As some debate whether this country has become more like George Orwell’s 1984 or Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, keep in mind that for millions of Americans who have no time to debate such a lofty question, actual oppression exists.
This oppression isn’t a overwhelming fear of the Thought Police or even a steady drugging that manufactures consent. It isn’t theoretical or some slippery slope that slowly envelops true liberty. It’s a never-ending concern about survival and sustenance. It’s a need to keep children fed, clothed and well. It’s knowing that disaster lurks every time your boss is unhappy with you.
The dystopian future we may fear already exists for millions. If you’re expecting fascism to come with a cross and a flag, you’re immune — due to over or underexposure — to the actual economic feudalism that has always trapped the working poor in the country.
It’s called wage slavery.
In the 20th century, the rise labor unions, the New Deal and the middle class created ways to break free from a life of dependence on whoever signs your paycheck. With education, health insurance, the actual promise of retirement, there’s some pause to consider a future, some actual hope that that future will be better today.
But with a life where you live paycheck to paycheck and spend huge chunks of that check at the company store, freedom only exists in theory. And there’s no time to consider what the government could do to make your life better, or worse. This how Republicans can deny millions of Americans Medicaid when we know that it would make their lives better immediately. They don’t have time to fight for it. And they probably don’t even know they’re being denied it.
The easiest way to trap someone into a life of wage slavery is deny them education and have them start a family before they can afford it. Texas Republicans have this formula for a lifetime of poverty worked out to a science.
Women in Texas already face heavier burdens than women in many other states. Texas has one of the nation’s highest teen birth rates and percentages of women living in poverty. It has a lower percentage of pregnant women receiving prenatal care in their first trimester than any other state. It also has the highest percentage of uninsured children in the nation and provides the lowest monthly benefit for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) recipients (an average of $26.86 compared to the national average of $41.52). And soon the majority of women may not have access to abortion care at any stage of their pregnancy.
Governor Perry’s policies have marginalized women who already bear the heavy weight of so many inequities. His latest efforts will only marginalize them further.
The Texas GOP’s jihad against family planning and Planned Parenthood creates unintended pregnancies and leaves poor women with no options. This creates generational poverty and a low-wage workforce with no time to consider how the petro-funded theocracy of the Lone Star state is designed to make the rich richer and workers less safe and more dependent on the corporations that have indentured them.
That’s how you get 31% of the state with no opinion of Senator John Cornyn who has been in office for a decade.
At the end of 1984, Winston learns to love Big Brother. In Texas, something even more dastardly is going on.
They’ve learned to love Rick Perry.