General Question

hearkat's avatar

What else can we do?

Asked by hearkat (22226 points ) 2 months ago

Did you see the article I shared on FB the other day? The system is rigged, and I don’t know how we can change it. And like the author said, in the bigger picture, it is a class issue more than a race issue at this point – those in power just want to oppress those who are not in power. It has historically been easier for them to oppress non-whites, but the 1% really doesn’t care what their minions look like.

They just like that various demographics in the working class keep fighting amongst ourselves—whether about differences of skin tone, ethnicity, culture, religion, sexuality, or what have you—so that we don’t notice that we’re all together in the same sinking ship. Most of us have friends, neighbors, and even relatives who are “different” than we are, yet we like them and accept the differences. But too many of us have been manipulated to believe that our fun neighbor, smart co-worker, kind brother- or sister-in-law, or “different” cousin is the exception amongst their demographic, and all the others are not to be trusted.

The people that run for office are either greedy and power hungry to begin with, or they are hopeful idealists who are soon beat down and jaded by the others. They cut education, housing, infrastructure, and health care funding to keep the masses ignorant and desperate. They cut funding of the arts and culture, because creative pursuits build intelligence that thinks outside the box. They are manipulated by big money and vote to give themselves raises while also voting to give more rights to corporations and fewer rights to “we the people”. In addition, they’re taking more tax dollars from the workers while giving huge subsidies to the corporations that are already raking in record profits—all in the name of “job creation” so they can collect more taxes. Corporations are holding the population hostage. They act as if they’re doing us a favor in giving us jobs, for which they continually add on more responsibilities while taking away benefits.

Something’s got to change. The Arab Spring has shown that revolution is pointless when there’s no plan in place for what happens once the current system is overthrown; instead, chaos sets in. But that’s where we’re headed, unless many who are in power stand up for true democracy for human citizens. I vote on election day, I vote with my dollars through conscientious spending and donations, and I advocate for the human race in my actions and words – we have so much more in common than we have differences. I had hoped that the free internet would help humanity find our common ground, but the masses seem to enjoy being ignorant. I had hoped that the nouveau internet rich would use their wealth and status to challenge the status quo.

Yes, this is a bit of a rant; but I do want to start a serious discussion (hence being posted in General) about what else can we do?

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21 Answers

janbb's avatar

I’m not sure what we can do but I’m reading Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities right now and the situations then and now are eerily parallel. Income inequality!

RocketGuy's avatar

Gotta vote in intelligent people who care about their constituents, first. Check voting record, donation records.

hearkat's avatar

@RocketGuy – Most candidates have advanced degrees, and all of them will tell you that they’re concerned. I find that most really intelligent and compassionate people want absolutely nothing to do with politics.

Most media outlets, whom we used to be able to rely on to gather and publish information such as candidates’ voting and donation records, are focused on selling advertising dollars. Thus they are desperate to out-scoop and out-sensationalize the competition. You can’t always go on voting records, either, since the modus operandi in the U.S. government is to sneak in other bits of legislation into larger bills – so sometimes a no and an abstain is because they won’t support the corrupted bill – not because they don’t support the main piece of legislation.

I’d LOVE to see a third, moderate party form. The two parties are so polarized and react based on party affiliation, rather than actually considering the pros and cons of an issue and voting based on what their constituents need and want. The two parties act like they’re perpetually campaigning – and they are – always looking for opportunities to defame the other side and trying to come up with sound bites that will get retweeted. A moderate party would consider the issues from all perspectives and serve as the tie-breaker. They can’t do it as “independents” though, they need to pool together – not a platform of specific positions on particular issues – but on a platform of reason and compassion.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

The collusion between big business and big Gov’t must stop. End corporate personhood and strictly enforce a complete ban on corporate contributions of any kind. Mercilessly enforce and strengthen anti-monopoly laws. Limit the size and scope of Gov’t. That’s really what is killing killed the middle class. All of the wealth and resources are being systematically funneled into the hands of a few people. That’s not “capitalism” that’s straight up greed and theft. @hearkat I hear you on a moderate political platform, I have been screaming about that for years. Everyone seems to be artificially pitted against each other. Seems like it’s intended to keep us busy while the rug gets pulled out from under us. That’s my rant for the day.

hearkat's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me – But what can we, the ordinary citizens, do to bring about such changes?

