Sunday, July 17, 2011
Despair and Hope
Listening to NPR's Morning Edition Sunday I first felt despair and then hope for the state of the world today. I'm feeling a lot of despair lately as I listen about all the politics going on over the national debt and budget. It all makes me so angry, I don't want to even think about it.
I started to feel down just listening about the politicians themselves. That's always bad enough.
But then there was a "man on the street" section from some place in Pennsylvania. The part that made me want to almost cry was listening to a woman who was described as starting a new career as a nurse. She said she was a Republican She thought there should be no tax increases for wealthy people because "why should they be punished after getting an education, working hard and then earning more money as a result of their hard work?" She said we should stop all foreign aid because we don't need to send our money away when we have so many problems here of our own. She thought that unemployed people needed to get off their duffs and stop collecting unemployment and go out and just get jobs. About the only thing she didn't mention was the defense budget.
There was absolutely nothing unusual, creative or even interesting about what this woman had to say. I was so depressed, though, thinking again about how these views are held by so many US citizens and how I don't see any evidence that US citizens are learning to think in a more sophisticated manner over time. In fact I think things are getting worse.
It was all so glib and just so ignorant of so many facts. Foreign aid, for example. It's a minuscule part of the US budget. We could zero it out and it would make no difference whatsoever. Ironically, soon after this story, there was another story all about the drought and famine in the horn of Africa, in Somalia and Kenya. Human suffering on a massive scale. I guess that we Americans don't care at all about that kind of thing. And of course, probably a fundamental reason this is all happening has a lot to do with global climate change .... something else we Americans don't care about either.
Then there is the bit about the wealthy in America. Did anybody hear the story about how Rupert Murdock's corporation has a source of revenue from the US taxpayers? How we have been paying that organization an obscene amount of money year after year because of how the tax code works and because of all the loopholes the corporation can take advantage of? What about the difference between the tax rate on the books and the actual amount of taxes that corporations and wealthy people actually pay? I could go on and on.
And the jobless sitting around just sponging off the rest of us on unemployment? Again, ironically, in the same story there was a second man on the street who was a long term unemployed factory worker. Does anybody pay attention to the fact that the candidate Mr. Romney got his wealth by buying up and restructuring companies and in the process putting huge numbers of American workers of all kinds out of work? What about the fact that the actual historical data do not support the theory of trickle down economics? It's been disproved over and over again, and yet it seems to have nearly Biblical importance because President Reagan believed it. But I don't see any evidence that Republicans have any other ideas to offer us.
All of these beliefs and attitudes , aka the mainstream culture in the US, can make me feel despair. What can I do to help to change peoples' minds? The issue is just too big.
But I kept listening and ended the morning with a glimmer of hope because of this story:
It's a story about a group of young people homesteading, creating a kind of hobbit village, and making their living by doing really high tech animation. This a a quotation that makes me feel good:
"We could certainly be maximizing our potential to make money right now but that would hinder and slow down the development of this neighborhood that we're building and world take us on the road to possibly and empty existence."
Because there are young people, especially young people who are cultural leaders like these, who really think this way and who walk the talk, I begin to think that maybe we do have some hope after all.
And then there is this news story:
Young tech millionaires keeping 1 bedroom lifestyle which is about how many very famous young millionaires are not leading lives full of consumption. They want to make the world a better place with their money. Several said they have a goal to give away all their money within their own lifetime.
Maybe there is hope in the world.