Warmest greetings to all of you. Another year begins, and in the words of Stephen Colbert, we’re “moving on”. But the question is; do we, as a society, know where we are headed? And are we willing to exert enough effort to make the necessary course corrections? In order to initiate and create constructive change, we need to step back and take an objective look at the world as it is, and accurately assess the nature of our predicament. This is not always easy, and surely not a comfortable task. Some of us are actually doing ok under the present circumstances. But as we look around, we must have the awareness to acknowledge that there is never ‘just enough’ justice. Justice is something that will never be complete. It is a process of endless struggle, within which, joy and transcendence reside. This is something we need to discover in order to have the strength and courage to produce systemic and lasting change.
There is a matrix of violence, both psychological and physical, at the core of a fast emerging paradigm, which threatens to permanently alter our society. The very nature and future of our democracy is at stake. Through the exaggerated threat of terrorism, shared fears have become prominent and more important than shared responsibilities. The possibility of a society grounded in justice, mercy and compassion is being pulled out from under us. This ‘is’ happening. It is not a figment of your imagination. You are not paranoid. Your questions of WTF are valid. We must not allow ourselves to get used to the mind numbing and soul crushing reality that is being foisted upon us. There is an all out assault to squelch our collective imagination. This is being done in order to prevent us from developing creative, alternative visions for society. The evidence of this abounds.
Here is a brief overview. There are the revelations of massive domestic and international surveillance by the NSA, and a recent article in Der Speigel, exposes their program of intercepting computers and related electronics purchased over the internet, in order to install Malware, etc in them. Then they repackage the stuff mimicking the factory packaging, and send it on to the customers. The FBI has developed ‘port readers‘, and the US government is quietly pressuring telecommunications providers to instal this eavesdropping technology deep inside companies’ internal networks to facilitate their surveillance efforts. They are also looking to embed this technology in public library internet networks.
Then there is the CIA’s international and domestic drone programs. In Sept. of 2015 the FAA is scheduled to open up air space to domestic drones. Initially the dominant use of the drones will be the military, law enforcement, and agriculture. Another huge issue that has just begun to get a little traction in the news, is the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. This is far more than a ‘trade deal’. In it’s present form it will give domestic and foreign corporations legal rights that can supersede the laws of sovereign nations, including our own. Environmental and food safety regulations, patent laws on drugs and other products, employment regulations and job outsourcing are major areas of concern. There are numerous potential disastrous ramifications if this deal get instituted. Before Congress’ holiday recess, President Obama was seeking ‘fast track’ authority to get the TPP pushed through. So far, ‘fast track’ has not been granted, so there’s still a chance TPP won’t become law in it’s present form.
We are now into the fourth decade of union busting, stagnant wages and the outsourcing of jobs. The raiding of pension funds is now in high gear, and threatening a generation of retirees. We also have the diabolical situation of the exorbitant cost of higher education, and the resultant student debt. This debt is now surpassing the total national credit card debt; this is insane. In essence this has the potential to create a class of indentured servants. I know this sounds hyperbolic, but think about it for a minute. These young people are legally liable for the debts. There are no laws, bankruptcy or otherwise that can absolve them of the debt. In the present job market it is extremely tough to find jobs that pay well enough to cover living expenses, as well as pay off loans. The US Department of Education is now outsourcing much of the debt collecting to private collection agencies. There is a ruthlessness to this. Kids are now being hauled into court. Will there be a rise of debt prison next? My feeling is that the high cost of education threatens to steal the future and radical imagination of the next generation. In this case we all lose. The continuing move toward the privatizing of K-12 education, and the rise of the prison industrial complex are two more things we need to watch closely. The suppression of voting rights that is under way in Republican controlled states, and the unlimited flow of corporate money into politics are definitely efforts to keep the status quo intact.
Henry Giroux, American scholar, cultural critic, and professor at McMasters University in Hamilton Ontario, observes that there is an ideology of harshness and cruelty that is running through the American culture like an electric current. He feels it is sapping the strength of compassion and collective action out of us. Here are just a couple of examples that illustrate this harshness. $6,000.00 per capita per year goes to corporate subsidies, while $36.00 per capita, per year goes to the food stamp program. And yet the Republicans want further cuts to the program. Another example is that 1.3 million people who have been out of work more than 6 months, have just had their unemployment benefits cut off. This was agreed to in the budget recently approved by congress. While all of this is going on the Wall Street banksters who are largely responsible for the Great Recession are flying high.
All this being said, we can’t allow ourselves to become cynical. We have to find strength in each other. We must create a commons that fosters a creative, empathic ingenuity and imagination. Many young people are now recognizing that they are being marginalized and understand the oppressive nature of the emerging conditions. They are becoming concerned that their future may offer less opportunity than what their parents had. Young people, and we older folk as well, need to have one foot in, and one foot out of the system. Participating in local politics, such as the ”Slow Democracy” movement is beneficial, but addressing issues of a national scale will require demonstrations, on and off the streets. The key will be to organize protest in ways that are not self defeating. This is a process that takes time and focus. Groups with varied interests will need to come together and join forces in order to work on particular issues that are at hand. Broad based coalitions will have the best chance of influencing politicians and producing change.
The philosopher Ernst Bloch said, “we must believe in the principal of hope…” Hope speaks to the power of the imagination. I’m not talking about the romanticized hope that is propagated by politicians, but hope energized by faith in each other and acted upon through hard work and sticking your neck out for fundamental radical change. As frustrating as it is, we have got to keep at it. The creation of a formative culture that is fertile ground for empathy, inspiration imagination, creativity and mindfulness, is more than worth the effort. It is flat out evolutionary. This is the destiny of humankind.
The Campbell Clan