Sunday, April 24, 2011

We-the-People-as-vendors


In our Northern American society citizens are vendors, business persons. You have to sell something to make a living. The only product most of us have to market is our time/energy, our labor, which we sell to the highest bidder. Education and skill improve our competitive position as employees. Employers increase profits when they reduce or keep wages low. Most of us drudge away our sales day, at best making the best of it. Failure at or refusal to engage in business has serious consequences - the street being the ultimate enforcer, the bottom line.
So our life-blood is traded for whatever level of food, shelter, education, health care and entertainment, we can attain. But suppose these were givens, the goal in fact of our society as a whole, for all, instead of enrichment of the few, the clever and the ruthless?
Suppose we set out as a nation to solve this riddle: how to create a society whose top priority is the basics (food, shelter, education, health care) for every citizen, at a sustainable level - one which doesn't despoil the earth, air, soil, water? This as the driving force of our culture, to replace the current one, pursuit of profits, privilege and power.
If this attempt were made anywhere else and showed the least chance of success it would be crushed, as it was in Nicaragua, Chile and other countries, by the United States. This explains U.S. hostility toward Cuba as well. It is Cuba’s anti-capitalism, not its lack of democracy that upsets U.S. rulers. Change has to happen here and before the momentum of patriarchal capitalism finally consolidates its power internationally.
It will happen when we elect state and national governments, and courts, who embrace these values. That can only happen if we-the- people first adopt them, which can only happen through grass roots education, which we best be about. Well, there is another means to this, subject for another post. It is to be found, not exclusively but clearly, in the teachings of Eckhart Tolle.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Panthers and Police, Police and Panthers


The book, Savage City (2011), T.J. English, examines New York City over the period 1963-73, using three individuals as a device for walking us through that period. George Whitmore, a na├»ve and innocent young black man, is viciously framed by the police and D.A. for crimes he very obviously didn’t commit; Dhoruba Bin Wahad not so innocently is also framed, basically for being a Black Panther; Bill Phillips is a super-corrupt cop who, like his more famous and honest contemporary Serpico, becomes a super-snitch. He is also, ironically, framed. The book’s focus is really massive police corruption and virulent racism. The Panthers would never have existed without the daily harassment, humiliation and routine injustice of the men in blue and their near-impregnable blue wall of silence.

The Black Panthers represented a reaction to oppression, on the street, in the job place, in housing and to a systemic discrimination that made daily life hell for most black citizens across the country. The success of the civil rights movement in the south helped northern black communities realize that passivity was not the only option. But the cities were populated by young men, such as Malcolm, Dhoruba, Eldridge Cleaver and Huey Newton, who had spent hard time in youth gangs and prison. This was an education that did not recognize the merit of non-violence. In fact such a strategy was equated with cowardice, just as it was on the mean streets and in the prison system.

A friend of mine tells the story of returning to visit his south Georgia hometown after an extended stay in Boston and joining his father and friends at their club. After enduring an evening of casual racist jokes and hawkish Vietnam platitudes (along with way too much Southern Comfort) my friend announced to these Southern Gentlemen that the U.S. was doing to the Vietnamese in Southeast Asia just what they were doing to blacks here at home. A Father/Son fistfight was narrowly averted. Southern organizers recognized that to challenge the oppressor in their comfort zone of violence, was suicidal. The basic law of karma, that violence begets violence, that actions have consequences, that it all comes back on you, what goes around comes around etc; is ignored at our peril. Noam Chomsky recently stated that when you want to create change you have to consider whether your actions will actually move things in the desired direction. Will breaking windows help or will it only give you the feeling that you’re doing something? That the Black Panthers were ultimately destroyed testifies to the futility of one aspect of their strategy, the fatal mistake of dismissing non-violence. Would that the criminals who, in the main, run U.S. foreign policy, would take this lesson to heart.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Choosing Choices



It’s easy to excuse oneself from the citizen responsibility of voting with the fact that no election is won by a single vote. If large numbers of people follow this line, well, we have what we have now, low voter turn-out. Still, one vote, something comes up, can’t make it, doesn’t really matter. Now with corporations endowed with the status of persons, by the wisdom of our pretty much Reagan-Bush-appointed Supreme Court, is created a whole class of very rich and thus very influential persons. We have a new ball game here, or maybe just an on-steroids version of what we used to have. A topic certainly worthy of exploration and vigorous opposition. This anti-democratic decision needs over-turning. Maybe even impeachment for instead of protecting us from all enemies foreign and domestic, the Supreme Court has delivered us into their lusty hands. But my point here is making choices, how that impacts what goes on.

There is a movement to boycott Wal-Mart, to make this person accountable for unfair labor practices, sexism in the work place and driving wages and benefits downward. So shopping at Wal-Mart supports these practices, choosing to boycott goes the other way. Buying your gas is another opportunity to influence behavior. The Venezuelan state-owned oil company Citgo, it is argued, disperses its profits in socially beneficial ways as opposed to the other oil giants whose profits help perpetuate the growing income divide and bolster anti-democratic measures in the form of electoral influence from these corporate persons.

A friend of mine militantly advocates vegetarianism using a three-pronged argument: For the Animals; For Your Health; For the Environment, hoping that one of the three will hook her potential recruit. Under these three headings then she presents the impact of a meat diet on the animals, especially the notorious factory farm style raising and harvesting where miserable and cruel conditions that would truly shock the average meat eater are routine. The health impact arguments are of the heart attack/stroke/cancer cultivating nature of meat-eating, batting down the usual response that “I need my protein!” by pointing out that protein is way over-present in meat and is abundant in vegetarian diets. The meat addict gets a list of the numerous meat-like substitutes available, veggie burgers etc; For the environmental argument she presents information such as the methane and other pollutants released unsustainably into the environment. She also cites the inefficiency of growing great quantities of corn (70%) and grain for animal consumption – takes something like 15 pounds of corn to produce one pound of meat. Great acreage could be freed to reduce the stress on wild animal populations from urban encroachment. Humans are not the only animals on this planet but they are granted few rights. They stand in the wood, at the edge of our fields, observing with trepidation the choices we make. Try this for more details: www.vegsource.com/news/2009/09/how-to-win-an-argument-with-a-meat-eater.html