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its them or us
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In activist circles, and when I hear people talk about issues such as racism, sexism, homophobia and the like, I can't help but think that segregating such issues isolates them from a common source. They all stem from a basic human impulse; to associate and then to elevate one's own tribe above all others.
However, its useful to separate issues. In doing so we can ignore the source and we can pretend that they are all independent of common cause.
Today I took a drive to the Taco Bell up the street. As I looked through the drive-thru window at the mostly black and hispanic people I couldn't help but think about the people walking about, heading to Starbucks, or to the grocery store who are the privileged. I started thinking about how even the "liberals" and the "progressives", the people buying organic produce to help the environment, or who joke with the hispanic lady ringing out their groceries, shy away from the bigger issues.
It's one thing to rid one's heart of hatred and discrimination, to look at a person different from yourself and see another human being that deserves respect, its another to give up your own special unique privileges for a chance to make the world a little better. Are we willing to give up that security, that chance to send our kids to a "good school", or to built that dream home theater system, or to own a car that hugs the road, or to see the world?
This is a line most people are unwilling to cross but its one we seem perfectly willing to let people stay behind.
I tend to think of most "social ills" as symptoms rather than as their own unique problem. The disease is oppression and too often we look past the causes, which are mostly sectarian and economic. Reaching that conclusion can induce despair. Would it not be easier to focus on the symptoms and make those better rather than try to tackle a beast that seems unbeatable? You start to realize the structure of the problem is complex and hidden. We hardly talk about economic factors beyond surface issues.
Why is there poverty?
Why are some people homeless?
Why are people starving?
The answer is simple: because it is an essential component of our economic system. Human suffering is considered an indisposable part of an economic order than many have come to think of as natural. Too many people have come to accept that disparity is necessary, that questioning "what works" is heretical.
But is it really working? Are we really willing to look at a society where people can work their asses off and still live in fear of homelessness and say "Yeah, it doesn't get any better than this"?
We've stopped thinking about alternatives. We've stopped looking for better solutions because there are too many voices, invested in the current system, who are all too willing to warn us that the consequences will be dire if we even think about change.
And I guess that it seems so very easy to accept that version of the "truth" if you live in a world of comfort, if you live in a world of plenty, where desire is the determining factor. And its the people in power that will allow change to take place. But first they have to realize that its in their best interests to do so. But lately I've been so dismayed to hear the voices resisting change grow so strong even as we near a point where realization might occur.
How is it that we can acknowledge that human suffering is a direct result of a system and then not desire to change that system? Its because we become so invested in what has worked for us, and we can't imagine giving that up. We'd rather just place little bandages here and there while we maintain the source of the wound.
The problem, you see, are the bleeding knife wounds, not as it might seem, the knife wielding maniac. Our problems are systemic and I doubt we can make any progress until we can start acknowledging this.
Dissolve into Evergreens