the famine.
Because more than 95% the land in Ireland was controlled by wealthy English bankers and landowners, this land was kept under productive cultivation and the landless Irish peasants were forced by threat and coercion to harvest the export crops and load them onto ships bound for England.
While Irish laborers toiled on the docks, their wives, children, and relations (who had been deemed expendable by the rich) died at home.
A million Irish workingmen emigrated to America during the famine years, and brought with them an attitude toward all power elites that scared the hell out of America’s ruling class, the most powerful of whom were behind America’s Industrial Revolution—often with the financial backing of the same English money interests that had callously allowed the murderous “famine” to play out as it did.
As this Irish song played in the background, I looked at the pictures of a happy family life that has been extinguished as a result of corporate greed. I can’t go into the details now, but I realized that nothing has really changed in 162 years.
Today I heard a speech by Nobel laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz, who said that our system of “free market” capitalism is now so highly manipulated and controlled by self-serving money interests that our “land of opportunity” offers less opportunity for the average worker than other places in the world.
America is devolving into a desperate, almost Third World society defined by a hardening caste system driven by the insatiable greed of its wealthiest citizens, Stiglitz says in his new book, The Price of Inequality: How Today’s Divided Society Endangers Our Future.
The rich are getting incredibly richer on the backs of powerless, expendable people—even kids. We see the excesses of their New World Order in the burgeoning system of prison slave labor and a permanent underclass of citizens to feed it.
We are the 99 percent.
Grooves of the Day
If you’re as disturbed as I am, you may prefer this version sent by Frank Manning: