Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, January 16, 2012

All the roots grow deeper when it's dry

I grew up in the Sixties -- which lasted from 1964 to 1974. To place myself more precisely, I graduated from high school in 1972, so I missed the SDS and the stolen FBI files and all that stuff at Swarthmore but still got swept up in enough momentum to spend my 20s and early 30s as a full time activist. Yeah, I was an ACORN organizer, among other $80 a week movement jobs. Poor people voting and demanding decent services in their neighborhoods and jobs and housing is not actually contrary to American values, by the way. Martin Luther King and the civil rights and poor people's movements were obviously a major inspiration for me.

In spite of the inexplicably popular presidency of Ronald Reagan, we still maintained that vision of a more just and humane future. It was just going to take a little longer than we had expected.

So looking back on the past 40 years this MLK day, what do I see? That the fundamental trajectory of the era would be plutocratic ascendancy, reactionary religious revival and resurgent militarism is astonishing, preposterous, nearly inexplicable. Here we are trying desperately to hold on to the basic social infrastructure forged over 50 years, from FDR to LBJ. Even voting rights and basic values of secularism are in retreat; and the hardest times and greatest economic inequality since the Great Depression have produced, not a mass movement for justice and equality, but an uprising of moderate income people on behalf of wealth and privilege. Our hard won scientific understanding of the biosphere and our relationship with it has been simply rejected, by political consensus, and we are destroying the very world that enables our existence to satisfy the immediate greed of the wealthiest.

The title of this post is a song by David Wilcox.

It looked so easy, we change the weather
We would turn this world ourselves, our world so small.
But slower rhythms still unheard of
Said that every blessed summer someday has to fall.

Prosperity will have its seasons
Even when it's here it's going by.
When it's gone we pretend we know the reasons,
And all the roots grow deeper when it's dry.

1 comment:

robin andrea said...

Here's an excellent graph that shows the income inequality of the past 40 years:
Bill Moyer's interview with Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson is must-watch stuff. Yesterday's headline on Huffington Post was MLK's Legacy Lives On. I looked at it and thought they must be dreaming.