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EAGLE hadn’t worried about what humans got up to, in any detail, for much of his life to date.
When he’d been an eaglet, he’d thought mainly about food. Later, he’d been obsessed with learning to fly (and sex) and to be the Best of the Best.
Those objectives achieved, and maintained, he’d been a conscientious symbol of EAGLE-LAND, but not overly concerned with his humans and their day to day activities (apart from the 101st Airborne). He was, literally, above all that. Yet now, thanks to CUCKOO, he was studying eagleomics.
“What is work?” he said to CUCKOO.
“It has various meanings,” said CUCKOO. “When you go hunting to get food for yourself and your family, you are, in a sense, working. But, I think the meaning you are looking for refers to paid work. That involves selling your time – during which you agree to do whatever you are told to do – within reason - in exchange for money.”
“Do humans like work?” said EAGLE.
“That depends,” said CUCKOO, “on lots of things. Some people love their work. Others enjoy the social aspect. But mostly they work because they have to have money to live. Humans have to pay for almost everything. They need money nearly as much as they need clean air, and fresh water.”
EAGLE looked around. Everything he wanted or needed was either within sight, or within flying distance; and everything was free. He shook his head in wonder. “Humans are nuts,” he said.
“That is scarcely an original observation,” said CUCKOO drily. “But we work with what we’ve got.”
“How come Americans lose freedom when they work,” said EAGLE? “I understand that if they are doing what they are told, they can’t go hunting like I can, but I thought they had a Constitution that is the basis for their freedoms.”
“They do have a constitution,” said CUCKOO, “But quite a bit of it doesn’t apply when they are working, and much of the rest of it is covered by laws which don’t really favor the average American very much. For instance, they can’t speak freely inside their place of work, they can’t form unions with any ease, they get very little vacation, mostly they don’t get either sick pay or paid maternity leave and they can be dismissed with little or notice for little or no reason. Also, they are losing their pensions, and medical insurance is becoming unaffordable. The details vary from state to state. And I should probably add, that if you factor in inflation, most workers haven’t had a real pay increase for nearly forty years.”
“That sucks,” said EAGLE. “But since, as I understand it, there are far more workers than bosses, why don’t they change the laws in favor of the workers? Isn’t democracy based upon the rule of the majority?”
“Yes it is,” said CUCKOO, “but since the bosses have most of the money, they can buy the votes they need to keep the workers in line. So a few very rich people, and the corporations they control, can run things the way they want. And that’s just what they do.”
“Despite the Constitution?” said EAGLE.
“Yes,” said CUCKOO. “Because the Supreme Court, which has the final vote on legal matters, has, in effect been bought by the Rich and their corporate interests. Money rules in EAGLE-LAND.”
EAGLE sighed. Some of the books he had read had been vastly enthusiastic about American Democracy and yet the real thing seemed to be so terribly different. But perhaps none if this mattered if the system worked. EAGLE-LAND, after all, was supposed to be the richest, most powerful country in the world. He dried to think pragmatically. He knew matters weren’t going too well in what humans called the United States of America, but probably they were worse in other counties. He raised the issue with CUCKOO.
“No,” said CUCKOO. “I hate to say it, EAGLE, because I know you love this country, but EAGLE-LAND is currently in decline; and the way they are running their economy just isn’t working any more. If something isn’t done soon, the whole system is going to augur in.”
CUCKOO liked to throw in aviation terminology from time to time. ‘Auguring in’ meant screwing your aircraft deep into the ground. In simple language, it meant crashing with fatal results. It was not a good thing.
“Isn’t it the president’s job to deal with this kind of problem?” said EAGLE.
“Yes it is,” said CUCKOO, “but the president’s power is limited. If he can’t get sufficient votes in both houses of Congress – the House of Representatives and the Senate – he can get nothing done.”
EAGLE wracked his brains. He knew the parties in Congress had names, but so many terms were used to describe the different beliefs of these elected idiots, that the correct terminology did not come to mind. Then he remembered. He’d been having tea with CUCKOO when they had discussed Congress first.
“So, everything depends upon the Right Mugs, the Left Mugs –“
“And the Tea Mugs,” said CUCKOO.