Why There's No Outcry

People ask me all the time why we don’t have a revolution in America, or at least a major wave of reform similar to that of the Progressive Era or the New Deal or the Great Society.

Middle incomes are sinking, the ranks of the poor are swelling, almost all the economic gains are going to the top, and big money is corrupting our democracy. So why isn’t there more of a ruckus?

The answer is complex, but three reasons stand out.

First, the working class is paralyzed with fear it will lose the jobs and wages it already has.

In earlier decades, the working class fomented reform. The labor movement led the charge for a minimum wage, 40-hour workweek, unemployment insurance, and Social Security.

No longer. Working people don’t dare. The share of working-age Americans holding jobs is now lower than at any time in the last three decades and 76 percent of them are living paycheck to paycheck.

No one has any job security. The last thing they want to do is make a fuss and risk losing the little they have.

Besides, their major means of organizing and protecting themselves – labor unions – have been decimated. Four decades ago more than a third of private-sector workers were unionized. Now, fewer than 7 percent belong to a union.

Second, students don’t dare rock the boat.

In prior decades students were a major force for social change. They played an active role in the Civil Rights movement, the Free Speech movement, and against the Vietnam War.

But today’s students don’t want to make a ruckus. They’re laden with debt. Since 1999, student debt has increased more than 500 percent, yet the average starting salary for graduates has dropped 10 percent, adjusted for inflation. Student debts can’t be cancelled in bankruptcy. A default brings penalties and ruins a credit rating.

To make matters worse, the job market for new graduates remains lousy. Which is why record numbers are still living at home.

Reformers and revolutionaries don’t look forward to living with mom and dad or worrying about credit ratings and job recommendations.

Third and finally, the American public has become so cynical about government that many no longer think reform is possible.

When asked if they believe government will do the right thing most of the time, fewer than 20 percent of Americans agree. Fifty years ago, when that question was first asked on standard surveys, more than 75 percent agreed.

It’s hard to get people worked up to change society or even to change a few laws when they don’t believe government can possibly work.

You’d have to posit a giant conspiracy in order to believe all this was the doing of the forces in America most resistant to positive social change.

It’s possible. of course, that rightwing Republicans, corporate executives, and Wall Street moguls intentionally cut jobs and wages in order to cow average workers, buried students under so much debt they’d never take to the streets, and made most Americans so cynical about government they wouldn’t even try for change. 

But it’s more likely they merely allowed all this to unfold, like a giant wet blanket over the outrage and indignation most Americans feel but don’t express. 

Change is coming anyway. We cannot abide an ever-greater share of the nation’s income and wealth going to the top while median household incomes continue too drop, one out of five of our children living in dire poverty, and big money taking over our democracy.

At some point, working people, students, and the broad public will have had enough. They will reclaim our economy and our democracy. This has been the central lesson of American history.

Reform is less risky than revolution, but the longer we wait the more likely it will be the latter.





All social change is speculative fiction because we’ve never seen a world without poverty, never seen a world with total equality, never seen a world without prisons…therefore activism IS speculative fiction, it’s visionary fiction because we are writing a world we’ve never seen but a world we’d like to live in.

It’s hard and unapologetic but it’s hopeful because it can cause us to move; it wakes up and shows us that change is possible.

—  a quote from AN EVENING WITH OCTAVIA’S (Butler) BROOD, as summarized by author Crystal Connor (via Balogun Ojetade, blackspeculativefiction)
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Today Ireland became the 20th country in the world to allow gay and lesbians to marry,  and in doing so became a fairer and more equal society. Yesterday  millions of irish people decided that the lgbt community deserved equality and that this country needed to change.Just 22 years ago it was illegal to be gay in Ireland, but now its a different place. It represents a victory not only for the Yes side, but also for Irish society, Irish democracy and the young people of Ireland. Its no longer the oppressive conservative nation that it once was, bound by the restraints of the catholic church, its now a place where equality and liberty matter. 

Today gay teenagers can grow up knowing that theyre accepted by their country, and that they too matter.The struggles of the elderly people who grew up gay in Ireland ,living a lie and a life of misery and marginalisation, have finally been recognised.The Irish people, via the ballot box, have today given each and every gay child and young person in Ireland - and across the world - a strong and powerful message that they are loved, they are cared for, and don’t need to change who they are.

