The world is askew.
There is revolution in Egypt while that bastion of the free world, America, leads its national news with the announcement that Farah Fawcett’s red swimsuit will be going into the Smithsonian Hall of Fame. My adopted home country is in the throes of election campaigning where the campaigns are led by a newly appointed milksop, a milksop who has been his party’s leader for some time, a sell-out, and a former terrorist, the last two of whom, and the last of whom in particular, I think are this country’s only genuine chance at reform. And I’m furious and frustrated at the state of the world, of the economies, of the political machines grinding away to keep the rich happy and the poor downtrodden. So I’ve got something to say today. Stand back. You have been warned.
(x-posted from the essential kit)
I believe in from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.
I believe that the young, the old, the infirm, should be cared for by society. I believe our nurses, our teachers, our doctors, our police, should be paid generously for reasonable hours. These are the people who care for us and who shape our health and future. I believe that access to the extraordinary health care we have available in today’s world should be free, easy and quick. Studies indicate that the countries with the most equity of wealth have the healthiest populations. Norway–according to the World Health Organization’s list of countries most desireable countries to live in–shows that not only are the less-well-off healthier in a country with more comparatively equal distribution of wealth, but so are the rich. An equal society is in fact a healthy sociecty.
I believe that it is not only immoral but should be illegal for 10% of the people to own 90% of the wealth. Americans, in a recent poll, felt the wealth tax should kick in only at $250,000–because they believe that is a yearly income they might be able to achieve. Three percent of Americans actually make $250K or more. In any gathering, that’s three of one hundred people. Look around. It’s not you, and it’s probably not the guy next to you, either. Even in America, up until Reagan took office, the wealthiest paid 90% of their income in taxes. Now they pay an average of 27%–higher than the American average of 18%, but still sixty-three percent less income for the federal government, all so that the wealthy can continue to grow wealthier.
I believe that education is the answer to most evils, and that money is the answer to education’s woes. I believe that every country in the world should look to Finland as its template for the wonders that can be done with small classes, dedicated, well-paid teachers, an emphasis on the arts, and science that is taught in laboratory scenarios instead of as rote lecture. I believe that countries like Mexico and Brazil, who have introduced social reform programs for families with school-aged children by the simple expediency of handing the equivilant of a year’s salary in cash over to the mothers, no strings attached, are doing the right thing–and it is proven that they are by the marked change in nutrition, scholarly ambitions, and lifetime goals of the children who benefit.
I believe corporations should be taxed to the highest possible percentage, and that the world should look to Norway for an example there: the oil companies, which so many countries–like Ireland–are desperately afraid of offending so badly that the oil companies will take their business elsewhere (an unlikely scenario, given that this is the only planet the oil companies have available to tap)–are taxed at 90% in Norway. Somehow they remain in business there. They would remain in business elsewhere, too, and still reap obscene profits–but the countries from which they take the oil could benefit enormously. I say this as a woman from Alaska, where a percentage of the annual oil income is put into an untouchable fund–the Permanent Fund–which pays out a yearly dividend to every long-term Alaskan resident. This is thanks to bold and foresightful politicians–whom, it should be noted, Norway consulted as they were setting up their own oil revenue scenarios. It can be done. It only requires the will.
I believe that the protective rackets that give bankers who have ruined economies free passes while the minimum wage is cut and ordinary people lose their houses must be reformed. These reforms aren’t even difficult to implement. All that’s necessary is to go back to the laws and regulations that have been systematically dismantled over the past thirty years–laws and regulations which were implemented in the first place because of the 1929 stock exchange crash and the following Great Depression. The talking heads and political pundits refer to what we’re experiencing as a recession, and use phrases like “negative inflation” because they’re afraid to call a spade a spade, admit it’s a depression, and that we face deflation of our currency. They fear bank runs and a loss of the peoples’ faith in the system, and try to stave off dispair by twisting words. But if you talk to the people–not the wealthy, not those who can afford to turn their backs on the financial mismanagement that’s destroyed economies the world over–but to the people who are in fact losing their homes, their livelihoods, their chance at a better future–then you know that despair has already set in. Hope is such a thin commodity that–much like cash and equity–only a scant handful hold it.
I believe that if 1940s America can go from a peacetime setting to a full-out war effort and back again in five years’ time, there is no reason aside from corporate greed that the same could not be done today with green technology. I believe that Ireland, a country small in both population and size, has an unprecedented opportunity to seize the future. Unemployment is rife and there is a desperate need for re-education amongst the working sector–particularly for construction workers, who will very likely never see work again unless something dramatic is done. With passion and vision, Ireland could so easily become a world leader in green technology by relying on the wind and sea–and even on solar power, given that a single home can generate 30% of its annual power usage from solar power despite the notorious cloud cover and rain on the Emerald Isle. It is a country where it’s almost never cold; there’s no reason Ireland shouldn’t be embracing country-wide bike roads and footpaths. These are ideas the vast unemployed construction sector already has the basic tools to implement. All that’s needed is the political will and the funding.
I believe in sin taxes on alcohol, cigarettes and other drugs. I believe the money brought in from those taxes should be focused on creating cities that are more friendly to foot-and-bicycle travellers, because I believe our mental and physical health are tied together and that we citified folk largely live inside our heads when we need to spend time occupying our bodies. On that note, I believe that every city in the world should look at Toronto (I believe it’s Toronto; I’ve lost the link now, I’m afraid), where cyclists, frustrated by the city’s promises to build bike lanes with no action to back up those promises, have taken to going out and painting their own bike lanes onto the roads. While I don’t condone the vandalism there, I think it should be noted that it works: drivers respect those bike lanes without a massive restructuring of traffic.
I believe the solutions for our woes are everywhere, all around us, being implemented on the small and sometimes the large scale. I believe it is the duty of a government to seize and encourage those solutions. I believe it is the duty of a people to stand up and demand these things of their government. I believe that we should take a lesson from Egypt, from Tunisia, from the whole of the Middle East, right here and right now. The regimes they have been living under are crueller and darker than those we ‘Westerners’ have come to accept, but time and time again our wealth and our rights are whittled away by our governments and the corporations that own them, and we do nothing. “It’s not that bad,” we say; “First they came for the Jews,” I say.
Ireland has a chance right now to be bold. To make a future that is better for all of us, and to show the rest of the world that it can be done, just as Tunisia and Egypt are doing. No one should have to let things get that bad before revolution is the answer. Revolt now, with passion and conviction and the power of your ballot. And if that doesn’t work, take to the streets, and remember that “First they ignore you, then they mock you, then they fight you, then you win.” We deserve better. All of us deserve better.
Lemme hear you say yeah.