“The thing worse than rebellion is the thing that causes rebellion.”
- Frederick Douglass
On the morning of June 4, 2012, Mr. Elite stands at the window of his home in Beverly Hills, glancing casually at the groundskeepers tending to the magnificently sculptured landscape of impeccably manicured flowers, trees, shrubs and green grass surrounding the estate. He notices their foreman, Manuel, supervising the crew, and notes with satisfaction that Manuel has been a loyal employee for many years. What else does he think about Manuel? Nothing. Nothing at all. Does he know Manuel the father and husband, the loving provider for his family, the man who pays his taxes, worries about educating his children, fears crime, and has hopes and dreams for a better life for his children than he had? No, none of these thoughts enter Mr. Elite's mind- why should they? Because Manuel, and all those not in Mr. Elite's world view, are simply one dimensional characters acting out their assigned roles, not real human beings like Mr. Elite and his class. Of course Mr. Elite has never spoken personally to Manuel, or any of his workers- why? They were phantoms, servants, nothing more. Mr. Elite’s thoughts returned to his investments, and wondering if the fools in Washington would actually dare to tax him at a higher rate...
You see, Mr. Elite, like all of us, was born and raised in the value system of his family. His value system consisted of being taught from childhood that he, and they, were rightfully and naturally privileged to have and experience whatever their immense wealth could provide, in his case, literally anything he wanted or desired. Considerations of cost never entered his mind, nor were there any limits to what could be done or had. Skiing in Switzerland? Why not? Time constraints- none- why? Isn't the world there to be enjoyed at our whim? We, after all, own it, don't we? And everyone in it, who exist only to serve us, satisfy our wants and demands, it's the natural order of things, are WE not entitled? The answer was perfectly obvious to Mr. Elite, though it might have eluded some others not so fortunate.
Manuel's family upbringing, like that of most, was somewhat different. Though poor, his parents worked hard, raised their children as best they could, knew pain and suffering and loss, and grew stronger from the experiences. They didn't cry or complain about their station in life, instead lived within their means while hoping for a better tomorrow. These values they passed to Manuel and his brothers. None of them dreamed of skiing anywhere, it simply wasn't a realistic part of their world view, and they happily settled for Disneyland on those rare occasions they could afford to take their families on vacation. When he was hired as a gardener by Mr. Elite’s household manager he did his best, and soon became foreman of the crew, an achievement he felt rightfully proud about. His brothers, meanwhile, had been employed for many years at a manufacturing plant owned by one of Mr. Elite’s subsidiary corporations, though that was about change, in a very bad way.
Mr. Elite and his Board of Directors, you see, had decided that the very large bank statement numbers on their computer screens weren't large enough, so they decided that off-shoring his companies and jobs to Asia made economic sense, allowing a far higher profit margin than they could anticipate with greedy American workers who were always demanding raises and benefits, the ingrates. Several thousand workers lost their jobs in the transition, but so what? They're not like us, after all, their little lives have no real meaning in our world...
Manuel’s two brothers were among those fired when Mr. Elite's companies moved to Asia. It wasn’t just them, of course. All over the country the pattern had repeated itself, factories and companies closing to be sent overseas where the highest return on their dollar could be had by the investors and owners. Honorable, hard working men and women did what they could to find other jobs, unsuccessfully. They watched, helplessly, as gradually their homes were foreclosed, the lives they'd built unravel and slip away, and their children went hungry. They saw their neighbors become homeless, and could do nothing to help them. They felt the fear and pain, saw the tears in their loved ones eyes, and wondered how and why it had all gone so wrong. Of course, Manuel’s brothers had no idea who Mr. Elite was, or the effects his actions had caused on their lives. They were just angry, and getting angrier by the day.
It seemed everywhere that countless similar scenes were playing out as millions of Americans lost their jobs, while profits and wealth exploded for those fortunates like Mr. Elite, who, after all, deserved these rewards as a rightful consequence of his privileged position. What matter these small people and their insignificant lives, he thought, if he thought about them at all. Profits are up 23% over the same quarter last year! Now that's progress, he mused happily.
Reeling from higher budgets and costs, first cities then states were slowly being strangled as their tax bases crumbled while costs increased. The Federal government had given the large banks over $23 trillion in loans and guarantees to save them from failure; no such aid was offered to the rest of the country, which slowly sank into despair as cities and states cut services, raised taxes, and desperately tried to avoid the defaults and bankruptcies so common among the citizens.
There were now millions of homeless, 40 million children living below the "poverty line", unemployment benefits expired with no hope for a job, the elderly on fixed incomes choosing between food and the medicines they needed to stay alive. Suffering was everywhere, and there seemed no hope for anything better. Despair was common, resulting in higher crime rates, more domestic violence and murder, higher drug and alcohol use and offenses. The financial default of the United States government in February had followed that of a number of European countries, adding enormous uncertainty and much higher inflationary prices to the burdens of many already unable to bear them. No one knew what to do anymore it seemed, except to relieve the pain in any way they could. Slowly, from the ashes of despair something else grew, quietly, a smoldering rage at finally beginning to understand what had happened, and, human nature being what it is, the idea of finding out who if anyone might have been responsible for it all... someone, anyone, to blame.
