Where Is the Gold of Toulouse

In this episode, the feather I am removing from the featherbed of lies deals with the tax cuts for the rich.  Or, rather, how the rich seem to have this notion that the more they amass at the expense of their fellow citizens the more comfortable they will be and that their wealth will prevent their children from ever lacking for anything.  It makes them warm and comfortable to see their vast fortune in comparison to the rest of society.  They see themselves passing down this wealth to their children for generation upon generation.  History shows that this does not happen.  So I ask you … where is the Gold of Toulouse?


First, I give you a bit of history.  In Colleen McCollough’s book The First Man in Rome, the story of the Gold of Toulouse is laid out.  From other writers I have read, her book is well-researched, although I do not know all of her sources.  One source may have been this.  At one time, there was a massive storage of gold in the bottom of a lake in Toulouse.  Some say it came from raiding Delphi during the Greek empire, others say it simply came from a very wealthy part of Europe.  But the amount was great.  Rome conquered the area and was bringing the gold home to the Mother state.  En route, Caepio, knowing what the legions were transporting, sent his own troops, who ambushed the legion and made off with the gold.  This gold would have made him incredibly wealthy and his heirs wealthy for all time.  Except that a few generations later, there is no sign of that wealth.  After the fall of Rome, there is no sign of his family remaining and living in great luxury.  Nobody knows what happened to the gold of Toulouse.

This is not the only story of vast fortunes being dissipated in a relatively short time.  Where are the wealthy feudal lords?  Why are the castles of Europe in ruins?  We know what happened to the wealthy nobles in 18th century France.  Why are there no wealthy warlords in China?  What has happened to these vast sums that families had at one time?

About five years ago, I sat next to a Mexican businessman on an airplane trip.  He was telling me how in Mexico (a land where the income gap is extreme), he had to keep his children inside a compound and was constantly worried about them being kidnapped for ransom.  He was afraid that even his own security guards would be cajoled into assisting in such an event.  He was hoping that his company would send him and his family to China for him to work, where his family would be safe.  So … his children could not go to the local school and could not leave the compound without security staff?  This is the joy of being wealthy?  And this was before the news reports we now hear every day about the violence in Mexico.  This is a society that saw a huge income gap and people turned to drug sales and other criminal activities to alleviate their poverty.

I present here my theory.  It is nothing but a theory, and I am no historian.  My theory is this:  the only way you can hang on to wealth is for your society to be stable.  When the gap between the haves and the have nots becomes too great, and when the lower class becomes too badly used, the society gets unstable and the economic security vanishes.  It gets carted off in revolution or the economy fails.  Without a stable economy, the wealth disappears.  Instead of having vast wealth for generations, the wealth is either squandered or carried off.

As a side note, it is interesting to me that those individuals (think Warren Buffet and Bill Gates) who have come about their wealth in an open and honest fashion have been responsible in their acquisition and use of their wealth.  They have not tried to amass more by clandestine means, nor have they oppressed their fellow citizens in its accumulation.  On the contrary, they give it away to worthy causes which they research, and encourage others in their situation to do likewise.  It is the ones who hide behind a corporate veil, themselves not well known to the public, who seem to me to commit the fraud and scurrilous tactics.  It also appears that the ill-gotten gains are the ones that turn out to be most precarious.

So my message to those in the wealthy class who are pushing for these ridiculous tax cuts for the rich – you are placing your own wealth in jeopardy.  By feathering your own nests at the expense of your fellow citizens who are suffering, you risk destabilizing the country that gave you the opportunity to become wealthy.  And for what?  Once you have enough wealth to buy everything you need and put some away, what good does it do you?

Economists are familiar with the law of diminishing returns.  Once you have a certain amount of something, the next unit of that something is of less value to you.  We just had Thanksgiving.  After you finished that big meal, how valuable to you was another piece of pie?  When you walked in to the dinner hungry, that pie was worth a lot to you.  But after the big meal?  It may have actually held negative value to you.  You can only wear one pair of shoes at a time.  When you already have a different pair of shoes for every day of the month, how valuable to you is the next pair?  But if you are barefoot, that first pair of shoes means a great deal.  So to whom is the tax cut more valuable?  To the wealthy person who already has what he needs?  Or to the person who is struggling to feed her children or repair the car he needs to get to work?  Economists have a term for this – Welfare Economics.  It is not the economics of welfare.  It is the economics of the welfare of the country – how do you get the greatest value for every unit of resources. In terms of the welfare of the country, the extra $40 to the middle class family yields a higher return than an extra $4000 to the wealthy.  It makes a greater difference in the life of the person who receives it.  In terms of Welfare Economics, the tax cuts for the middle class have a great return.  The tax cuts for the wealthy have virtually no return.

