Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Great Progressive Divide

Listen as the wind blows, from across the great progressive divide....
Sarah McLachlan (with a little tweaking)

It is hard for people and organizations alike to find some common ground; an idea they can work together on--even when those people and organizations have relatively similar perspectives. The "anarchists" scoff at socialists, because the socialists believe in giving the government more economic regulation "control", and the socialists scoff at the "anarchists", because in their view, the "anarchist" model tends to have little to no structure.

But they are both aiming for the same end result, and they have very similar beliefs as to what "social justice" is--social freedom without enforced "morals" (i.e. abortion or gay marriage bans), and a classless system that does not have any unchecked powers or authorities. The end goal of socialism is anarchism! Their means to those ends are just different.

The "Progressive Movement", as I like to call it, is so busy tearing itself apart, arguing over petty differences, that it cannot hold itself together to be strong enough to fight against anything but itself. Conservative Christians from the middle all the way to the far right of the political spectrum come together for the common causes of abolishing abortion, criminalizing gays, making prayer in the classroom mandatory, and forcing creationism into biology classrooms. Meanwhile, we "progressives" spit acid and labels at each other, such as "tree-huggers," "feminazis," and "New-Age hippies", thus not earning our title of "progressive".

Governments that seek more power and the corporations that fund them work together, out of greed, despite petty differences, to gain the highest profits. Why can't we work together, out of altruism, and sort out our petty differences? Is greed really a stronger motivator?

A perfect example of the divide in progressive politics is environmentalism and class.

Once Again: Environmentalism is a Class Issue

The environmentalist movement tends to be composed mainly of middle-class people who do not fully understand the plight and mindset of a blue-collar worker. In fact, there are many environmentalists who are so embarrassed by this, that they do not consider themselves part of the environmentalist movement--instead, they call themselves part of the "environmental justice" movement. This split within the environmental movement is very sad.

When environmentalists demand that people stop logging old-growth tress, but then fail to offer an alternative to the working-class lumberjacks, that is the environmentalist movement. When an organization preserves land in the Amazon rainforest and kicks the native people off that land, that's the environmentalist movement. On the other hand, when environmental lobbyists got together with the steelworkers union to sue the CEO of a steel factory (because of his dessomation of the environment, and because of poor labor conditions), that was the environmental justice movement.

Environmentalists, above everyone else, are supposed to understand how everything and everyone is interconnected to everything and everyone else. Therefore, we cannot dismiss the consequences of "environmental protection" when the consequences fall on human beings, because part of environmental protection is helping those human beings.

Why is Environmentalism a Class Issue?

When you are working two to three full-time jobs to pay for food for your children, the health of the environment is the last thing that's on your mind. Some environmentalists may say that this is selfish behavior, and "can't that working-class person see that we are all connected to the earth, and therefore, environmental health means his/her own health?" The simple, and quite obvious answer, is no. And why should you, when you have been offered no environmentally sustainable alternative to your job as a lumberjack, or buying clothes at Wal-Mart, or buying the cheapest car you can (regardless of how much gas it guzzles)? Can I really expect you to buy organic food and cotton and fair-trade coffe, when I know full well how much that shit costs? Can I expect you to become an activist with me when you barely have time to sleep?

That is another thing that environmentalists, of all people, should understand: the human survival instinct. Regardless of how inefficient or impractical a solution is in the long run, as long as it gets food on your table, you'll take it.

Of course, another problem in this country is that people in general are poorly-educated about various issues and current events, including environmental issues. We've been brainwashed to put our "economy" ahead of the environment, creating a completely false dichotomy. Like everyone else, on top of the above mentioned problems, the lower-classes generally have virtually no education regarding environmental issues.

The other problem is that the lower classes are the first ones affected by our destructive behavior toward the environment. a) Where do nuclear power plants and chemical plants and factories set up shop, where they can dump all their toxic chemicals into the neighbor's lawn? b) Which countries are having the worst environmental records (due to the outsourcing of jobs and environmental regulations)? c) Who wasn't able to escape the worst destruction of hurricane Katrina, and d) why were the hurrican's effects so severe? The answer, in case you didn't figure it out, is a) poor neighborhoods; b) the poorest countries; c) the poor and d) the city was too poor (and so was the infrastructure). Seeing a pattern?

An experiment for vegetarians and organic-product buyers (although I have to figure out the right numbers): Go on a food-and-grocery budget of about $50 (?)/month, and see how long it takes you--not only to stop buying organic food--but to start buying meat. Meat is cheap, and it fills you up. Regardless of your more abstract philosophies, when you're not sure when your next meal is, all your long-term goals and ideals go out the window, and only your short-term goals remain. This is one of the ways that the cycles of social and environmental injustice continue: keep enough of the people desperate enough, and they won't look at, let alone care about, ecological destruction, even if it directly effects them.

However, that is slowly beginning to change. The environmental justice movement sprung out of the early 1990s as an anti-toxics revolution: people from poor areas were fed up with how they were being treated. For more information on environmental justice, please visit the website Environmental Justice Resources on the World Wide Web

1 comment:

  1. I believe that's Stevie Nix with a little tweaking, not Sarah McLachlan, sweetie

    You are a passionate articulate beautiful vampire owl cat and I love you.

    ReplyDelete