Saturday, November 26, 2011

Elizabeth Warren: Working For Change

Not camping in public parks..

You know what's sad, gentle reader? How excited we get when a politician seems forthcoming, decent, and says what we all already really think, or at least what half of us think. But the more conservative folk get into a frenzy too when they feel someone is really speaking their own thoughts and beliefs. Isn't it supposed to already be that way? Aren't our paid and elected political representatives both paid and elected to represent us, politically? I think I get more excited when people who aren't paid to do so elegantly articulate a coherent and intelligent thought that voices the concerns of many.

Nevertheless, it is heartening to hear from such a woman as Elizabeth Warren and this is the quotation (and here is a link to the video of her saying it) from a speech she was giving:

"There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there -- good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn't have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory... Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea -- God Bless! Keep a Big Hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along."

What a socialist! Dirty hippy! Actually she's a cute middle aged little white lady.

She's really turning people on. Jon Stewart says he wants to make out with her. 

I like that she focuses on policy, not ideology. DEREGULATION of banks is bad. It was a bad idea and if we should protest something we should protest individually the men and women in Congress and the CEOS who allowed these things to happen (as well as taking individual responsibility for our own actions) and I think some participants in OWS are saying this, but they aren't saying it clearly, or loudly, or right. They aren't saying it right. I'm probably not either.

But to a large degree she is. It is bad policy we should protest not just bad philosophy (although its that too). People got around the rules, broke them, and found ways to have less monitoring of their practices, and this hurt us, and then we bailed them out. Its not right, and its not fair, and we better damn well fix it.

But we also better make it very clear exactly what happened (because I don't really think most people understand what went wrong specifically, they just blame the President), do a little reading and writing and talking and thinking things out, rather than just sitting on the lawn and going ARGH!!!!!!! although that response is understandable, it isn't going to make the "argh!!" feeling go away soon or for good. Shed light on EXACTLY what is messed up, discuss the boom and bust de-regulatory system in ways that people can understand. Hold people accountable. Specific actual people for specific actual things.

Shed light - we cannot make informed decisions Warren says? Fix that; focus on consumer advocacy.

This is what frustrates me about OWS - they claim to shed light but they don't really seem to be to me, it feels more like an angry mob.

Which isn't to say I don't understand the anger. I understand most of it, the economic injustice, the lying, the deregulation, the bad rules and rigged system. But at the moment we're not really talking about that. We're talking about the protestors not the protest. I get really frustrated by a sense that most of the anger and conversation right now is about how the protestors don't just get to do anything they damn well please.

Give the anger a name and a face and a policy and a practice. Then give it some solutions and practical applications. I see your anger. Now what's on for Round Two?

Re-write the rules. Change the game. Clarify the reality of the transgressions with facts, names, statistics, numbers and evidence. Be like Elizabeth Warren. QUIT WHINING! START DOING!!

I know Elizabeth Warren supports OWS. She must be far less cranky than I.

You know maybe the reason I am so cranky about this OWS thing is that they're clouding an issue I really care about, ruining it, or somehow tarnishing or misrepresenting or badly representing at least, something I think is important, in a way that makes me cringe. Its like when your mom drives you to school when you're a kid and she's wearing curlers in her hair and that god-awful pink terrycloth robe, and eye cream, and your mom's a good mom, her heart's in the right place, but I mean god mom you're so embarrassing!

Elizabeth Warren's statement represents good citizenship. She is calling on the successful, the leaders, the powerful, the strong, to play the game fairly; she isn't requesting a handout, she is asking, in fact insisting, that everyone honor the social contract. Which social contract? The one we all signed when we agreed to live in society, the one we signed when we expected there to be roads on which to drive, police to protect us, schools to send our children to, emergency rooms to get the nail out of cousin Jake's foot, businesses with which to do business, politicians to represent us and write laws that are fair and balanced for the majority, judges to protect both the majority and the minority, soldiers to defend us, garbage-men to take our yucky bits to the dump, and men and women who run into our homes when there's a fire and buildings when disaster strikes. Certainly we pay for all these things, some a little more, some a little less. We pay for them with our taxes, but we also pay for them in other ways, in paying it forward. Some things you just do because they are the right thing to do.

