Stayin’ Alive. Ah. Ha, Ha, Ha….

Posted on Mon 06/15/2009 by


By John Armor.

20080220_american1_smallerSaturday Night Fever begins with the classic scene of a very young John Travolta striding through the streets of Brooklyn. His shoes slap the pavement, his body sways to the rhythm of the Bee-Gees’ immortal song, played sotto voce, Stayin’ Alive. The story is about the attempt of the protagonist, his whole family, his friends and his community merely to survive.

Therein lies a lesson for our times.

The late, great Peter Drucker once wrote to the effect that, “Once an organization exceeds 1,000 people, its first purpose becomes self-preservation.” (Anyone who can find the precise quote in Professor Drucker’s monumental opera, please e-mail me.) The point, of course, is the tendency of any organization to become destructive of the ends for which it was created, when its staff goes to seed as bureaucrats.

For the first example, consider the American labor movement. The AFL and the CIO were separately founded to improve the wages and working conditions. They did exactly that, over their first century of effort. But today we have the spectacle of the AFL-CIO actually changing sides to support “immigration reform” which would accept as American citizens, about ten million Mexicans who have entered the US illegally.

These illegal aliens are taking jobs away from American citizens. Why in the world would American labor take such a position? Look at the numbers: Except in government employment, union membership has dropped to less than 8 percent overall. The decline has been steady since 1979.

But the soon-to-be-Americans from Mexico are just as desperate as American workers were a century ago. If they sign up it means more members, more dues, more power in politics, more influence for labor’s entrenched and well-paid leadership. So, it hurts the union’s existing members. So what?

Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive.

Let’s take a look at America’s political parties. Right now, they are the Democrats and the Republicans. Keep in mind that these parties are not set in stone. Parties began in 1797 with the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists. Political parties used to die and be replaced when they became self-defeating or simply brain-dead.

The Democrat Party began in 1828 with the election of Andrew Jackson, a frontier man with populist appeal. Its first issue was the abolition of the Bank of the United States, a semi-private organization by which wealthy, powerful people “controlled” the American economy, in Jackson’s view. (Do not claim that Thomas Jefferson was a Democrat. His was the Republican-Democrat Party, which did not survive his Presidency.)

Does the Democrat Party resemble what it was, and what it stood for, when it was created?

How about the Republicans? They came into national power with the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. They represented a frontier man with populist appeal. Their first issue was the abolition of slavery. They conducted America’s bloodiest war, to end that institution.

Does the Republican Party resemble what it was, and what it stood for, when it was created?

Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive.

How about the United States of America? The nation was created to guarantee individual freedom to all citizens. It was created with both a free market in goods and services, and a free market in ideas. And those qualities of its creation made it a “lamp beside the golden door.” as the poem on the Statue of Liberty proclaims.

We did not begin as the most successful nation in the history. We barely won our own Revolution. We nearly lost our freedoms two decades later in the War of 1812. There was a poem associated with that event, too. Remember it begins with the words, “Oh, say can you see, by the dawn’s early light….” Perhaps you might listen to it when you next attend a ball game. Maybe you might even find on the Internet the story of a battle that saved a fort, a city, and a nation with the proof being a flag that was still flying.

We didn’t have it all solved from the start. It took us some time to make our nation better than it was at the beginning. A few amendments, and a Civil War, got us there. But what about today?

Is there any area in which we are not going backwards? Education? Economic success? Individual creativity? Freedom of speech, and conscience, and religion, at the press?

Life’s goin’ nowhere. Somebody help me, yeah.  I’m stayin’ alive. Contributing Editor John Armor practiced in the US Supreme Court for 33 years. He now lives on the Eastern Continental Divide in the Blue Ridge of North Carolina.

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