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

We can simply realize that we need to get along with each other and cut out any artificial barriers between us. That is one thing, possibly the only thing that we can do as individuals that will make a difference. Once we all start talking rationally and on equal ground I think we’ll have a dog in the fight for our peace and prosperity again. I honestly can’t think of anything more powerful than that. It may be wishful thinking on my part that we can accomplish this. For some reason humans are easily manipulated into hating each other.

JLeslie's avatar

I agree about the monopolies and oligopolies and big business in bed with government. How to change that I don’t know. It seems like government should be blocking monopolies and logically the government would be the place to go to protect the citizens, but that is happening from what I can tell. Instead, I think the government is in on the racket too often.

As far as workers pay and being treated fairly, organizing is probably the only way to change it significantly. Unions will have opportunity to get into companies if employers push employees too far. I don’t think unions are necessary if employees can stand together as a group on their own, it depends on the circumstance and what they are fighting for.

hearkat's avatar

@rexacoracofalipitorius – Do those online petitions really work? I see them posted, but I’ve never heard of any of them actually making a difference. How can we verify that these sites are legitimate and not just mining our data?

janbb's avatar

There is a huge climate change march going on in NYC on September 21 that I plan to attend. Maybe a massive amount of people assembling will have some effect?

I also wonder about the efficacy of online petitions.

kevbo's avatar

I lived inside this problem for maybe 20 years. I studied it academically, I participated in a political 3rd party at a time when it had major party status in my state (and watched it fizzle), and I devoted about six years to reading everything I could get my hands on in the way of “conspiracy theories” (but we can back away from that and maybe use John Perkins’ characterization as the rule of a global corporatocracy that basically writes the laws thus making all of these actions that perpetuate inequality lawful). At the time, I wanted to know how big the problem was or might be, and I would say that exercise was definitely useful to that end.

I’ll throw in a short aside here and say that Solzhenitsyn’s answer was to kill every apparatus of the state that came knocking at your door. This was at a time in Russia when the police would basically arrest people to fulfill quotas for the gulags. He reasoned if everyone attempted to kill the Russian police, then their (the police’s) will to support the quota system would dissolve.

Back to the problem at hand, my conclusion at the end of all that study was more or less that there is a ton of “bad magic” in the world (because the problem is truly huge, and it runs through much of history). I use “magic” as a placeholder, so I would ask that you not quibble about whether I really believe it’s magic. Use your own word if that suits you.

I reasoned that if this is true, there must also be good magic somewhere. And this is leads to my personal answer to the question “what can we do?”

To use your language as a starting point, I no longer identify myself as an “ordinary citizen.” This isn’t to say that I’m extraordinary, or that I subscribe to the Freeman movement, but that I see “myself” (using that term loosely) most as a spirit in a material world. I came to this through meditation. And while the old guard of scientism/logic trolls who once had their day in the sun here frequently dismissed that approach as “navel gazing” and “pretending to be Morpheus,” I can say truly that this shift in perspective not only feels legitimate in terms of being an ethical response to the problem but also has carried me from extreme inner turmoil to “extreme” inner peace. Win-win.

“Yes, that’s wonderful, but how does that keep people in Ferguson from getting trounced by the police?” If you can identify and identify with your own spirit nature, then it is an easy step to realize that we are all spirits in a material world—or we can call it manifestations of consciousness. If this is the case, who then is getting hurt or oppressed? How does one harm a spirit with a billy club or with gross 4th Amendment violations? The spirit remains untouched and is beyond all tools of repression. It is available to you this very moment. It’s available to every person in Ferguson.

