Are you an idealist? If you are anything like me, it probably really bothers you when you see an individual or some group of people or defenseless animals becoming the object of mistreatment or discrimination. Like me, you might be struggling to make a living and having the feeling that the little safety net you thought you could count on is quickly shrinking. Shouldn’t human beings – individuals and their communities as well as our common heritage – culture and environment – be protected by positive forces such as leadership with integrity and cooperation between peoples?
Does it seem as if your wages are buying less and less? When you shop, don’t you find the labeling of foods so confusing? There is so much opacity and manipulation by powerful lobbies in the food and healthcare industries that you most likely don’t know what you are really buying or where it comes from. If you are like me, you want to buy healthy food that is organically grown and without intentional exposure to GMOs, pesticides, artificial additives. It’s hard to tell by the way products are labeled what they really contain. Deceptive wording is rampant.
And it’s extremely upsetting to read how our drinking water is polluted beyond redemption by prescription drugs, countless cleaning products, chemical pesticides, and a host of bacteria and viruses that cannot be filtered out. It is disheartening to read about human manufactured dangers that make our beautiful world a minefield for our health. It is terrifying to read how our infrastructures are so decrepit that in very short order communities across our nation will not be able to provide minimally safe drinking water. Our country is so wealthy, yet where is the will to invest in infrastructures, institutions and legislation that benefit all of us? And, yet, there are so many advances that should allow us to promote green technologies, creating new fields of work which would protect our food and water supply and respect animals and humans alike. According to Mark Bittman’s book “A Bone to Pick”, smaller traditional type farms produce over 70% more food and use only about 30% of our resources, while “Big Ag” industrial farms conversely use over 70% of our resources to produce only 30% food. The majority of the GMO corn and soy crops are grown as feed for animals and biofuels, according to Bittman. And if you care anything about health and sustainability, you know that feedlot animals are not healthy to consume, nor is their manure usable for fertilizer, since it is contaminated with antibiotics and other contaminants. Disposing of feedlot animals’ feces is a huge problem, and producing all this meat uses huge quantities of water. We need to use our knowledge and technology to renew our connections to tradition and common sense. We can feed the world, and we can take care of ourselves, our animals, our workers, and our planet.
In your relationships with others, have you encountered many people behaving in such opportunistic ways that there are few people you can really trust? During the 11 years since my return to the United States from France, I have been robbed, bullied, and been taken advantage of by mechanics, contractors, realtors, managers at work, friends, and lovers. Like me, you might be wondering why people bother living in social groups when there is so little cooperation and social cohesion. Like me, you might wonder how your voice can be heard and what you can do to improve conditions to make the world a better place for your kids and for future generations.
I get really frustrated and often feel angry when I listen to certain presidential candidates and some of our elected officials who so obviously care nothing about ordinary working people because their lives and interests are so far from those of regular people. How can they oppose abortion and refuse to raise the minimum wage? Why should people who work hard but who are not given free birth control and other health insurance benefits be forced to bring into the world children for whom they will have trouble providing? I do strongly believe in personal accountability, and that freedom is a privilege that requires great responsibility. But it also requires cooperation, empathy, compassion, and interdependence.
It frustrates me when conservative presidential candidates unjustly accuse people who are working hard without fair compensation, claiming that the average citizen needs to be more responsible and require less and less, in terms of salary and benefits, to live…when the cost of living continues to increase. It angers me when the wealthy are not required to pay their fair share of taxes and be held accountable when they claim that the poor are irresponsible. We all need to cooperate and contribute to the degree we are able, and in my opinion, the people need to prevent the wealthy from receiving extra privileges just because they can buy the media, buy our elected officials to get legislation enacted in their interests, and pay for all of the services that we cannot afford and that they think we should do without.
It also seems to me that many American conservatives promote the idea that we should all be self-made entrepreneurs, and that if we are not, then we should be penalized by the system. They insinuate that they are the most responsible and the least needy of others, yet it seems to me that being responsible for oneself without taking the time or making the effort to care about who and what brought about your success is selfishness, not maturity or accountability. The truth is that a person can be a very highly responsible individual without having a talent or desire to run his or her own business. There is a prejudice against so many professions in America, and the growing attitude that young people should go to college to train for a job rather than to develop their talents and intellect saddens me. While vocational training is a good thing, we need to open our minds and cherish our young people and their talents, rather than focusing on narrowing their opportunities and driving them to adopt our fear of failure and poverty.
I just found the site in the link below, and if you are interested in social justice and the history of grassroots movements and how ordinary people impact social change, you probably will be interested in reading this article and possibly subscribing to The Center for American Progress site.
“Progressivism as a reform tradition has always focused its moral energy against societal injustice, corruption, and inequality. Progressivism was built on a vibrant grassroots foundation, from the Social Gospel and labor movements to women’s suffrage and civil rights to environmentalism, antiwar activism, and gay rights. The activists and leaders of these movements believed deeply in the empowerment and equality of the less privileged in society, the primacy of democracy in American life, and the notion that government should safeguard the common good from unchecked individual and commercial greed. They challenged government to eliminate its own legal injustices and also harnessed the force of government as a vital tool for advancing human freedom and establishing the “more perfect union” envisioned by the Founding Fathers.”
I can see the reawakening of Progressivism in the presidential candidacy of Bernie Sanders, in the work of people such as Senator Elizabeth Warren, in the Black Lives Matter movement, in the activism to raise the minimum wage, in the successful movement across the nation to legalize gay marriage and to recognize trans-gender and LGBT rights. Workers rights are a huge area that needs to be tackled, and while the Affordable Care Act was a good step in the right direction, we really need a single payer healthcare system. We also need to completely modify our food system, transforming huge agribusiness into small local organic farms, where animals are treated well, and where our water and soil are cared for and nourished and allowed to heal. We need to rebuild community and teach our children love of self and others, self-awareness, good boundaries and consequences for behaviors instead of encouraging entitlement. There is so much we can do, and I am so glad that Americans are beginning to wake up and renew the Progressive tradition that has brought growth through much pain and suffering in our collective history.