By Kristine Mattis
And as it was in the beginning, so shall it be in the end
That bullshit is bullshit, it just goes by different names …
Paul Weller (The Jam)
We all know the old Albert Einstein adage that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. What does that say about Wisconsin? June 5th 2012 saw an exact rematch of the 2010 gubernatorial election between Republican Scott Walker and Democrat Tom Barrett – and the exact same result, the only difference being that Walker won by an even wider margin than before.
While pundits have been pontificating about the causes of such a seemingly absurd victory by Scott Walker after the enormous groundswell of citizens fighting for sixteen months against the governor and his Tea Party Republican administration, most of the discussion has been shallow and fraught with inaccuracies. Furthermore, mere speculation on the causes of the Walker win only point to the ease with which our society retreats back to often unfounded conventional wisdom. Walker outspending Barrett 7 to 1, an ignorant electorate hell bent on voting against their own interests, and poor “messaging” by the Democratic party/candidate may all have played a part in the crushing Walker win, but these observations only scratch the surface of the problems facing Wisconsin, the country, and the world and serve to fuel the media’s incessant focus on the horse race. This insistence on focusing on the superficial always serves, by design, to impede the discourse on substantive issues.
The following represent some of the points directly and indirectly connected to the Wisconsin election which I failed to hear in the media discourse on the subject:
- Scott Walker did NOT originally campaign on taking away collective bargaining rights. Thus, when he and his cronies claimed that he just carried out his campaign promises, they lied.
- The right to collective bargaining has nothing to do with and does not preclude balancing a budget.
- The fact that private sector and non-union employees do not have living wages, full benefits and access to health care is a travesty, but their friends and neighbors in unions in the public sector are not to blame. ALL workers should have such benefits, which all humans should be entitled to. By demonizing fellow workers who have these basic human rights, we only allow the elite to sit back with their excess riches while the rest fight for scraps. The haves promulgate the falsehood of entitlement abuse through exploiting the fear and selfishness of the have-nots. It is a divide and conquer strategy through which the elite pit the working class against one another in a race to the bottom. In reality, the hoarding by the super-rich few is to blame for the lack of basic resources for the many.
- An entitlement is a right, not a “handout.”
- The decline in wages and benefits across all sectors has mirrored the decline in unions in America; when unions are strong, ALL WORKERS benefit.
- Blind support of Democratic candidates by unions over the past several decades has resulted in no gains or benefits for workers. On the contrary, in the country as a whole as in Wisconsin, Democratic candidates have erroneously blamed public employees for financial woes and have demanded concessions from public workers while remaining unwavering in their support for corporations and the wealthy.
- The budget crises facing our governments on all levels are due to the enormous expenditures on subsidizing already wealthy and large corporations, the lowering of taxes on the rich, the virtual raping of the citizenry and our federal government by Wall Street millionaires and billionaires, and the unrelenting military spending on illegal and immoral wars and on redundant and unnecessary weapons.
- Corporate subsidies only enrich corporations and their upper management, not their rank and file employees and not citizens. Increased tax breaks and monies to corporations do not trickle down to workers. Corporations do not create more jobs through such measures as lower taxes and increased subsidies; they simply create more wealth for themselves.
- While Democrat and Republican politicians stress their minor differences through their socially more liberal or conservative beliefs, these amount to little in terms of concrete societal change, as both parties adhere to the identical dominant economic, plutocratic, oligarchic paradigm which is destroying the nation and the world. It is not by chance that all of the presidents of the past twenty-four years have been Ivy League graduates, as the next president will also be. The vast majority of these people are not admitted to elite institutions based simply on their merit; they are admitted due to their family wealth, power, and/or prestige. And for those like Bill Clinton who do not come from such pedigrees, the only way they are able to sustain their status after having been accepted into the power elite is by implicitly promising to maintain and propagate the dominant paradigm and the status quo.
- For those who decry the lack of a clear, cohesive, and compelling message by Democrats to counter Republicans, there lies a simple answer: Democrats do not have their own message because their message is the same as that of Republicans.
In the world:
- The ritual of voting is illusory; the pretense that it represents democracy is a complete fabrication. When people do not have choice in their candidates, as when the elite of the moneyed political parties choose their “electable” politicians, voting is simply an exercise in futility.
- The poor have always been and continue to be marginalized by all major political parties. Vast majorities of people around the world – including the poor themselves - have bought into the false propaganda revering wealth and equating it with quality of character, while demonizing poverty and equating it with depravity. As psychological studies have shown, the exact opposite is true. The growing number of poor in the shadow of the more highly concentrated rich is a local and global concern addressed by virtually no one in politics.
- Wealth inequality is an immoral blight in our society. The obscene concentration of wealth in America and around the globe is emblematic of the lack of democracy, as defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as, “the principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.” We absolutely do not live in a democracy, not in the U.S. nor in the world community.
- Until ecology is prioritized ahead of economy, all other points are moot. Our already occurring global ecological decline will soon eclipse any of our current economic crises. We cannot live without ecological resources and we will poison ourselves to death in our quest to further create synthetic resources that do not fit within our natural ecological systems and our biosphere. NO ONE will dare address this reality in political circles.
While Scott Walker’s administration represents one of the most morally bankrupt, scientifically inept, and socially despicable governorship seen in recent decades, real change was not to be found among any of the Democratic candidates who opposed him, just as it is not found among the Democratic governors of other states in this nation.
By utilizing electoral politics as our source of change, our choice becomes thus:
We can be shoved off the cliff by the Republicans while being told that free-fall is freedom, or we can be coaxed along the path toward the cliff, while being distracted by trivialities and assured that the cliff does not exist (and when the cliff is in sight, being told that those who led us there really tried their best not to do so) by the Democrats.
Change can be very difficult, which is why people tend to cling to their jobs, their towns, their bad marriages even as they move toward dysfunction. We humans, particularly we industrialized, “civilized,” American humans, are creatures of habit, and we fear an alteration of our rituals. So we try our best to remain in our comfort zones, even as they become increasingly more and more uncomfortable – sometimes even untenable. That is why last year’s uprising in Wisconsin, like the entire Occupy movement across the country, was so remarkable. People changed their routines, relinquished their security, and finally stood up after enduring decade after decade of servitude, abuse, and disrespect. They said to their corporate overlords – at the state capitol of Wisconsin, on Wall Street, and in Washington – that they were not willing to complacently stand by and take it anymore.
But apparently people are not mad enough to realize that the real change they may be seeking will never come through the voting process. It will never come through returning to “normalcy.” It will never come through adhering to and worshiping the inverted power structures that have been erected to maintain our complacency and servitude. These structures created the economy, the educational system, the workplace, the industrial infrastructure, the electoral process, and the law. Only when enough people – including all of us who intellectually, ideologically, and physically remain complicit – understand that our entire system is the problem will we have enough people power to work toward the genuine solution: changing our society.
True change is extraordinarily difficult. It generates tremendous amounts of uncertainty, distress, and fear of the unknown. But it has the potential also to produce the most profound joy, creativity, and opportunity. And at this point, it may be our only chance at survival.
So, what next?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Contributing editor Kristine Mattis is a teacher, writer, scholar, and activist. She is currently a PhD student in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW-Madison. Before returning to graduate school, Kristine worked as a medical researcher, as a reporter for the congressional record in the U.S. House of Representatives, and as a schoolteacher. She and her partner blog when they can at www.rebelpleb.blogspot.com
ACHTUNG! ACHTUNG! (Hmm…that got your attention, uh?)
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