Sucking up

by Phil Johnson

This laptop is a wonderful machine. What I do sitting here tapping my fingers without having to move is astounding, but it is now commonplace. Can you believe it? That it has become commonplace, I mean. We suck these things up so easily, these things that replace physical action, and, in the workplace, replace people at a rapid rate. And even us old birds find ourselves using laptop computers and powerful electronic devices sufficiently well to operate our lives with their aid, changing the way we move about and what we do in ways that we don’t necessarily notice.

Speaking of sucking up, surely someone before me has described the main current of economic flow as sucking up — in contrast to “trickling down,” which in reality is but a drip. It became clear during the Wistrom Retreat at Shirt Lake. The main economic current is not trickle down, it is suck up. People with the capital at the top suck up all they can of the resources of people all the way down to the poorest who somehow pay in too. Sucking up. No question about it. The people, in a way all of us who have the wherewithal to operate satisfactorily, are in it. We, too, are employed by the top suckers. We are about half way up the sucking vortex getting enough to get by.

There is a trickle down. Some stuff spills and the people at the bottom in the United States, in Africa, in South America — everywhere except

Scandinavia, where poor people do better — get the refuse that trickles back to them by which they survive. They may make something of value out of this refuse, this remainder, which can be sucked right back up.

Contemporary Sucker Uppers shouldn’t think they are the first or even the smartest. Sucker Uppers have been at this as far back as we know. For example, the Sucker Uppers of the Kingdom of Israel in eighth century BC. A brief speech by Amos reveals the same tactics in place. The Suckers were already adept at doing their thing. Selling the grain with crooked scales and manipulating money. Things like that. Some observations about how sucking up is done from Amos (8:4-6).

“Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, ‘When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practise deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.’”

These guys sucked up pretty well; so well that their wives had lives of leisure — almost debauchery. These wives, to the extent they are known today, are known by the name Amos, who wrote as well as preached, gave them: “Cows of Bashan” (Amos 4). I doubt they were, or would be, happy about it.

“Hear this word, you cows of Bashan who are on Mount Samaria, who oppress the poor, who crush the needy, who say to their husbands, ‘Bring something to drink!’”

I mean, from their point of view, these fine ladies get stuck with the name given by Amos, a man they regarded as “that ridiculous unkempt, crude, slandering man from Judah who admitted he had no prophet credentials.” It makes one chuckle.

Another great example of sucking up are the exploits of Joseph, a great Sucker Upper on behalf of the Pharaoh. His method is clearly described in Genesis 47. This matter came to my attention when given a tip from Mark Twain via David Hawkinson to read this chapter to see Joseph’s brilliant, colossal sucking up. Twain wrote a letter dated March 14, 1906 to John Rockefeller’s Sunday school class in lieu of a personal appearance (The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume I, 423–425) in which he showed from the Bible how Joseph took money, livestock, land and liberty from the Egyptians. We note that Joseph took care of his family first (Genesis 47:11, 12) before he turned on the vacuum. This took place about 1800 BC. The report regarding Joseph’s fine sucking up work can be found in Genesis 47:13-26.

It took Joseph about four years to suck up all the land in Egypt in return for giving the Egyptian farmers some food to eat so they and their wives and children would not starve. They became compliant, like putty in his hands, because they needed food for their families. Joseph’s was a work of genius on behalf of the top Sucker Upper, in this case, Pharaoh.

I’m pretty confident you, my colleagues and others, will find the image of sucking up clarifying and at least one useful way to take a look at things. I mean our social political economic reality. For example, if we look around with these “sucker/sucked” spectacles, who are the Sucker Uppers and who are the Sucked? What do you think?

Phil Johnson is Editor Emeritus of Pietisten.

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