There is something of a mechanical aspect to this shift. It is to pay more attention to your spirit nature and less attention to the events of the day. The events are like waves, they are frothy and changeful. But your/our spirit nature is like the ocean, far more vast and powerful and the very source that gives rise to the waves. Which is the greater, and why give your attention to the lesser? Not to sound chiding at all, but why give your attention to instances of injustice when the world is teeming with life, including more people that perhaps have ever lived before and where you somehow are still alive to witness such a vast spectrum of experience. Who is this witness even? Who is the one that identifies as an ordinary citizen and knows the system is corrupted? And if you can point to that person, who is the one who is observing the pointing? This line of inquiry is my response to your question.

tinyfaery's avatar

I know that I am negative and always look at the dark side of things; take this as you will.

Nothing. There is nothing we can do to right the wrongs of this world. From issues of race (Hello, Ferguson), to political corruption, money, religious fanatics, destruction of the environment and our fellow earthlings. We are doomed.

What do I do? I sign online petitions that will never come to fruition, I give $ to conservation and animal causes so I don’t feel so bad about the destruction of our home and everything that lives here knowing not much will happen.

Minus a global catastrophe, the world will keep on keeping on no matter what we do or don’t do. We might have minor victories, but they in no way address the massive problems humanity faces.

Do what you can to keep from spiraling into madness and just accept that you, personally, and every individual human can do nothing to change the horrors of this existence.

We are meaningless. We are dust in the vastness of the universe. In the big picture, our puny lives are just a blink.

What do you do after you accept your life means nothing and your actions have no effect on the world at large? You do what you can in your own little microcosm so you live in a place where you can feel satisfied about who you are and the things you do.

Nihilism is not what I am describing. What I am trying to say is once you accept the truth, you can go about your life doing whatever you can to ease the pain of your existence.

rexacoracofalipitorius's avatar

@hearkat I withdraw my recommendation of rootstrikers.org, since it appears that their website is… bad. I have notified them of my objections, but I won’t air them here. I still endorse the goals of the organization, which are, broadly speaking, to “get the money out of politics” in Lessig’s words.
rootstrikers.org isn’t about online petitions, although there are some there. It’s about coordinating efforts of activists. Here for example is a call for coders to help out with an email application people can use for contacting Congress.
As for the efficacy of online petitions, I don’t know. You can google around about it and get all kinds of contradictory information. My best recommendation would be to ask someone on your representative’s staff (assuming that you live in an area with representative-democratic type of government) about whether such communications bear any weight with their boss. My guess is they will tell you that online petitions are less effective than direct emails, which are less effective than phone calls, which are less effective than letters, which are less effective than visits. They probably won’t say anything about the efficacy of visits vs. bribes.

If you’re American and you want to affect the partisan balance of the system, you should be aware that there’s a very strong correlation between voter turnout and relative success of the two major parties. That is, when turnout is high, Democratic candidates win and when turnout is low, Republican candidates win. So, if you want the Democratic candidate to win, VOTE and get all your friends to vote also. And if you want the Republican to win, then don’t.

hearkat's avatar

Personally, I had been taking an approach somewhere between @kevbo‘s and @tinyfaery‘s – to accept that my behavior is the only thing that I have control over for whatever short amount of time I’ll have, so I live by my own moral and ethical code and hope to make positive ripples in my part of the world.

But I was born in the mid-‘60s and was raised on Sesame Street ideals, where everyone deserves love and respect, regardless of what they look like. We had kids from every ethnic and religious background in our schools and we were all friends. I imagined that the harmony we experienced would be world-wide by the time I was an adult.

