The Ideology Trap

The powers that be are always and of necessity conservative.  They do not want change that might undermine their power. They have this pile of gold, and they are playing “King Of The Hill.” They’re suspicious of everyone.  They’re afraid we might find a way to take it away from them.

This type of mindset becomes a mental style, an overriding tendency to say “No.” So “no” is the default.  In the default world. It is preferable to keep people uninformed and uneducated.  Critical thinking, clear information would surely provoke objection to the hoarding of our nation’s wealth, to the directing of our nation’s domestic and foreign policies by those whose bottom line is profit, whose profit motives override all yother considerations, including the provision of quality goods and services. It’s been “let the buyer beware” for quite a long while now. But I remember a time when honesty was enforced legally, when quality was regulated and when monopolistic greed was against the law.

Our government has been co-opted. Our politicians are utterly dependant on large donors to fund their election campaigns. Much of the direct correspondence between donations and voting is public record. How many people ever wonder who or what their representatives are funded by?

The last thing the wealthy and their paid staff of elected officials want is an informed electorate. What they really and truly want is for us to be non-critical workers and consumers and easily led.

Above all, incapable of united action against them. They love to watch us fight with each other.

They fear that we will talk to each other, rather than “at” each other. Most of what goes on is competing monologues and as long as we are in opposition to each other, we can’t hurt their monopoly on money and power.  We never really hear each other’s stories. We label and we stop listening. Fragmented. Powerless.

But they went too far. The cat is out of the bag. The BP oil spill, the health care debate, the mid-term election and now the tax cuts for the rich. We all recognize there is a big problem here. We all feel violated. We all feel disenfranchised. Our votes get us nothing.  They are not legal tender.

The rich, represented by corporate lobbyists, industry PACs, and other interest groups, buy votes on both sides of the aisle, although it’s clear they have been more successful on the Republican side of the aisle. The Democrats still make some attempt to represent the not-rich populace, workers, children of workers, parents and grandparents of workers, the poor, the disabled, the non-rich mentally-ill or otherwise disadvantaged.  Immigrants,  especially if they are undocumented. Single mothers, gays, and of course old people.

We Americans disagree about lots of things. This is not our problem. It is just our human nature. That is why we vote. Consensus is a luxury we do not have. Representative government is a wonderful way to manage our grand diversity. What doesn’t work for us at all is the need to be right about our opinions. They are just opinions, after all.

But instead of enjoying our diversity, we tend to be righteous about our own opinions and we judge those who don’t agree with us as being “wrong.” Pretty quickly, we stop listening to those “wrong” people.

And that’s the Ideology Trap. Inside of our ideological positions,  we don’t have dialogues.  We have competing monologues.

But right now we have an issue that does not fit in the system of competing ideologies. We all have the same problem. We have it in common. With the exception of those who currently have control of the wealth.

For the rest of us, the other 98%, we have no money so we have no power.

This is not how it is supposed to be. We are supposed to have a voice. Our needs are supposed to matter. When politics became a rich man’s game, our days of having any say were numbered. 

So, we have come to an opening in the forest, a place where we can stand together. Now that we see it, we can talk to each other again. We have found common ground.

The question is, will we have the guts to stand up for ourselves and for each other? I want to believe we will.

From Issue To Movement

When an issue matures and becomes a movement, a multitude of leaders emerge from many sectors as constituencies converge to focus the rising energy on the issue. Suddenly what may have been a concern of a select group of informed and long-committed individuals becomes a popular groundswell.

New voices are heard and new ideas abound. It can be a raucous time. And what may have been an established program can be thrown into turmoil. Newcomers to the issue bring fresh insights and enthusiasm but may lack knowledge of the history and grasp of the complexities involved. They will likely be impatient with the old guard, whose caution and guidance can occur as putting on the brakes and slowing things down.

A measure of wisdom and tolerance is needed on all sides to guide progress and minimize conflict and misunderstanding. 

The old guard need to focus on disseminating information and mentoring newcomers. Leadership at this stage of expansion is primarily a supportive and inclusive effort. As time passes, a new cadre of informed leaders will begin to emerge, and established leaders from incoming groups and constituencies will form a new coalition.

If care has been taken to welcome newcomers and meet their needs for information and supportive guidance, the old guard will emerge stronger in the new and expanded movement.

Eventually a new visionary leader may emerge to lead the coalition forward. Leaders from early stages may need to yield some or their earlier authority as position and roles in the movement are redefined.

When an issue grows into a movement it ought to be cause for celebration.  Keeping the focus on shared values and goals can minimize the personal stresses as relationships evolve and roles shift.

I believe the issue of campaign finance and election reform is becoming a movement.  People from all parties and no party are pushing this issue to the forefront. Creating an effective and cohesive coalition must be the primary focus as diverse groups and individuals coalesce to become a viable political force.

I believe this issue can unite all citizens. Further, I believe that only a united citizenry can mobilize a movement capable of significant change. The powers that be would prefer we remain divided and fighting among ourselves.  Divided and contentious we are easily governed by those who currently hold power.  United we are a force that must be reckoned with. Together we can do anything.

The Non-Partisan League of Spokane provides a needed gathering place for all of us to meet and find common ground.

Roseanne Lasater is” stillwalkn”

On Several Fronts

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Besides the No New Jail project, I’m on the Spring Peace/Economic Justice Conference planning committee for PJaLS, and the Jan. 21st planning committee for Wash Clean.

I do still strongly want to push change in the corrections industry. This proposed new jail construction just makes me speak out in defense of more effective approaches to criminal behavior. Building any more jails seems like a huge defeat.

The conference will focus on the Cost of War. Making connections to all the financial hardships americans are facing.

And the midterm election upset people enough to bring attention to the need for election reform.

So much to do.

The Corporate Coup Of America

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When Obama was elected and the Democrats had control of both houses of Congress, we expected sweeping changes, including the restoration of America’s commitment to human rights, dramatic changes in environmental and energy policy, an end to the Iraq war, and a strong infusion of support for healthcare, education and human services. Not much of it happened.

The absence of significant change was staggering. What could possibly explain it? What was wrong with the Party of the People? Why wasn’t the President leading us forward? And where was our brighter future? We waited.

Wall Street was bailed out. General Motors was bailed out. There was a stimulus bill. Few of us felt its impact. It all seemed like one stopgap measure after another. At best two steps forward and one step back. Not bold, not change, not even hopeful.

And then the Oil Spill made it oh so clear. BP had been exempted from established safety measures. Huh? More probing revealed that in reality our government regulators essentially work for the big companies they are supposed to hold accountable for environmental and human safety. Former oil company employees make the decisions on permits and waivers and the special favors that lead to the sort of disaster we now have in the Gulf.

The final insult was learning that when the regulations are written, when the legislation is created, it is created by the oil companies for the oil companies. How helpful of them. Their faithful representatives in government service are later rewarded with lucrative oil company jobs.

In essence, we learned that there is no regulatory oversight, investigations aren’t even done. Who would do them? The oil companies themselves, of course. So much for government by the people, for the people. What we have is government by the corporations for the corporations. The United States of America has become “The United Corporations of America.”

Many of us remember a time when our government had clout. When regulators sparked fear in the hearts of corporate manipulators and retired on their government pensions, not their stock options.

As someone who has lived through the steady decline of our government institutions, I think this process began during the Reagan administration.

Reagan pursued the dismantling of the Federal Government with vigor and celebratory glee, and the unraveling has continued, sometimes quicker, sometimes slower, but steadily until it is finally impossible to miss the damage that has been done. 

Our government is corrupt. We look to our elected representatives for bold and decisive correction. Most of them look the other way, mumble some platitudes about the realities of how things work in Washington, and do little or nothing to change the status quo.

Nearly all of our elected representatives, on both sides of the aisle rely on corporate and special interest money to fund their campaigns. They tread lightly where their donor’s interests are concerned. Those few who speak out are national heroes. They are few, and no amount of fury on their part is going to turn the tide that is sweeping American democracy away, in service of a bottom line that makes a very few richer at the expense of all the rest.

What can “we the people” do to turn this tide and take our country back? We have to liberate our elected officials from their corporate campaign donors. We need Congress to pass the Disclose Act, and the Fair Elections Now Act. I don’t feel hopeful they will.

Why would people with established corporate funding histories vote for clean elections? Well, they wouldn’t. But if we push for voter-owned elections at the state level, we can send our “clean-election” representatives to Washington, where they will push for clean elections at the national level, because they can.

If you want your country back, join the Clean Election movement in your state or municipality. Go online to http://www.publiccampaign.org and learn about publicly-financed campaigns. You can also find out about and connect with your local clean elections organization. Washington Public Campaigns at http://www.washclean.org and The Non-Partisan League of Spokane are two local organizations committed to election reform.

This is not a partisan issue. Right now none of our votes count. The powers that be like to keep us divided, but we are united in this: we want our government back.