working together for social inclusion in America

Friday, March 18, 2011

A Sacred Undertaking

The failure of the modern state to meet our needs is structural--an inherent design flaw that renders essential reform of this structure impossible. Having relegated local and regional participation in setting social policy meaningless, the plenary powers of state-centric institutions are an open invitation to tyranny. Indeed, the voluntary confederation that respected regional autonomy at the outset of the American governance experiment was abolished by a tyranny of the majority of colonies, which set the stage for a tyranny of the minority composed of the inherently wealthy and their sycophants.

As societies rooted in ancient territorial homelands, First Nations are locally and regionally oriented, and as such are ecologically conscious and economically generous. As a practice, indigenous culture is inclusive, conserving community resources and sharing the wealth. Bolstering their cultures through cooperation with their non-indigenous neighbors is only logical.

With the breakdown of modern states as tools of the powerful and corrupt, Fourth World peoples and their civil society friends have begun to unite around local and regional autonomy, thereby starting the shift from dominant hierarchies to power-sharing democracies. Part of that shift includes finding ways to prevent looting of communal wealth -- whether from state treasuries or local landscapes -- by the private equity tyrannies which have usurped governance of most modern states.

Weathering the hardships ahead in a post-tyranny environment will challenge us to the core of our being, but that challenge is an inclusive one. In order to take back what is rightfully ours, we will have to work together or be hopelessly lost.

Whatever the outcome of our united efforts, the coming together itself will restore some of the human dignity sacrificed by tyrants on their altar of greed. Indeed, the process of working together -- meitheal in Irish -- is a sacred undertaking.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Class Struggle

Watching filmmaker Michael Moore address the throngs of union workers in Wisconsin this morning made me think about class struggle in the United States. While some union leadership of my father's generation sold out the struggle in return for power and influence, those who fought to establish unions in my grandfather's generation understood the importance of solidarity.

When my generation rejected the American Dream of consumerism, it wasn't so different from my grandfather's generations' rejection of the American nightmare. We both supported the socialist values reflected in Social Security, workplace safety, and environmental protection.

But between the 1930s, when my grandfather's generation was beaten by soldiers and police for organizing against the aristocracy, and the 1960s, when the same was done to my generation, my father's generation was pacified by the promise of shared wealth. When that promise was broken, union leadership had by and large been co-opted.

Notable exceptions include the California nurses, Chicago teachers, and the international longshore workers, but for the generation that came of age in the 1990s, union leadership on critical social issues was almost non-existent. Like the warmongers of the 1960s, the national union leadership betrayed solidarity even to the point of supporting free trade.

So it should be no surprise that there is some anti-union resentment in the country beyond the fundamentalist Christians and the aristocracy. If the union movement wants to recover their influence and respect, they will need to promote to national leadership people who are strong enough to stand against the aristocracy, and smart enough to organize public support for that stand. And that's going to take a lot more than the occasional rally with celebrities like Michael Moore.