New Paradigms of Capitalism

The following is a response to author Casey Dorman’s insightful essay:  Big Business Really is the Enemy of the People

Just this week, I was thoroughly impressed with an interview of Wisconsin Representative Mark Pocan on the Thom Hartman radio show on KPFK, Pacifica Radio 90.7 FM. ( It sounds as if his interviews are a weekly feature on the Thom Harman show). Pocan has represented the 2nd District in Wisconsin since 2013 and is a businessman and Co-Chair of both the Congressional Progressive Caucus. He’s an AFL-CIO guy and took fascinating questions from the listening audience and answered with intelligence and informed opinions that were impressive.  I think this is the kind of person you mean when you state, “The first step, I believe, is to elect, and continue to elect, representatives who favor policies that are in the best interest of the majority of citizens.”  I think that promising ourselves to become more involved with representatives like Mark Pocan is a good place to start. 

The fact that causes have to be directed to “pocketbook issues in America” is true and is at the moral and ethical source of America’s problems. Granted, the disparity of wealth and the thwarted ability to have the stability our parents had is the cause of the focus on pocketbook issues, but I believe that attitude also comes from the moral leadership of the country and from the pulpits.  If that is the case then it is only from the pulpits that it can be changed. The concept of “Jesus”, especially in the Evangelical churches along with the new prosperity theology has shifted so much away from the selfless bent Christ appears to have been preaching that until there are new interpretations of the most practiced religion in America, we will continue in this vein.

Those more generous messages and views caused companies in the 50s to embrace “profit sharing”. My father’s factory did that 60 years ago.

Today, the Mondragon Corporation in Spain is a fascinating study on the humanist concept of business, “a philosophy of participation and solidarity, and a shared business culture.” While economist Richard Wolf has portrayed The Mondragon Corporation as a working model of an alternative to capitalist mode of production, Noam Chomsky found problems with it being part of the market system. Nevertheless, I think the model is an important experiment to which we should give our attention.

I just read on the Mondragon Wikipedia page a fact that you might be interested in Casey because your newest novel is about Artificial Intelligence. Perhaps you’ve already read it, but apparently, there is a science fiction novel about AI ‘by Kim Stanley Robinson, in which “the Mondragón Corporation has evolved into a planned economy system called the Mondragon Accord. .The Mondragon Accord is controlled by means of a network of AI’s running on quantum computers, and rules large parts of the Solar System, including Mercury and most of the moons of the gas giants; only part of Earth, and its colonies in space, retain remnants of capitalist economies, while Mars has withdrawn from the Accord in the century preceding the story.”

Again, I use the word “fascinating”!

Not the Progressives I Know!

This post is in response to Casey Dorman’s Essay “It’s the Cost of Gas and Food and Rent, Stupid” in Lost Coast Review: December 11, 2018.  Casey is the publisher of “Lost Coast Review,” a member of OC Writers, and a prolific novelist.  The response below addresses a few of the points in Casey’s recent political blog post.

Prediction

Unlike Casey Dorman’s view that the recent protests in France are unlikely to occur in the US, I predict that within the next two years, possibly much sooner, ideas from France will influence Americans to take to the streets as well. In the 60s the protests for labor rights in France preceded the most violent of the US protests regarding Vietnam in the late ’60s. Even more significant was the linkage between the American and French philosophers and great thinkers who affected the American Revolution and the French Revolution. During this period of the Enlightenment, Locke, Paine, and Thomas Jefferson had great influence on Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, and others. The back and forth acceptance of ideas and search for ways to view society has historically existed between France and the United States, and I believe the French protesters will have an effect on America. 

The Zeitgeist

My favorite word lately is “zeitgeist.” Inventions, for example, tend to be in the zeitgeist (Edison’s development of the phonograph, according to some, was invented AFTER a French inventor’s development of the phonograph. Edison was able to register the patent first as I remember.  Thus the same idea existed across the ocean). So too, creative ideas and new philosophies seem to always float in the zeitgeist no matter the level of sophistication in communication.  It seems that some kind of revolution has to be the inevitable outcome of the vast disparity of wealth not only in the US but throughout the world. The pressure created by that kind of disparity cannot be contained forever.

Who are the Progressives? 

The other point mentioned in Casey’s article is the view that progressive leadership has failed to understand the plight of the working class.  The term “progressive” in general usage seems to have taken on some kind of connection with “the elite” recently.  Progressivism is in the DNA of Wisconsin and Minnesota.  From Governor LaFollette to Eugene McCarthy, these two states have been at the forefront of progressive thought. “The Progressive” magazine, for heaven’s sakes is published in Madison! It is the breaking up of unions during the Reagan administration, I believe, that is one of the major factors that allowed factories in Milwaukee, for example, to be so shortsighted as to make no responsible plans for the retraining of workers in industries they knew were dying.

The only way I can speak about “liberal progressives” is to talk about those in my world whom I consider holding this political bent.  Those who I know personally as long-time Progressives live in the Midwest and are from very humble backgrounds.  They live within modest means and they are mostly Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. Their interest has always been in the relationship of the economy to sociological conditions. 
 
Most of my friends from Wisconsin and Minnesota come from families who were farmers or laborers. They are all presently activists in a number of movements. One of my friends is a diversity counselor at a Community College, another is the Director of TRIO’s Student Support Services at the same college. They are not part of the Washington “elite”, yet they are very progressive thinkers. The Student Support Service Program that my friend directs was legislated years ago to help first generation, low income, and special needs students retrain succeed in college. Many of the students came from the industrial sector for retraining of lost jobs. For decades that Federally funded program has understood the connection between the economy and sociological development. Dedication to leveling the playing field has always been and will always be the progressive goal of friends I know. Former and present members of the so-called Democratic “elite” or old guard such as Ted Kennedy and John Lewis have always been the biggest supporters of Student Support Services, Upward Bound, and the MacNair Foundation.  The problem historically has been the fight for funding from the Republican party year after year in spite of statistical evidence that these programs have a significant economic impact.   The fact that a “Republican” President is taking up the mantle formerly fought for by progressive Democrats is a joke and a ruse! 

