The Talking Dog

June 21, 2011, Too big to nail

This Slate piece by Dahlia Lithwick pretty much sums up my own feelings towards the Supreme Court's (5-4... surprise, surprise) decision in Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, in which it, quite literally, ruled that Wal-Mart was just too darned big to sue- just the sheer size of the entity and the vast numbers of individual store managers making independent store decisions all of which just magically ended up discriminating against women-- was sufficient to justify continuing a practice that has resulted in over 2/3 of the behemoth's employees being women, but less than 1/3 of managers. Discrimination, you say? Pish posh says Justice Scalia (and 5 of the Court's 6 men, the highest he-man woman haters' club in the land).

But let's stop looking at this through the liberal/conservative prism, shall we, and look at this for what it is. The courts exist as a branch of government for the very purpose of "individual" adjudications in individual disputes, be they civil or criminal. It's just that, like, you know, Wal-Mart personnel decisions, they trend in certain ways. A poor swarthy person (unless they are, of course suing another poor swarthy person)... is simply at a disadvantage-- and the statistics will bear that out (especially in criminal cases and sentencings even moreso). At least one researcher has dubbed this fact of American life "the new Jim Crow."

But I digress: my point is simply that the courts exist, just as the other two branches of government exist, to support the interests of the powerful, which in this country, alas, means rich, white, and male. (Preferably all three, though the "rich" part is most important, followed by the white, followed by the male.) And the courts are no different (uppity courts, such as the lower courts in the Dukes case occasionally forget their place, and higher courts make sure the status remains quo). I have quipped more than once that the courts are a branch of government devoted to telling us that the interests of the rich/powerful are lawful and just, and they mean it because they tell us while wearing priestly black robes delivered in buildings constructed to remind one of Greek and Roman temples. And the individual anomolous result does not change the trend, which is that the well-heeled will, as a statistical matter, get better results from the court system, just as they will from every other system in a society that makes no bones about its valuation of money and property above human life (and everything that entails). And btw... this fact of life is true in courts whose members are largely Democrats, or Republicans... it's all baked into the system.

Yes, it's easy enough to see the Dukes case through the left/right prism (women should be in the kitchen and earning less than men, and class action lawyers contribute to Democrats disproportionately and hence must be stopped, etc.)... but I keep trying to remind you that's a suckers' game: it breaks down when you see alleged Democrats doing double back-flips to advance Republican talking points... but it all makes sense in the "rich/powerful vs. the peons and rubes" dynamic that is a somewhat stronger explanation for... how our society (and especially its government) operates.

And so... here we are again. No one votes for Wal-Mart. Yes, millions upon millions shop there, often as the behemoth has driven out virtually all competitors for miles around... but no one votes for Wal-Mart and its practices, even though that one corporation literally rules the lives of its hundreds of thousands of [all non-union] employees (and presumably millions more around the world working in its supply chain) and to a lesser extent its millions of customers, and the communities it infests inhabits. But this is how it is: we are a society devoted to "them what has, gets" and the occasionally (or systematically) abusive (or unlawful... or outrageous) practices of America's company store simply do not concern its Holy Arbiters of Law.

Take yourselves out, folks. Figure out a way not to support this monster. Admittedly, here in NYC, which, along with Vermont, I believe, are the largest venues that have kept Wal-Monster out, it's easier here... but try to find a way. Better yet, try to grow and cook your own food, do your own repair work (or get favors from your friends and loved ones), and otherwise, try to reduce money's looming presence in your own life. Not easy... but nonetheless essential. Because the rules just don't apply to corporate behemoths, sayeth the government the behemoths have purchased for themselves. We can't win that game-- best not to play it.

This has been... "Too big to nail."