A Deep Social Malaise

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Prayers in Charleston, South Carolina. Photo: http://www.abcnew.go.com

What is it like to be an American in America, land of the free and the brave?

A militarized police, which is meant to protect its citizens, can be confrontational and deadly. We’ve seen too many examples of that these past months, though it’s nothing new to our black – and other ethnic minority – citizens. And now we mourn the death of nine more human beings. It’s too easy to write off the killer’s actions as purely racist. Other social and cultural forces are at play.

“Mass killings are a social, not individual, phenomenon, and must be understood as manifestations of a social malaise: the deepening contradictions of American capitalism, and, above all, the increasing resort to violence on the part of the American government at all levels…A quarter-century of war has polluted American politics, culture and the media with the glorification of military violence, incessant fear mongering, and the promotion of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim sentiment.” (Source: World Socialist Web Site, American militarism and the Charleston killings, June 20, 2015)

We’ve had decades to heal our nation and embrace the humanity of all races. But we haven’t gotten very far along that healing path. Perhaps it’s because our government and our capitalist system have created a culture of violence rather than benevolence. Diplomacy and compromise seem to have blown away with the wind. Peace seems an impossibility. African Americans are disproportionately incarcerated. And we incarcerate too many, destroying lives, families and communities. We teach children to fear and diminish their potential and future as a result. We teach adults to fear, too; many of us are afraid of speaking out against authority and speaking up for our rights and the rights of others. And we take away the hope of leading a life of peace, safety, love and opportunity.

Jon Stewart of the Daily Show put the jokes aside to focus on the tragedy of the shooting. Poignantly, he points out the disproportionate response by the U.S. government of a faraway threat from ISIS, where we spend billions and thousands of American and native lives, and the realities of threats at home, where we do little or nothing to change our fundamental culture.

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Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina. Photo: qz.com

This is wrong. Very, very wrong. What’s it going to take?


Bernie and a Progressive Agenda

“When you take on the billionaire class, it ain’t easy,” Bernie Sanders said at Brookings [before announcing his candidacy for president]. “We would have to put together the strongest grassroots movement in the modern history of this country, where millions of people are saying, ‘You know what? Enough is enough.’ ” From Theo Anderson’s In These Times article titled “Why Bernie Sanders is The Perfect Candidate for this Moment in American Politics”

Bernie Sanders

Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. A man of the people. Photo credit: BernieSanders.com

He’s been called impatient, confrontational, a crackpot, and passionate about progressive issues. With an agenda a majority of Americans believe in, main stream press and political pundits are still saying presidential candidate and democratic socialist Bernie Sanders is unelectable.

And yet, he’s packing venues.

“First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” Attributed to Mahatma Gandhi

TVSet’s final program on June 21 before its summer break will focus on Senator Sanders’ entry into the presidential race. Be sure to tune in to cable Channel 11 (Portland area) at 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.

“Bernie Sanders cannot be ignored—his message speaks too powerfully to the current political moment. And he certainly will not calm down—not when, as he says at every opportunity, 99 percent of all new income is going to the top 1% of Americans, the ‘real’ unemployment rate is 12.7 percent and the United States has the highest rate of child poverty in the developed world.” (Source: InTheseTimes.com)

Senator Sanders’ platform has remained consistent throughout his political career, unusual in the political arena.

“It’s safe to say that Mr. Sanders has never wavered, over the last half century, in his withering critiques of capitalism, poor race relations or the influence of money on democracy.” (Source: The Observer)

Sanders is being credited with pulling Hillary Clinton’s political platform to the left. So what is his focus? At its core: income inequality and a political system corrupted by money. His positions on related issues include:

  • Social Services: Expanding Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and nutrition programs
  • Regulating Wall Street: Break up the big banks, which are too powerful to reform
  • Climate Change: Take a leadership role in reversing climate change and transform the U.S. energy system away from polluting fossil fuels and towards energy efficiency and sustainability
  • Healthcare: A fundamental right for all (he believes in a single payer system)
  • Income Taxes: Higher taxes on the wealthy (When asked why the rich should pay more taxes, he responded “Because they love this country and they want to see future generations do well.”)
  • Unions: Supports rebuilding unions
  • Wages: Supports raising the minimum wage
  • Pay Equity: Supports a federal law mandating equal pay for equal work; equal pay for women
  • Trade: Opposes the Trans Pacific Partnership and similar free trade deals
  • Education: Supports making public college tuition free in the United States
  • Campaign Finance Reform: Advocates a constitutional amendment that would effectively prevent corporations from making political donations. Supports public funding of elections.

