Back to (Radical) Basics: Remembering What Matters, Again
UPDATE October 16, 2016
Since February, I’ve pondered the value of this website/ blog. I’ve come to realize that its existence matters more to me than I initially thought it would. I think about what to post, worry about why I avoid posting, go from wanting people to comment to being fearful of feedback.
Mainly, I find myself waking late at night asking what I can say that won’t be obvious, too self-centered, or just confusing. Often I roll over and go back to listening to audiobooks about the Nazis, or slavery, or whatever is so big and so bad that it helps me stop obsessing about the last misinformed and mean-spirited NPR comments I heard from Trump supporter in Atlanta, or DC.
Still, I keep trying to write. I’ve edited my site, and added more people from Face Book and Linked In to a notification list. I’m telling more people about http://www.Radicalreentry.com, even if it feels pushy.
Because every time I listen to the news, or read something new, my original hope of engaging with people, as I did so naturally at U.Mass.Boston, wells back up. It’s still hard now not to have everyday contact with a wider community. So much seems to be going on with this crazy election, and in this confusing world. And so much of what is happening hurts so much. It seems so wrong. I know I have to be part of doing something about it. But it’s all so hard.
Just this month, I downloaded “Now,” to my home page. It’s an amazing song written by Canadian singer/songwriter Brandy Moore, who performed it at this Spring’s North American Basic Income Congress. She also has another song “Because I’m alive” that an equally powerful call for a basic income. Her words remind me of original purpose of this website, to “remind myself not to forget what really matters.” Check her out http://www.brandymoore.ca/music.
For me, right now, today, I want to remember five things:
1) History still matters. Getting the story straight still matters. More than ever I find myself wanting to be sure my facts are correct, my arguments are sound, that I’m not just off on another rant, no matter how justified. I have to stop worrying about sounding “boring.” I don’t get to be so contrarian any more, or say something outrageous just for effect. When Trump does his provocative routine, it’s no longer cool to laugh. I wish we could all turn our backs when he talks, shame him, be clear that he is hurting people with his words. He is cruel. Michelle Obama said it loud and clear, Trump’s words “demean us all.”
This is not normal. This is not politics as usual. This is disgraceful. It is intolerable. And it doesn’t matter what party you belong to ― Democrat, Republican, independent ― no woman deserves to be treated this way. None of us deserves this kind of abuse.
And I know it’s a campaign, but this isn’t about politics. It’s about basic human
decency. It’s about right and wrong. And we simply cannot endure this, or expose our children to this any longer ― not for another minute, and let alone for four years. Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say enough is enough. This has got to stop right now.
Because consider this: If all of this is painful to us as grown women, what do you think this is doing to our children? What message are our little girls hearing about who they should look like, how they should act? What lessons are they learning about their value as professionals, as human beings, about their dreams and aspirations? And how is this affecting men and boys in this country? Because I can tell you that the men in my life do not talk about women like this. And I know that my family is not unusual. And to dismiss this as everyday locker-room talk is an insult to decent men everywhere.
2) NOW is the time to talk about poverty — not just about the plight of the middle class, not only income inequality, not just about insecure jobs going away — but about why poverty is still tolerated, how poverty is still simply wrong, unacceptable and not subject to strategic planning.
Our governor feels “forced” to cut 420,000 state jobs, but not to demand tax
increases. People are protesting, unions are speaking out.
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/10/14/state-employee- layoffs-could-coming massachusetts/DsObNLkrZ7LEG3tbZ0XixL/amp.html?client=safari
Harvard’s William Julius Wilson just got a multi-million grant to study urban poverty in Massachusetts, yet again. People are protesting. How can someone like Wilson look at himself in the mirror and take that money for his Center and his graduate students, in part to establish his “place at the center of the current
We all have to be focused about this, or we will be back to the newest version of neoliberal global gobble-de-gook. We don’t need to “study poverty no more”; we need to get more money directly to people so they won’t have to wait for bosses, or spouses, or gods, to provide economic security. That will take organizing, led by poor people themselves, and a meaningful Basic Income, plus other social necessities like health care for all, excellent public schools, and accessible housing, clean water and air.
3) NOW is the time to defend the public, the social contract, and to expect responsibility from “government,” with all it’s flaws. When a hurricane hits, when bridges fall down, when underfunded schools “fail”, the answer is more public funding, from more progressive taxing of ourselves. Not more private investment, not more Crowd Sourcing, or another “public-private partnership”.
Today when I hear even my friends casually complain about inadequate, poorly organized public services, or even “corrupt” politicians and public
servants, I interrupt. I say that we need those programs; we must demand that they are better, not privatize more, not give up on our few legitimate claims to give ourselves what we need. Who else can we make demands of, Wells Fargo? Wikileaks? Social Media? Where else do we still have any social rights, weak as they may seem?
4) NOW is the time to talk about what it means that the proletariat is evolving into a precariat. Guy Standing writes convincingly that the Precariat is the “New Dangerous Class,” (2012), and then goes to demand real changes in a “Precariat Charter” (2014). Especially in light of the popular shifts evidenced by Trump’s ascendance into legitimacy, the success of Brexit’s anti-immigrant logic, and the rise of a nationalist European Right, we must face the reality of a world where the existence of growing Precariat is undeniable. This emerging, disparate precariat grows out of a shrinking already poorly organized proletariat.
And that with an unprotected, fearful precariat it’s every man and woman, for themselves
It’s uncomfortable to move away from the reliable socialist premise that the self-aware proletariat, acting as a working class, is the primary engine for progressive change in history. Sure, class consciousness was never enough — there were always central complexities of race, gender and cultural dynamics at play. But it was central.
The long-clarifying mantra of “no war but the class war,” is more confusing than helpful when people still know that they “work,” but are not sure who their real bosses, not their managers, are. When they still need solidarity but aren’t sure with whom, and against whom?
More than ever, we need a broad-based, movement that allows folks to ponder such things. It must be Left and feminist, Earth-informed, multi-cultural and queer. Of course, people of color and people with deep-in-their-bones awareness of racism, poverty, and social disregard must lead it.
5) Naming what’s really “wrong” really matters — even it rings bad old bells from “Moral Majority,” religionist days. Even if it seems simplistic, or claiming a righteousness that is unknowable, we have to step up. Reverend Barber says, today’s “big issues are not about Left vs. Right, but right vs. Wrong.” Our movement has to be willing to say, loudly, the today’s world hurts too much, too unnecessarily. It’s just wrong and we know it even if we are unclear about what’s right, or even all the reasons why what’s wrong is wrong. We can’t take it any more. We have to do something. Together….
Whew…another sermon, if not a rant, after all. But I could not stop. Please comment, argue back, engage. I feel so alone.