“True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.“
– The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I want to repeat this piece from five years ago exactly as it was then. Much is still true, even in this much darker moment of despair. We have a long road, and we are making progress. It’s slow, but it is true. The next generation will definitely do better.
At this time every year we have the same kind of conversation around the dinner table. My kids are growing up in a different world, one even more thoroughly defined by the struggles and triumphs of Dr. King’s generation than mine was.
But as they grow older, they see the work left to do more plainly. It is disheartening and difficult to watch those who once thought that the old black and white news film of dogs and firehoses was a document of a black and white history – a story of races and realities laid bare for history to pass its judgement. Now that they are in school they’ve seen and heard what racism is. The struggle is still alive, and every year more than just black and white.
Electino Day is 6 November. There is likely to be a ‘blue wave” that will change the US House and many statehouses to Democratic control, but the Senate is not likely to change. The net result is almost certainly going to be entrenchment and gridlock, meaning that nothing is going to be done for the next two years.
It’s important to take a break from the description of People’s Economics to consider why this is likely the case, and why the repudiation of Trump will not be complete. The short answer is that while America would like to move ahead in a different direction, it simply has not been properly defined.
After the inaugural, some 3.7 million people took to the streets to protest the new president, or about 1% of the entire population. A dust-up ensued over how many attended the main event the day before, generally estimated at 0.5 million. Popularity is important in an era of perception, so the arguments over this are not going to stop soon.
More important than perception, however, is the immediacy of tactics. No one marching in protest believed anything is going to change immediately, but that was both the main point and beside the point. The marches are for nothing more than to hold on, to stop change, to paralyze. It’s not actually a strategy but a tactic.
We live in a time where actual strategy does not exist and there are only tactics – the raw emotions and gains of the moment. Nothing is actually going to change until that does.
There’s no doubt that the United States is in a period of transition. But from what to what else? Through the last 16 years the economy has been tough on everyone – except the very wealthy. The most recent few years have been a time of terrible social upheaval. Pessimism is understandable.
Yet if we look back through history there is a lot of good reason to believe that everything does move in cycles. Business cycles which seem permanent eventually give way to better opportunity. Social upheaval does usually reach a consensus and progress is made.
Hope comes naturally by taking the Barataria view that cycles are real and that the economy is really nothing more than a social arrangement. Sure, it’s the dismal one with all the numbers and the brutal one that defines rich and poor. But at the heart it is only about turning our personal “values” into a socially convertible “value”. How it changes through generations and lifetimes defines us even as we define what this thing called an “economy” really is.
This essay is a continuation of the previous piece, Spring is Coming! as a cycle on my personal political philosophy and read of history.
Race is the one thing that has bedeviled America from the very beginning. The promise of a truly equitable and free people has always been an intellectual exercise, separated off in the mind of great thinkers like Thomas Jefferson from the obvious but emotionally difficult reality of slavery and separation by race. Equality under the law is somehow separate and not equal to equality in culture and the reality of everyday life.
Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday is as good a day as any to look back and see what progress we’ve made over the last year. It looks pretty bleak all around. Black America is still separate and in far too many ways not equal. Economic and social change has created a vocal backlash of whites, afraid and angry, who lash out at the very idea that progress towards a united and free society is even desirable.
But there is hope – because at least we are starting to talk about the problem.