21 June, 2020
We don’t even have to enumerate or declare the problems. We live with them daily and even when we isolated ourselves in our homes at the height of the pandemic, the media surged its insistent edge of disease and Trump, Trump and disease… day after day through our phones, our iPads and our cable. Unemployment, pestilence, strife and oppression daily, symptomatic expressions of something inherently wrong at the core of our lives. What makes it worse is that we don’t get solutions, just problems.
We don’t have a government any more. We don’t have that structure that offers us solutions. The government we had? Even if it was nothing more than lip service, they offered us solutions. As near as I can tell, our government was taken over by hedge fund managers, a hostile takeover, a downright purchase of something that wasn’t supposed to be for sale… and in the manner of all corporate pirates, they’ve dismantled it top to bottom, selling off the assets as they do and leaving all the liabilities to its shareholders, the working men and women of America. It’s not enough that they’ve screwed us in the workplace, broken the backs of our unions, now they’ve taken our government and put it up for auction, for sale to the highest bidder.
If anyone’s going to fix it, it will have to be us to do the work… so let’s talk solutions. Just you and me. For the moment let’s pretend we have the power to fix it.
Solutions are the elusive side of the equation, but sometimes? Even the questions are tricky. Personally, I’ve often used a simple declarative statement as a kind of colloquial expression to put a cap on a discussion that’s devolved into a standoff, something to the effect that, intellectually speaking, “…perspective is everything.” And I seldom have to go beyond that simple premise, since we… or most of us anyway… can generally agree to accept our differences with the dispassionate understanding that we will not always agree. As pithy sayings go, “perspective is everything” speaks clearly, seems simple enough, a rather basic and, perhaps, fundamental expression of the underlying imperative behind intellectual things in general. Finding solutions for seemingly insoluble problems is an intellectual exercise after all.
Perspective is everything.
However… and for the purposes of this essay, let me specify that what I am saying in essence is this… “Every aspect of our culture, including at the very least, our social tendencies, our morals, our philosophy, our social constructs… including the bases for government and law, our biases, et cetera, et alia, are founded and ultimately dependent upon our collective acceptance of a common world view, or… the accepted perception of that view, our own and humanity’s place in the world or the universe at large, and in context and concert with one another.”
Having so specified that, let me now hit you with a corollary statement.
“When our institutions fail us and the need arises for either reform or deconstruction that must precede the building of new institutions, the first duty of those who would be the agents of change is to question the most fundamental perceptions on which that failed endeavor was constructed and, if necessary, construct a new foundation on which any new institution will be built.”
Fairly simple, right? Well, not really.
People get upset when you challenge their notions and the people who establish the validity of a nation’s notions, at least here in America, although you could probably suggest it works that way elsewhere… the people in charge tend to be the people who are quite pleased with the way things are because… they hold the authority… the power, if you will. They also tend to use that power to their advantage.
Revolutionary ideas are the hope of the dispossessed. Their oppressors? Not so much. So, if the majority of people represent the dispossessed and the wanting… while a shrinking minority has all the money and all the power, who do you think will finally decide whether the foundations of that nation in which there is a large and growing disparity have failed? The answer is obvious when the minority rules, so where’s the relief for the rest of us? It will take a revolutionary idea to solve these insurmountable problems. Do we need a revolution? Must revolutionary ideas always be the source of revolution? Good question, but for now, let’s leave it unanswered and try to determine how a neutral observer would see our situation.
In the academic arena, though one could hardly name Academe as neutral in these issues, since their existence seems to depend on the charity of wealthy individuals. Spare us the objections otherwise, since the very premise of capitalism is the pursuit of money as the prime motivator of all human interaction. Capitalism is not and never will be the engine of intellectual inspiration. Value for value is the rule. There will be exceptions, of course, but not enough to drive an idea that is inimical to the status quo and the power structure it supports. It would be ideal, though, if the product of academic inquiry was valued according to the neutrality that guides it, but it does not.
Who influences research?
The people who pay for it.
Who pays for the research?
The government and corporations.
But if the corporations influence the government, which they do, and inordinately so, the answer to the question, “Who pays for research…” is then reduced by half. Once again you could plead the integrity and subsequent neutrality of scientific research. And once again, I will tell you that the prime rule of capitalism, which is the language and the religion of corporations, is… value for value.
“You give me what it is that I want and I will give you cash.”
And if I am perfectly happy with the way things are, will I give you money for research that I know will provide a conclusion that calls for a change? Will I pay you to tell me that in order to solve the problems, I must surrender my privilege? If I was St. Francis, perhaps, but I very much doubt that St. Francis would be working today as vice president in charge of research grants for a major corporation. I really do.