As the gap between the haves and the have nots in this country grows, so does the discontent.  We see the anger already out there in the streets (although the tea baggers have not yet figured out who the villains are).  It is already beginning to destabilize our economy and our nation.  When a nation is destabilized, it isn’t a question of whether it will fall, it is a question of how.  Will it be by forces from within or forces from without?

When you look at the accumulation and retention of wealth, the rich have a greater stake in ensuring that the tax cuts for the middle class pass and the tax cuts for the rich are defeated.  This is why people like Warren Buffet and the group of millionaires who are calling on our government to tax them more are doing so.  They understand that their own wealth depends on having a country with a healthy and satisfied middle class.

So the feather I am pulling out of the featherbed of lies is that there is something to be gained by the wealthy person who extracts greater wealth at the expense of his fellow citizens.  That is a lie.  In fact, he puts his own wealth in jeopardy.

Who Pays the Freight?

The argument was made to me the other day, on the way in to work, that we need to cut taxes on the rich because the rich pay most of the taxes.  She argued that the rich are paying the freight for all of us.  Now, without going in to the fact that this was stated with no attribution other than our favorite Beck, without crunching the numbers, I hope to dismember her argument here.  To me, her statement is just another piece of fallout from the goose in her featherbed of lies.


Even if the rich DO pay more (after their tax loopholes, and I don’t have the number), I doubt they pay more in terms of value received.  Let me use roads as an example.  If you don’t have a car, or use it rarely, your cost per use is either infinite (anything divided by zero is undefined) or it is astronomically high.  People who use the roads a lot are the people who have places to go (not just the fact that they tend to drive further to work, but they take more vacations and have more discretionary driving to their leisure activities.  I submit that the wealthy use the roads more.  After work, they may go out to dinner, to a play, etc.  Weekends they drive to the golf course, the ski slopes, to a weekend getaway.  On a per use basis, they are paying far less for the roads our taxes maintain than those who go to and from work and stay home otherwise.  Of course, those taking public transportation are pay a high price for non use.

Airports are supported by tax dollars.  Need I say more?

Look at law enforcement.  I don’t know the statistics for crimes committed against the wealthy vs crimes committed against the poor.  But when the poor get robbed, the amount of goods taken is by definition low.  You have to have something to steal in order to have something stolen (no kidding).  When a rich person gets robbed, what is taken is bound to have higher value because they have things of higher value.  So the police assistance has greater value.  (to say nothing about the higher level of police patrol in higher rent neighborhoods, etc)  On a per dollar value, the rich get a far better value from the police assistance than the poor even if they pay more for it.  Same with fire.  If a rich person’s home is saved from burning down, a lot more money was saved than a poor person.  The rich person comes out ahead doubly because his insurance will pay more to repair, even after adjusting for difference in premiums.  The same with a car.  The poor person is unlikely to have his car stolen because nobody would want it, and if it was stolen it is not likely to be worth what the rich person’s car is worth.

I would even stretch to say there is a difference in the value of protecting our country.  We are protecting a subpar standard of living for the poor.  If somehow this nation were overrun by bad guys, the jobs the poor do would still be there and they would still do them.  The rich are having their homes protected, their investments protected, their livelihoods protected, their companies protected (and their access to fossil fuels protected).  Those who would suffer most from a bad end to conflict are the wealthy.  Nonetheless, the burden of protecting our country falls on all of us economically and disproportionately in terms of people serving and giving their lives.  On a dollar for dollar value basis, the poor pay much more for their protection than the rich.

Not only are the wealthy not paying their fair share, the burden on them is far lower.  While many will whine about the dollar amount they have to pay, they can never equate their pain with the things the poor have to sacrifice to pay their taxes.  I can recall having to decide whether to feed my children or catch up on taxes.  How many of the wealthy have to make that choice?