When I see that things getting progressively more fucked-up instead of better, and when it looks like the situations are too far gone for there to be a diplomatic solution, I do get concerned for the future of humanity and the planet. I’m not about to lose sleep over it or invest myself emotionally into “the cause” because I do realize there is not much that one person can do. But instead of imagining myself as an isolated being, I see that we are all connected on so many different levels. Watching Overview a couple years ago helped me take what I’ve felt within myself and process it intellectually.

So I’m not self-absorbed and apathetic enough to passively accept that all is futile (so why bother?) — because I recognize that while one single person might not be able to do much, a whole bunch of individuals standing for a united cause can do something. Just because I was lucky enough to be born of western European descent into a family that valued education (even for females) so that I now make a decent wage and live quite comfortably, that doesn’t mean I’m cool with the mistreatment of others who are less fortunate than I.
He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”
~Martin Luther King, Jr.

So the question is, what can we do? How can we get more people to turn off their TV sets and stop swallowing the blue pill, and to wake up to the reality that there are far more important concerns in life than matching the shoes to your purse or having the hottest rims. How can we help people see the bigger picture, and motivate them to stand up for a better future?

tinyfaery's avatar

Be who you are. Speak your truth even if it’s unpopular. Be prepared for people to respond in numerous ways—anger, gratitude, questioning. Don’t give in or break down. Accept that your ideas might change and don’t be afraid of that change.

You’re doin’ your thing. Walking your line, so to speak. The fact that you care and want to do more proves you are being who you want to be.

rexacoracofalipitorius's avatar

@hearkat But things are not “getting progressively more fucked-up instead of better”, at least not globally and in the long term. It’s a myth that things are getting worse all over. Don’t take my word for it: read this book, or one of many more like it, and follow the references. Measurable things are getting better all over the place. Don’t give up hope just because the battle isn’t over yet. It may never be over. Also remember another quote from Doctor King:
“The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.”

As to getting more people to “turn off their TV sets and stop swallowing the blue pill”, I don’t know that it’s necessary or desirable to do so. Some of them will discover real life on their own, and the rest can keep watching TV so long as it keeps them out of the way. Rather than worry about pulling the potatoes from their ruts, instead look around you for the other people who are aware, awake, and active. Get to know those people, help them with their projects, and form your networks of intention. Come hang with the cool kids!

hearkat's avatar

@rexacoracofalipitorius – the book link doesn’t work for me.
I don’t know about the arc of history, because things were looking pretty OK there when the cold war ended. Sure, there were pockets of problems around the globe, but it almost looked like they would be manageable. The arc of history seems to me like it’s made a wrong turn.

I never imagined when I voted in my first election in 1984 that abortion and women’s rights would still be an issue 30 years later. I am am also deeply saddened when I see that non-whites still have to fight for the liberties that we take for granted. Of course, stuff was going on that the public was clueless about back then that has had lasting repercussions, like selling weapons to Afghanistan to fight against Russia.

Mine is the first generation whose kids aren’t expected, and practically have no chance, to do better than we did. For one thing, many of them are barely literate. Then news wants to tell us that the economy is better, but that doesn’t mean jack to the working class who can’t afford to buy stocks. Most of us are still making less than when the economy tanked in 2008, whether literally or comparatively. I’m almost 50 years old and have a graduate degree and over 20 years experience in my field, but I still can’t afford to buy a home.

We’re teetering on the point of no return for the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the aquifers are getting dangerously low, the glaciers are melting and the oceans are rising. Don’t get me started on the industries of agriculture and health care. Rights for the LGBTQ community are the only measurable improvement that comes to my mind. What other “measureable things are getting better all over the place?”

I am fortunate that my social circles on line and in person are “aware and awake”, but most of us are too busy trying to make ends meet and enjoy our families to be “active”. I also find that many of those who are active for causes have narrow focus and can be as polarized as our political parties. There’s not enough ‘cool kids’ to make a difference, we need to increase the ranks. The Occupy movement and Anonymous haven’t gotten too far. If you know of other groups or organizations that I might be interested in supporting, please link them here—that’s the purpose of the post.

