Note: This article is cross-posted from Humanitarian Left.I think of myself as being part of the humanitarian left. That's not a formal thing (afaik). I'm not an ideologue, a dedicated Marxist or committed socialist (though I do lean that way). I just come down on the left side of things because that's where one finds compassion, charity, kindness, altruism, etc.- all those things that I perceive to be the best of which we are capable. I define myself as a leftist in opposition to what one finds on the right: selfishness, greed, profits over people, authoritarian meanness, police-state regulation of the powerless and lawlessness for the rich and powerful. It's easy to be selfish and mean, perhaps that's why so many people are. It's much harder, and more laudatory in my view, to be a humanitarian. After all, what does the world need more of? Mean, selfish, greedy assholes? Or humanitarians? I think the answer is obvious.
Like I say, I'm no communist but my sympathies definitely lie with:
The discriminated against
The suffering masses
If that makes me a commie in your book, so be it. What I think I am is a humanitarian.
I realize that my left/right characterization is simplistic and that it's not all that black and white, that the issues are many-layered and complex. That's just a quick and crude summary of my personal view of it. Apologies to compassionate conservatives, should there be any, or well-meaning centrists.
Also, apologies to doctrinaire or academic leftists who might prefer a more orthodox approach to the language of the left. While I want to be informed by history always, science and truth as well, I want to take only what is most useful from old ideologies and be flexible and thoughtful about meeting our unprecedented challenges. I'm the Bruce Lee of armchair philosophers (I suppose only martial artists will get that reference): I believe in taking from here and from there what is of use and discarding the rest. I think we need to be thoughtful, open-minded, eclectic and practical while embracing compassion and cooperation as we seek new ways forward to a new world. Forward is the operative word. It's time for humanity to advance while it still can. I don't think the prescription for our ills has yet been written. We have to do it ourselves. And we have to be massively creative. We need to rethink and re-imagine everything. We need to see with new eyes.
I'm for the nanny state, though I prefer 'the nurturing state.' 'The Nanny State' is of course rightwing propaganda to make helping each other seem bad. If we were preoccupied with helping each other out, we might stop slaughtering each other and quit obsessing over militarism, conquest and thievery.
From the very beginnings of humanity, we survived as a species precisely and only because we are a social species – because we are capable of intelligence, cooperation, compassion and altruism. As relatively vulnerable members of the animal kingdom, those are really our only advantages.
Being as how we are a social species, I believe we have solemn responsibilities to one another. I believe it is our duty to take proper care of each other. Why wouldn't it be? What else is a society good for? While I may not be a pure socialist, since I believe that one can draw from a variety of philosophies and that the complexity of the modern world demands that sort of flexibility, I believe that Medicine, Banking and Energy, at a minimum, should be socialized. Making these important social functions profit centers for capitalist cowboys has been a horrible mistake. Some things don't work as capitalist toys. Some things are too important to be played with. Prisons for example. That we ever evolved for-profit prisons is a measure of how much we as a nation have lost our soul.
I find the current state of the U.S. political system appalling, aggravating, unhelpful and unacceptable. I tend to see it as a big roiling stew of backstabbing opportunists, dueling egos, greedheads and power-whores vying for the spoils in a giant lying contest, all the while sitting on go to sell us all out in a heartbeat. It serves no useful purpose whatsoever, as far as I can tell, other than to keep the people distracted and to protect and advance the short-sighted interests of the greed-deranged one percent while stymieing progressive change. But I'm not one of those who think we need smaller government. I think we need better government. Smarter government. This mind-numbingly dumb government is going to kill us all.
As far as politicians go, I support reformers and only reformers. No one who perpetuates, enables or props up the present con job of a system is worthy of support, in my view. More of the same is no longer a viable option. What we need is change, deep-running, thorough, no bullshit change. And damn the next person who promises it dishonestly.
Our best and brightest began to see, as far back as the 50s or 60s, that our management of the present and plans for the future left much to be desired and required a major tweak or two, that we would not get much further without evolving into a more sustainable way of life. Emergent humanity got a few things wrong with respect to long term planning, as it turns out, and it has long been time for an adjustment, a major shifting of the gears, to a new, more comprehensive understanding of humanity's relationship to the earth, the cosmos and each other.
It's time to rethink the way we do things: poisoning the environment and destroying the soil with our bone-headed approach to agriculture, mindlessly gobbling up precious resources, burning fossil fuels, polluting the environment, laying waste the ecosphere, ignoring the voracious character of our competitive/capitalist/consumerist way of life while stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the existence of environmental limitations or the ravages thus far wreaked.