For almost every service provided by our tax dollars, the rich pay a disproportionately low amount based on the value they receive.  This is why a regressive tax makes sense – the rich get more bang for their buck.  The argument of unfair taxes against the rich is just another lump in the featherbed of lies.

What’s the Difference

I was looking through YouTube when I found this song by Scott McKenzie.  I had not remembered hearing it before, it appears to have been lost in time.  However, all of a sudden, I understood some people I get so frustrated with.

I get frustrated with those on Wall Street who are oblivious to the hurt out in the streets, people losing their homes, the increased use of food banks and how the food banks barely have enough to get by.  I get frustrated with people who place blame on those who have been hurt worst by this recession.  I get frustrated when people with plenty claim they are “self made.”  I get frustrated when people have benefits that go with marriage for themselves and tolerate its absence for others.  I get frustrated with religious and ethnic intolerance, and with that intolerance being okay.

Here is the song:

What’s the Difference – Scott Mackenzie

Hey friend, wake up, can’t you see you are sleeping
How far can you go with unopened eyes
Treating your mind like it was something to play with
You’re sleeping on a featherbed of lies

So what’s the difference if you don’t wake up
You won’t know yourself when you finally do
You’ll look onto some mirror and won’t know what you’re looking at
So what’s the difference if you do

I have shared your journey from the beauty of childhood
To uniforms of flowers that you wear like some disguise
Until you can hear them when soft words are sung to you
You’re sleeping on a featherbed of lies

So what’s the difference if you don’t wake up
You won’t know yourself when you finally do
You’ll look onto some mirror and won’t know what you’re looking at
So what’s the difference if you do

They are sleeping on featherbeds of lies.  They are comfortable and warm and have been lulled to sleep.  They listen to the siren song that they are safe and comfortable.  It is easy to not see pain in this world if you are sleeping.  At some point, some will wake up (I did).  At some point, they may realize that there is suffering and anger out there, and that their world can’t be safe when so many are without.  I am not sure whether it will be in time, or whether it will be the result of the anger boiling over.  As long as they can walk down the street in relative comfort, what will wake them?  And if they do wake up … what’s the difference?  What will they do?

Some will not wake up.  Some will go through life asleep.  The featherbed of lies is soft.  But it is still lies.  Why should they wake up?  They are clean, they are fed, they are housed and they have money in the bank.  And if they do wake up, what can they do?  What’s the difference?

I remember the 60s, when our hopes and ideals were high, and we thought we were going to change the world.  I have seen my peers sell out to the big corporations and the comforts the sellout brought.  After marching to end a war, marching for civil rights, marching for gender equality, we have watched the Reagan administration and both Bush administrations slowly whittle away all we gained.  But we voted for them, we elected them, we supported them (I know the people here may not have, but so many of that generation did).  So in the end, what difference did we make?

After our lovely thanksgiving, where I saw my family warm and healthy and together and housed, I knew there had to be a difference.  I knew I had to make a difference.  We need to go back, to regain the rights we have so readily handed away, to get back the momentum for changes we know we need.  I guess that once again it is time to wake up.  Otherwise, that short span of idealism will have been wasted and the American Dream becomes nothing but a featherbed of lies.

Those People

Today I pull another feather out of the featherbed as I look at what it means when Conservatives talk about “Those People.”  Whenever I get into a conversation with Conservatives about programs that help the indigent, I get responses that begin with the phrase “Those People.”  Whatever the situation, they seem to have some idea of what “those people” are and are adept at reducing anyone in need to this straw man.  Who are “those people?”  What does it mean to be one of “those people?”

