Monday, February 15, 2010

A Class War: It's Not That Simple. The Case of Amy Bishop.

The disturbing signs of the class war continue to emerge.

Some are familiar with the terrible event that happened a block from where I sit writing this article. It is cliched to say driving past the campus from my office to my son's home to talk to him and his friends was surreal. To see my alma mater awash in a sea of blinking blue and red gumball machines was stupefying, maddening and grotesque. To see the students finally out of lockdown almost zombie like as they got into their cars was heartbreaking.

Yet one has to stay a little disattached. Eventually, Amy Bishop will come to trial and having that in this city will be almost impossible, but we may have to get a local jury pool and try.

There is an unsettling and as yet unanswered question in the article linked above: was this the act of an elite, a Harvard graduate who although evidently disturbed, an edge case as I call them, saw herself victimized by the small town university politics in a city rich with intellectual property holders based on genetic and Federally funded research? Did she believe that not only her teaching career was being destroyed by failure to be granted tenure, but her life's work would be appropriated by senior members of the faculty, licensed for their profit while she was being dismissed to the woodpile?

In articles at Jon Taplin's blog much is made of the problems of copyright for artists and old school fee collections agencies such as BMI and ASCAP. The problems of digital rights management are well known. In that, some ask how we came to the place where the fans would turn on artists and try to deny them a living based on collecting fees for use of their work?

What if this isn't that simple? In the writings from the copyleft and creative commons community, there are often the complaints about the ripoff of the artists by their labels, their collection agencies and so on. The notion that stealing music is a blow against The Man is pervasively held in many parts of society.

What if this is just one part of a bigger notion that class and elitism have become too entrenched? Given the economic events of the past two years, it's no use quibbling that the very wealthy are using any means at hand to maintain that wealth. That feeling of being had is very pervasive. In the case at UAH, it may be someone who believed as the article author asserts, her lessers were getting the better of her and she reacted violently. It isn't justification, but it may be a sign of a wide spread and intensifying belief powering not just this horrific event, but the last election, the tea partiers that have followed, and who knows what else yet?

Wars of class, the struggle to unseat the elite and the struggles to maintain them have been among the bloodiest in history. Like religious wars, they have a similar basis in the notion of the natural right to power or class of some select annointed. But whether it is the struggle of the annointed to reclaim rights, or of the unannointed to strip them, in a religious war the leaders are plainly recognized. In a class war, it's not that simple.

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