Sane people who were paying attention have long seen how desperately we need to change if are going to make it as a species. Conservatives have fought any and all efforts to change anything for the better every step of the way. They liked things just as they were. Their greed blinded them and caused a knee-jerk doubling down on the bad bet the status quo portended. They've nearly won the battle for no change at all too. Their victory? The doom of the many, the triumph of the aggressively dumb and catastrophic loss to all.
The saddest part of this history is how the supposed liberals, the politicians anyway, threw in with conservatives to stymie change and prop up the loathsome status quo because there was more money in carrying water for the stupid-rich psychopaths than representing the interests of ordinary people. Not that it happened all at once or out in the open. But happen it did.
We simply can't go on in this manner. Einstein said the same thinking that brought us here won't get us out. Tweaking the current system is an inadequate response to present realities. We need to rethink everything. We need to de-construct/reconstruct the socio-political mechanisms by which we make policy and address issues. The special interests and the Big Money crowd need to butt the fuck out. The Military Industrial Complex needs to be repurposed, actual defense matters put in a box appropriately sized to meet actual threats, while we go about the business of defusing the planet and rescuing the ecosphere.
I wouldn't recommend changing American values one iota. I'd love to see us get back to them – or rather come to them in a genuine way for the first time ever. It's time to re-implement the Bill of Rights. It's time again for equality and liberty, freedom of speech and press, and justice for all.
But fa realz, this time.
And no more rich folk whining about taxes. The wealth of a society should be used to make that society whole and healthy...for all its members.
If you're a rich person, you are one of the luckiest people on the planet, indeed one of the luckiest people in all history, and you have a social obligation to give back. That's what it is to live in a society. That's what it means to be a member of a social species. You don't get to be nurtured and made rich by a society and the opportunities it provides and then ignore it and disavow any responsibility to it once you're a success. No, you did not build that, not alone you didn't, not in a vacuum you didn't. Enough with the myth of the self-made man. Those who succeed do so within the context of a nurturing society that provides the infrastructure, the support, the stability and the tools that make success possible. We all depend on each other. That's the way societies work. The myth of the rugged individualist is just that, a myth. Success should be spread from the top to the bottom. That way all members of the society are nurtured...as it should be. What's the point in even having a society, a civilization, a tribe, a family if it's every-man-for-himself? Dog-eat-dog is no way to run a civilization. We are not savages. Except when we choose to be. But why would we?
Why do we?
We need to embark on a new era of global cooperation. Earthlings, a threatened species, need to have a big group hug. Our survival depends upon it. Our obsession with competition, ruthless murderous competition, is killing the planet and our species. I pray that we are not stupid enough to keep doing this.
Only by unprecedented international cooperation will humanity stand a chance at a reasonable future.
We're going to have to turn this ship around and start doing the right things. We're going to have to stop wasting time and treasure on made-up conflicts and petty squabbles while doing nothing to preserve and protect the rainforests and all the other dwindling natural resources. We're going to have to stop doing nothing about climate change, and start observing all the finite planetary limits we've been pretending don't exist. We're going to have to change our ways, and profoundly so.
We need to remake our institutions so that they are responsive to the people and useful to the species.
We're going to have to stop burning fossil fuels, poisoning the land, sea, air and water. We're going to have to stop squabbling, fighting and playing king-of-the-hill.
We have to overcome our hatreds and fears. We have to stop killing and waging war on each other. These are significant challenges, of course, but they are imperatives. If we don't set out to do these things, they won't get done. The money we mindlessly waste on militarism could rescue our planet and provide healthcare, food, renewable energy and water for all.
We need to start conserving energy, food, medicine and water. We need to reform our distribution systems so that the hungry are fed, the ill tended to and people have all the potable water they need. We need to stop spraying poisons, polluting the environment, causing erosion and wasting precious resources. We need to stop the needless consumption of meaningless goods, cheap plastic crap and mindless propaganda and start living as if it truly matters. We need to find ways to live meaningfully, intelligently and mindfully.
We must take all possible steps to alleviate human suffering to the fullest extent possible and preserve a healthy and viable ecosphere for future generations. Our failure to do this is a failure indeed.
We must quit repeating past mistakes and stop doing all the stupid things that only promise doom. We need to make a good faith effort to live up to the moniker with which we've so humbly crowned ourselves: homo sapiens sapiens - wise or knowing man.
It's time for our species to grow up.
If we are truly as wise as I hope we are, as I suspect we may be, as I pray we are - we are going to finally make world peace and save the species.
May it come to pass.
P.S. My son, the bodhisattva, made me a website for father's day. It's a modest little thing, but pretty cool for a one-man effort. With a little love it could grow into something truly worthwhile. That's what we're hoping for. We'd love it if you'd drop by for a visit. We need beta testers, writers and community support. It's called Humanitarian Left.