I start with the homeless “those people.”  To a conservative, a homeless person is a man over 30 who is a drunk derelict drug addict who would prefer to be homeless.  When you give aid to “those people,” they simply go spend whatever they get on drugs or alcohol.  They prefer to live on the streets.  They are too lazy to hold down a job.  We simply encourage their nasty habits when we give them assistance.  We encourage others to become like them (say what?).  Taxpayers work hard for their money and it shouldn’t go to people who are too lazy to contribute.  It doesn’t help that the Salvation Army ad in the paper asking for help for the homeless over the holidays shows a picture of a derelict old man with no teeth.  That is the face of the homeless to many of our fellow citizens.  When you talk to them about homeless children, there are harsh words for their parents, but no concern for the children.  When you talk about mothers who have lost their homes, there are harsh words about the mothers.  “Those people” are living the lives they deserve.  This is a lie.  There are millions of people who have been hard working producers and taxpayers their whole lives who are one bad break away from joining the ranks of the homeless.  And to me, it is never a child’s fault that he is homeless.  There are the homeless veterans, their spirits broken because they served their country.  There are the mentally ill homeless, forced into the streets because we have chosen to drastically cut services to help them.  The ranks of potential homeless include you and me and our parents and our children and our brothers and our sisters.

The next set of “those people” are those who are still in their homes but unemployed.  This set of “those people” are too lazy to go out and find a job.  They are getting rich panhandling and living off the taxpayer dole.  Conservatives seem to have this set of faceless examples of cases they heard about who simply prefer to panhandle and take entitlements to the discipline of working every day.  They tell me about somebody who knew somebody who had a cousin who met somebody who was living in posh conditions off the money they get from us and panhandling.  I ask them how somebody is getting rich off of what we provide in transfer payments.  I am told that these people work the system and are able to live high on the hog.  (Of course, there is a category of people I call the Professional Poor who do work the system, and know how to work others to get by without working, a loophole we should close.)  I ask them if they know how much a person or family can get in assistance and if they have tried to live on that amount.  Of course, they say no, but they know it happens.  In fact, I have tried living on the amount people get in food stamps (an experiment because I wanted to know for sure), and it is no easy road.  Even when you add up food stamps, unemployment and all other assistance it is really hard.  When I point out that when a mother gets a job she loses much of the help and has to pay for child care, they are unconcerned.  She should be working and she shouldn’t have those children.  Conservatives tell me that “those women” just have lots of babies so they can get more welfare money.  They would rather lie around all day having sex than work.  Note that these are the same people who would deny a woman an abortion because she can’t afford another baby.  “Those people” should get a job and if they can’t find one they should create one.  Again, the ranks of the potential unemployed include you and me and our parents and our brothers and sisters and children.

An offshoot of “those people” is the elderly in poverty.  “Those people” enjoyed the high life all their working days and are now indigent because they failed to plan.  They suck up our social security and medicare money and are living off of us who are now working because they were so set on meeting immediate wants that they failed to save for their retirement.  Never mind that the crash of 2008 wiped out a lot of people’s savings.  Never mind that many companies have reneged on their pensions.  Never mind that many never made enough to live on, send their children to college and still put away for today.  Never mind that some never qualified for social security.  Never mind that the cost of living skyrocketed faster than they could save.  It is their fault and “those people” are living as they deserve.  The ranks of potential poverty-stricken elderly could include almost anybody’s parents, and they are often one corporate decision to default on pension checks from being totally wiped out.

“Those people” include illegal immigrants who worked hard for many years and never had a safety net.  “Those people” never bothered to get an education.  “Those people” this and “Those people” that.  The words “those people” separate the human faces of misery from the person doing the talking.  But it has been my experience in working with “those people” that they are you and me with one extra piece of bad timing or bad luck happening to them.  (When conservatives fall into the ranks of “those people,” somehow they are different and “those people” are taking money away from helping them.)

So the feather I am pulling out of the featherbed of lies is that there is a group of “those people” who live high off of the hard work of taxpayers.  Conservatives sleep well denying them assistance because “those people” are not you and me.  They are a different people, almost a foreign people, perhaps even less than human. That is a lie.  In fact, “those people” are you and me in very hard circumstances.  If you would wish for help yourself or would wish for it for your children, you should be happy to provide it to “those people.”  After all, one of these days that “those people” label could refer to you or your children.

“But he loves me so much he can’t help it”

Today the feather I pull out of the featherbed as I look at abusers and their many faces.  This diary is not about lies conservatives tell, although I must admit that in my personal experience abusers are more apt to spew conservative talking points than not.  This is a universal problem that knows no particular demographic, not in terms of income, ethnic background, education, religion, or sexual orientation.  All demographics have this challenge.  One, in particular, financial abuse, is rarely discussed.

One thing we do not do enough, and we need to do routinely, is discuss the warning signs of an abuser.

