Friday, September 23, 2016

Think Causes Not Just Symptons 2

Greetings again.  Even though I try to remain at least somewhat optimistic, it is certainly a real chore to go through the news these days.  Yes, sometimes I feel as though I'm viewing a train wreck; stunned, but still unable to look away.

In a previous post (link below), I outlined some thoughts about the underlying causes of some of the problem we face.  Isn't it common sense to look for underlying causes and think of ways to address those, rather than continually just treating symptoms?  We very much need to do this, and to do really do some critical thinking if we are to work toward any real solutions.  So here are some thoughts:

One underlying cause is definitely greed and corporatism.  I feel that is so evident in two major stories currently in the news.  One is the scandal over Mylan tremendously hiking the price of its Epi-pen.  They are showing no regard for the people, yes people, this will impact financially and health-wise.  Another instance is of the reaction to the resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).  Despite concerns over environmental issues and concerns over the total lack of respect given to Native American sacred sites, cultural heritage and sovereignty, peaceful protesters are still given a very rough time.  I visited the site of the ND county (to find out where to e-mail a note of criticism) and was stunned to see all over their home page, link after link of negative stories about the protesters.  One has to wonder who these county officials are looking out for: is it really the people and the environs, or is it the corporate interests behind this nefarious project?  These are just two examples, and there would not be enough time to list all one could find.  It should be clear to everyone that the influence of big money in so many areas is keeping most of us from having the influence WE should be having!

Another underlying cause is depersonalization.  One example that comes first to my mind is those awful automated phone systems.  Sometimes, for something quick, they may not be too bad.  But I find that systems where you're continually asked to speak to the machine, question after question, strike me as demeaning.  The excuse always is, well, we have so many customers or callers. FINE, PEOPLE NEED WORK, HIRE MORE CUSTOMER SERVICE WORKERS! Then I've seen some commercials: there was one for a car rental service, I believe where the actor went past reps to his car, going on about an app so you wouldn't even have to talk to a human if you don't want to... and there is a new one, something about if you don't want to keep interacting with people in your car... What is this?  Is this a subtle, or not so subtle message that human contact should be avoided if possible?  How can we come together (which we so need to do) and solve problems if we keep avoiding each other?

Another underlying cause, sadly, is institutional racism.  My heart just broke when I read about and saw the video of Terence Crutcher (an unarmed African-American man  killed by police in Tulsa, OK on 9/16). In the video (extremely hard to watch) it appeared they just - executed him; the officer has been charged with first-degree manslaughter.  This very thoughtful piece highlights again the problem of how African Americans (males, in particular) are treated by police (if the link will work for you, I recommend you read an article the author links to which details a case in W VA. - I found it quite saddening and troubling).    Of course, over-militarization of policing is an important topic in itself.  Here's an article from Chris Hedges which is worth at least pondering.   It's not just policing, of course, that's symptomatic of institutional racism. Here's another example. A few months ago, there was  C-Span program from a Black Writers' Conference.  This particular panel talked about the writers' experience with graduate writing programs.  They described insensitivity in classroom situations and barriers to obtaining teaching positions.  What century is this?  At a time when we need the positive offerings of every person who has something to bring to the table, why succumb to stereotyping?   Of course, I cannot deny that we have made progress as a society and there are positive signs of unity sometimes.  However, all one has to do is look at some of the hate-filled political rhetoric that has abounded this election cycle, or look at some very rude and sometimes blatantly racist comments left on message boards at news sites to know we still have a ways yet to go.

And that leads to another root cause, so dangerous right now, and that is the trend toward authoritarianism.  You can see it in overly-militaristic policing, in the overly-intrusive surveillance state, and in the fact that a certain candidate has any support at all.  Robert Reich has talked of two faces of populism, one is reform, or progressive; the other is authoritarian.  "Reform populism aims to strengthen democracy. Authoritarian populism aims to strengthen strongmen who claim to be able to change the system sheerly by dint of their personal power while scapegoating minorities."                     Read the interview!

A nice overview of these two faces was also posted by Sandra Hinson.

In an online essay, Dr. Henry Giroux cites Hannah Arendt,  a noted scholar of totalitarianism:  Arendt was keenly aware that the culture of traditionalism, an ever present culture of fear, the corporatization of civil society, the capture of state power by corporations, the destruction of public goods, the corporate control of the media, the rise of a survival-of-the-fittest ethos, the dismantling of civil and political rights, the ongoing militarization of society, the “religionization of politics...”

The essay is quite excellent.  Here's another short excerpt:  "What is so striking about the legacy of totalitarianism is that it creates a formative culture in which emotion replaces reason, passion is connected to warlike values, the ends justify the means, ideology is fashioned in a discourse of certainty, terror and fear modulate everyday life eliminating the distinction between civilians and combatants, public spaces are commercialized or militarized."    The essay is well worth reading!

At this point it might seem as though solving our problems is - well, nearly impossible.  It need not be, as this very recent article on points out.  In the article, the discussion revolves around the issue of addressing climate change vs. workers' jobs. Negotiating this thicket will not be easy, but as is pointed out in the article, it is achievable if we have the political will.  The Intercept also has a recent article about some very basic and common sense policies that can cut down on killings of civilians by police (that is, if the site is working any where near properly - and I've been having trouble with it).

You know, a lot of things seem to be complicated, but there are really simple, common sense approached to dealing with them.  Take The Golden Rule.  That is pretty simple - and very much a common sense idea.  Just following that would definitely put us traveling in a more positive direction.

If you enjoyed this or any post here, please comment and/or share.  Thanks!

Related Post:  Think Causes Not Just Symptoms

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