The Coastal Post - August, 1996

Monocultural Multiculturalism Apathy

BY FRANK SCOTT

"Evidence that the world is on an economic path that is environmentally unsustainable can be seen in shrinking fish catches, falling water tables, record heat waves and dwindling grain stocks."

While citizens strive to protect an environment often defined as their own private property or identity group, the world is under assault by a political-economic force which isn't even identified in works like the World Watch study quoted above. Just what is this "economic path" and how did we get on it? More important, how can we get off? Certainly not by avoiding any discussion regarding the system of economics, and instead battling about issues that divide us over ownership of individual trees, while neglecting the destruction of our universal forest.

Have you heard anything about that "economic path" in this presidential campaign? Don't hang by your lip waiting for corporate capital's hirelings to debate the direction in which society is going and why it needs to be changed. The candidate who didn't inhale marijuana is opposed by the candidate who's still waiting to exhale tobacco, and such trivia looms larger than anything like a critique of the system that endangers humanity.

What are the issues that we will vote on, and why are they uppermost in our minds? The social matters of abortion, homosexuality, immigration, affirmative action, crime, families and "values" seem to loom large. Is there any connection between these things, or are we to believe that they exist in a vacuum? Yes, and yes. Conservatives remind us that there is a breakdown in morality in our culture, but they think it's on TV and records. Liberals want to protect freedom to produce TV and records, but they also see a breakdown, which they attribute to drugs and heartless people lacking the compassion of good liberals. But both groups are most compassionate when it comes to corporate money and the perpetuation of a system which each tries to control without affecting substantial change.

People are left to fight over lesser evils at the top, while the issues placed on their agenda continue to tear them apart. Divided into ethnic, age, race and sex categories, they fail to notice their collective environment being sold off at the mall, to fatten the bank accounts of an affluent minority of investors.

No better example of division can be found than the issue of affirmative action. When the dominant class makes room for a few token minority members in its neighborhood, it keeps the majority divided and fighting. The social cost for a small advance by any of the locked-out groups in society is always paid for by those least responsible. Therefore, we have women, and a relative handful of non-whites, achieving a small degree of social elevation, while most of society stays on the ground or middle floors of structure, and finds itself slipping further away from a secure life.

When some notice this contradiction, the political right proposes a return to the past, when things were simpler and lock-outs were more generally accepted. This is countered by the more liberal view that would let a few more people in, but never place the social expense where it belongs, on the minority at the top.

This divide and conquer form of control is also evident in the immigration controversy. The system which needs an influx of cheap labor to help keep wages down manipulates people so that they argue over immigrants, rather than the force that needs and profits from immigration. Again those who bear the costs of immigration are those least responsible for it, and those who defend immigration are often confused, mistaking human decency of workers as the core issue, when it is the human indecency of capital that is the problem.

Another case of division can be seen in the changing status of two groups of Americans: the elderly and the young. During the 1970s, a shocking 25% of our nation's seniors lived in poverty. In the '90s, while there are still far too many Americans living in poverty, the percentage of elders in that state has been vastly reduced. In fact, many retired citizens are living better than ever before. Wonderful. Except for one thing. Our children are now poorer than ever before.

This is not to add fire to the war between age groups which has been started by simpletons. Older people didn't consciously take food out of the mouths of babes in order to buy their Winnebagos and hit the road for leisure fun. The system reacted to the pressure created by organized seniors by giving them more benefits. But it's paying for those benefits by cutting back social programs and schooling for the young, while leaving great wealth untouched.

Again and again, the gains of estranged minorities who try to get "a piece of the action" work against majorities by doing nothing to change the action. Integrating the executive staff of the Titanic makes little sense to the people who are going to drown when the ship sinks. It is the action that must change, not the gender, race or ethnicity of those profiting from that action.

Our "economic path" has us on the road to disaster, and we need to understand that before we can affect the changes necessary to put us on a path to a more peaceful and just society. Those changes won't happen with this election, but they'd better happen soon.