When I was a speaker for Planned Parenthood, I spoke at battered women’s shelters.  This also meant I listened.  Before I could speak there, I underwent training from Planned Parenthood.  Their training was excellent, and I have been very aware of the warning signs since, I needed a refresher to do this diary.  I will be sharing from sites I found last night throughout this diary.

There is no big A on the forehead, no telltale ugliness in the eyes or countenance.  As stated in Hidden Hurt:Domestic Abuse Information, from which I have pulled much of today’s information (although there are many sites, some of which I list later)

In actual fact one of the main problems encountered by victims, friends, family and various agencies dealing with the consequences of an abusive relationship, is how ‘normal’ the abuser seemed, how unlike the image so frequently portrayed by the media. We may expect an abuser to be male, big, working-class, prone to being drunk, un-shaven, heterosexual, … (fill in the blanks!). However, an abuser is just as likely to be gay, a white-collar worker, a religious leader or clean-shaven. Sometimes the abuser is also a woman.

In other words, he OR she could be the nice neighbor next door who shovels your walk or brings you homemade cookies, your coworker, or your cousin.  The same could be said about the abused.  When you meet someone new, it is hard to recognize this person could be one who would wind up trying to abuse you.  Here, from the same website along with commentary from my own observations and other resources,  is what to look for:

Jealousy This manifests in the abuser getting abnormally angry or annoyed when the victim speaks to anybody of the opposite sex (or same sex in the case of gay abusers, that will be understood through the rest of this diary), or even looks at them.  The abuser also gets upset when the victim is noticed by somebody of the opposite sex either by speaking or just looking (often the abuser will say someone is looking when they actually may not be).  The abuser will check cell phone messages, car mileage, look at the clothes in the closet to ensure the victim is not dressing outside of the abuser’s boundaries when the abuser is not there.  The abuser will try to control what the victim wears to discourage any interest.  He/she makes accusations based on the flimsiest of evidence, such as a casual remark or a glance from a stranger.  The abuser justifies this behavior by saying, “I just can’t help it, I love you so much that the thought of you with anybody else makes me crazy.”  The abuser can become jealous of friends and family, trying to limit interactions with them.  This ties in with the Isolation behavior.

Controlling Behavior  This manifests with the abuser telling the victim what to do, when to do it, how to do it.  As mentioned before, it includes control over what the victim wears, eats, drinks, where they go to dine, where and when to shop (even for groceries).  While most of the abuse situations I have seen involve an abusive man with a woman victim, this is an area that goes both ways.  The abuser creates a set of rules for the victim to follow, but does not have to follow him/her self.  He/she also sets up  a set of definitions and expects the victim to adhere to them.  For example, in last night’s diary, the abuser defined “respect” in a very restrictive way and then complained about the lack of respect.  Nobody could enforce this definition of respect on a stranger, but the victim is expected to enforce it anyway.

Controlling behavior can extend to the financial area, where the victim is supposed to turn over the paycheck to the abuser and then seek permission to buy anything, even though the victim is contributing to the total household income.  Often the abuser will not allow the victim to see bills, but the victim is on all the credit lines and shares equal responsibility.  It can even extend to tax returns.  The result is  the victim is left in financial ruin when the relationship ends.

Quick Involvement  When the abuser finds his victim, he/she wants to get into the relationship right away.  He/she does not want the victim to have time to think about what is happening.  This is a reliance on the early “love rush,” trying to circumvent the rational questions that come when a relationship is given time to mature.  The abuser uses the feelings of romantic involvement against the victim.

Unrealistic Expectations  In this behavior, the abuser wants the perfect romantic partner, with perfect sex, perfect home cleanliness, perfectly timed emotional support.  In one case I heard about, the man beat the wife because she burned his toast one morning.  In spite of having two children to watch as she cooked, she was supposed to watch the toaster and pull it out at the exact right time.  Other times she was beat because the eggs were too dry, the dinner was not on the table when he got home, the newspapers had not been put out, or the children were crying.

Isolation  Here the abuser does not want the partner to see anybody but him or her self.  Family visits are either restricted or eliminated, calls to family are on a timer.  The victim cannot visit friends, go for “girl’s night out” or “boy’s night out,” or sometimes even take the children on a play date.  Interestingly, the abuser gets to do all these things.  The abuser uses the phrase, “I am all you need, you shouldn’t need anybody else if you really love me.”

