“We need to understand that as human beings we are not full human beings when we’re only concerned about ourselves; that we are stronger and better and happier human beings when we reach out and try to help other people.” – Bernie Sanders
We’re constantly moving towards a more connected world, whether through technology, society or thought. At this very moment, I can spend about seven seconds unlocking my phone to access an app that allows me to see and speak with my friends half way across the world in real time. I live in a multi-cultural city that allows me to connect with people of all colors and cultures from around the globe. Each person has made the choice, in one way or another, to be here.
I can make the choice to get to know them. We can have a conversation about the day, our lives, which has led us to this point in time. From such conversations and travelling, I have come to the conclusion that people across the world are very much the same in their general dispositions. We have similar ambitions and values, and most of us just want to be good people who are, of course, good to others with no exclusion to kind or creed. We don’t give in to the history of propaganda that tells us difference is danger. We want to share a meal, drink, eat, tell stories and laugh. It is mostly by our diverse histories and cultures where we can notate our differences, but our humanity and our passion for betterment are what unite us.
Our modern thinking shares a similar story. Postmodern theory brings us to one (of many) understanding(s) that people’s identities and values, economic situations are relative to each other; that they even determine each other, rather than have intrinsic properties that are understood apart from one another. Michel Foucault argued that rational judgement, social practice and a term he coined, biopower, are not only inseparable, but co-determinant.
Postmodernism is an attitude, a way to challenge the predetermined structures and orders that were taught to us by other people who tell us we are the next carriers of the torch. We understand now that our histories, societies, economics, our languages are not some static or predetermined reality dependent upon things over which we have no control. Nothing of the world is absolute. The plurality of our lives (and those of others, regardless of specie) is not only the thing that reveals the difficulties and the chaotic nature that leads to the present, but it is also the mechanism through which we can trace our connectedness.
All of these ideas about unity and breaking perceived social limitations became more apparent to me after attending a Bernie Sanders rally in San Jose. I realized the core value of his campaign is essentially an effort to bring people together, to help people realize that our current socio-economic-political system is in shambles, to say the least.
For one, our government is essentially an oligarchy, not a democracy. It has been taken over by a powerful elite, which influences most, if not all, legislature that cycles through Washington. Individuals like you and I have essentially no influence on the legislative process whatsoever. The amount of money pouring through Washington through dark money and lobbyists is a disaster for democracy, and it funnels down all the way into the mainstream media. The dividing lines between business and politics are so obscure it’s almost impossible to tell which is which; even other countries have the resources necessary to influence US elections.
The Citizens United agreement from 2010 has basically told the rich and powerful that the power of money translates to and even represents the power of speech, which is, naturally, a vain and materialistic binary logic that says more is better, period. Through Citizens United, this elite now has access to Federal and State legislative and judicial branches to influence them however they see fit, of course, regardless of how it affects the rest of the population, let alone the world or the environment.
Furthermore, we have a level of wealth inequality and income inequality that far surpasses any other so-called ‘developed’ nation, a level which is wider than any time since the 1920s. Our wages haven’t grown for decades, which is stagnating the economy since the household dollar doesn’t stretch as far as it used to. Productivity has gone up, production hours have gone up, and the middle class has nothing to show for it, which is contributing to its decline.
Here, we essentially have an economic blockade in effect between the wealthiest Americans and the poorest Americans. Since the economy relies on the cyclical movement of money and middle class consumers represent the majority of this cycle but no longer have a comfortable amount of disposable income to make the economy function, the economy inevitably becomes stagnant. But nothing is being done to help bolster the middle class. Nearly all of the wealth generated after the recession of 2008 has gone to the top 1%. Those who have the power to influence the economy and the policy decisions regarding the economy have essentially taken advantage of the recession to steer the economy and economic policy even more in their favor, giving them even more power and influence than they had before the recession.
On top of all of these internal political problems, we have a crumbling infrastructure whose roads, bridges, waterways, energy plants and schools are in need of repair to get them up to a reasonable standard. College tuition is outrageous (and has been for quite some time). It has been rising faster than the rate of inflation for years, which is not only economically unsustainable, but it puts those who are already at an economic disadvantage at an even greater economic disadvantage.
We have an inherently racist criminal justice system that imprison non-whites at a much higher ratio than that of white people, and a prison industrial complex fueled by the private prison system that influences crime policy since bodies-in-jail is equal to dollars-in-bank. We need to fight harder for women’s rights and equal pay, rights for the LGTQ community, living wages, clean food and energy, a Medicare for all system that works for everyone, lower prescription drug prices, and proper care for our veterans, among many other things. These are some of the issues that keep us divided and threaten our wellbeing.
The list is long and daunting. Surely, it’s not complete. That said, no one person or a small group of people can help resolve these issues alone. The power structures of our society are constantly challenging our ability and willingness for unity, through policy as much as propaganda. It is imperative, not only for the future of humanity, but for all the other species we live amongst – for the diversity that makes us great, that we come together and stand up for ourselves and our neighbors so we can grow together and be better for each other and with each other. Jacques Derrida once said, “There is no such thing as outside-of-the-text.” And this world is very much the surface upon which we make our inscriptions, by agency and by choice. This is the difficult truth we must face: the world is not some other way. Whether we decide to divide ourselves, or come together for the better of all of us is up to no one and nothing else.
Words by Brent Minderler
Cover photo by Marc Nozell