Anthropology fascinates me. The workings of the human mind, how our thoughts and actions are influenced by social factors, what we learn to cope with and what we learn to fight -- it's all learned, and that means that if we're paying attention, we have the power to choose.
I've been following Robert Reich and George Lakoff, both professors at UC Berkeley. Reich was Secretary of Labor in the Bill Clinton administration, and now teaches public policy. Lakoff taught cognitive science & linguistics, and is now the director of the Center for the Neural Mind & Society. These two gentlemen encompass a broad and deep wealth of wisdom about where our society is and what we can do about it.
One major mistake we've all been making is repeating stories about how horrified we are about the incoming president's comments, cabinet choices, and plans for our country. We follow everything he says, which is important so we know what we're up against, but more than taking tangible action, we express our disgust, frustration, and feeling of powerlessness.
It's important that we process our emotions. I wonder if we can do that without talking about the man who seems to be the cause of our pain. It's not all on him -- there are strong forces of white supremism, racism, entitlement of the wealthy, nationalism, selfishness and greed at work in our country. Political correctness, once a positive force for managing these negative forces, has been attacked and weakened.
I'm reminded of the complicated physical battle in Syria. We started out fighting ISIS, but then we were also fighting Assad. Then we couldn't tell which rebels were fighting Assad with us, and which rebels were with ISIS. Russia openly supporting Assad's regime made relations with them more tense. We hardly know where to step, only that we don't want to step on innocent victims, yet that seems to be all we manage to accomplish.
We were starting a movement against income inequality, in our less physical but equally complicated battle here in the states. Then we found we were fighting a large force that thinks America should belong to the white man. Some of that force is wealthy, but a lot of it is the poor people we thought we were going to help by fighting for income equality. So now two wars are underway, and we're not sure exactly which people are enemies and which are victims. We'd like to put the whole mess on the president-elect's shoulders, but just like bombing Syria, that doesn't accomplish anything.
Worse, it feeds the narcissim that will soon be in charge of our government. The more we talk about him and his outrageous comments, the more we reward his unhealthy ego. Rather than bombing his lack of character, we need to focus on the positive actions we can take, and minimize the one enemy of both our fights, while watching his actions to keep our defenses up.
How do we do that? We network. We work on strengthening the democratic party, our most powerful weapon in both these battles. We train up new leaders with wisdom and self discipline. We exercise all the powers of our state and local governments and minimize federal influence. We starve the monster and feed the victims.
I'm still registered republican, but you can bet I'll be reading Reich and Lakoff, meeting with local liberals to protect the rights of the poor and marginalized, and speaking up, a lot, about all the issues, never mentioning the man we want to blame.
Make America Kittens Again
JK Rowling on Twitter
Remember that old Monty Python routine? (http://www.montypython.net/scripts/4york.php). "You had a crust of bread? Luxury! We only had rocks to suck on" (or something along those lines).
We just spend a week at my parents' home in Walnut Creek, and every moment was luxury. I know they're a lot better off now than when I was a kid, but a few things haven't changed. Most notably, my mom is still the most generous person I know, and she's always looking out for the comfort and well-being of everyone in her home. She keeps an incredibly comfortable guest room, maintains a spotless house, constantly prepares food, and dreams up ways to provide extra luxury. She took me out for my first-ever mani/pedi, and out to have my hair done -- not even cut, just washed and styled. Who does that? Mom and Dad both worked hard all their lives and I'm so glad they have a comfortable retirement -- they deserve it.
Back home now, I'm realizing that even without a lot of money, I have a pretty luxurious life. It's warm. We always have plenty to eat with extra to share. We have all the labor-saving appliances, internet, cell phones, and a reliable car. We even have some equity in our house, a nice little safety net for the future.
It was 20 degrees outside last night, and more than 1,000 people in Portland slept outside. We're working to provide more affordable housing, more emergency shelters, more free food and clothes. But that work is all only a bandaid. People in our cities won't stop dying from exposure until we reverse the financial policies that are allowing the rich to get richer while dramatically increasing the number of people living below the poverty line.
The Walton family (owners of Walmart) is the richest family in America. One of their practices that helps them acquire so much wealth is to hire at or near minimum wage and to limit hours to 30 or less, so they don't have to pay for benefits. As a result, their employees need government assistance to survive, most often food stamps (SNAP). Walmart employees receive $6.2 BILLION in food assistance, medicaid, and subsidized housing. MORE THAN SIX BILLION DOLLARS a year!
Walmart profited $3.3 billion in 2015, almost half of what they cost taxpayers. We'd be better off handing them at check for $3 billion a year in trade for them going out of business! They do provide jobs, so people who are poor but want to work can do so, but the cost of those jobs is staggering.
One solution to this form of public parasite is to legislate mandatory reimbursement of public expense from companies profiting more than a specified percentage of their value. Another, of course, is to boycott these companies. Better yet, write to them and expain why you will only patronize their stores when you see a significant increase in social responsibility.
Big business isn't just turning a blind eye ala Atlas Shrugged. Big business is creating the poverty with unethical employment practices.
Just for the record, Walmart is now working to donate excess food and reduce commercial waste in response to an $82 million fine for dumping hazardous waste. The largest retailer in the world seems to only act responsibly when they get hit in the pocketbook.
Want to see both sides of the luxury coin? Look at the Walton family and any one typical employee's family.
Susie Snortum is passionate about improving society's compassion for meeting basic human needs -- food, shelter, clean water, and dignity.