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View From the Other Lane • Posted: Jul 20, 2020 12:29:26Comments WelcomeVote CoolPhotoblogsPurchase a PrintShare

“I’m OK. Too bad about you.”

Have you ever met someone who thinks to themselves like that? Do you think to yourself like that? That kind of self-protecting/sham other-pitying thought is not rare. It can be culturally reinforced, but it is probably also a deeply ingrained aspect of human nature. It’s a somewhat sophisticated socially private thought, actually only one step away from the even more base “Secure yourself, but don’t draw attention to yourself, least you inadvertently indicate you may have resources other people need.” The more base thought is an urge to survive in a socially hostile environment. The more sophisticated one an urge to survive within a social environment that could turn hostile toward you at any moment, prompted by jealousy or rage, hunger or want. That couple in St. Louis last week brandishing guns to ward off peaceful demonstrators crossing in front of their property acted without social sophistication, and they are now facing a great deal of society’s incensed wrath.

The home pictured above is nice, but not ostentatious. It is, in fact, a second home on a quiet out of the way small lake in western Michigan. I say “second home”, but I could be wrong. The reality is that several owners on that lake have third and fourth homes, not just second homes. And yes, for some, this is their only home. The point is: hardly anyone who lives on that lake faces, on a daily basis, anywhere near the survival issues most of us face. They are isolated from want and have substantial financial cushions to draw upon. They can say to themselves and others, with both conviction and feigned concern, “I’m OK. Too bad about you.”

Now, should the rest of us be jealous? Envious? Perhaps. But, what those people have is, more or less, “the American Dream” many of us strive for, both for ourselves and for our families. Self-reliance within a free market capitalist system is what many conservative leaning Americans believe to be the “righteous path” toward fulfilling the American Dream for everyone. They point to houses like the one above, and to the people inside, as evidence that their belief in self-serving capitalism works. And it does, up to a point. It has produced many tiny isles of success just like the one pictured above. But it has also, undeniably, if you look at the actual facts, left in its wake continents of failure relative in size to the continent of Australia as compared to the isles of Hawaii, not to mention the colossal environmental degradation untethered self-serving capitalism has caused. We could do much better.

Better, you say? How? Well, many potentially useful ideas have been around for quite a while. We could, for instance, strive for democratically determined regulated capitalism, capitalism that encourages innovation and hard work and free markets, but that functions within budgets, laws, and regulations that provide proportionate feedback of resources to the wider society in a manner that lifts all citizens with education, safe housing, sustainable food, opportunity to perform meaningful work, and healthcare, all while protecting the environment upon which everything depends. And yes, rational efforts to control population growth and promote citizen involvement must be part of that system.

Now, is that a call for economic nationalism? No. We do not live within a bubble of protection. We do need to coordinate with our counterparts world-wide on all fronts. China’s system may work better for their citizens right now. But China may soon need to face the fact that more and more of its educated citizenry want their voices heard and their ideas added into the mix creating the future. The same is true of Iran and Egypt, and will eventually be true in India and Africa. Regulated capitalism may not be the answer just now for every country, but it could very well work in a variety of forms eventually in all countries. No one should be left behind to flounder within continents of failure. No individual will be safe within the few isles of success when the isolating dams of inequity, injustice, and desperation finally break.

Cast aside any feigned concern you may entertain. Those out there suffering are part of your family. Get active. Do something to help eliminate all continents of failure. Only then will we really be “OK”.

Saturday, July 15th, 2017