The Governor just restored the state’s "Holiday Tree" to its original, name, the "Christmas Tree." Hurray for being less welcoming, Wisconsin(as long as we’re open for business).
I know public workers who’ve taken a cut of 26 percent on their salaries in the past five years. Last spring, Wisconsin rose to demonstrate its anger after decades of evermore cynical and increasingly biting corporate assaults. They stirred the passion and power of the organized masses. But that was not enough.
Right now, the state’s north woods, the ancestral land of Wisconsin’s First Peoples, is being steadfastly prepared by a corporate legislature for deregulated, unchecked and unsafe--but approved--mine constructions. The right to vote, to select who we trust to use our power to best represent us, is being slowly taken away by an insidious agenda that claims to be protecting us from "voter fraud," which has never been a problem. Those are just two examples of what has been happening every week, as the government’s continued assault on women, communities of color, our environment, students and workers, all of Wisconsin’s middle class.
Last April, Joanne Kloppenburg, who was called to have won the election for Supreme Court Justice was forced to concede her position when a county clerk (and former Republican legislative aide who once worked with incumbent David Prosser) announced that she had "forgotten to count" the votes of her county’s second-largest city, giving Prosser an indisputable lead of more than 7,300 votes.
In the last year, the legislature gave over $120 million away to corporations in tax breaks and other incentives for which the public foots the bill. Then, based on a cut K-12 education by $900 million, the UW System by $250 million. It gutted recycling and water sewage treatment in all Wisconsin municipalities.
And the accelerating assaults are not just in Wisconsin. On both sides of the country,police are beating and pepper spraying and using water and sound cannons against nonviolent veterans and students exercising their right to peacefully assemble. Twenty-five corporations paid their CEOs more than they paid in taxes. But they’re somehow the "job creators" we need to protect, so please, gut those public services and deregulate everything!
In this time of vacuous politics from those at the very top, we must be very honest with ourselves. This is written under no pretense of greater understandings or to yell from a soapbox any prescriptions for society’s ills. It is written instead to draw out the common lines of our discontent so that then, once we see our indivisibility, together we may ignite the torches of our struggle, reclaim our present and light the future.
Let’s start with what we all can see. I don’t mean the constant images on television about happy middle class shoppers. We might get distracted and deceived by the stories propagated by institutions and media; we might find a sense of content in fitting into this profoundly sick world when we come home from work to internalize our discontent, eat some fast food, and forget about the possibility of talking to your neighbor and ever creating a community organized without any form of exploitation.
Despite all the distractions, it’s harder now to obscure the gross level of increased accumulation of unearned wealth and advantage into fewer and fewer hands in the past three decades. The constant assault on people like us and ourselves is now evident. The future of the planet is now under an immediate and prescient threat, a threat we caused and benefitted from and a threat we need to reverse in the next 10 to 15 years, before temperature raises render any of our efforts too late.
Our youth are saddled with unprecedented debt--in 2011, the average is over $25,000 per student, a 5 percent increase since 2010. Meanwhile our so-called representatives gut education from kindergarten to our colleges and demand you pay more for lower quality--all the while giving handouts in tax cuts, contracts and deregulatory bills to the very richest and to corporations that don’t invest in our communities.
The problem gets much worse after graduation. With one of the highest youth unemployment levels since the Great Depression, we have little prospects of being able to repay that 25 grand anytime soon. So we’re stuck paying bills and accumulating interest, which keeps our standard of living low. Don’t even mention getting sick. Wages for those in your income group have declined for the bottom 80 percent since 1976, or stagnated, as have the wages of the next 19% percent of the population.
And still, despite the continued corporate assault on our communities, on our environment, on women’s healthcare, on education, on indigenous rights, on public workers, on our democracy, and so on, consider our great privileges. We have food and water, that puts us ahead of half of the people on Earth. We have free time, and access to information.
This is not meant to be incendiary. It is meant to question your self-worth. It is meant to inspire you into realizing that it is not only possible for us to become agents of real change in the world--it’s our responsibility. It is meant to challenge you into looking inwardly and asking yourself about two questions. Do you feel a responsibility to respond to the increasing attacks on you and the even worse attacks on people all over the world? And, can you live in true happiness by detaching yourself from that responsibility?
All these assaults have an alternative. You can call it what you want. You can call the process revolution, but this is a revolution against violence in all its manifestations. This is a revolution for love, justice, equality and community. This is a revolution of consciousness that will manifest in our continuous creation of different forms of organization, forms that truly allow us to speak for ourselves and represent ourselves and act in the best interests of all. The revolution must be one based on love and for the sake of love. In building love, we build revolution, we resist the attacks on our communities and we create the alternative.
But let’s be honest about our responsibility and about how we’ve met it thus far. Our tactics need revision, and we need to face the fact that private lifestyle choices won’t bring the change we need. We need to inform ourselves and each other, get organize, and be creative. We need to listen to each other and create social organization without any form of exploitation. It’s time. Let’s come together and make love for the whole world.