During the contest for the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination, John F. Kennedy visited a mine in West Virginia. “Is it true you’re the son of one of our wealthiest men?” asked one of the miners there. Kennedy admitted that this was true. “Is it true that you’ve never wanted for anything and had everything you wanted?” “I guess so,” Kennedy replied. “Is it true you’ve never done a day’s work with your hands all your life?” Kennedy nodded. “Well, let me tell you this,” said the miner. “You haven’t missed a thing.”
A thousand influences constantly press a working man down into a passive role. He does not act; he is acted upon. He feels himself the slave of mysterious authority and has a firm conviction that “they” will never allow him to do this, that, and the other. Once when I was hop-picking I asked the sweated pickers (they earn something under sixpence an hour) why they did not form a union. I was told immediately that “they” would never allow it. Who were “they”? I asked. Nobody seemed to know, but evidently “they” were omnipotent.
There are very few people who are going to look into the mirror and say, “That person I see is a savage monster”; instead, they make up some construction that justifies what they do. If you ask the ceo of some major corporation what he does, he will say, in all honesty, that he is slaving twenty hours a day to provide his customers with the best goods or services he can and creating the best possible working conditions for his employees. But then you take a look at what the corporation does, the effect of its legal structure, the vast inequalities in pay and conditions, and you see the reality is something far different.