For the party who claims to have the moral high ground (but really just has the "naming" ground on which to name things, which is an incredibly underestimated power, just ask any colonized culture) - they should know better. For an orderly, just, fair, and moral society, all must recognize and respect the social contract which says we together will forge and uphold a good society - for the good of all. Furthermore, we must recognize and respect that we are all interdependent. The trade and exchange, buying and selling, investing and securing of goods and services, all the way down to simple proximity.

It is leaf-raking season and I recently had the joy of spending all day raking and bagging leaves back and front. You see I'm being sarcastic when I say that because, well, raking leaves is a pain in the ass. I live in a windy part of the country and its no fun to rake leaves in the wind. But also, and I feel this is important to point out, I don't have any trees. The leaves are from my neighbor's damn trees and every year I have to rake up his cycle of life tree-death. Which might be why I'm cranky. Truth be told, I didn't do the raking. A lady at work said her son is unemployed and can't find a job. So I said I would pay him to rake the leaves and I paid him a great deal more than anyone would expect to earn because of his situation and because I know his mom is a kind woman who takes in stray animals, and really cares about everyone whose office she cleans, including mine. Now, I do not have much money myself and I have to live on a pretty strict budget myself, so that money came out of my "to put away for savings in case the car dies again" money.

So let's think about this. My neighbor's leaves. Not my problem. Except they are my problem. Because wind blows and life happens. I could put up a fortress and post signs that say "get your damn leaves off my lawn sucker!" and then we'd be enemies and I'd call him a fanatic and he'd call me a hippy and I'd call him a dbag and he'd say get a job, things like that. Then people on our street would take sides and we'd throw tomatoes at each other and when something bad happens or I need to borrow a cup of sugar, no one would answer their door. It wouldn't be a nice place to live. I should probably just rake the leaves. Everyone else on the street has to rake the leaves too and only some of them have trees. It happens. I'm willing to do the work.

Similarly, I don't have a lot of money, but I do have a job, which is better than not having a job. I also have a bad back and an antipathy to leaves and things that crawl in leaves that are creepy. For a variety of reasons, most having to do with the interdependence of my work with my coworker's work, neighborliness, and the golden rule, I paid my worker and paid him well. I could have paid some kids to do it for like a dollar. But this way at the end of the day, we all done good.

Finally, its just the right thing to do. But it also makes economic sense. Now they can buy groceries, the people at the store can have jobs because the store owner will get money, as will the producers of food, the transporters of food, the workers on the farm of food (what I like to call farm-o-food), and so on even the keepers of the custodial arts who picked up the leaves and took them wherever they take leaves, Leafville I imagine, where the leaves live happy lives with all the pets who died when we were children and our parents couldn't bear to tell us that they just died and went in the ground, well that's where leaves go, and that's how interdependent we all are.

What I like about Elizabeth Warren's sentiment is that she seems to be suggesting that there is a moral and practical code of being an American and that code is as much a part of the American Dream as anything else. That we work hard and succeed and when we do we leave a little out for others to make use of when they work hard and succeed too. Like cookies left out for Santa. He gets milk and cookies, you get presents.

What I don't like about OWS sentiment is that it allows itself to seem like it is criticizing the American Dream full stop, advocating equal pay for unequal work, not to mention advocating social welfare, laziness, not working, whinyness, malaise, sloth, poverty, poor sanitation, ditzyness, and communism. I'm not saying that OWS support those things or are those things, but that is the impression they allow themselves to give. And I get the sense that they don't really care what impression they allow themselves to give - they know who they are and enjoy the sort of no-leadership no-organization no-direction ness of this moment because it is the antipathy to highly polished Republican streamlined organization and corporate hierarchies. But other people live on this street, you're camping on our lawns, and I think the last thing you want us to do, if you want us to come out of our house and bbq with you, or convince others to continue to rake each other's leaves, is to seem like you're whining and don't really know what you're doing or why, at least not in any way that you can, like, articulate.

hey while you're camping on my lawn at least rake the damn leaves will you?

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