Going back to the “then they fight you” part of the Gandhi quote above, a 1972 essay written by Senator Sanders for the Vermont Freeman, and alternative newspaper, has emerged and is being raised as a specter of his unelectability. Intended to attack gender stereotypes at a time when women were fighting for recognition and equality, the text is being used out of context and referenced in media interviews. The essence of the article proposed that there should be equality between sexes; no sex should be dominant or submissive. You can read the text for yourselves in the image below. Then you be the judge.

Bernie Sanders Essay

Essay written by Bernie Sanders 43 years ago for a small alternative newspaper. Media is using it to question Senator Sanders’ integrity. Photo credit: Mother Jones

Charles C.W. Cooke, writer for the conservative National Review, dismissed the essay:

“Nobody honestly believes that Bernie Sanders is a sexual pervert or that he is a misogynist or that he intends to do women any harm. Nobody suspects that he harbors a secret desire to pass intrusive legislation or to cut gang rapists a break. Really, there is only one reason that anyone would make hay of this story, and that is to damage the man politically.”

Are you a believer in Senator Sanders’ platform and his integrity? Would you and your neighbors be better off under his reforms? Or perhaps you feel as Chris Hedges’ does: The corporate state seeks to get us to participate in the political charade of choreographed elections (see link below).

Write to TVSet at talk2tvset@gmail.com, follow us on Twitter (@TVSetPDX) and Like us on Facebook (Tvset Pdx).

Want to know more about Senator Sanders? Check out these links:

Katie Couric’s interview

Wikipedia on Bernie:

Juan Cole on Bernie Sanders:

Juan Cole in Bernie and Israeli support, issues

Project VoteSmart – Bernie Sandes

Well thought out Progressive critique of Bernie Sanders & Elizabeth Warren

And here is Chris Hedges to throw some cold water in your face:


Climate Changes Everything

“… Global capitalism has made the depletion of resources so rapid, convenient, and barrier-free that ‘earth-human systems’ are becoming dangerously unstable in response. When a journalist pressed [Brad] Werner for a clear answer on the ‘Is Earth f**ked’ question, he set the jargon aside and replied, ‘More or less.’ — From Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything

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Photo: Naomi Klein, http://www.commdiginews.com

Most people – and scientists – believe that the climate change we’re experiencing is man-made. (There are the inevitable deniers, of course.) However, it’s going to take more than just believing and changing a few lightbulbs to reduce the erosion of the ice caps and rising ocean levels, or degree increases in average temperatures and extensive drought conditions. It’s going to take massive change in the way we live and respond to the environment. And that’s going to require sacrifice; not what anyone wants to hear let alone politicians want to say anything about.

There is hope. Democracy Now reports that a fossil fuel free world is possible. “Is a 100% renewable energy future possible? According to Stanford professor Mark Jacobson, the answer is yes. Jacobson has developed plans for all 50 states to transform their power infrastructure to rely on wind, water and solar power.”

In Naomi Klein’s most recent book This Changes Everything, she outlines the road we’re heading down with our capitalist system profiting from climate disasters and our politicians helping them along their merry way. It’s not a pretty picture. Tune into TVSet’s June 7 show (Comcast Channel 11 at 6 p.m. in Portland, Oregon) to learn more. It’s the topic of the show this week. A free and legal download of the book can be found on www.archive.com.

The ray of hope exists for counteracting capitalism’s assault on the Earth’s resources, our consumption-hungry lifestyle, and the resulting impact on global climate change. It comes down to this, according to Brad Werner, University of California, San Diego professor of geophysics and complex systems (as noted in the last chapter of This Changes Everything): Environmental direct action, resistance, and a mass uprising of people will provide the likeliest source of friction to slow down the economic machine.

Voices and communities are crying out against fracking. There is a growing movement to divest from fossil fuels. In parts of the world, there is a green energy revolution and 100 percent renewable energy-driven economies are viable (sadly, without the political will demonstrated by Europe, the U.S. lags far behind).

Ms. Klein makes it clear: “Only mass social movements can save us now. If that happens, well, it changes everything.”

Can We the People, force a radical, transformational economic shift in a relatively peaceful, democratic manner, when our leaders have abdicated their responsibilities? This is what Ms. Klein asks.

Disruptive human rights movements have been led by the People and fought by legal and cultural battles. But transformational, disruptive economic change with a necessary redistribution of wealth? That’s another matter altogether with little, if any, precedence.

Ms. Klein surmises that climate change is an opportunity to galvanize and converge all the latent liberation social movements, albeit on a scale previously unimagined. But the lives of our grandchildren and the Earth depends upon our will to become activists, to raise our voices, mend our ways, and to vote with our dollars.

How much land area does it take to support your lifestyle? Take this quiz from Global Footprint Network to find out your Ecological Footprint, discover your biggest areas of resource consumption, and learn what you can do to tread more lightly on the earth.

Let’s be the catalyst!