1%, 99%, Anonymous, Belgium, constitution, EU, European Union, Founding Fathers, multinationals, one percent, politicians, politics, revolution, rich, tax, taxes, USA, vote, voting rights, women's suffrage
Any casual observer can make some irrefutable conclusions about the evolution of the distribution of wealth on earth. Over the past decades the rich grew richer, and the poor grew poorer. An Oxfam International report dating from beginning 2014 (“Working for the few”) states that one percent of the world’s population owns half of the wealth available in the world. The 85 richest people in the world own as much as the 3,5 billion poorest. Eighty-five people! You could fill a bus with them..
What lots of people don’t realize is that the constitution was not made to protect them. When new ‘democracies’ were formed, the new constitutions and laws were just a means to regulate and legalize the wrongful systems of the past. Americans grow up with the myth of a bunch of wise and altruistic Founding Fathers writing a new constitution, where the rights and liberties of all were guaranteed by the State. Few Americans made some basic research about who those Founding Fathers really were. Without exceptions they were lawyers, big landowners, rich industrials or leading politicians. No ‘normal’ citizens, representative for the majority of the population, were present nor consulted during the writing of the American Constitution.
The second myth is the assumption that the Constitution was written for all, giving everybody equal rights. Some elementary knowledge of the history of the United States shows us this is far from truth. In the earliest days only white Caucasian males who could prove property ownership received a vote. Gradually, between 1792 an 1856, the property qualifications for white men were abolished, as each individual State could establish its own voting rights. Only in 1869 the Fifteenth Amendment prohibited government from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen’s “race, color, or previous condition of servitude”. But still on gender..
Women’ suffrage was only established by the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 (!). A right where many feminists in those days were opposed to, for they rightfully pointed out that voting rights for their men had done little to improve their living conditions. So they said women’s suffrage was pointless and the energy of the feminist movement was better used to achieve other goals towards gender equality.
What happened in the United States was exactly what happened in other democracies, e.g. in Europe, at a slower or faster pace. It can be irrefutably proven that constitutions and laws were originally written by the one percent, for the one percent. All they needed to achieve was the protection of their rights, their wealth, their properties and their legacies.
With the proceeding of time, and with growing pressure of the 99%, laws were introduced protecting more and more of their rights. But all it meant was a building of slowly established rights for those 99% on a foundation made of privileges for the 1%. While some allowances were granted, the one percent made sure nothing would threaten their rights, wealth, properties or legacies.
In Belgium politicians found an ingenious system to protect themselves and their benefactors: they made a jungle out of the constitution, the laws, the amendments, the directives, etc.. No one has enough time and intellectual power to find a path trough this maze made on purpose. For lower citizens, the laws are very clear. They are sentenced with no fuss. For those with money and influence, they can afford shrewd lawyers who find without exception judicial errors made by the court and investigators. These judicial errors were not made on purpose, but just because the judges and investigators – whom we perceive as being specialists in their field of work – cannot be knowledgeable of all contradictions and finer details included in the different laws and amendments. And so again the rich walk, while the less-than-rich pay for their crimes.
During the last three decades we have seen a steady growth of taxes imposed on Belgian citizens, whatever the ruling parties present in the government. Despite the Belgian taxes being notorious for being the highest in the world (if you take into account personal taxes, municipal taxes, business taxes, VAT, excise duties, surcharges, etc..) The reasons the politicians give sound like an old vinyl record hanging and repeating itself: “the former government left us with a mess”, “we need to heighten taxes otherwise many people will lose their jobs”, “extra taxes need to be imposed to safeguard our pension funds”, etc.. And the citizens rant and rave, but in the end they obediently pay their taxes.
Meanwhile more and more schemes perpetrated by politicians and government officials are exposed. Multinationals were exempted from taxes and rich people secretly got special low tax rates, all in a ‘legal’ manner. In critical violation with article 10 of the Belgian Constitution that states that every citizen is equal for the law. The exemptions of taxes ‘legally’ granted for the 60 biggest companies in Belgium (there are many more, but for this example only the 60 biggest are taken into account) amount to a sum greater than the total revenues for the State by taxing the remaining businesses. In most cases these ones are small to medium companies, often family businesses. Yet again the not-so-rich pay while the rich get away with it.
How do politicians achieve the conservation of the rights for the one percent? The trick is as old as humanity, and Philippus II of Macedonia (4th century BC) is often quoted: “divide et impera”, or divide and conquer. Population groups are set up against each other. Left against right, natives against immigrants, workers against independents, black against white, Christians against Muslims, etcetera. If everything is too peaceful politicians stir the pot and subtly point out to citizens the possible ‘threat’ of others to their acquired privileges. Meanwhile the politicians sit together as good friends in their back rooms outside the eye of the public, drinking champagne and smoking cigars while splitting the gains between them. For the worries that divide their followers are no obstacle to them to do some friendly business between them.
Will something ever change? I don’t know. The only solution I see is a peaceful revolution. I emphasize the word ‘peaceful’ for I am opposed to violence, and violence is no solution for the problems the people face and causes more harm than good. First it would be a good thing if people set their differences aside, and deny the politicians their tested ways to drive a wedge between them. Secondarily it would be a good signal, and it could even be a devastating signal, if voters refused to show up at the ballot stations in great numbers. Belgium knows, as one of the few ‘democratic’ countries in the world, compulsory voting. During the last elections in 2014 almost 20% of the voters did not show up, a fact held back by politicians and media from the general public. If those numbers would grow over 50%, I do not think that any politician can call himself a true representative of the people any more. And the funds for the political parties would dwindle, for every vote a political party gets yields 1,75€ party financing by the State.
But I fear that people will continue to bicker between themselves over trivial issues, leaving politicians in power to make laws that suit them, thus extending their power and the protection of their wealth against the masses. That was the main cause for my decision to leave Belgium: to deny the State my share of taxes, which ‘took’ about two thirds of my income away to fill the black hole of the Belgian national debt and helped to fund the privileges of the 1%. And on top of it the lethargy of the Belgian population to end those unfair (and unnecessary) practises, whatever reasons politicians are keen to give to defend their State-backed theft of its own citizens, disillusioned me.
I would like to end this post with a quote by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis (USA), who said, “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of the few, but we cannot have both”.
Love, Yann ❤️