Blame-Shifting For ProblemsThe abuser says, “It is your fault I got laid off.  If I hadn’t had to come home to dinner, they would have kept me.”  “It is your fault I hit you.  Paying for your upkeep has me under too much stress.”  Whatever goes wrong in the abuser’s life is the fault of the partner or some outside entity.  The government is to blame, the boss is to blame, the neighbor is to blame, and on and on.  If the children misbehave, it isn’t that they are children, the victim (or the school, or the caregiver) is too strict, too lenient, too lazy, etc.

Blame-Shifting For Feelings  Here is where the words, “You made me so mad I couldn’t help myself” come in.  “I have told you many times that I want … and you didn’t do it!”  “You just want to annoy me and I will teach you not to.”  The victim becomes responsible for the very emotional state and feelings of the abuser.

Hypersensitivity  The abuser is able to take a simple, meaningless statement and read into it something that he/she feels is an affront.  This not only happens in marriage or partnerships but also between children and parents.  “You gave me that look” may be legitimate, but it may also be an example of hypersensitivity.  (I have had people ask me about a look I gave them when I was trying, through my nearsightedness, to see their faces.  These were not abusers, but if they were, they would have reacted more.)

Cruelty To AnimalsThis speaks for itself.  Someone willing to harm a helpless animal will probably not stop there.  Research is still ongoing about this relationship, but there appears to be a correlation.

Cruelty To ChildrenAn abuser often has expectations of behavior in children that don’t make sense.  They will expect a three year old to act like a perfect lady or gentleman.  They are prepared to take out their frustration on the children because the children are weaker and helpless against the abuser.

‘Playful’ Use Of Force In Sex Abusers often have fantasies in which they have absolute control. In many cases, they feel that they have no control outside the home so they try to enforce control in the bedroom.  The opposite has also been known to be true, in which someone who is always in control in the office (an upper level manager, for example) feels a need to be in control when he/she comes home.  This type of abuse can be manifested in painful “rough” sex, or in demeaning sex.  There is a need to be careful here, because not all who engage in rough sex are abusers, but if the other person is reluctant and needs convincing or coercion, there is apt to be a problem.  Forced sex is always a sign of an abuser (in addition to being rape).

Rigid Gender Roles This is an almost universal trait.  Men will expect to be in total control of the household with the woman serving him hand and foot.  She may be “allowed” to work outside the home, but he controls the right to work and the job she can have, as well as the hours.  Whether she works or not, she is to maintain an immaculate house, have dinner ready when he wants it, have it hot and perfect.  She is in total charge of raising the children, including bathing, dressing, feeding.  Often she will have to serve them separately from him.  In the case of women, she will expect him to provide for her every material need, calling him “not a real man” and a wimp if he cannot earn enough to satisfy her wants.  In addition, she may make him keep house or hire a housekeeper and deal with the children while she does whatever she does.

Verbal Abuse  Again a nearly universal abuser trait, the abuser will begin to eat away at the victim’s self esteem with hateful words.  This is often a form of grooming for more violent abuse.  Things like ugly, fat, lazy and stupid are aimed at the victim.  Pretty soon the abuser will tell the victim that nobody else would put up with the victim and the victim believes it.  I have seen women in the shelters absolutely broken just because of the things they have been told so often they come to believe it.

Dr. Jeckyll And Mr. Hyde  The abuser will have an episode of violence followed by being a very contrite, sweet and charming person.  They will change, they will never let it happen again.  The abuser will bring flowers and candy, take the victim to a nice dinner or prepare a special dinner at home, cry, compliment.  The words “but I just can’t live without you.  If you leave me, I will kill myself” may be used.

Drink Or Substance Abuse  We all have heard about the violent drunk.  We have also heard stories of some things people do when on a drug binge.

History Of Battering Or Sexual Violence  If you hear that the person you are seeing has been arrested for a violent sexual offense or if someone who knows that person tells you of similar events, run.  Enough said.

Negative Attitude Toward Women  Or women.  The abuser is likely to talk about women in derogatory terms, saying they belong pregnant and in the kitchen, should not be taking good work from men, talk about how unstable they are, etc.  I wonder how many congresspersons are closet abusers?

