Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What Really Matters, pt. I

¡Hola mi Gente!

Today I will be at a conference/ strategy meeting on how to address mass incarceration for most of the day. Have a great day, and when I come back, I want to know about at least one thing new you learned today. LOL!

I wrote the following over five years ago as part of my annual series on the holidays often posted under the heading, “What Really Matters.” In reading this, I see that I have been actively pursuing the #OccupyWallStreet ethos for quite some time.

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The holiest of all holidays are those… Kept by ourselves in silence and apart…
The secret anniversaries of the heart.
-- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The holidays were meant as an opportunity for us to set aside our work and routines – to give ourselves permission to put away, for the moment, our problems, and burdens. They were meant to be a time for joining with others to celebrate life. However, this is not such an easy thing to do. Maybe together we can re-learn from each other how to do it, who knows?

We live in different times from my childhood memories. I don’t think the loss of family is due to some in-born depravity of the current generation. I believe our times are intentionally designed to keep us busy and fearful. Among industrialized nations, Americans work the longest hours, often for the least amount of money. Corporations rule and often pay less in taxes than you and I. Labor organizing, weakened by laws (often written by corporate lobbyists), and propaganda, has resulted in a suppression of wages the like never before seen in this country. In real dollars, you make less today than you did 20 years ago and you work far longer hours. Corporate downsizing, which benefits the few at the expense of the many, keeps you in fear of your job because, in spite of the idiotic books proclaiming a nation of millionaires, you’re more than likely one or two paychecks away for utter homelessness.

So you make trades. You trade in time with your loved ones for longer work hours. Today, we might have several TVs but we just don’t have the time to watch it with our children or with each other. We create the concept of “quality time,” but you and I both know there’s no such thing. Time is time, don’t get all new on me, okay? Even our free time is spent running around like a nut, making meetings, shuttling kids between practices and functions. On vacations, we take our laptops and blackberries, answer emails, make conference calls. I have a bunch of vacation time piled up, but god forbid if I dared ask for three weeks vacation! There would be meetings I would miss and even if I demanded those three weeks and took them, people at my place of employment would shake their heads in shame.

We’re like the hamsters on the Wheel of Life, exerting a lot of energy but never getting anywhere, never having enough time.

But who said we have to have an economy based on such a lifestyle? Why should we fear for our jobs, take away time from our loved ones, worry that we might not have health insurance? Who said it has to be that way? Because, believe me, it doesn’t have to be that way. It isn’t “business,” it’s oppression and we’ve allowed the ten percent who own the 90 percent, dictate to us how we should live.
Most of us do not always see the connections between the personal struggles we may be facing and the changes in the larger economy, such as longer working hours, the necessity of working multiple jobs, and the inability to save money. In fact, we are encouraged to see our problems as purely personal. In today’s version of Corporate Christianity, if you’re poor, it’s because there’s something wrong with you. Furthermore, even when we do manage to see the link between larger economic forces and our daily lives, we don’t believe we can do anything to improve our circumstances. I hear it too often, “It’s the way things are,” “It ain’t personal, it’s business.”


It is personal, and there are alternatives, contrary to what the naysayers might tell you.

The most prosperous period of this nation was during a time where wealth was more evenly distributed. While racism made it harder for people of color, prosperity was more easily accessible and better shared by the majority of people in society than it is today. There is no reason why this should longer be true in the present. During the last 30 years or so, the rules of the economic game have been changed by wealthy individuals and corporations -- and they can be changed by people like us.

They have to be changed, or it will all crumble. They can be changed if only you would stop believing the hype.

What to do? Well, I have long ago learned that the holidays don’t have to be perfect. The days of 704 E. 5th St. -- of extended families living together -- are gone, to be sure, but that doesn’t mean we throw away the baby with the bathwater. Perhaps we all can start by making that effort to turn within and share, not a material gift, but that piece of ourselves that connects us all: a small gesture, a smile, an attempt to reach out. We certainly need to question the wisdom of the economic policies that benefit the few at the expense of the many and that will not be changed by letter-writing and voting alone. We need to start talking to one another, getting the real information, creating dialog and demanding answers for our elected leaders. The media, owned by a handful of corporations, will not ask the questions that need to be asked. Democracy is not capitalism. Nor is it a spectator sport. The most important political office in this particular democracy my friend is you, the citizen. It’s all within our grasp. 

I’m not a Christian, but as I see it one holiday message is that a man -- really an ordinary man, a mere carpenter -- who never even owned his own home, who never wrote a book, or invented anything, a quite poor man, in fact, was able to change the world with a message of love. Now, that’s some shit!

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

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