From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/27/republican-attack-unions-class-wisconsin
The brazen choices of the Republican governor shows the real ideology behind attacks on unions – in the US and beyond
guardian.co.uk, Sunday 27 February 2011
You can tell a great deal about a nation’s anxieties and aspirations by the discrepancy between reality and popular perception. Polls last year showed that in the US 61% think the country spends too much on foreign aid. This makes sense once you understand that the average American is under the illusion that 25% of the federal budget goes on foreign aid (the real figure is 1%).
Similarly, a Mori poll in Britain in 2002 revealed that more than a third of the country thought there were too many immigrants. Little wonder. The mean estimate was that immigrants comprise 23% of the country; the actual number was about 4%.
Broadly speaking, these inconsistencies do not reflect malice or wilful ignorance but people’s attempts to make sense of the world they experience through the distorting filters of media representation, popular prejudice and national myths. “The way we see things is affected by what we know and what we believe,” wrote John Berger in Ways of Seeing. “The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled.”
When it comes to class, Americans have long seen themselves as potentially rich and perpetually middling. A Pew survey in 2008 revealed that 91% believe they are either middle class, upper-middle class or lower-middle class. Relatively few claim to be working class or upper class, intimating more of a cultural aspiration than an economic relationship. Meanwhile, a Gallup poll in 2005 showed that while only 2% of Americans described themselves as “rich”, 31% thought it very likely or somewhat likely they would “ever be rich”.
But trends and ongoing events are forcing a reappraisal of that self-image. Social mobility has stalled; wages have been stagnant for a generation. It is in this light that the growing resistance to events in Wisconsin must be understood. The hardline Republican governor, Scott Walker, has pledged to remove collective bargaining rights from public sector unions and cut local government workers’ health benefits and pension entitlements.
Continue reading at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/27/republican-attack-unions-class-wisconsin