Headlines screamed when gazillionaire Warren Buffett said, “Tax me; it’s not fair that I pay less than my secretary,” and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz enlisted customers in promoting job growth.
We have major unemployment, a teetering economy, a system that has devoured pensions and retirement savings and a military industrial complex enmeshed in 10 years of war — the longest in America’s history.
Thousands are joining Occupy Wall Street demonstrations across the country, demanding we redirect our resources from banks, wars and exploitation to peace, human needs and environmental protection.
When money equals power, and the distribution of money never has been more inequitable in our history, how is change possible?
Deciding where to begin, we’re a lot like the blind men and the elephant in the Indian folk tale: One encounters the trunk and declares the elephant is like a snake; grabbing its tail, another knows it’s like a rope; leaning against its side, a third maintains it’s like a wall — all fiercely defend their impressions. Each is partly right, but all fail to describe an elephant.
We have our elephant experience: bankruptcies triggered by medical bills not covered by insurance; pensions erased by corporate machinations; young graduates with crippling debts and no job prospects; savings erased by Wall Street gambling; homes devalued in a poof of … what was that, exactly?
Our laws and public safeguards, from clean air and water regulations to providing safe, healthy food and supporting farmers who grow it, now protect the interests of the elite few, not the other 99 percent.
Scientific evidence on critical issues such as clean energy, climate change, severe weather events, GMO crops, increasing ocean acidity and vanishing global fisheries are ignored or endlessly challenged by corporate interests.Democracy requires more than casting a ballot every couple of years. It’s a system of accountable governance that requires leaders who live up to their pledge to represent the interests of those they govern, to protect the weakest and most vulnerable in our society and to steward collective resources — our forests and farmlands, rivers and oceans and the air we breathe — to ensure a sustainable future for everyone.
Recently, some 700 folks from Clallam and Jefferson counties, North Kitsap and Whidbey Island met in Sequim for a lively experience in democracy, “American Awakening: A Community Call to Action,” presented by Olympic Progressives.
“Wall Street is a job killer, not a job creator,” David Korten told the audience. Wall Street, banks and corporations aren’t interested in creating jobs, educating children or assuring that Americans have health care and retirement security, he added, expanding on his works “How to Liberate America from Wall Street” and “When Corporations Rule the World.” Port Townsend physician Katherine Ottaway recounted joining Mad As Hell Doctors. Robby Stern, with the Puget Sound Alliance for Retired Americans, stressed the importance of group organizing. Cheers greeted the “Contract for the American Dream,” 10 critical steps to get our economy back on track, identified by 131,203 citizens working online to rate 25,904 ideas submitted. Then 70 people video-recorded personal comments to the congressional “supercommittee.”
Occupy Wall Street, like demonstrations from Europe to the Middle East, realize that our governments, laws and safeguards are being used to protect the rich and powerful.
Wall Street protesters got pepper sprayed, prompting Jon Stewart to ask his TV audience why no Tea Party protesters have ever been sprayed. One sign quoted Archbishop Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Protesters want accountability, a seat at the table, a voice in decisions that impact our lives. They’re demanding complex, fundamental changes in our country’s social, political and economic systems for everyone.
In addition to recommending periodic revolution as medicine for a healthy government, Thomas Jefferson also observed: “Democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.”
Diana Somerville writes about creating more sustainable communities and our personal connection with the environment. A Clallam County resident, she’s a member of the National Association of Science Writers, the Society of Environmental Journalists and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
Reach her at www.DianaSomerville.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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