Cheers to the conclusion of 2016 and the beginning of 2017. Individually life is always a mixture of ups, downs, trial and tribulations; but on the whole 2016 seemed to be a very turbulent and, at times, disorienting year. Accepted norms, images and illusions of the past and present seemed to have collided as if in an atom smasher, with the collisions creating a form of emotional and psychic dislocation. The country seemed to be having a nervous breakdown. I realize that some may not be feeling this angst. I suspect that many, if not most, within earshot of these words are weathering these times reasonably well. Relatively speaking the majority of us in the ‘surfing world’ are the fortunate ones, and sometimes we can tend to flow with the changing tides a bit too easily. A personal sense of peace and wellbeing is important, but if it lulls us into complacency in relation to the conditions in the world at large it can be counterproductive. The creation and continuance of a just society requires all of us to be people of action, as well as peace. If each of us strive to be active, socially responsible citizens, attuned to the necessity of economic, racial and political justice it will make a big difference. A sober analysis of where our country stands in this moment of history demonstrates the need for action. Hence this little essay. I am seriously concerned about what lies ahead for my, and everyone’s, kids and grandkids.
Resist The Drift / No Justice No Peace
It’s wake up time. No more kidding around folks. We must gather our rebellious hearts and stand up for what is right. To paraphrase Martin Luther King; ‘we must answer the call for the fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class and nation. In reality this is a call for an all embracing and unconditional love for all men and women.’ In truth, this is always the case, but I’m feeling that it is extremely important to act on this now. There are deep animosities running through our society, and hate crimes have spiked. Strong resistance to this trend must emerge now. If it doesn’t, in the words of Chris Hedges, Trump and his rouge generals, billionaire cabinet appointees, and conspiracy theorists could plunge the United States into dystopia. Please don’t dismiss this as some hyperbolic anti Trump rant. Trump is just a manifestation of the 40-year effort to dumb down political and social discourse, delegitimize the function of government, and promote total distrust of the so called ‘liberal media’ and ‘intellectual elites’. Added to this is the union busting and the continual push to weaken labor laws, and the propagation of the ‘war on terror’. This is all geared to create an environment of distrust, and economic and social instability. The point of this is to keep people in a state of inaction. When the population has to be constantly concerned about personal safety, and economic survival it is sapped of the energy, empathy and enthusiasm required to resist the emergence of corporate rule and an age of authoritarianism. Quoting Henry Giroux, “Donald Trump is not the singular clown who has injected the color and idiocy into American politics, he is the canary in the mineshaft warning us that totalitarianism relies on mass support and feeds on hate, moral panics and frenzied lawlessness and ideological certitude.” Trump will be president in 3 weeks. We have been warned. We must not be the proverbial frog in the slowly heating pot of water that doesn’t realize it’s predicament before the water boils, and it is too late.
There is much we can do. Admittedly it is an immense task, but approached with methodical perseverance and a collective compassion we can move mountains. The struggle will take time. Us older folks must realize that we may not derive much personal benefit from the fight, but our kids, grandkids, and others in the younger generations will. We, with the experience of witnessing and participating in the civil rights, antiwar, and early environmental movements must support young people, workers, educators, artists and others who must join together to form a broad social movement aimed at stopping the emergence of the repressive elements in our society.
One area that needs immediate attention is the present attack on the social safety net. This is an issue that we all will see the benefits of fighting the good fight. When you look deeper into this it is not just an attack on specific Gov’t programs, but an aggressive movement to weaken the “social self” and the solidarity necessary for a strong functioning democracy. The consistent attempt to cut and privatize Social Security and Medicare, reduce Food Stamp and other Gov’t funded programs, defund K-12 public schools, and public universities is part and parcel of the ‘’privatization’ movement. This movement is specifically intended to break down civic society.
To combat this attack, we need to focus on developing an economy which has human needs (education, jobs, housing), and human health at its center. This is totally doable in a country as wealthy as ours. To accomplish this, we need to take on board the realization that Capitalism and Democracy are not synonymous, and that the ‘invisible hand’ of the market doesn’t govern social life. Not long ago this seemed unlikely, but the emergence of Bernie Sanders showed that there are some chinks in the armor of the unfettered capitalist paradigm. The vast majority of us are basically concerned about the same things. 1) Economic security for ourselves and our families. 2) Access to affordable medical care, 3) An excellent public education system and affordable higher education for our kids. We are constantly told that we “can’t afford it!” This is 100% BS. There is more than enough money and resources to accomplish this. We just need to reorganize the way it flows through the economy. Here are a few examples:
- 1) There is approximately 1.4 trillion dollars stashed offshore by the top 50 corporations. This represents potentially 100 billion in tax revenues.
2) The Defense Department yearly budget is budget is 600 billion. That exceeds the combined individual military budgets of the next ten countries.
a) 800 military bases in 70 countries, 200,000 active duty personnel in 150 countries
b) 16 separate intelligence agencies
c) 4,700 Nuclear Warheads on 800 delivery systems plus 2,340 retired but useable warheads. Nuclear arms budget is 19.3 billion per year.
d) 11 billion was just recently allocated for 450 new tactical nukes that will fit on cruise missiles. Also proposed is the Nuclear Weapons modernization budget. 348 billion for 2015 to 2024, and the 30-year total could reach 1 trillion dollars.
e) The cost of American war since 2001 is 1.6 trillion and with interest payments through 2053, it could reach almost 4 trillion.
3) Military defense spending is 54% of all federal discretionary spending. It is more than the total spent on Gov’t, education, medical, veterans’ benefits, housing, international affairs, energy and environment, transportation and agriculture combined.
4) 1% of the yearly defense budget, just over 5 billion, would pay for 152,000 4-year university scholarships.
5) 1 year of the Nuke budget would cover low-income adolescent health care for 825,000 children or 549,000 adults.
Here is a telling statistic. Adding $1.00 to infrastructure spending adds $4.00 to the Gross National Product. Adding $1.00 to Defense spending adds $.70 to the GNP.
You don’t have to be Einstein to see where money is better well spent.
To sum up, Rabbi Michael Lerner has pointed out that there is nothing utopian about redirecting money away from the Military, powerful corporations and the upper 1% to a type of Marshall Plan, which would be sufficient to make all levels of education free, provide support to eliminate poverty, hunger, inadequate health, and work toward mitigating the disastrous effects of climate change. THIS IS NOT A MONEY ISSUE. It is a moral issue and a priorities issue. We all must realize that there are forces in our body politic that wish to return American society to a pre New Deal state of existence. We must resist this push, and re-invigorate our civic imagination, and create a society that we can be proud of; one that will nourish the generations to come. May 2017 be a year of healing, emerging peace around the world, and a profound shift into a paradigm of understanding that we, and all the living creatures of earth are in this together.
Peace, Love and Light,
The Campbell Family