Featherless Bipeds –Robert M. Shelby, 3-10-11. [813 txt wds]

The ancient Greek philosopher, Plato, once defined man as a featherless biped. He did so as a rhetorical exercise in minimal but sufficient definition. Diogenes came back at him with a plucked chicken and claimed it was Plato’s “man.” Obviously, Plato’s minimal definition was insufficient. Things are usually more than we say about them. They exceed our initial assumptions which are often hasty definitions.


Like birds, we are biped, walking or hopping on two legs. Unlike birds, we have no feathers, neither quills nor downy plumage unless we are rich widows of bygone days. Nor do we write with goose quill pens any longer, though some of us write with equally antiquated mental equipment in the form of assumptions and definitions.


Metaphorically, we are all featherless bipeds, but like birds we put considerable effort into feathering our nests. Some, in fact, never get enough downy feathers together to feel comfortable so they keep on gathering feathers all through life, unable to sense when they have enough. They may even leave estates designed to keep on gathering feathers for children and their descendants whose ancestors long since passed away.


Another source of social unrest stems from the fact that some of us featherless bipeds are predatory featherless bipeds. These birds cannot stay content to gather downy feathers for their own nests all by themselves but will begin finding ways to steal yours and line their nests up into great, towering edifices of imagined comfort, far remote from any comfort you or I can begin to realize for ourselves. Most predatory bipeds wind up in the Republican Party, if they didn’t start there in an infancy they seldom recover from, or, abstaining from overt membership, they rise high enough to pull the party’s strings behind the scenes and buy any politician they find vulnerable.


Was there ever any doubt? The predatory, way-too-over-feathered bipeds in Wisconsin and elsewhere have shown themselves to be what we always knew they were and that they would try to accomplish what we always knew they really want to do. Did we not always know what Republicans are and what sort of people back them? Did we not know what they want and will always want first and foremost for themselves alone and devil take everyone else? Enlightenment never reaches them. They live in darkness even under massive chandeliers, brilliant glasses of bubbly in hand. They have never been drunk enough to befriend the homeless in the streets, the sick old folks, the lost children in shrubbery redouts and old packing boxes.


None of this is new. It happened in the city of Athens. It happened in Rome, giving rise to the Roman republic. Injustice and disbalance of power beget growing need for deep redress of individual’s acts and for reformed social institutions. It happened before the classical ages even in China. Reaction was always bloody, often aided by foreign power which proved less than benign once in power, requiring fresh upheaval. Can the people on top never learn more than the wrong lessons that teach them to hedge all their bets and pay big wages to guard agencies and swat teams? Or to imagine they can rely on mass apathy and gullibility forever?


Those members of the predatory biped class are massing again to come after your poor, little nest-piles. They want back any feathers you gained from Teddy Roosevelt, the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the Great Society — or in fact the benefits of any real community at all, let alone labor unions and progressive movements aiming to unify and improve the whole society. They want you split-up, separated into isolated individuals with no protection. They want you to be the way they see themselves. Oh, how they idealize themselves as rugged individuals! But, lone individuals are too often ragged! The predators cultivate Socialism for the rich and powerful corporations while promoting helpless, powerless, singular Individuality for each of the rest of us who’ll literally have to pay them to rob all of us blind! It will happen if we stay blind. It will happen if we stay quietly at home when it’s time to march. When it’s time to join together into groups with legal standing and litigate for our needs and interests.


Not even the U.S. Supreme Court’s justices are invulnerable to public opinion and action. We can make it so hot for anti-populist members that they will be glad to resign. The Federalist Society is no match for solidarity among the people of the United States. Let the self-styled overlords tremble. The dragon stirs from long sleep. It will devour your tigers in the street. It will roast your fat corporations, rendering them down into  loose, confused collections of featherless bipeds, naked and shivering, scared right out of their thick portfolios and predatory plans.

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