Threatening Violence  In the diary that motivated this one, the person in question showed the diarist that he owned a gun.  He made the showing of it seem quite innocuous, but he did it.  Abusers will let the victim know they have weapons and know what to do with them.  They may couch it in, “I don’t know why I still have this thing but …” but they ensure the victim knows that if she is not compliant, her safety is at risk.

Breaking Or Striking Objects  This is a sign of a temper that is out of control.  However, abusers also use the act of violence against an object to instill fear and obedience.  The message is that the next thing broken could be the victim.

Any Force During An Argument  One thing we always told women at the shelters is that if he hits you once, he will hit you again.  Harder.  Once the abuser gets away with it, he knows he can do it again.  He may even try to see what the limits are.  Even loud shouting and threatening or intimidating behavior is a warning sign.

Types of abuse

Abuse comes in five major categories:

Physical  From the domestic violence websited cited above:

He came upstairs and asked me to get out of bed to help him look for a work shirt. I didn’t get out of bed. I replied that I wanted to go to sleep. He suddenly turned on me. He kicked me out of bed, somehow got me in the position of being flat on my back. He stood on me and spat in my face. (Charlotte’s Story)

I had a client once who was buying a house with her husband.  I got a call one day, he had thrown her across the dresser because the bed wasn’t made properly.  We cancelled the transaction and she got a divorce.

We all know about physical abuse when it results in a hospital visit, but milder forms of violence are also abusive:  kicking, shoving, slapping, spitting, choking, pinching, hair pulling, dragging, burning, use of physical restraints during sex (against the partner’s will), weapon wielding, and even dangerous driving if it is intended to frighten.  It often starts small, almost hard to recognize, and grows.

Verbal  Verbal abuse consists of name calling and degrading statements.  The abuser repeatedly tells the victim that she is unworthy and deserves to be mistreated, that she caused the abuse because of her stupidity, laziness, ugliness, and so on.  The abuser ignores the feelings of the victim.  Many times the verbal attacks occur in front of other people (remember the OJ Simpson trial where Nicole was demeaned at dinner with friends?) in situations where the victim has been taught not to respond.

Emotional Emotional abuse can involve threats about doing harm, calling the police, threats about the children (harming them, running away with them, calling social services and having them removed).  Emotional abusers work to make the victim dependent on them and afraid to leave.  They create in the victim a broken self image and the idea that their survival depends on being compliant to the abuser.  They also create fear that the abuser will harm the victim or the victim’s children.  It may go to the extreme of withholding necessities such as food, locking them up in a closet, not allowing them to leave the house.

Sexual  This was discussed above.

Financial  Again discussed above, this is becoming more and more recognized.  The abuser makes the victim financially dependent (how will you raise these kids when you can’t even earn a nickel and you owe so much money?  Nobody will even give you a credit card without me!).  Abusers often forbid the victim the right to work so they cannot earn their own money, enforcing the dependency.  They often hide the money.  This happens with the abuser keeping bank statements and bills from the victim, moving money into secret accounts, putting the victim on all the credit lines but not letting the victim know what they are, what they are for or how much they are.  Again, instances of financial abuse are finally becoming recognized as actual abuse.

One thing to remember in this discussion:  Victims can also be abusers.  In some cases, there is an abuse/abuse situation going on.  One may abuse in some ways victimizing the other, while in turn the other may abuse in the same or another way.  Victims may also become pass-along abusers.  Not having any power in their relationship with the abusers, they in turn regain that power by abusing others.  It escalates, and it becomes a learned behavior.  Some have been around abuse so long they think it is normal.

The lies I wish to pull out of the featherbed here are three fold. First, abuse only happens in certain demographics, in certain types of families, in certain belief systems, in certain ethnic backgrounds, etc.  It can and does happen in almost every neighborhood or community regardless of demographics.   Second, the idea that the abuser loves the victim so much he can’t help himself.  (Note that if the abuser was so enraged he couldn’t control himself, how does he control his blows so there are no visible bruises?)  Third, that the abuser will change.  I talked to many women at the shelter who thought they could love their abusers enough to change them.  The only change that happened, or will happen, is the abuse gets worse.  Finally, if you are a victim, there is nothing you can do about it.  There is.  First … get with a domestic violence organization and make a plan.  Hide away some money – there is always a way to do it.  Pack a small bag for yourself and one for each child.  Figure out a day when you will get out.  Have someone meet you – you can’t do it alone.  Go somewhere he can’t find you.  Get to a shelter whose location is secret.  The domestic violence organization will help with all this, they have done it before.  Finally, remember, no matter what you have been led to believe, you deserve better.

