The Cultural Pendulum.

During my 40+ years in advertising, I learned that our culture is like a pendulum.  It swings far in one direction then back an equal distance in the other direction.  However, it’s on a 360 degree axis, so it never comes back to quite the same place twice.

You can see this pendulum effect play out in many ways, including politics.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s, wealthy men such as J.P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, and John D. Rockefeller wielded most of the political power.  These industrialists made billions off the backs of others.  They controlled their employees with an iron fist.  They controlled government the same way.

It was an age when workers, including children, were forced to labor in deplorable conditions.  They were paid little for back-breaking work in mines, in sweatshops, in factories and on railroads.  There were no safety and environmental regulations.  No labor unions.  No salary negotiations. No retirement safety nets.

Following the labor strikes of the early 1900s and following the Great Depression, things began to change.  People realized that they had been abandoned by the powerful and the wealthy.  The need for collective action became apparent.

Sadly, the pendulum is swinging back in the direction of the plutocrats; the so-called “job creators.”  We’ve been through decades of union busting.  Middle class jobs have been exported to other countries in search of ever lower labor costs.  Financial, environmental and safety regulations are under attack.  The top one percent has enjoyed an ever-increasing share of the national wealth while the wages of the poor and the middle class have declined.

More disturbingly, there is evidence that the pendulum is accelerating toward the right.  The wealthy and powerful have been emboldened.  The mere fact that a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination felt comfortable promoting the exploitation of child labor during the Republican debates should send a chill down everyone’s spine.  Now business owners and corporate executives are even demanding that their employees vote for Mitt Romney or be fired.

If the Republicans take control of the White House and Congress, our nation will swing even further toward the Horse and Sparrow economy; an economy based on the notion that if you feed enough oats to the horse (the wealthy and the multi-national corporations), some will pass through and end up on the road for the sparrows (you and me).