Saturday, April 26, 2014
A few years ago there was a literary moment that sparked discussion and debate. It was when several books about atheism captured our attention. Titles like Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris, and God is Not Great by the late great public intellectual Christopher Hitchens, all reached the top of the best sellers lists. There was a "Freedom From Religion" display at Daley Plaza this Easter. And yes, the writers of The Good Wife series had the courage to have Alicia Florrick express atheistic thoughts on network TV. Hardly a trend.
Now, the literary moment belongs to discussion and debate about income inequality. Who knew those scruffy Occupy people would occupy our syntax. "One percent" and "Ninety-nine percent" indeed. Two books on the subject have soared to the top this time: Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty and A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren. Capital is 700 dense pages from a French economist, but readers got right to the "good parts" and are quoting away. The compelling idea is that merit cannot stand up to inherited weath and power. And history, aside from a few years after World War II, affirms this.
Elizabeth Warren is, of course, the straight talking professor/Senator who tells it like we apparently want to hear it. She believes in the more optimistic idea that democracy, if only we would participate, can even things up.
Will income inequality be a momentary topic? I laughed the other day when I heard that the three contestants on Jeopardy were all stumped when asked to come up with the name of the pizza magnate who ran for President of the U.S.
It was Herman Cain, remember? One of his famous lines was: "If you're not rich, blame yourself."
There's more than a moment invested in that sentiment.