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Americans demonize socialism because they have been thoroughly indoctrinated to believe in the myth of the rugged individual-- the idea that one person can be fully self-sufficient and make it through this world entirely on his own.  At first glance, this belief may not seem as unscientific as some that have appeared in religious systems around the world (like the notion that the world is flat, or that it was created in seven days without evolution, etc.) but if you look at it from a biological or social perspective, the myth of the rugged individual is actually quite absurd.

Who among us emerged from the womb as a fully self-sufficient individual?  The answer is obvious: no-one.  Americans are quick to forget that at different points in our lives, we as human beings depend totally on others and our community for just about everything.  The biological reality of our species is this: unlike many other kinds of life on this planet, human beings do not enter the world ready to face its challenges alone.  Infants and children MUST BE fed, clothed, bathed, sheltered and protected, either by biological parents or others who have chosen to fulfill that role.  Another simple biological reality of being human is: if we live long enough, we are almost certain to revisit those initial states of helplessness (through age, illness, financial or other disaster, or during the dying process.)

The wisdom behind socialism is the ability to see that none of us can truly "go it alone," no man is an island unto himself, and nothing unconnected ever occurs; and that given this undeniable state of affairs, humans SHOULD stand together in caring for, protecting and providing for each other in our various times of need. Under this type of social contract, those who are currently able to work (produce goods and services) provide these for those who are currently not able to work, with the understanding that if/when they become old, sick or otherwise disabled themselves, others will be there to care for them. When a government organizes and institutionalizes this type of social contract, the social contract becomes a "social safety net."

Note the word, "safety."
This is what has been removed, in large part, from current American life.

Safety is knowing you are protected by bankruptcy laws that can have your debts discharged if you cannot repay them.
Fear is knowing you are on the hook for your student loans, FOREVER, no matter how destitute you become.

Safety is knowing that should you become ill, you will receive the appropriate medical treatment.
Fear is knowing your insurance company may capriciously deny you coverage in your hour of need and cite some technicality in the fine print of your policy, or that you cannot get insurance-- and thus appropriate healthcare-- at all.

Safety is knowing you will be able to continue to live in your home for the foreseeable future.
Fear is knowing your bank may unjustly foreclose on you for fraudulent reasons, or sell you a mortgage with predatory terms that result in foreclosure, and that if this occurs you will have no recourse except to be homeless.

Safety is knowing you can take sick leave from work without losing your job, that you will be compensated for all hours worked and not forced to work off the clock, that your employer cannot sexually harass you or physically abuse you.
Fear is knowing that your employer can do WHATEVER he or she wants to you, and you won't have much choice but to put up with it, because if you lose your job, you may not be able to get another one.

Socialism isn't a bunch of evil communists trying to turn everyone into Soviet comrades or lazy welfare kings and queens or peaced-out hippies.  It doesn't necessarily have to have those  ideas attached to it.  At its core, socialism is a SOLUTION.  It is what happens when people are sick and tired of living in fear, and organize themselves in a manner so as to address these fears that we all have in common, in order to minimize or conquer them.  It is recognizing the strength in facing life's challenges together as a group, instead of alone as frightened individuals.

Americans once upon a time understood why social safety nets were NECESSARY and GOOD. It's frankly amazing (at last to me) that our culture has moved so far from one of safety and security to one of anxiety and unpredictability. There is no good reason, ideological or otherwise, for our lives to be so unbalanced towards the extreme of fear.  The reality is that the idea of the "rugged individual" is an absurd myth, it does not represent an accurate view of human life and should not be the basis for our political decisions.  The Occupy Wall Street movement has tuned in to a deep desire on the part of people of all political ideals to live in freedom from fears associated with having to face so many of life's challenges "on their own." Thus, to equate the Occupy movement to the "left's version of the Tea Party," is a faulty description, as the desire to live in freedom from these fears is universal, and not an invention of the left or the right.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Neoliberal capitalism (8+ / 0-)

    has brought us to the brink. We must find a new way to do things.

    •  And/or... (0+ / 0-)

      ...revive some of the older strategies that were working (like social safety nets) and retool them for the current era, taking advantage of technology to make them work more efficiently and more effectively than before.

      •  Another good example might be victory gardens (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TDreamer

        We've made some advances with green roof design and urban gardening.  Certainly growing a portion of one's own food is not a new idea, but there may now be more and better ways to promote this practice.

  •  wonderful diary (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Saint Jimmy, Bright, judyms9, nicolemm

    my political philosophy has become to extol and support a society with that safety net; one in which all will be able to have nutrition, a place to live, medical and dental care, and a good education, as a base, at the society's cost as  needed, and provided as their due and with dignity;

    people will be then able to live in peace with their neighbors and community; right now, in some places in the usa, it's every one for him/herself, as it is in pre-enlightenment states/fiefdoms everywhere, all over the globe;

    i'm a lawyer, many of my clients are children and for that i get paid at a decent hourly rate by the state, one which is at least 50% lower than private rates charged; i love the work and would do it for free if i could afford it;

    most people are like me, if they were lucky enough to have had good parents;

    i don't need the capitalism motive, but don't think it's necessarily bad; it just needs to be secondary to the  safety-net society, and regulated effectively by watchdogs

    •  Thank-you. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TerraByte, nicolemm, isabelle hayes

      I agree.  "Everyone for him/herself" is not only unrealistic, it's completely exhausting.  Capitalism can be good in small doses, if it's carefully regulated to reward behaviors that benefit everyone and punish those that are harmful to the public.  I strongly believe that freeing people from fear of not having their basic needs met allows many more of us to achieve much greater things.  It's never far from my mind that J.K. Rowling wrote the first part of the Harry Potter series while getting aid from the state.  She had a dream of making the world a better place by getting children interested in reading, and with help, she succeeded.  I often wonder how many more people like her we would have in the world (and particularly in America) right now, if we weren't so busy getting stressed to death under our current system.

      •  so right: "freeing people from fear (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TDreamer, Bright

        of not having their basic needs met allows many more of us to achieve much greater things"

        yes, that's why the children of the well-off do so well usually:  the difference in atmosphere alone in a home with security, and existence without it, has far-reaching effects

  •  Libraries, police and fire depts are all socialism (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bright, judyms9, nicolemm, TDreamer

    Most Americans have no idea what socialism is.

  •  The RW will claim that the very existence of a (0+ / 0-)

    social safety net encourages people to become non-productive parasites.  It's why at GOP debates you hear people yelling out to let the uninsured just die.  The weak and unfortunate are considered a drag on the society.  Those looking for the hyper-productive, physically perfect and lockstep-behaving population should look back to the last century and not forward into this one.  The last group who believed humans could be evolved to a state of idealized perfection within their lifetime used some of the most evil and inhumane methods ever, thereby defiling their own idealization of the Aryan.  
    One would think that Christianity and other religions would be the counterbalance for eugenics-driven ideology, but some of the most intolerant and bigoted are lodged among their ranks.

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