Monday, August 03, 2020

Oh My

This quote is from a Baffler newsletter earlier this week -
An eviction crisis is looming. It’s not a question of if, but rather when and how bad. A map created by CNBC, circulated widely on social media earlier this week, depicted the scale of the coming catastrophe on a state-by-state basis. Failing radical action by the government, 40 percent of all renter households are at risk of eviction; in states like Florida and Mississippi, that figure is more than 50 percent.
Lots of challenges ahead but one of the most daunting will be to avoid enabling corrupt authoritarian rulers who obtain and retain power by dividing, demonizing and "othering" of innocent people.  

Yogi Berra said, "It's tough to make predictions especially about the future." When we factor in the variability of human behavior as individuals or as members of a mass movement it becomes a guessing game - informed by history but still unknowable in advance.

Ignoring Yogi, one possible outcome is civil unrest due to poverty and racism that is then exploited and encouraged - to provide proto-fascists an opportunity to complete the formation of an oppressive police state and the solidification of an economic-class based society sold to the people as a society of hard working white Christian patriots vs. the "others" who want to destroy America.

Paradoxically and tragically - the true believers who love some idea of America will destroy America in order to save America. 

Or listening to Yogi - maybe not. If citizens vote, get involved, become informed and practice non-violent protests good things could happen.


People everywhere are running out of - money, food and soon to lose their homes. The right-wing social Darwinist contingent that's fought the social safety net of the New Deal for the last 80 years is alive and well. So it's also possible (inevitable?) that we will see an expansion of the shanty towns where people live in cardboard boxes next to high rise mega skyscrapers filled with mega-expensive condos.

If we'd been paying attention to the degradation of human rights (housing, medical care, mental health facilities, quality education, free and fair elections, racial and sexual equality) over the last four decades we'd be in a much better place to deal with what's around the corner. 

The U.N. definition of Human Rights were originated by Eleanor Roosevelt (Franklin's wife) and have been opposed in the United States by right wing billionaire funded think tanks, media conglomerations and massive amounts of propaganda for 80 some odd years. 

You can observe the success of this shaping of public opinion by considering the "heroic" images of depression era migrants and poor people from the 30's and 40's vs. the demonization of migrants, the homeless and poor people in right-wing media today.


The battle between greed and compassion isn't a new fight in America or in the history of world civilizations. Rather than admitting American exceptionalism in all matters was a myth some persisted with the "we're number one" idiotic fantasy and instead of working to fix the problems denied they existed. 

When Philip Alston wrote his paper on the dismal state of human rights in the USA several years ago, rather than debating the issue and considering means of alleviation the right wing ideologues took their ball and went home by removing the USA from the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. 

Some form of toxic masculinity or maybe we could call it "I'm not going to stop and ask for directions" type of masculinity pervades society. The wrong-headedness of a group of men can be astounding but maybe not surprising to anyone familiar with the the go along to get along, good old boy culture of many male dominated activities and the fact that many "men" are really frightened little boys inside who refuse to grow up.

“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.” —Eleanor Roosevelt, American Delegate to the United Nations

Combining the already dismal state of human rights in our country with the massive shock of the global pandemic sounds...not good.

The challenge seems to be how do people form thriving, compassionate, free societies absent government or maybe in spite of government. I'm assuming (hoping) that there are many experiments in utopian-like communities, smaller communities, self-sustaining communities...any kind of real (as opposed to unreal virtual) communities. The Christian Anarchists like Dorothy Day, Peter Maurin, and Jacques Ellul have some practical ideas about building communities of support absent government intervention. There will be plenty of space for exercising human kindness.


On a personal note - My gram loved FDR and I loved her so I'm not an objective observer. She grew up in a dry hard scrabble beautiful part of Montana, worked in a defense plant in Wisconsin, lost her husband (my grandfather) in a motorcycle accident before I was born, got her teaching degree and spent her life teaching and helping students learn. Her specialty was remedial reading. I will never forget one day when I was maybe six or so and Gram was teaching older kids in our 1-8 grade school. She thought one of the older kids looked hungry so she brought him to the lunchroom and made him a jam sandwich. It makes me tear up..I'm very proud that my daughter follows in her footsteps by teaching in a public school with students that come from poor families. 

You're my heroes.