Highly equal societies have a high level of personal trust, an expectation that community members will look out for each other. With more equal levels of material wealth, there is less frustration, less resentment, less humiliation and more opportunities to feel like an equal member of a community, a sense of included-ness, of belonging. The more equal societies have lower levels of violence and higher reported levels of health and well-being. Their education outcomes are higher and their reported mental health and drug abuse frequencies are lower compared to societies having a high level of income inequality. In addition, highly equal societies have less hierarchical power structures. There is more political input from the general population and more democracy with a small ‘d’.
Martin Luther King Jr. said that we need to speak less of white robed sacred angels and worry more about shoes, socks, shirts and pants for everyday folks right here, in the real world, in which MLK Jr. was a champion for the poor. That we need to speak less of the spiritual gold of a heavenly paradise and resurrection, and worry more about getting money into the pockets and wallets of our poor people so they can spend it buying stuff from each other and supporting each other’s businesses. He was speaking about an America like the one today, where frightened jobless people worry about how to feed, clothe and shelter themselves and their families. He was trying to win the vote for black folks who had been excluded from the political process and prevented from voting.
Today we can vote but we cannot get our representatives to vote for our interests. The political process is in the control of the oligarchs. Today we can vote but we cannot force government to create jobs since politicians are fighting to keep their own jobs by doing the will of the oligarchs. Today we can vote but we cannot get the government to provide education and healthcare for our families because the politicians are too busy providing tax breaks for corporations, their owners, and busy cutting programs for everyday citizens who don’t matter to them, while claiming deceitfully that they are ‘saving ‘ government programs by destroying them. Today we can vote but we cannot force government to stop mass surveillance, to stop militarizing the police force and to stop endless foreign wars. Politicians claim they are protecting Americans but really they are just setting up the perfect crowd control systems here and abroad for their rich campaign contributors. We can vote but we cannot prevent government from being turned against us and used to terrify us into obedience.
Fifty years later after 1964 and the Voting Rights Act, where are we? We live in a divided, highly unequal society, in which the middle class has shrunk to 25%, the Upper class has 90% of the wealth, and the bottom 90% have 10% of the country’s wealth. We have deep pockets of impoverishment, dead zone cities, and we have expanded the number of low paying jobs which replaced the decent paying jobs which used to support middle class families. The numbers of unemployed and no-longer-looking for work number as many as the newly minted underpaid working class. Hence we live in communities with low trust, high levels of tension between underpaids and the remnants of the middle class. Our schools are crumbling, our healthcare system favors care for those who can pay, and rations care for the old and the poor. Our health outcomes have deteriorated since the crash in 2008 as more folks have lived a marginal sustenance maintenance existence. While the children of the upper class spend 50 to 70 thousand dollars a year for college tuition, poor children are forgoing college. For poor children college seems to be a debt trap, if they can get loans,— and useless if they are able to complete it, and then are unable to find jobs after they attend college. We live in a highly unequal society.
The solution to getting a bad deal from oligarchs who refuse to allow social change and from politicians who refuse to listen to the calls from the people for change, is to do what MLK Jr suggested, to boycott their businesses. To refuse to buy their products and to spend your money (if you still have any) on each other, keeping your dollars in the loop with the folks who need your money. In our times, their businesses means their corporations. We need to stop buying stuff from corporations who will not listen to our calls for change.
This economic boycott could be a simple as working for each other in a free exchange if you can do this fairly, or as complex as performing a service which you used to buy from a corporation. The Free Book Store at Occupy was such a service. One could bring a book to donate and take a book to read. You can repair your bike and your friend’s bike and your friend’s friend’s bikes. You can learn to make repairs instead of buying new stuff. You can forgo travel using airlines. These sound like small boycotts but they add up. They hurt your political opponents where they live, at the bank. A boycott is a nonviolent way to vote with your time, energy, and money. (Like when Occupy encouraged folks to move their money from private, Wall Street, gambling banks, to safe Credit Unions. )
People sometimes reject a boycott idea, saying it cannot work. But did you know that between 3 to 5 billion dollars were moved to credit unions in 2011? That scared the willies out of the private banks. That is one of the many reasons why Occupy was seen as such an economic threat to the American oligarchs. Imagine if we all decided to take a month off from buying gasoline and carpooled to show the energy monopoly brothers that they are not even close to being as powerful as the one above. Each one of us feels so small and powerless, yet “we are many and they are few”. All we lack is trust and unity.
The powers we do have are not meant for anything but positive change. Our boycotts temporarily redistribute wealth to those who should have been getting a fair share but who are being prevented from having any wealth by those who insist on having all of our wealth. We do not have to overcome an armed force; we simply have to refuse to go along with business as usual. Our goal is not to collapse the economy, but instead to adjust its operation for enough time to convince the undemocratic oligarchs that it is now time for real change. The boycotts are self-limiting: they last until certain economic and social rights are restored and guaranteed.
Where This Post’s Ideas Come From:
In reading this morning’s (4.6.15)TruthDig front page, I see that Chris Hedges is calling for an economic boycott of the private prison labor-for-sale system and lists the following companies as having exploited prison labor for their own profits:
“Corporations currently exploiting prison labor include Abbott Laboratories, AT&T, AutoZone, Bank of America, Bayer, Berkshire Hathaway, Cargill, Caterpillar, Chevron, the former Chrysler Group, Costco Wholesale, John Deere, Eddie Bauer, Eli Lilly, ExxonMobil, Fruit of the Loom, GEICO, GlaxoSmithKline, Glaxo Wellcome, Hoffmann-La Roche, International Paper, JanSport, Johnson & Johnson, Kmart, Koch Industries, Mary Kay, McDonald’s, Merck, Microsoft, Motorola, Nintendo, Pfizer, Procter & Gamble, Quaker Oats, Sarah Lee, Sears, Shell, Sprint, Starbucks, State Farm Insurance, United Airlines, UPS, Verizon, Victoria’s Secret, Wal-Mart and Wendy’s.—”
So much for some folks who recently painted on a fresh face by raising their minimum wage for new hires! These are some of America’s “most well loved and patriotic” brands. Who knew??
Bernie Sanders has an Op-Ed on how we should not let billionaires force us to continue to descend into a dystopic future of an impoverished underclass ruled by a few extremely rich persons. Unable to link it: here is the address:
Ellen Brown writes at Op-Ed News that we cannot have democracy because of THE BANKS and transnational corporations. Unable to link, address posted below: