Random Political Post

August 7, 2013 at 5:02 PM | Posted in Change the World | 5 Comments
Tags: , , , , ,

I know it’s been a while and this is quite different from what I normally post but I was having a conversation with a German friend about views of our own countries and how other countries view our countries. It started from this magazine I processed into the library collection today.

Translated:  The False Friend. no respect, no morals: why America betrays freedom

Translated:
The False Friend.
no respect, no morals: why America betrays freedom

We were talking over Twitter and 140 characters is no where near enough to explain some things. I decided I needed to do a post about it. It may seem all over the place but I was responding to her last tweet to me in the conversation. I expanded of course, so here it is.

I vote. It may not mean that much in each election, but I vote. The government, media and analysts all have spent many years stating that black people and Hispanic people are not coming out to vote. Now congress has shut down the VRA which will do one of two things. Lose even more voters which will skew the votes even more than what they are right now. It will create a larger chasm of distrust in this country. Or it will cause people to rise up and shout and scream and get their votes in as best as they can.
I do not have faith that arms will be raised that way. I do not think this will motivate people to get out and vote. The feeling of hopelessness and helplessness is enormous. The country is so wide, geographically, and spread apart that it is so much easier to have the mindset of ‘not my problem’ or ‘it doesn’t effect me’.
Everything is so far away so our hearts are tied into our tiny worlds instead of realizing the ties we should be paying attention to are larger.
I never understood countries who’s capitols are off in a corner of the land. It makes no sense. Can you imagine if the US capitol was moved to St. Louis or Kansas City? How great would it be knowing it would only take a few hours by car or plane to get to the capitol from anywhere in your country?
Do you think the red and blue states would change due to that move? Do you think that there would be more balance, and more connections to each other this way?
I know I would care about what was happening in my country if I was closer to the capitol. Knowing it wouldn’t take very long to go join a larger protest?

Yes, every state has their own capitol and can get organized there, but when you are a blue sitting in a sea of red, you’re pretty sure your voice is not going to be heard. (Same the other way as well, of course).

Changing my buying habits is a difficult thing. I am a person who has a hard time clipping coupons and this would rank up in there. There are too many corrupt companies, with too many fingers in too many pies. I find it difficult to trace where everything comes from. There are too many people vocal about their opinions that are so against my views that I can’t keep up with what companies these people are involved with.

I don’t make very much money, I work three days a week. I have a decent hourly wage but with around 18 hours a week it doesn’t add up to very much. I would be up a creek without a paddle if it were not for my husband’s job. Because he makes more and works more I feel as if my views and opinions on where we shop are not allowed to be taken into consideration. If I could never step into another walmart my entire life I would be a happy person.

I have already made some choices that I have been able to stick to. I will never donate to The Salvation Army because they try hard to not help out gay homeless people. I will never go to a chik-fil-a because of the owner’s views on gay people. I have also added Jimmy John’s to this list, recently.

In my ideal life I would only buy vegetables (that I haven’t grown myself) from local growers. I would only buy meat from local butchers. I would only buy goods from local vendors, not chains.

I can not afford to do that.
Hardly anyone can, anymore.

This is why I despair about being an American.
Yes, we are a ‘free’ country, but we have become a ‘free to be poor’ country. Capitalism and Democracy weren’t set in place to forget our fellow humans. I think one of the most horrible things invented was statistics. Reducing everything to numbers makes everything so cold.

We are not in the vacuum of cold space.
We are on a warm planet, we have warm bodies with chemical reactions that need connections and community to exist.

This coldness has turned to fear in America. 9/11 threw us for such a loop that as a friend has said, threw us back into the 50’s.
We were so arrogant about our safety. Thinking no one would ever attack us again after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. When someone did again we were so shocked that we reverted to familiar feelings. Fear. Fear of anything different. Fear of skin color, fear of gender, fear of age, fear of everything. It’s easier to fear something instead of taking the time to learn, to trust, or to accept. We’re a cat backed into a corner who has lost their sanity and reverted to deadly instincts due to irrational fear.

This is when NSA and CIA come in. They say it is necessary to collect ALL OF THE DATA so they can prevent terror plots. I remember hearing something like that when we invaded Iraq. This collection did not prevent Boston from happening. It does not prevent soldiers dying from IEDs or snipers.

Our country is failing not due to lack of money and jobs. It is failing due to indifference to the people, the faces, the lives.
I wish there was a way to scrap our entire system and start from scratch. A building can only take so much patching up before there is nothing that can be done to keep it standing. I don’t think small changes are the way. I think a broad clearing of the table is needed. And let everyone be in on the suggestions and decisions. It may seem daunting but I think it can be done. People need to feel like their voices are heard. Not a form letter from their representatives about their personal beliefs of the issues.

I could go on more, of course, but I’ll leave it at that for now.

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  1. Love the post. One of the first non-personal serious conversations Jana & I had was about how hard is to eat ethically, healthfully, and still on a tight budget. This was in reference to the split in obesity being largely between rich & poor. The poor just don’t have the resources. Grocery stores are far away so many have to rely on convenience store food and small sparse shopping trips to far away geocery stores. I really think it’s great for her to get another, broader view of the same idea. I really think she didn’t believe me completely at first. I haven’t asked about any changes in thought since she’s visited & taken more interest in American news.

  2. Beth, I loved your post. Thank you for taking the time to reply and explain so thoroughly! Let me answer equally expansively to both your post and Sarah’s comment.

    I do not see a benefit to the US voting system (electoral college). I really don’t. Here, every vote counts in every election on every level, and the party/representative with the most votes wins/forms a government. Given that we have, by now, five major parties (CDU – roughly your Republicans; SPD – roughly your Democrats; FDP – liberal and conservative economists, usually form a coalition with CDU; Die Grünen (the Greens), usually form a coalition with SPD; Die Linke (the Left), rarely in government, usually with the Greens and SPD), governments NEVER are formed of one party only. Usually it’s either CDU/FDP (conservative) or SPD/Greens (+sometimes the Left) (social democrats), rarely it’s a so-called Grand Coalition of CDU and SPD (which is a glorified standstill more often than not). There are more parties than that, but if any party does not get more than 5% of all votes, it doesn’t appear in government, and those other parties rarely take that hurdle.

    Party blocks in government (again, on all levels) represent exactly the percentage each party has gained in the election. Parties usually state before the election whom they’re willing to form a coalition with (the Greens, for example, have ruled out a coalition with CDU for the longest time, saying that conservative values and the Green party program do not mix). If those aspiring coalition partners gain more than 50% of the votes, they form a government. If they don’t and their counterparts do not have a higher percentage, they can form a minority government (last election in my state saw SPD/Greens at less than 50%, but CDU/FDP at even less than that, so SPD/Greens formed a government, hoping for Left party delegate votes to pass bills. Didn’t last long, but worked while it lasted – ended because of a formality. New vote bought SPD/Greens a definite majority.)

    I like this system because forming a coalition means having checks and balances. It also means, as stated above, that every vote counts, and that we don’t need a law like VRA (also, we have obligatory registration when you move, so you don’t need to specifically register as a voter. You already are).

    We do have a chasm in this country, between the upper crust and an ever-getting-poorer middle/lower class, but it’s nowhere near what the US is experiencing. So, fortunately, there is no need for me to stand up and shout about what my government does to its citizens (as far as elections and voting go. Political content is another matter entirely).

    So I vote. Always. And I know that my voice (in German, both vote and voice means “Stimme”) is heard. Sometimes I join demos for/against issues I care deeply about, such as getting rid of nuclear energy, or taking a stand against government spying on people (well, I would have gone, if the weather hadn’t been abysmal. I’m wimpy that way). I join my name to petitions I can stand behind.

    As to the closeness of our gubernatorial seat – my state capitol is half an hour away by car/public transport, my country capitol six (and I’m about as far away as any German can be), or an hour by plane. Demos are often held in Köln rather than Düsseldorf (state capitol) anyway, because Köln has more people. So I can’t really comment on your idea that maybe distance plays a role in how people react. Other than if weather made me stay at home and not raise my voice, distance probably will, too ;-)

    I do not think, though, that a smaller distance would help the US more than a different voting system where people knew for sure that every single vote counted. Also I would encourage people to indeed vote for smaller parties, too, because a) that’s how they get big, and b) checks and balances, and c) it would show the big, established parties that people are dissatisfied with their work.

    Buying – God, I do understand (and Sarah, yes my view has changed a bit, in that I now know that some people in the US face difficulties that I couldn’t even imagine before, due to distances). I am comfortably able to afford buying according to my moral compass, and thus I actually feel bad when I don’t (when I buy food that I know is produced in an unethical way etc.). I can afford not buying at discount stores that do not pay fair wages (and even German not-fair wages are better than US not-fair wages!!). I do take advantage of offers and special occasions, but then, /again/, I can afford to do so (spend, say, 10 Euro at one time on pasta, because it’s on offer. Someone who needs to look every penny in the eye before they spend them could not do that).

    I do take care to inform myself about brands and corporations. Yes, it’s a hassle, and yes, it takes time and energy to seek out alternatives. And sometimes I still buy from that company (Ferrero does not guarantee that their hazelnuts are picked without child labor, for example). But I try to avoid companies like that wherever I can, because I feel that far more than making a cross on a ballot every couple years, my power at the checkout changes things. Companies have changed policies and products due to boycott pressure.

    I love that you do what you can do to make an impact, Beth. And hey – don’t feel bad about the things that you can’t do. Feel good about the action that you do take! I love that you grow your own veggies, and that you think about having chickens. I love that you care, enough so to do what you do, and wish you could do more.

    Thank you.

    As to the coldness you describe – just a few days ago (if that), Sarah and I talked about solidarity and what it means in German society. To me, on a society level, it means that we as a society can afford to support people who cannot support themselves. It means that no one, NOT A SINGLE PERSON, in Germany, has to worry where they will sleep that night, where the next meal will come from, whether their medical treatment will be paid. Yes, we do have homeless people, but they needn’t be (long, and different, story).

    When I mentioned to Sarah that if you’re on social welfare, the government NOR creditors can take away: a) your TV (you have a right to inform yourself), b) your computer / internet service contract (ditto, plus you can use it to search for or even do jobs), her mind was blown. Likewise, the government may force you to leave your apartment if the rent is higher than social welfare rules allow (because rent is included in social welfare), but they HAVE to provide housing that conforms to the rules – you will NOT land in the street.

    This is what we call the social safety net, or solidarity on society level. And yes, there is criticism of it, and some people still think (after severe shortening about a decade ago, and this: http://www.thelocal.de/jobs/?site=tlse&AID=51291) that we’re being too soft and cuddly. But HELL – our economy is strong enough that we can afford it (and, to me at least, so is the US economy). It’s not the money that’s lacking, it’s public will. And that is where I see the big difference between the US and Germany, or even Europe as a whole.

    The American Dream is an individual’s dream. Everyone can make it – which is an “every one”, not a “we”. In much the same vein, welfare in the US is much more a thing of individual charity than one of the public authorities – with the huge problem that if that individual loses interest, or dies, or a certain issue falls out of fashion, charity often stops and leaves the people depending on it hanging. What it boils down to is: Everyone can make it , and if you don’t, it’s your fault. You haven’t been working hard enough, you haven’t educated yourself well enough, you haven’t put enough into it. So don’t cry for help now, you wussy.

    I call BULLSHIT. There has never been a time where it’s less probable that an individual can make it (in the terms of the American Dream) without being fucked over. There has never been a time where more people don’t make it through no fault of their own. And that goes for the US just as much as for every other country. And I see the trend (growing colder and less interested) growing in Germany too, and I am afraid of its consequences to our society.

    I agree with your statement about statistics, and I’d like to add “profit” to that. Everything is being considered and judged more and more (and sometimes exclusively) by how much my purse, or the city’s/state’s/country’s, or the company’s purse profits from it – usually seen short-term, too. This is dangerous in the extreme, in my eyes. I do not profit from the German government supporting people who need welfare, do I? Why should I care if someone lands on the street if they lose their job?

    Because, that’s why. Because there is no better way to judge a society as a whole than how they treat their weakest members. Fuck the Gross Domestic Product, fuck the number of nuclear weapons, or membership in international councils. You can effing well afford to protect your weakest, SO DO IT. You can afford to spare money, time, education / smart people to help countries who need it, SO DO IT. I fear a society that judges by profit and numbers. I fear that coldness just as much as you do, Beth.

    The last of my points, now, is about the fear that you mentioned – the fear of being attacked, the fear of anything different because that surely can’t be trusted.

    I so agree. Fear is the tune they (politics and big business) want us to dance by. Fear sells, much more so than sex. Fear sells weapons and security measures and surveillance bills and Patriot Acts. And all of those promise something that they can never, ever deliver: Safety. There is no safety and there never has been. Damn, terrorists the world over laugh at each new measure our societies take to protect themselves, because they are well aware that each system can be thwarted. There is no safety and there never will be. It is how a society deals with that which we have to decide now. That, to me, is the great challenge of this time. Will we be distrustful and arm ourselves and live in little one-person/one-family/one-country castles, bristling with weapons and drawbridges and mistrust? Or will we reach out, because nothing, NOTHING fights terrorism better than mutual familiarity, trust, and friendship? You don’t suicide-bomb people you understand and like.

    Our interior secretary has talked about a “Supergrundrecht” – a super basic right, by which he meant Security – that overruled all other basic rights. I nearly choked. THE HELL?! That man is an elected government official, who should KNOW our Grundgesetz (“Basic Law” = constitution), who should KNOW that there is no such thing. But that is exactly what’s happening right now on the political level. Supergrundrecht indeed. Ich kann gar nicht so viel essen, wie ich kotzen möchte. I can’t eat as much at all, as I want to puke.

    Fortunately, I don’t see a need to start from scratch in Germany. We have a lot of good things going. What I would like to see is politicians who truly feel responsible to the German people, and take that to mean informing themselves instead of trusting lobbyists. I would like to see transparency (Germany still hasn’t ratified the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, as one of twelve countries in the WORLD). I would like to see corporate responsibility to society/people/the environment as stakeholders, because WE ARE. I would like to see a society that takes an interest, PEOPLE who inform themselves instead of trusting lobbyists/the media/ what-have-you.

    Damnit, maybe I will end up a politician yet. And yet I don’t want to get into that cesspool. *shudders and walks away*

    • Why again was it that you didn’t want to go into politics as a profession? I’m great support for that…

      • Because cesspools and idealism don’t mix well. My white armor would get all muddy and gross.

  3. Edit because of meaning: “f you’re on social welfare, the government NOR creditors can take away:” should read “NEITHER the government NOR creditors can…”


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