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Why American Conservatives Are Suddenly Freaking Out About Guillotines

Are they afraid the people’s patience is not endless?

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People in America are under attack daily. The greedy rich know it, because they are the ones doing the attacking. They know that they have made collateral damage out of hungry children, hard-working parents, grandmothers and grandfathers. And somewhere behind the gates of their private communities and the roped-off areas — their private schools, private hospitals, private modes of transport—they fear that the aggression may one day be turned back. They wonder how far they can erode our quality of life before something might just snap.

The growing concentration of wealth is creating an increasingly antagonistic society, which is why we have seen the buildup of the police state and the rise of unregulated markets appear in tandem. This is why the prisons are bursting at the seams with the poor.

The oligarchs hope that Americans will be so tired, so pumped full of Xanax, so terrified, that they will remain in their places. They hope that we will watch the rich cavorting on reality shows and set ourselves to climbing the economic ladder instead of seeing that the rungs have been kicked away. 

Of course, there is a very easy way for the rich to remain rich and alleviate their nightmares of the guillotine. That is simply to allow their unearned wealth to be taxed at a reasonable rate. Voila! No more fear of angry mobs.

Or they can wait for some less pleasant alternative, like a revolution. This theme, which once timidly hid behind the scenes, has lately burst onto cultural center stage. The cover of the current issue of Lapham’s Quarterly, dedicated to the topic, “ Revolutions,” features five crossed swords. Its contents outline various periods in history when ordinary folks had had enough, such as “The People’s Patience is Not Endless,” a pamphlet issued by the Command of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress, in December 1961.

Very interesting reading for the 1 percent.

Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet senior editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of "Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture." She received her Ph.D. in English and cultural theory from NYU. She is the director of AlterNet's New Economic Dialogue Project. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.