We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Sunday, December 9, 2012

On the Death of Certain Dreams

Click here to access article by David Malone from his blog Golem XIV (UK)
All nations, all peoples, I think, have dreams of themselves, of their better selves, of the people they imagine they could be. They are not rational and are often not even true. But then again dreams do not have to be true. We just have them. Or perhaps they have us. But those dreams have been dying recently. The dreams of whole nations have been withering and dying. As if some disease of our imagination’s immune system were turning hope against us. And we find ourselves collectively adrift, mourning for the people we thought we could be.
Yes, it is necessary to dream when one lives in a society wracked by class rule and injustice, where a few people have every advantage imaginable while other "suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune." You see, modern humans evolved over their 175,000 years of existence by taking care of one another. More recently, say 10,000 years ago, something started to happen in which a few people began to take control over the lives of others through violence, more recently through laws and violence, and now they seem to be returning to using mostly violence or the threat of violence. 

By violence I wish to include humiliating treatment of various kinds which assault our sense of dignity on an almost daily basis: the numerous difficulties that prevent us from participating in an economy that can sustain our lives in a reasonable manner and all that this implies: denial of health care and education, treatment as dispensable human beings that are forced to live in tents or locked up in hellish prisons.

This period we are living in is the final stage of capitalism called neo-liberalism, which has divided up the world between those few who "own" our means of existence and the vast majority, many of which are becoming expendable. This has produced a huge chasm between the few who live lives of splendor and the rest of us. It is a nightmarish world we are entering: Orwellian police states, prisons, starvation, and wars. It is very difficult in such a world to go on dreaming, to believe in the usual adult fairly tales which tell us that we really are better than what we have become.

Yet, the end of the story is still to be played out. I am betting on our long suppressed better natures: the deep sense of justice, fair play, and commitments to each other which has sustained human beings over the previous 165,000 years before we took this wrong turn. What I mostly worry about is time--the time remaining before this system of capitalism with it ravenous appetite destroys our planet's ability to sustain our lives.