One Rung Up from the Bottom

By Zach Oaster

How we’re told the system works: A "republic" is a representative democracy that is supposed to send majority (fairly) elected leaders to do the work of all the people with regard to lawmaking.

I am not naive. It has never worked this way.

How the system actually works today: Often-minority-elected leaders (through gerrymandering and the electoral college) are empowered to do the work of only those who elected them -- those with the money to market their candidate most effectively to the desperate and fearful.

So then we must ask ourselves, at what point should we stop altogether yelling into the abyss by contacting these bought shills who don't give a shit about you? They. don't. give. a. shit. When instead, shall we turn our frustration and anger toward those who are the source of our oppression and loss of basic human rights (e.g. healthcare, freedom from discrimination for innate traits, etc)? Who put them there? The corporations and super-rich.

Things have already been bad before, and we. didn't. learn. Even Obamacare was a half-solution. Things were still bad for many people under Obamacare. Many were still left paying huge chunks of their meager income for utterly useless (mandatory) insurance plans. Hospital, pharma, and insurance corporations were getting super-rich while poor people were being forced to participate in a system that was still not designed for them, or cruelly fined if they chose not to participate. We’ve never taken the full and humanizing single-payer solutions seriously in the U.S.

I certainly don't subscribe to the argument that we need to just wait until they see the error of their ways when things get bad. They won't see. It has already been bad. For leaders to see that something is bad and then fix it depends on them giving a shit about you… and I already addressed that a couple paragraphs back.

We need to ask ourselves seriously how we are going to resist. Corporations are NOT people, thus I have no interest in humanizing this part of the debate. This is a serious question of action. How are we going to disempower the centers of money and power in tangible ways? How are we going to support each other through this? Solidarity comes at a high price in times like these. None of us can go this alone and expect success. History, however, has shown us that when we go it together, we can beat back tyranny.

And then there is this… What shall we do about the fellow working and middle-class Americans who collaborated (and continue to collaborate, whether out of desperation or ignorance) with this regime? They put them there too, but there is this sticky extenuating factor that they (most of them, at least) do not realize the source of their own class oppression. Fact is, the shills don’t give a shit about those who voted for them either. Voters are just proxies to be manipulated.

When you’re one or two rungs up from the bottom of a 30-foot ladder…

Many researchers looking into polling data have shown over the years that even among conservatives, higher education levels, often available to those with higher levels of income, cause people to have a slightly more favorable outlook toward social equality.  Thus, it stands to reason that the nationalism, xenophobia, bigotry, suspicion, fear, and mistrust that is the core motivating thrust of the white, male, religious, conservative movement in the U.S. would not hold nearly as much power if people were not already feeling the boot of class oppression constantly pressuring them to grab for every crumb lest they fall another rung down the ladder (to where those they are told to despise already are).

So, while resisting the corporate centers of political power, we also need to have a serious and public *humane* debate about what to do with those who are collaborators. We need to lay out a path to solidarity, as salvation is possible, I think, for them. However, I don't think the whole, "just go on being friends and act like nothing happened because we're all adults" meme is going to work when my friends start suffering and dying from preventable, curable, preexisting conditions again. 

Zach Oaster is a public sociologist, shepherd, and artisan. He is a full-time graduate student of sociology at Western Michigan University as well as a longtime performer of music and organizer around social justice issues. Zach identifies as a radical queer godless apostate and heretical disaffiliated United Methodist. He prefers masculine pronouns, and has a fabulous talent for writing third person bios. Zach describes his academic research as, “exploring the conflicts within conservative political and social discourse, revealed at the intersection of neoconservative and neoliberal ideologies – especially as those discourses converge on issues important to the LGBTQIA communities.” Find out more about Zach at, or on

join the fig tree revolution email list

Name *