I’ve been listening – oh, yes, listening! – to the angry words of Black Lives Matter. They talk about all sorts of things, but the most important message of all that they deliver about our government and our country is that they are founded on hypocrisy.
Our declaration of independence speaks of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. But who shall be granted those precious rights? The Declaration was signed by 47 men. But only 13 of them did not own slaves. So the vast majority owned slaves, and they must not have meant that the slaves would have liberty of the right to the pursuit of happiness. Either way, they were hypocritical.
Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. The slaves were to be freed. And they were. But the chains came off, and they had nothing. Nothing more than the clothes on their back, if they even had clothes. Many of them starved. Between 1862 and 1870, nearly a quarter of the four million freed slaves died or were wretchedly sick. They entered a world without any support at all. Freedom alone gives you nothing. You cannot support your family or yourself on nothing. The society denied them education, food, the ability to work at a decent job. In the end, most of them had to become sharecroppers for their old masters. They became slaves under another name.
But America is a meritocracy. You can advance yourself by persistence and hard work, can’t you? “Despair about the state of our politics pervades the political spectrum, from left to right. One source of it, the narrative of fairness offered in basic civics textbooks—we all have an equal opportunity to succeed if we work hard and play by the rules; citizens can truly shape our politics—no longer rings true to most Americans. Recent surveys indicate that substantial numbers of them believe that the economy and political system are both rigged. They also think that money has an outsize influence on politics. Ninety percent of Democrats hold this view, but so do 80 percent of Republicans. And careful studies confirm what the public believes.”
And things are not likely to change in the short run. “Rising income inequality, wage stagnation, and slowing social mobility hurt ordinary Americans economically, even as they confer massive social and political advantages on the mega-rich—and not just when it comes to college admissions and politics either.”
So the problem with our country for many Americans – although they don’t express it that way – is the hypocrisy. We are told that we a true and fair democracy, and a true and fair economy, but it’s not true. Black Americans know this better than any other citizens, but the rest of them are learning the sad truth. We have a country in which the 1% both politically and economically. The 1% hire bureaucrats, police, lawyers,
and economic bullies to suppress the ordinary population. And virtually all suffer.
Is there any answer to this? Yes, there is – but it is contrary to every we have been taught, and most people are afraid to try it. Which is sad, because aside from the COVID-19 disaster, American taken as a whole has more than enough economic wealth to support all of its citizens in a decent way. A way that should give most of them the happiness that they expected. COVID-19 has torn a large hole in the country’s ability to produce goods and services sufficient for all. And on top of that, the threat of climate change suggests that repairs will be difficult, even if the disease is finally beaten back.
Yet COVID-19 and climate change has, somehow, made Americans realize that they are living in a fraudulent society, and – more and more – they are rising up against it. Those who call themselves progressives, and those who are right-wing radicals, are the ones who are least satisfied and who are looking to transform the society. The sad thing is that these groups have different beliefs about the causes of the problems and therefore they cannot work together. What is likely to happen is that Trump and his backers are likely to lose the 2020 election, unless they find a way to cheat themselves to victory. Biden will win and, if we’re lucky, he will be forced to follow the progressives towards a change in the society. Who knows if it will be a step with lasting impact, though.
In the meantime, my greatest hope is that more and more people will realize that we can achieve Life, Liberty, Equality, Justice, and the Pursuit of Happiness is an actual sense, but only if we devise a truly fair economic system. You can call it socialism, if you wish. I call it a system of mutual caring and sharing. We know that when businesses had profit sharing, workers worked harder, because they could see that there efforts were helping themselves, not just the owners. I’d like to turn that attitude into the way that the entire economy is run. I’d like to make it impossible for a corporate CEO to earn more than 12 times what the average worker makes. I’d like to end the practice of making a legislator a career job. Just those changes alone would start us on the road to the America that we thought we had. One without hypocrisy.