Painting the picture of progressives as not part of the working class is not how I view it. My college roommate grew up on a dairy farm and became a high school teacher.  She married a parole officer whose father sold life insurance. Farmer issues are very much in their “wheelhouse” so to speak. Both are retired now and live in a lovely, but modest home, with very modest pensions; they take vacations by earning miles on their credit cards. However, they fight for progressive causes and have nothing kind to say about Scott Walker in Wisconsin or Donald Trump 

Another progressive couple I know supports a myriad of issues.  They understand global climate change and the driving forces of migration and immigration.  They are also from typical midwest backgrounds. The husband’s father was a farmer and he himself was a Peace Corps worker during Vietnam and carpenter by trade later on. His wife was a high school biology teacher. They have spent time working in Guatemalan villages and have been able to visit the village in Thailand where the husband worked years ago.  Their children, all teachers, live in the Midwest, Trump country, all are of modest means, and all are Progressive. 

My own father worked his whole life in the stock room at Kearney and Trecker, a factory in Milwaukee in the 50s. He never owned a home and died in a Veterans Hospital without a dime to his name. My mother worked in a grocery store and if she were alive today, she would absolutely go ballistic over Trump and his proposals.  

I must add that there ARE members of my family who did vote for Trump. They do think of us as “elite” because we went to college and use “big words.” I think mostly, they dislike that we drive a Prius, not because they think it’s not American made, but because it illustrates that we believe the scientists concerning global climate change. We were all born and raised in Milwaukee and “woven from the same cloth,” and yet there is the separation. 

So I do think there here is a danger in assuming progressive leadership isn’t addressing the working class or doesn’t understand it. Half, maybe three-quarters of them are the working class. I think political terms are so fluid now that the labels are like sand on a beach changing with the rapidly changing political tide.  As my favorite linguist, George Lakoff of Berkeley indicates that misdirection of the terms is purposeful.   

The frame or meme that has been set up by Trump defining Democrats, or Progressives, or Elites needs to be countered.  Even though I’m not in favor of many centrist policies of the Democratic party and tend to be left of that line, I have the highest respect for Nancy Pelosi,  Bernie Sanders, and the Democratic Party, old and new. I think Democrats are stronger together than apart. I think Democrats have been rooted, since FDR and through the 60s in a philosophy “to not look aside from want and pain,” as the old hymn goes, and to work for a more fair and equitable society. I believe that has always been at the core of Democrats, progressive or not.  And when the smoke and mirror tactics of the 2016 election dissipate, Republicans who hold these values will perhaps be more willing to speak up as well.  




Response to “Empty Words” by Casey Dorman, Lost Coast Review

On November 6, 2017 Casey Dorman wrote a response to the most recent mass killings in America titled “Empty Words” at Lost Coast Review. Dorman states, “Fighting terrorism or preventing mass murders is not a matter of ‘not giving in’ to something.”

Because of the length of this response, I have posted it here rather than on the the Lost Coast Review website: The following is a comment to “Empty Words”:

I  agree, Casey. All of our statements of unity seem hollow and trite. They are spoken in the absence of a call for more effort toward understanding the causes of these incredible tragedies. That call, it seems to me, would be for more intensive research in and attention to trying to understand the mind of individuals who actually have chosen to give up everything that any of the rest of us desire in this world. They HAVE chosen to give up everything. We think about the tragic enormity of what they take from innocent people, but we often fail to consider the angst that brought them to the place, essentially of suicide – the same angst that perhaps thousands of other people also feel, but which these individuals cannot control. Why? No matter how much armor they wear or try to run at the very last minute, they DO understand that they are risking everything to go against sacredly held ideals of society. They choose to be the outcast. Again the question is “Why”‘? What can be a motivator that is stronger than survival? What can be the cause that transforms a human mind, that makes the instinct for survival SUBSERVIENT to his or her need to engage in horribly destructive action to others as well as to himself?  Even in as seemingly unconnected case of a person afflicted with anorexia, something has happened to turn off that survival switch. What is that factor?

You said something in this piece that I don’t think was expressed elsewhere. ‘Many of the mass killings involve individuals who desire to kill lots of people who are together enjoying some benign group activity, such as attending a music concert, a sporting event, church, or being present at a club, a movie or political event.’ I was struck by the words “enjoying some benign group activity”. It suggests extreme isolation from the community as a unifying factor and a probable cause for how a mind is re-shaped – how it is called to act in retaliation or how it becomes open to indoctrination of an ideology.

The heroes of society are rightfully identified as the first responders, or others who step in to stop the carnage. Those ARE the heroes, and there are other heroes as well.  Those are the people who take on the day-to-day difficult task of counseling individuals, providing support groups for domestic violence, giving intensive therapy, and doing research into cognitive behavior. Those heroes are not supported nor applauded enough by society.

Emphasizing that aspect of society on an ongoing basis is at the core of the solution to the problem; making them a source of inspiration is a shift in focus that we need to take.  And we need to think about the heroes among us who inspire us. You can find them in any community. They are the people who stop and interact with the kid who seems alone, talk to the guy on the block no one wants to befriend. When I see them interact, it inspires me. I think we should think about these people at moments like this and how we can be more like them. We need sincere inspiration rather than the syrupy “oh so strong” rhetoric that falls like a disingenuous, cacophonous clang on everyone’s ears. Until we have truly inspirational leadership, we just have to inspire each other.