Thursday, June 20, 2013

A Life Of Struggle

Human Needs
Without a struggle, there can be no progress
—Frederick Douglass  [1818-1895], 
American abolitionist and author

There are some defeats more triumphant than victories
—Michel de Montaigne [1533-1582], 

French renaissance essayist

The Struggles Of LifeEconomic inequality has become the norm, an ignorant policy enforced by ignorant, superficial men and women. Walt Whitman, one of America’s greatest poets, said: “The greatest country, the richest country, is not that which has the most capitalists, monopolists, immense grabbings, vast fortunes, with its sad, sad soil of extreme, degrading, damning poverty, but the land in which there are the most homesteads, freeholds — where wealth does not show such contrasts high and low, where all men have enough — a modest living— and no man is made possessor beyond the sane and beautiful necessities.”

You might not like to hear this, or perhaps you might if you are of certain cast of mind, but I and my family have had our shares of struggles. I am not only talking about only my cancer and my current chemo treatments, but struggles centred on financial difficulties, on workplace difficulties and on other family problems. 

Those are highly personal, and then there are the struggles of trying to maintain our dignity and humanity in the face of a society, a civilization, that is rotting around us with all manner of corrupting and corroding influences. That ordinary individuals have a hard time believing our politicians is both telling and problematic. That cynicism is common among the electorate is both not surprising and not unexpected. That so many people are out of work is bad for democracy’s stability.

That I try to remain optimistic in the face of serious personal struggles is a testament to my ability to face such trials and see the other side of things, that we will progress and defeat the corrupting influences of monied interests and their lobbyists. Their ways and means is affecting our individual lives; that such selfish narcissistic individuals, some of whom are true psychopaths, are among our political and business leaders is a sad testimony to how much things have changed in the last 30 years—and not always for our collective betterment. Louis Brandeis, U.S. Supreme Court Justice (1856-1941), once said: “We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

In an article published in Monthly Review (“Why Socialism?”; May 1949), the physicist Albert Einstein writes with great insight and prescience:
Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.
That this is indeed the case in general is undeniable, but social media and the Net has increased the channels of communication. For that reason, I sense that their time in the sun is coming to an end; their sick nefarious ways of selfish greed and selfish entitlements—while denying others similar but lesser entitlements and human dignity—has been revealed for what it is. We can do better than having as our leaders intellectual and moral lightweights. We can do better than having sociopaths and psychopaths making decisions of national importance; such men and women need mental-health therapy, and should not be making economic and political decisions; they are sick, dysfunctional and anti-social individuals, and it shows.

So, what about the much-needed and -anticipated change to our national conversation? It has started already at the grass roots level, within the social-media sites, and it will blossom in full. I see this happening within the next five years: I am, strangely enough waiting patiently and sincerely for such a happy moment  both here in Canada, where the Conservative government is replaced by the electorate by the Liberal Party, led by Justin Trudeau, the son of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, one of Canada’s greatest prime ministers and associated with The Just Society. And in the United States, a dysfunctional partisan and do-nothing Congress is replaced by representatives and senators who know and care about the constitution and the needs of the people.

So, yes, there have been personal struggles and collective struggles, intertwined as they might be; in the end we will savour our sweet victories, all the more so, because it has been a long fight, and we were often lost in despair. But we shall prevail; we will bear the fruits of our labor. Good sometimes triumphs over evil, notably when the evil is shown in the harsh light of fairness and justice.

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