Most of my day-to-day life is good to great. A little too much stress, a few challenges with weight and sleeplessness, but I’m living my dreams about writing and I’ve got a job that pays the bills and leaves a bit extra behind for electronics. I’m usually optimistic. At the core, I suppose I still am, even though today, I am also convinced many of our choices are simply awful. We’ve created a consumer-based economy sustained on blood and lies and seduction: the real blood of wars, and the financial blood of red ink. The lies inherent in bundled financing schemes, in myths that as the rich get richer the poor get richer. Consumers have been seduced into buying more than they can afford and the fabulous entertainment and social networking available today tricks many of us into sitting in front of screens all day. The worst lie – the grand lie – is the myth that this can somehow all be sustainable, and maybe even get better.
Luckily, lies seldom hold up. The economy has no obvious jump-start button this time and if the same trends that held true yesterday hold tomorrow, and get extended, there may eventually be ten people standing on top of the hill holding all of the wealth. Also luckily, people who used to believe the grand lie birthed the Occupy movement. Not that the occupiers know what they want… but they do know – like I do – that something stinks. That while for most of us day-to-day life is fine, or good, or great, we’re standing on sand.
The easy answer is to assume that the government we have is broken. That’s the first place I went. Asking “What new form of government can we help us out of this hole?” and “Maybe we need a new constitutional convention – one for the modern age.”
Please, if you have a good answer for this, offer it up in comments. Revolution might be easier than what I think we need to do.
So, the next place I went? Maybe it’s not the structure that’s broken. Not the core. Maybe the question is “How do we fix the oozing sore spots?”
The Business/Government Marriage: It’s time to separate business and government. There is nothing sustainable about letting big business make policy. Right now, in my home in Washington State, Costco is using the initiative process to try to manipulate liquor sales laws. Business donations to candidates for office has already transformed the playing field in American politics. A government run by big business will not take the long, brave view on much of anything.
We got the churches out of government (mostly). At the time we did that, those were the power structures. Well, today’s power structure is all about global business. And we’ve given them almost everything people have in our democracy except the vote. Make lobbying with money of any kind illegal. Repeal laws that say corporations are people, too. Stop the need for vast fundraising machines (cap funding, fund candidates on the taxpayer dime, only at a much lower level, cap contributions more tightly – this can be done).
Governance: It part of the grand lie that we can maintain the current political boundaries. That it’s okay to ignore starving in Somalia and drug cartels in Mexico. Some key issues need worldwide governance. I say this a few times a year, and the words seem to blow up and fly off in the wind before they get to anyone’s ears. But many countries can’t do their share. Climate change and feeding a population of ten billion are just two samples of problems that need some central authority: a careful one, a nimble one, an authority with controlled power, but with real teeth where it matters.
This is tougher than hell to imagine (especially without war as a means of enforcement – shiver!), but we need it. The Euro (governed by the European center of Central Banks) is an attempt to lay authority with limited power across a number of sovereign nations for a narrow purpose (monetary policy). It’s not clear yet if that should give us hope or not. Maybe not, although my fingers are crossed.
We have the tools. We have more transparency than any society of any size has ever had. We can report on the behavior of politicians and corporations alike. We can take pictures of any atrocity or a triumph and broadcast them around the world in moments. We can move as a group, worldwide. See the Occupy movement if you need a reference point. Or the Arab Spring. Or even the protests in Iran.
We have the resources. Regardless of the fact that the richest 1% have most of the wealth by far, there are a lot of people living where I do, with a roof and a job and a car and some extra after that. Not ‘fund a new company’ extra or ‘invest a million in a stock portfolio’ extra, but ‘crowd-funding’ extra, ‘micro-loan’ extra, ‘do some good’ extra. And some of the world’s richest people are also pitching in. The Gateses. Buffet. Branson.
We have the values, or we wouldn’t be out in the street playing the Occupy game. We want a fairer society.
Now we need to use all of these things we have and make the right choices. Maybe there are a lot of right choices; there’s no universal truth. But we know what smells wrong, and to some extent, we know what to do. See above. Oh, and of course, we need to stop believing the grand lie. It’s not going to get better by magic.
Brenda Cooper’s latest science fiction novel, Mayan December, is out now from Prime Books. For more information, see her website!