by William Hawes
There’s an inside rumor of a beggar
who got all that he needs in his hands
He said he ain’t no good with possession
cause he can’t keep track and he don’t need a plan
They say the old woman got the wisdom
‘cause she couldn’t read a clock anymore
She said the numbers don’t represent the moments
and she don’t see what all the ticking’s for
-The Rx Bandits, “One Million Miles an Hour, Fast Asleep”
No one is coming to save us. There is no political savior coming, no new national campaign for Hope and Change, no new version of a progressive Revolution, led by Bernie Sanders or anyone else. There are no more smooth-talking, charismatic, erudite Harvard law professors in Congress waiting in the wings for 2020, either. There are no respectable Democrats coming to sink the “Left” back into another political coma either, no one to alleviate the guilt “liberals” and fake-leftists feel about the current state of America. It is only us, citizens, not politicians, who can begin to co-create a livable future.
We are who we are, as a nation. Let’s face it: we are all deplorables now. We allowed this to happen, Democrats and Republicans alike, aided and abetted it, we laughed as a neo-fascist demagogue skyrocketed through the polls, we feigned outrage, and we did not launch any significant form of resistance to Trump, or Clinton either.
We allowed childishness, fear, hate, and narcissism to explode on social media, mainstream news, and mass culture, yet are somehow surprised when these features show up in our political milieu. We continue to allow the myth of American exceptionalism to pervade every nook and cranny of private and public life, yet are shocked at Trump’s personal hubris.
We’ve allowed ourselves to believe that we should “Make America Great Again”, when the plight of the world’s poor continues to worsen. There are now eight people (six are Americans) with more wealth than half the world’s population. If one considers all of those in the developing world who die of starvation, drought, and preventable diseases each year due to lack of antibiotics, antivirals, and vaccines, it is clear that the rich West is guilty of genocide by inaction.
It is the US federal government, working with NGOs and the UN, who should be at the forefront of planning and distributing medicine, open-source technology, and freely available patents and inventions to the world’s needy. Yet this can only work when we elect representatives with honor, virtue, courage, and a moral code.
What we are left with in Washington are the leaches and sycophants of capitalism, devoted to a dying system of consumerism, a casino-like rigged economy propped up by bankers’ tricks, mineral and resource extraction, and fossil fuel use. Self-serving, without a conscience, our corrupt representatives, lobbyists, and corporate leaders must be sent a message: you are all alone. As much as possible, we as citizens must begin our own Boycott-Divest-Sanction movement against the transnational corporations.
This doesn’t mean that we are abandoning our responsibilities, or being quietists: only that we recognize the culture of death, and refuse further involvement. In this sense, resistance is a dignified silence and non-involvement.
Boycotting the international conglomerates will inflict damage on the economy, and will likely affect standards of living for large parts of the population. We must not overlook this fact, yet we cannot shy away from it either: only by a direct confrontation will the parasitic corporate powers be destroyed once and for all.
The jobs are not returning, anyways. Unemployment will rise as automation and robotics absorb both blue and white collar work. Even Elon Musk is now speaking out in favor of a universal basic income.
While the majority of Americans are hypnotized by our criminal duopoly, and continue to place faith in the spectacle of mass-media driven elections, the rest of us must begin to organize horizontal, parallel political structures. In doing so, more and more will abandon the illusion that our government is benevolent. This will forge new bonds between neighbors, friends, and communities: it is these new relationships and bridges we must build to weather us through the storms of the collapse of neoliberal capitalism and the ravages of global warming and ecosystem degradation.
It is land and the right to grow our own food and water, to use renewable energy technologies for our homes, to use taxes for education and health initiatives, to provide for our families and community, which is urgently needed. Electronics and machines must be reevaluated as means to an end of a higher quality of life, not as self-justifying ends in themselves. Similarity, if “the medium is the message,” as Marshall McLuhan says, then we must reconsider whether our mass media is propagandizing and stupefying the public beyond our capabilities to react in a calm, rational, responsible manner. Maybe TV sound bites, twitter trolling, and alternate worldviews streaming on social media are not the best ways to promote public discourse, cooperation, and an amiable society.
It must be admitted that for much of the world’s population, the experiment of modernity just hasn’t worked out as well as we’ve been led to believe. Billions still live in abject poverty, and millions in the West still suffer from false consciousness, alienating labor, spiritual malaise, anomie, and ennui.
To combat such serious maladies, entire industries such as defense companies which use harmful mining and extraction techniques will have to be nationalized and used for good, such as farming equipment, efficient public transportation, and high-speed rail corridors. Companies that promote warfare and manufacture dangerous weapons will be forced to have workers seize the means of production and “turn their swords into plowshares”, or else they will have to be broken up.
Public squares must be reclaimed as commons for all, and federal wilderness should be reevaluated to allow for autonomous land usage for First Nations, for responsible, sustainable practitioners of agroecology, and cities must become linked by greenbelts, as Lewis Mumford might have imagined them.
At the same time, federal lands should not be allowed to be sold off to state or local entities: Republicans in Congress are prepared to do the unthinkable, by rewriting a technicality in a budget law to allow for the selling off of public landholdings. Oil, gas, and real estate magnates will no doubt be circling the waters and bribing state officials if federal land is parceled off to state governments.
We have to begin now, in every town, to engage in one-on-one bonding, to heal the wounds we’ve inflicted on each other and the planet, to slow down our pace of life, to realize that we need not fear demagogues, if we organize and resist. It is this fear and anxiety about the future that has put the anti-science Republicans in Congress, and the same emotions have catapulted Trump into the White House.
This can be overcome, only by acknowledging the reality of the situation. We don’t have much time, continuing on our present course, before the walls start to rise, the jobs start to dry up, the elderly begin to be neglected, and the rising numbers of homeless, needy, and refugees begin to overwhelm the capacity of our society to absorb the shocks. Reaching out a friendly hand to those closest to you, establishing solidarity with the world community, and providing for the less fortunate are no longer issues that Westerners can avoid, by frittering away hours in meaningless jobs or staring numbly at screens. There is still a possibility for the world’s population to collectively thrive and flourish, if our energies are harnessed to promote egalitarian democracy and global cooperation, and the West is willing to remove its rose-colored glasses, to see the world as it truly is.