Today I am so proud to call Ireland my home , well done Ireland, you did the right thing.

You guys know about vampires? You know, vampires have no reflections in a mirror? There’s this idea that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. And what I’ve always thought isn’t that monsters don’t have reflections in a mirror. It’s that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural level, any reflection of themselves.

And growing up, I felt like a monster in some ways. I didn’t see myself reflected at all. I was like, “Yo, is something wrong with me? That the whole society seems to think that people like me don’t exist?”

And part of what inspired me, was this deep desire that before I died, I would make a couple of mirrors. That I would make some mirrors so that kids like me might see themselves reflected back and might not feel so monstrous for it.

— 

Junot Díaz, quoted in the New Jersey Star-Ledger 

It’s a powerful thing, to be able to provide a mirror for someone. It’s a way to create change, change that begins in the single interaction between reader and book, or between viewer and artwork. No child growing up should feel like there is no place for them as the hero in the story, or that people like them belong only in subordinate roles. 

If you want to resist, if you want to create change, you can’t do it through political parties, the courts or through a corporatized media. You must step outside the system and create popular mechanisms, mass movements that will put pressure in a cruder way on the centers of power.
—  Chris Hedges, ‘The Pathology of the Rich’, The Real News Network

STOP SCROLLING AND TAKE TIME TO READ THIS PLEASE 

Recently, the Bishop of Oakland, California (Michael J. Barber) updated the contract that all Catholic school teachers must sign to include a new “morality clause” that affects both their personal and professional lives.  Prohibited actions include: “Public support or publicly living together outside marriage”; “Public support of or sexual activity out of wedlock”; “Public support of or homosexual lifestyle”; “Public support of or use of abortion";“Public support of or use of a surrogate mother”; “Public support of or use of in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination”; “Public membership in organizations whose mission and message are incompatible with Catholic doctrine or morals.” Essentially, all teachers must adhere to all Catholic values–whether they are Catholic or not. 

In 2012, the Supreme Court of the United States recognized a ‘ministerial exception’ to discrimination and employment laws. This became a national impetus for diocese to change their contracts that they have with their employees. Unfortunately this stripped those employees from protection against discrimination. 

Bishop Barber, of Oakland California, has changed the contract of the diocese to redefine teachers as ministers, leaving them defenseless and unable to sue if they are fired for discriminatory reasons.  This change goes not only what it means to be Christian, but the charism of many high schools throughout the area. Many teachers cannot support this contract. Those who cannot afford to quit will be forced to lie, and our community will lose many valuable teachers. 

My school prides itself on its diversity and dedication to social justice and this new contract strips away the school’s ability to continue that. These teachers are honestly some of the greatest, most intelligent people and I am so lucky to have known them. I do not want them to give up the job they love, willingly or unwillingly, and I do not want them to teach at a place that goes against their values. 

Please help my school and my community, and let Bishop Barber know that the public will not stand for this, and sign this petition. 

Further reading: 
San Francisco Chronicle

Kron 4 News

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In 2012, the Entertainment Software Association announced that 47% of all game players are women. Before this statistic came out, it wasn’t a surprise that girl gamers existed but the fact that this supposed ‘minority’ almost shared equal parts with the majority was used as a catalyst for the types of gaming environments we have today where females are faced with sexism, patriarchy, and other various forms of prejudice. This, in turn has initiated both positive and negative discourse and has perpetuated social change in the video game community. This is my response…

Read, Write and Experience at http://theplightofgirlgamers.tumblr.com/

Feminism is an endeavor to change something very old, widespread, and deeply rooted in many, perhaps most, cultures around the world, innumerable institutions, and most households on Earth–and in our minds, where it all begins and ends. That so much change has been made in four or five decades is amazing; that everything is not permanently, definitively, irrevocably changed is not a sign of failure. A woman goes walking down a thousand-mile road. Twenty minutes after she steps forth, they proclaim that she still has nine hundred ninety-nine miles to go and will never get anywhere.
—  Rebecca Solnit, “Pandora’s Box and the Volunteer Police Force,” in Men Explain Things to Me