The links I promised:

Hidden Hurt: Domestic Abuse Information,
Signs of an Abuser

The Rise of the Extreme Right – An Alternative Theory

I was watching another report of the Tea Party rallies and felt a strange sensation of deja vu.  The views being presented, the way they were presented, the way the partiers reacted, the energy expressed were all familiar somehow.  I sent my mind back to find out where this was coming from.  All of a sudden, there it was.  I saw it.  I knew where I had seen all this before.  I was shocked, then I realized I should have known all along. Here is my theory of where this extreme right ideology came from.

I realized that what I was watching was reminiscent of the Amway rallies I used to go to.  It all made sense.  I remembered how they got us involved – promises of wealth and the easy life.  Promises that anybody could do it.  Anger at the establishment and how the establishment had sold us all out.  Religion.  Protect the wealthy because you would soon be one of them and enjoy all the benefits.  Super patriotism.  Did I say Religion?

It was the religious piece that drove us away from Amway.  I didn’t see how false the promises were, I didn’t see the exploitative nature of the company at first.  I saw the extreme religious aspect.  I resented that.  It offended people I was trying to work with.  My cross line was Jewish and they were extremely offended.  I was offended for them.  They were considered second class citizens because they were not of the correct religion.  The rallies they and we paid good money to attend were full of proselytizing.  They actually had calls to become born again at these business functions.  They said ugly things about people who were not the “right” type of Christians.

After we left and were able to look at the business more things became clear.  The products were inferior, but sold at inflated prices.  The uplines would tell you to buy these products at these inflated prices, and as you convinced your own downline to overbuy overpriced products your downline would subsidize your own purchases.  They encouraged us to enlist people who were in dire financial straits, assuring us that this would help them get out of debt.  In other words, they preyed on the desperate.  But the Diamonds and Emeralds did not get wealthy selling chevrolet products at cadillac prices.  They became wealthy selling tapes.  Every week, downline were told to purchase two tapes.  The tapes cost $.50 to make and distribute, but they were sold for $7.50 apiece.  In them, the diamond or emerald selected would tell you to buy more, how to be Christians, that the wealthy deserved the fat of the land and that anybody who was broke deserved to be broke.  The Amway distributors listened to these tapes night and day.  They were paying for their own brainwashing.  That is the most effective way to brainwash somebody.  What was said on the tapes is what I hear the extreme right wingers saying now.

Many of the big-time self help and motivational speakers today got to be household names and millionaires because of Amway sponsorship.  One example that comes to mind is Robert Kiyosaki.  I don’t have a problem with Mr. Kiyosaki, but I know that his books had few sales until Amway pushed his books to the distributors and had him speak at functions.  This is one reason so many motivational speakers tell you that an MLM is a smart way to become wealthy.  In fact, you have about as much chance of becoming wealthy as an Amway distributor as winning the lottery (the odds may be different, but the fact is, becoming wealthy is highly unlikely).

When people left Amway, they rarely blamed the company.  The brainwashing had done its job.  They blamed themselves, they blamed their upline, they blamed their own financial circumstances, but not Amway.  I remember one upline we had went and had a garage sale.  They sold everything they owned including their furniture to finance their business, as their upline advised them to do.  When they left the business two years later, they had two small children,  an empty house and a garage full of outdated product.

Rich DeVos and Jay VanAndel became very wealthy from Amway.  They used this wealth to contribute to Republican candidates who shared their extreme right wing views and to muscle out more moderate candidates.  They put forth a litmus test, both religious and economic.  The candidates accepted this litmus test in exchange for their donations.  Thus the Republican party made a steady swing to the right.

Look at who the extreme right wingers are today.  Look at where Amway was particularly strong and where the tea party is strong today.  Look at the demographics.  Is it just coincidence?  I am beginning to wonder.