Monday, May 18, 2009

Which Side Are You On?

Though this video was made to celebrate an event that is long since over, the message that it sends continues to be relevant today.  When it comes to justice there are no grey areas, only black or white.  Each person must choose for themselves what they can and cannot live with.  Far too often we let self interest override the need to act in the cause of justice.  The privileges that have become imbedded to our bodies are not rights and for each one of them someone, somewhere is suffering. 

The issue is that we do not see the suffering first hand.  Ask yourself, would you take away food from a hungry child as they were eating a meagre meal.  I am sure that for most decent people the answer is no, yet we do not challenge our governments as they engage in unfair trading practices that lead to just such an event.  Where is our social uproar at the policies instituted by the  Bank of the Americas, the IMF or the World bank at their criminal behaviour? 

We do not want to consider the suffering of those in other nations and therefore we raise the alarm about the needless spending on foreign aid.  In the US foreign aid takes up 1% of the budget and is most often constructed as tied aid i.e. tied to the purchase of equipment or technology.  Help our own first is the mantra and yet years later Katrina survivors are about to be kicked out of their trailers by FEMA with no place to live.   Help our own will an illegal war still rages on and soup kitchens and food banks are overwhelmed by people asking for help.  Each day we walk by our own begging on the streets for spare change and nary a sideward's glance is given.  “The help our own slogan” only exists to avoid giving to anyone less fortunate, while still managing to run a hierarchal system of oppression with relative ease.  If we were truly interested in helping our own their would not be citizens living in conditions that largely resemble that of third world citizens.  Ask a resident of a tent city how helped they feel.

Our failure to examine the ways in which the systems of oppression relate to one another means that we continually reaffirm a hierarchy of bodies.   Oppression and exploitation are not “right” or correct simply because we have chosen to normalize them for personal gain.

Daily we fight to hold onto these undeserved privileges; whether it is through direct action, language, or calling upon our supposedly fair legal system, inequality has become so entrenched in our daily rituals that often times we do not recognize how our behaviour is damaging others.  We are steeped in the politics of individualism from birth forgetting that we are a communal species and therefore dependent upon each other for survival.

One of the greatest lies that we tell involves meritocracy.  The streets are apparently paved with gold and if one works hard any goal is possible. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps is the ideology, however in many cases the underclass and the working poor don’t even own a boot to start with.  We love to display rags to riches stories in the media as though these are not highly rare occurrences.  Even those that manage to pull themselves out of poverty end up exploiting and trampling those beneath and beside them to achieve a positive rise in social station due to the predatory nature of our capitalist system.  Show me a rich man and I will show you a man that has few friends.

Power is what we seek even when we refuse to admit that is the goal.   To be able to exploit or oppress another is exhilarating to many and it helps to alleviate the pain of dealing with various areas of social stigmatization that we all have to negotiate.   Standing on your sisters shoulders does not elevate you, but offering her a hand so that she is able to stand next to you shows a respect for humanity that few manage to ever appreciate it.  

Even our precious blue planet lies in near wasteland conditions because we seek to worship false idols instead of understanding the delicate balance that we are all subject to.  The finite state of our lives means that we are all only stewards for the next generation.  Each battle that we engage in, and each person that we trample is just one more broken thread on the path towards healing.  When we take the individual out of the equation and consider the common good we affirm a model that is based in a true respect for life rather than the cheapness of paper money.  It is arrogance and greed that keeps us pointing to shades of grey, rather than the stark realities of right and wrong.  

H/T The Unapologetic Mexican

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