There are almost too many problems in modern society--in the US, the UK, the EU, and even less so-called civilized locales--to decide even which ones to deal with first. Or so it appears from the working class and middle class points of view. The points of view, basically, of all those who have historically spearheaded revolts of various sorts against the status quo (admitting that sometimes it is the poor who begin a period of redress.)
But if one looks at the current problems from the point of view of the rich or the poor, the landscape is very different.
From the landscape of the rich, it would appear that the only problem is how to get rid of all those poor people, not needed in a highly developed post-industrial society, so they won't have to find ways to keep them alive with minimal squawking.
From the landscape of the poor, it looks as if the only problem is how to get some of that money away from the rich to, perhaps, begin businesses in order to sell things to the rich and thus be able to feed themselves and their children.
In both cases, what is really needed is the plague.
In his wonderful book, The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England, Ian Mortimer makes it clear that what changed feudal society with its serfs and villeins* into a modern one of people paid fairly for work produced was the plague. It simply wiped out so many of the productive members of society--the poor, the marginal workers, those bound to an earl's estate and so on--that the only way the wealthy could get the work done that they needed was to pay for it, and pay better than ever before. Nor would people any longer consent to being serfs, or virtual serfs. They demanded freedom, and they demanded wages. They could do this simply because of the unforgiving necessities of supply and demand. Too many workers for the available tasks: workers starve. Too few for the available tasks: workers thrive.
So, what we need now is a plague. Unfortunately, the modern age has produced sufficient drugs (their deleterious effects on the environment notwithstanding) to keep almost any illness--bacterial or viral--from wiping out great numbers of a population. Even Bush's wars (not to mention the trial-balloon war, Vietnam) have failed to remove sufficient sperm donors from the planet to limit the increase in proles enough to keep the wealthy cared for, but not nattered at to be more generous.
Bush did, however, begin a plague on the lower classes in another way: his education program, No Child Left Behind. When children finish 12 years of schooling by demoralized teachers who teach to test, and those tests have been created specifically to ensure children can regurgitate minimal amounts of semi-useless information, but not think, they are almost too stupid to work. Certainly, they are too stupid to engage in meaningful societal change. They have not ever encountered an idea--a galvanizing idea such as ensuring abundance for all, the abundance the planet is capable of providing--so they cannot possibly work toward fulfilling an idea.
But then what? They don't have work, or at least not enough work or high-paying enough work. So they become a drain on society by needing benefits or by engaging in theft or other unsavory things.
This won't do!
Ah...but cleverly, the upper crust has learned how to turn those few who still do make a good living against those who don't. Who cannot, as the deck is stacked wildly against them. At the same time, of course, the upper crust is forcing the middle class to pay the taxes to support the unemployed; the rich do not pay. Why should they? They control it all.
Any way you slice it, the US and very probably the UK and the EU and everyone is in a pickle. You may not see the iron collar of a serf around too many necks, but if you will be quiet for a few minutes, preferably after you've done your monthly bills and had a good gander at income and outgo, you might well be able to feel it on your own neck.
The only solution, it would seem, is plague. Frankly, it has gotten to the point for many, I think, that they would just as soon go off quickly, if painfully, than linger in a hostile landscape where the merest hint of temporal salvation is quickly annihilated by yet another tax reform that shifts still more income up rather than down. In short, it's almost to the point that having a quick exit is far preferable to prolonged suffering. What the US government has been doing, lately, to the lives of its citizens has been compared more than once to the death of a thousand small cuts.
When being a literal serf was a way of life, and one people were born into, lives of that class were not long, usually no more than 35 years. Wealthy people tended to live longer, of course. Indeed, I've been told the median lifespan then and now was quite similar. Median, not average, mind you. This allowed for the wealthy to live long and prosper and the serfs to live not very long at all and be miserable.
So nothing, you see, has changed. Except that modern sanitation and medicine have trumped contagion and warfare and created far too many of us for the upper crust to tolerate,especially since we are not needed in the post-industrial world. They don't want to see us unless we are weeding their flower beds. They certainly don't want to pay for us.
Plague. It's the only solution. Next to what I fear the Koch Brothers cadre will come up with to ensure we all either die or stay miserable silently, plague might be a blessing. It's hard not to think so in a week in which the British government decides to spend 9 million pounds planting the scourge of British society unconscionably known as the late Lady Thatcher and Obama caves to the Republican oligarchs, selling out every compassionate, but obviously gullible, liberal who cast their vote for him.
* A villein was not a criminal; it was a person bound by indenture to the village in which he or she lived, and needing the local noble's permission to leave. Serfdom by any other name....