Forget, for the moment that we will argue incessantly over what the solution may be, let’s just imagine that we have narrowed it down to a solution that brings equality and justive into our lives as realities, not merely the mumbled aspirations that have passed for a reality since the nation was born by a C-section from mother England. The question is, “How do we get from what we have to what we want without the bother of a revolution?”
If we, the people, are ever to decide our fate by choosing to work inside the system to champion revolutionary ideas that would ultimately level the field in both social and economic influences, would we need an academic study that we can present to our government representatives… stating our case in order that they might fix the problem through legislation? Do they even do things like that anymore? I say… “What a waste of time that would be, since for every study that proves our premise, the statist elite could produce ten… and likely one of them would derive from the same university that gave us ours, but reach an opposite conclusion.” Such is the power of wealth.
It’s a very old game, this oligarchy maneuver… and it works just as well within the democratic illusion as in the supreme authority once claimed for itself the divine right of kings. Even Senators, Congressmen, and Presidents, when all else fails, still fall back on the old God Gambit with some measure of success because many among us still fall for the oldest trick in the authoritarian playbook. It’s a shame, really, because we could trust an academic approach when it is honest, and who better to do the necessary groundwork than those who specialize in the study of change as intellectual historians, philosophers, ethicists… people like Quentin Skinner who wrote:
“The history of philosophy, and perhaps especially of moral, social and political philosophy, is there to prevent us from becoming too readily bewitched. The intellectual historian can help us to appreciate how far the values embodied in our present way of life, and our present ways of thinking about those values, reflect a series of choices made at different times between different possible worlds. This awareness can help to liberate us from the grip of any one hegemonal account of those values and how they should be interpreted and understood. Equipped with a broader sense of possibility, we can stand back from the intellectual commitments we have inherited and ask ourselves in a new spirit of enquiry what we should think of them.”
So… if we know that the system is corrupted… and many more do than will say so aloud… what is the remedy? Maybe the complexities that we see in the systems we have inherited are confounding our perceptions… a purposeful and camouflaged field of smoke and of mirrors. Perhaps the solutions are so damnably simple, so maddeningly obvious that a child, lacking the sophistication of indoctrination through education, could show us how it’s done. The task then is not one of academic research, but of surrender. The surrender of a nation’s notions when they fail to give us what we need. It should be easy.
It’s not, though… is it? Ask yourself, “Why?”
You know and I know the answer to that one.
Because it’s hard. Damned hard. You will have to work for it and you will have to fight for it and you will have to lay everything on the line for it… your time, your substance… maybe even your life. That may well be the price of what you want for yourselves and your children. That’s a risky proposition, no? If you have the least amount of privilege working for you, you have something to lose, don’t you?
In that case, you might think it not worth the cost. Many do.
The justifications for standing in the gap for the rich and the powerful are manifold, convincing, and rewarding enough to ease the pull of a “woke” conscience.
It costs most people nothing to go back to sleep.
Ultimately, only you can decide if it’s worth it.
So… is it?
It would be and it is to the many black men and women who have been demeaned, humiliated, harassed, beaten, jailed, falsely accused and even murdered at the hands of law enforcement for so long that no one can remember a time when justice stood for anything but a lie. We could start by fixing what is the greatest and most pressing of all, since the oppression of any among us diminishes all of us.
Let’s fix the worst parts first and as we gather strength in solidarity, the rest of it becomes just that much easier. So… where do we begin?
Defunding the police is only the beginning.
It’s time change the laws that criminalize poverty and create a conveyor belt from the schoolyard to the prison yard with such predictable ease and unquestioning justification that the least study could shock people who seem to never notice what is right there in their face… or is really ignorance… and not selective blindness?
I get tired of quoting facts that never seem to break through, but if you believe the Black Lives Matter movement is unjustified in its depth and span nationwide, then you are the problem and I’m wasting my time with you… and you with me, so walk away and have a nice life. The truth will reach you soon enough. I just hope that it comes from revelation and not from the trouble and the strife your apathy has purchased.
If you’re interested, watch this video from The Real News Network in Baltimore, titled, Why do police shoot people in the back?
Or listen to this interview from Reveal, titled, Uprising
If you want to take the time, go to this site for the numbers. The Prison Policy initiative
It’s not just a policing problem. Our entire criminal justice system needs an overhaul and since 911 and the development of massive data collection by our government and the known abuses thereof, an intelligent observer might deduce that we are becoming, if not already, a police state that could rival that of the old Soviet Union.
Do some research. It’s depressing.
But wait !! There’s more !!
If you are really curious, you might want to read a few good books on the subject. Over the next week I’ll compile a list and on Sunday, a week from today, I will publish a reading list. Who knows? Maybe this could be the cause you have been looking for. We have a lot of problems, but if we tackle them one at a time, we don’t have to start a revolution… we will be the revolution.
Peoples’ Daily Brief by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.