New Year, New Ideas

This has been quite a year: War in Iraq continued with US casualties passing the 2,000 mark (more than 840 killed this year alone); members of the Bush Administration faced indictments in the CIA outing case; Hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf States, exposing the insecurities in our Homeland Security system; accusations of torture were leveled against the Bush Administration (their main response: arguing the fine points of what constitutes “torture”); immigration issues became highly polarized with Minutemen on the border and members of Congress trying to make illegal immigration a felony and putting forth a multi-million dollar border fence; and revelations that domestic wire-tapping and surveillance went beyond possible “terrorists” to those who oppose the war and others not favored by the Administration (even former Black Panthers, although they were already targeted in the 1970s).

It looks like, as the saying goes, “we’re going to hell in a hand basket” (not sure what that actually means, but it sounds about right).

However, there is some good news.

There is a growing awareness and unity among people in the US as well as the world against globalization, war, the death penalty, and poverty. All these became major concerns of the media, entertainers, and an increasing multitude. It appears that previously marginalized issues and ideas are now moving center stage.

While there’s darkness in the body politic, there is also an expanding conversation about where we go as a people. Included in this is how we achieve a world we know can be just, humane, peaceful, cooperative, balanced, and healthy? Words, by the way, you will seldom, if ever, hear from Republicans or the Bush Administration.

The right wing in this country long ago declared a war for the “hearts and minds” of the American people. They have much on their side—wealth, most of the media, fundamentalist Christians (not all, however), and their reliance on people’s fears and uncertainties.

Some of these conservative warriors were around in the 1960s and 1970s, and much of their ire seems to be directed at the last structural reforms in government (around civil rights and the rights of women). They held a grudge since then and are now getting their payback. That this is indicative of mental instability is another matter—or that their “scorched earth” tactics ends up destroying civil liberties, national unity, and real lasting peace for everyone (even their own children).

Their real opposition today, however, is not liberals—they were ideologically defeated when “reforms” could no longer meet the basic needs of the people. No, the very nature of the system they hold sacred will do them in. Capitalism has reached critical limits in its ability to expand and to find new exploitable markets (although it keeps trying). Even oil is finite and getting closer to being exhausted. War, lies, corporate greed, scrambling for power (or cover as the indictments keep coming) is now par for the course for the most powerful and wealthiest in the land.

The façade of social decency, civil discourse, democracy, and honesty has been slipping away as the most fascist elements in this country prepare their rule (summed up as the unity of capitalists and the government, but not the people).

Today more people are impoverished than ever before—while the richest share in the most obscene waste and extravagance (when poor people in the hood rap about “bling bling” and Bentleys, where else is there to go?).

So as the New Year dawns, let our hearts and minds and creative powers flourish as we collectively challenge the thieves, liars, and death-dealers.

We have to imagine another way to go, to envision a world where science removes disease, poverty, and cultural waste; where people are politically, economically, and spiritually sovereign; and where the world’s vast socially-produced wealth is distributed on the basis of need, not just to those who can pay for it.


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