I realize that I’m coming off as completely pessimistic. The funny thing is I’m not. I was very much so and miserably cynical back in my early years, because the abuse I went through as a kid. I fought long and hard to develop a sense of self-esteem and find inner peace, and I’m finally there. I have found my happiness, and I have finally experienced unconditional love that all humans long for — I’ve accomplished all I ever set out to do. I am past my prime and now dealing with health problems, I don’t expect I’ll be around much longer. But I believe that every person (not just those who win the birth lottery) should have the opportunity to find their own peace of mind, and I’d like to help in some way to help make that happen.

rexacoracofalipitorius's avatar

Here’s the link again: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Pinker#The_Better_Angels_of_Our_Nature
I found the book at my local library.
I don’t have any good ideas for links to post, because I don’t know what sort of things you care about particularly.

Just for fun, here’s a link: freegeekseattle.org – this is an organization I helped set up and for which I volunteer. It’s a small thing in itself, but it’s just a small part of a larger effort. Related things are eff.org, fsf.org, debian.org and ban.org.
None of these organizations is going to fix everything tomorrow, but some are helping to stop bad things happening, and some are helping to make good things happen.

There’s more of us than you might think… we just look like regular ol’ folks.

hearkat's avatar

@rexacoracofalipitorius – Thanks for the link. From the blurb on the wiki page, I just can’t agree. Look at what is happening in Iraq, Ukraine, and Nigeria. Tribal warfare, merciless treatment of innocents, beheadings, sexual and domestic slavery, etc. are making a comeback. When western countries intervene, it gets better for a little while but then it comes back with a vengeance, it seems. And animal cruelty? What about factory farming? Is it any less cruel because they’ve hidden it from public view? What about Michael Vick and his ilk?

I’ll check out the organizations a little later. Thanks for sharing.

rexacoracofalipitorius's avatar

Sure, things aren’t perfect, therefore no progress is happening.

Pinker’s book isn’t expressing an opinion- it’s citing an ongoing global trend. None of the things you cite are new things. They are things which have always been going on. Whether or not you agree, there is actual evidence that violence and cruelty in the world are declining and not increasing. Lots of such evidence is cited in the book. You can check out the book at the library, go directly to the endnotes, and read the cited material if you don’t believe either me or Dr. Pinker. Neither of us particularly wants you to believe us, and I for one would prefer that you check things out for yourself rather than believing what people tell you.

It’s amazing to me that you state that those things are “making a comeback”. When did they ever go away? All those things have been common throughout history, in all the places we in the “Western countries” now consider civilized. The fact that they have not been eradicated worldwide is no evidence that progress hasn’t happened.

hearkat's avatar

@rexacoracofalipitorius – The book was published in 2011, so the references are likely to be about 5 years old or older. I’d be curious to see how the data from today looks in comparison, once you add in the activities of Boco Haram, the Islamic State, and al-Shabab, along with the numerous innocents killed is the Gaza strip. But also I wonder how do they claim to have data of all acts of violence in all of human history in order to claim that these declines in violence are factual? There are still regions of the globe and populations who live very primitive lives, and about whom such records may still not be kept. The author is a psychologist and linguist whose current focus is writing and grammar. It seems that the book poses a lot of theoretical speculation.

As I said earlier, “sure there were pockets of problems around the globe, but it almost looked like they would be manageable.” So yes, the problems of tribalism and religious wars – especially in the Middle East – have gone on for millennia, but they seemed to reduce to smaller areas for a while. Now there is the impression that with the above groups, there is a resurgence (which I called a “comeback” – apparently a poor choice of words) in the more primitive and brutal forms of killing, torture and oppression. People are leaving their communities in developed countries to join these extremists. Violent crime has been on the decline in the US over decades, but has also picked up since the recession.

Anyhow, my concerns aren’t simply about violence. My question is about how we can change the direction that our civilization is headed when the system is already rigged against us by the wealthy corporations?

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