On the morning of June 4, 2012 an event occurred that became a tipping point, the spark of an astonishing social change. 19 year old Daniel “Bo” Thompson, an African-American living in Watts in the city of Los Angeles, attempted a strong arm robbery of an elderly man. To his surprise the victim resisted fiercely, screaming for help, which prompted a number of nearby residents to rush to the scene. “Bo” Thompson panicked and ran, pursued by several larger men until they caught and savagely beat him. Arriving police found Thompson bloody and unconscious, and called for emergency medical transport to carry him to a nearby hospital. A large crowd had by this time gathered, most of them unaware of the true situation. What they saw was the bloody condition of Thompson, and, believing it to be the fault of the police, bottles and bricks soon began pelting the officers, who hid behind their squad cars while calling for assistance.
Arriving officers were met with the same debris barrage, and drew their weapons in fear of further attack. Among the newly arrived reinforcements was rookie Officer Damian Murtaugh, with less than a year of service to his credit. Dodging thrown debris, Officer Murtaugh later told Internal Affairs investigators what had happened. Among the raging crowd surrounding the police was one William Higgins, the uncle of Daniel “Bo” Thompson. Higgins, furious at seeing his nephew in such a bloody condition, rushed towards the police cruiser in which Thompson had been placed, and behind which Officer Murtaugh was hiding from the flying debris. What Officer Murtaugh saw was an enraged civilian rushing towards him with a shiny metallic object in his hand. Screaming for Higgins to stop, and in fear for his life, Officer Murtaugh fired several rounds into the chest of William Higgins, killing him instantly. Higgins fell dead in the street, and the shiny metal object rolled from his hand... a silver Coors Light beer can.
The crowd, seeing the shooting, instantly went berserk with rage, and a full blown riot began, not only at the scene, but all over the city as word of the killing spread, a storm of long pent up rage finally exploding into a horrifying nightmare of fire and destruction. By noon the heavily armed gangs in the city had joined the fray, attacking police wherever they could be found. By evening they had fought, and won, several pitched battles against police and newly arrived National Guard troops. In the larger cities across the country similar rioting occurred spontaneously, and soon the entire country reeled from fire and destruction. That evening the police deserted en masse, preferring to be at home protecting their own families, and the mauled National Guard hurriedly withdrew from the conflict, leaving anarchy and murderous madness behind. The anarchy and madness would not remain long within the city, however.
In an attempt to quell the unrest the Mayor of Los Angeles had ordered the electric grid shut down, hoping that darkness would force rioters to return to their homes. The opposite actually occurred, and the mayhem intensified and spread overnight. At dawn on day 2 the rioters, inspired by their conquests of the police and National Guard, began fanning out from the city core to surrounding areas in search of food, water, valuables, and revenge. With no one left to stop them, many fortified by heavy drinking and cocaine use, thousands of heavily armed men rampaged through the suburbs, looting, raping and killing at will. Soon, they were at the Beverly Hills gates of the home of Mr. Elite.
It was in the early evening, and it was the last day of his life, though Manuel had no clue of that. He’d heard of the rioting, seen it on television, but like most had believed it an isolated and contained affair. As he watched in horror the massive gates to the estate were repeatedly rammed by a truck until they crashed inward, followed by hundreds of terrifying looking men, firing weapons in the air and screaming incoherently. As he fell backwards, in shock and disbelief, he thought how much his chest hurt, where several AK-47 rounds had just entered him. As his vision dimmed he gazed at the mob running past him, seeing his own brothers among them, as crazed as the rest, and then he saw and thought no more...
Mr. Elite stood at his office window in horrified disbelief, looking at a scene from Hell itself- on his grounds!- hearing the doors to the house being smashed in, and knowing there was nowhere to escape to. This cannot be happening, he thought, not to us! Don’t they know who we are? How dare they? This is impossible! It was then his office door was flung open, and Mr. Elite met, very briefly, with another reality than the one he’d known his whole life...
Across the country the rioting continued for several weeks until, finally exhausted, most participants returned to their homes. The damage was incredible, the loss of life far worse than any could have imagined. Rightly or wrongly, nationwide the “elite” and wealthy had been pursued and hunted down, blamed for the suffering so many others had endured for so long, and paying with their lives for generations of perceived insult. The new military government in Washington made clear it had no intention of allowing further disturbances. A series of publicly televised summary executions had the desired effect, and gradually, under martial law and military patrols, an uneasy order was returned to the country. Most of the citizenry were grateful for the calm and peace of their new social order, no matter the cost in discarded civil liberties. And so it happened, sometime in the future...