Thursday, January 7, 2010

OPINION: What Lessons Have We Learned From The ‘Aught’ Decade?

The Pencil Warrior
by Dave Wheelock

January 7, 2010. By now you may be weary of hearing, watching, and reading reviews of 2009 and forecasts for the coming year. A tendency toward overkill is especially tempting this year as our habit of recording history by decade provides an excuse to theorize on the consequences of the Bush Junior era, and prospects for what the Urban Dictionary dubs the “aughties.”
This is a short-sighted discussion, of course, as events in our neighborhoods, country, and world during the first decade of the 2000s have had roots in trends and policies long developing. As an example New Mexico, playground of U.S. Defense Department dollars since the days of World War Two, continues to trail almost all other states in most social indicators.
For those who consider peace, justice, and a sustainable world worth pursuing, 2009 served to lay bare some real world facts that we the people must acknowledge. The contortions against rational action engaged in by the President, Congress, the courts, and instrumentally the media have now confirmed beyond reasonable doubt that power, and not principle, rules. Issues that came to a head in 2009 have finally brought about transparency into government, and to a lesser extent corporate practices. Although it is not an encouraging picture, we must see clearly what we are up against.
In our national health care “debate” an approach with massive popular support, long proven to work elsewhere, was nakedly excluded EVEN FROM DISCUSSION in Congress, for no other plausible reason than because it did not serve the interests of the major players in what is revealingly known as the health care industry. Cowed congressional members told citizens a single-payer system had no chance of passing, then proceeded to prove their claim. In a subsequent scene from this national farce, even the half-baked show offering of a “public option” could not survive industrial scrutiny.
Following the collapse of the shell game on Wall Street, the fix was similarly in - change is damned. Although the final results of the reform effort are not officially in, the president’s appointment or reappointment of several leading architects of the Wall Street Way provide ample indication of how much elite insiders can expect to be inconvenienced.
Since the financial implosion the biggest companies, flexing the civil rights and protections afforded them as “persons” have become fewer yet larger, and even more powerful. Intertwined mega-corporations in the oil, coal, weapons, telecommunications, finance, insurance, industrial agriculture, and “security” businesses are either at the top of their game or about to cash in at astronomical levels.
Wealth levels of those in the upper percentiles have ballooned to unprecedented levels, riding increased levels of “productivity” by the American worker. Meanwhile, the gap continues to widen between those at the top and those who actually produce the society’s real wealth (or used to). For most of us, things are heading the other way in terms of wages, health care, pure food, water, and soil; educational attainment, time away from work, public and domestic tranquility, and on, and on. Workers are afraid to organize, citizens are spied upon, justice is slanted, and corporate spinmeisters have convinced teachers, firefighters, social workers, parents, and the elderly it’s their own fault they have to scratch to get by. Seemingly to add insult to injury, the “affordable” products Americans buy from foreign workers now holding their former jobs are usually poorly designed, defective, or poisonous.
This state of affairs is the logical conclusion of the corporate mission, elegantly simple in its legal description: maximize returns for the shareholder. Built through years of toil and disinformation, the status quo is sustained through a checkmate on our government, now operating as a congressional industry. This has become a global phenomenon, embraced by our allies and challenged only by governments our nation state ridicules or covertly undermines.
The situation in our country in 2010 is not about economic ideology. This is not the victory of individual freedom over the abuses of government. Rather it is the perversion of governmental and legal power through corporate mechanisms designed to serve the purposes of the richest class and those who obediently serve.
Now, as we face challenges demanding a drastic change in course – from the Age of Technology to the Age of Biology; from the rule of wealth to the rule of the public – we have found that change is only permitted to occur incrementally, on corporate terms.
Within this new decade, and the earlier the better, we will have to decide what is important, and what we can do without. Our culture must change. Our biggest heroes cannot remain those who consume the most, but those who give back the most.
Throughout human history it has been power, not ideology that determines the fate of people. Increasingly, power will also now determine the fate of the planet itself. There may still be time, in the decade of the 20-teens, for ordinary citizens to wield what in a democracy is theoretically the greatest power, the will of the people. One thing is certain: it will not be given to us.

Dave Wheelock, a member of the Oneida Nation, is a collegiate sports administrator and rugby coach with a BA in history. Reach him at Mr. Wheelock's views do not necessarily represent those of the Mountain Mail.

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