The one percent:
In the dim mist of the memory of youth I recall some lamentable things.  And there were things that are lamentable now that we did not have.  The worst of it is to me the sheer nastiness of modern life.  Gaze at politics and you shall see what the world culture seeks.  It seems to be pure venom.  Gone are the days when you got votes by kissing babies.  Even shaking hands has gone by the boards. 

One sign of how far we have gone is the silence about it.  Nobody even seems to miss those milder times.  Refer to them and all you are likely to get is a recitation of the lamentable facts of old.  There are no numbers you can assign to decency, a nurturing personality, manly grace, good manners and so forth. 

For numbers you must turn to money.  And there at least there is some trifling recognition that all has not been for the better.  They say that the top one percent of the earners are so much richer than the rest of us that the distortion of wealth has not been seen since the 1920’s with all that forebodes.  (Who Exactly are the 1%?  ECONOMIST vol. 31 no. 8768 January 21, 2012 page 13) 

Since youth I have comforted myself with the notion, “Don’t worry.  Those old families always die out.  It’s just a fading glory.  Another time it will be others.  What lasts is solid values, moral probity, love and a lot of hard work.  Those will endure.”

Since then I have had reason to be less sure about that.  Do you remember the old three corner trade?  Ships would go from New England to Africa with rum, trade it for slaves, go to the West Indies to trade slaves for sugar, which was taken to New England to make rum.  A few slaves were dropped off in the South because you wanted to pull cash out of the system; the South made cash because the South made things people wanted, like crops.  Despite all the effort the South persisted in being rich.  Even slaves in the South ate better, dressed better and lived in better houses than poor but proud farmers in the North. 

Well that had to change, so a few hundred thousand corpses later the South was indeed poor.  Then came the rise of the robber barons, the rise of the industrial North.  Who had the money to build those factories?  The decedents of the slave traders, of course.  Well war seemed like a good way to amass wealth, so in the last century we had some doozies.  As a matter of fact there are those who say we are fighting right now, and it is very expensive.

So who are the real rich?  I suspect they are the slave traders. 

Fortunately I am studiously ignored, so maybe nobody will feel offended.  Maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I was right as a child, as it isn’t the persistence of rich families. 

Then came the realization that if you don’t keep your gene pool tight your community will die out.  Feeling rather justified I decided that the super rich were all definitely going to die out, just as I used to think.  After all, who could possibly have a wider range of social choices than the richest of the rich?

All right.  Maybe you have to be cool.  There was a time when maybe I wasn’t in the 1% myself but I was pretty close.  I was not aware of having an enormous range of choices. 

But now it turns out that the top 1% have more babies than the rest of us.

Oops.  What is going on?  Is it that they can afford medically assisted pregnancies?  Or do they actually have a prudent mating strategy and keep their families together?  Or am I utterly mad and all evidence is merely illusory?  I don’t know.

There is a wonderful book I read as a child, The Wahoo Bobcat about a bobcat living pretty close to where I grew up at a time not very long before.  The bobcat is a male, but at one point he finds himself having to care for his own kittens.  Shush.  It’s a good story.

Well here comes the cat swimming through the swamp with kitten in teeth and behind comes Old Ben, the biggest alligator in the swamp and almost twenty feet of evil cunning.  And there goes the epic battle between cat and gator for the life of the kitten.  The bobcat gets the better of it and the alligator loses an eye.  Then, if I can recall after all these decades, it goes “Ben went down to the bottom of the swamp and thought about it in his cold heart.” 

So if you want me, you know where I’ll be.

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