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(DV) Ransel: The Treadmill







The Treadmill
by Vi Ransel
January 5, 2006

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Sisyphus, a Corinthian king
of Greek mythology,
was condemned by Olympian gods
to pay a heavy price for his greed

by rolling an enormous stone

to the peak of a steep hill's crown

and every time he'd reach the top

the stone quickly rolled back down.


            *  *  *  *  ! *  *  *


Throughout the Dark Ages of Europe

the mass of the medieval population

became the virtual slaves of the rich

through the process of feudalization.


In return for their lord's protection

serfs had the right to work his estate,

but they never could leave his service,

making them HIS from cradle to grave.


In such a subsistence economy

you produce just what you need to survive.

Since there was no upward mobility

there was nothing for which to strive.


But after this had gone on for awhile

the feudal overlords began realizing

there was more money made in wool than in farms,

so they began medieval downsizing.


They enclosed the bulk of their estates

with "moats" of protective hedges,

used fewer serfs to raise sheep than to farm,

and left the poor to their own defenses.


Then after the rent wars and food riots

the rich installed capitalism

and got the poor to buy it by saying

they could rise from their servile position


in society by amassing money

and manufactured material goods.

Thus the quest for economic imitation

of the rich was begun by the poor.


By using the carrot of future reward

to tempt an upwardly mobile donkey,

and constantly moving the tasty bait forward

you create a consumption-based economy.


Capitalism requires constant purchases

of industrial goods made to self-destruct

so the people who bought them are forced to buy more.

! making sure the consumer is continually plucked.


To maintain this perpetual demand

is the Sisyphean task of the consumer

to afford and religiously buy

the industrial output of the producer.


The Upper Classes insure this by dangling

their lifestyle carrot in the face of the poor,

convincing them that conspicuous consumption

is what all REAL Americans strive for.


Advertising unrelentingly describes this

in magazines and on TV and in movies

as the possessions required for inclusion

in respectable American society.


(Note that after 9/11 we were urged to consume

  as our patriotic American duty.)


But deep down we know real imitation

is just our own improbable hope

and the odds o! f winning the economic lottery

make it a particularly sadistic joke.


So when we finally admit "trickle down"

does NOT  raise all economic boats,

what we see is more like the story

of the sparrows, the horse and the oats.


You feed all the oats to the horse,

but the sparrows are not supposed to feel cheated,

because they get all the leftover oats

when the horse's digestion's completed.


This creates more than a desire to be rich.

It creates resentment and anger and envy

in the poor rolling rocks up the hill

with Sisyphus for all of eternity.

Vi Ransel lives in New York, and can be reached at: rosiesretrocycle@yahoo.com.


Other Poems by Vi Ransel

* Poor in America -- P.I.A.

* The Driver