The excitement and high hopes for the Obama administration are palpable here in the states, and I think, around the world. There are going to be public streaming videocasts of the inauguration in a great many locations here in Chicago, something I do not remember ever occurring previously. I plan to watch Obama’s speech live on (captioned) TV myself, which is a hugely uncharacteristic desire on my part. It’s all that good.
So, I share in the excitement, in this surging widespread aura of hope; yet I am concerned that corporate machinations, the fascist-like actions and methods of the for-profit private sector, are too entrenched and too readily accepted by the bludgeoned, dulled American public as the incontrovertible status quo, for any one administration to be able to turn this country around.
It’s beyond ironic that, precisely in the middle of this season of nearly-universal high optimism, an old friend has become embroiled in a xenophobic persecution, for daring to (rather mildly) posit an opinion within a closed, members-only group. A couple of entrenched corporate toadies sought the comment out, informed their superiors about it, and sent overt threats to my friend; one of them even sanctimoniously touted these actions as justifiable, because the situation is taking place in ‘the private sector’.
Most incongruously, these people wholeheartedly consider themselves to be liberals, and the organization they represent proclaims itself to be an exemplary bastion of progress, originality and forward thinking!
This is precisely where my hope takes a nose-dive. No matter what innovations a government might put forth, if the private sector remains the same, keeping its employees in the current, ongoing wage-and-health-insurance-slavery, then no real change can occur.
Positive Change begins on a personal level, then moves on to grass-roots, hopefully to burgeon into fruitfulness, much as Obama’s campaign evolved. Implementing Positive Change involves a huge risk. Beginning Positive Change can be painful, discouraging, even threatening. Achieving Positive Change involves re-writing the rulebook, beginning by re-examining your own motives. How can you demand from your government what you – and I do mean you personally – are not willing to extend to others in your daily life?
It’s not a question of labeling or ‘spin’ (things like factory-produced ‘all-natural pizza’ come to mind here). It’s a question of willfully working to improve your immediate environment, and that change always begins, small and large, with free speech, with daring to name things. If you have nothing to hide, if your actions are honest and honorable, then you have nothing to fear from dissenting opinion.
I’m afraid that money and power (even wee tiny increments of power) are far too seductive to the majority, and the change we are throwing all our hopes into will remain an unattainable goal, simply a stimulus for our imagination. Perhaps, however, even that is important to maintain: a belief in a future, however remote from the present, when humans may evolve beyond today’s hypocrisy.
Martin Luther King day seems a good day for this post…
Lastly, I am saddened to say farewell to another audacious friend and exemplary mentor-like figure, Judith Hoffberg: a writer, curator and publisher under whose Umbrella the book arts in all their manifestations (as well as an enormous amount of tangential information) came to an entire generation of us. She left on January 16th. I will truly miss her popping up in my inbox with her uncannily-timed, exquisite words of encouragement and support. Here is her farewell, in her own words. I hope she’s happily hanging out with Marilyn at that big eternal party…these are two people who, however temporarily, did achieve things for which people were willing to work beyond greed, beyond the pursuit of power, for a true, inclusive community.