Big challenges against social justice are multiplying fast.  The political scene in the USA is now recreated as a new and more powerful form of reality TV, with Donald Trump as star. Almost every long standing belief and value that supposedly underwrites American democracy is now literally ‘up for grabs’.  But Trump didn’t do it alone.  There are multiple injustices out there, and people are angry about them.

One part of the problem is that the solutions to these problems that Trump and many of his followers promote are even greater injustice, more bigotry, reinforcing racism, and not only acceptance—but encouragement—of violence.  But the other part of the problem is the people who are so angry, also identify a real problem.

We have seen this before in other countries.  Desire for a ‘tough guy’ is often brought about by those who feel injustice has been heaped upon them and believe that some other group is to blame.  As a result, their desire for an extreme authoritarian leader who will take their side moves directly into a dictator mode of violent fascism.  But there is more to it than that. Workers at an Indiana Carrier manufacturing plant of heating and air conditioning units—recently told of their forthcoming layoffs (recorded on YouTube) as the corporation moves its plant to Mexico—make some clear and interesting distinctions.  Both white and black workers say that Trump’s racist comments are troubling, but they appreciate and support his take on international trade and its effects on their jobs.[1]

This economic inequality started in the 1970’s and is now soaring; and feelings of economic insecurity are increasingly widespread.  And these feelings of economic insecurity have recently been validated as the new economic reality.  A   group of researchers analyzed ‘feelings’ of risk and found them to be disconcertingly real.  They discovered, for instance, that during the current span of adulthood, “nearly 60% of Americans will spend at least one year below the official poverty line”. [2]

At the same time, the issues that defeat and diminish social justice build and multiply.  In fact, it’s beginning to resemble that well-known game of whack-a-mole—more just keep coming. But as economic risk increases, too many middle and upper middle class folks still see themselves and their families as potentially ‘making it’ and so they tend to gloss over the evermore obvious fault-lines.  As a result, the suffering of those already in the throes of poverty, or those moving closer each year can be more easily ignored. This lack of acknowledgement is even easier if everyone sticks to their own neighborhoods and therefore doesn’t have to see and witness the increasing level of economic rubble all around us.

Of course, some have begun to explore further afield; the most obvious of these explorations and new attachments are those groups now breaking for Bernie.  But even so, our invisible “thought worlds” remain particularly potent.  So these internalized social constructs (see blog #4) keep us believing in the equality aspects of democracy.  But this concept of democracy is almost always accompanied by a vision of “limited government and free markets”.   As a result, the “right” side of politics believes in that visionary slogan in all of its purity, while the “left “side of politics believes that accompanying ‘safety nets’ will limit the free market economic damage.  But still, the starkly individualist credo of the Western world remains, for the most part, unchallenged and unexplored.

So, we are not yet to the fascist world we fear.  But we are too close for comfort.  Hopefully, the political system will bail us out.  But even if it does, that is not sufficient.  As a country, and as a world, we need to come to terms with the roots of this very real and undeniable situation.  Neither ‘my way or the highway’, nor ‘policy discussions’, nor even polite refusal to see the problems behind the anger, will be sufficient.  So, we can start small—but we must begin.  Our neighbors and political leaders will eventually follow our lead.

We first need to itemize our alternatives, and recognize that there are not too many viable ones.  But, social justice advocates do have a powerful option that can be utilized immediately by any group that decides to do so.  Three of the six actions that create the viable and empirically proven processes of deep participation are of great importance in defusing anger among groups and initiating the more profound conversations that lead to new and agreed meaning (see blog 4).  They are: (i) inclusion and heterogeneity; (ii) shared critical thought; and (iii) creation of social and cultural legitimacy. It is these shared and collective processes which can help us re-image and re-imagine our current out-of-sync  social constructs and thought worlds.

The question then becomes—where do we start, and how do we connect?  I would suggest the starting point to be that of understanding the social implications of free markets and globalization for wealth and poverty.  What works? Obviously there is a great deal.  What doesn’t work?  Obviously, there is a great deal.  How do we connect?   Certainly, this website can be used for initial connections.  Other coalitions, local and global, are also good possible connecters.  But the key point is to get the deep and necessary participatory process of rethinking, re-imagining  and re-imaging actually moving!

 

[1] See “Good Jobs, Goodbye” by Nelson D. Schwartz, New York Times, Review Section, March 20, 2016

[2] See “Calculate Your Economic Risk” by Mark R. Rank, New York Times, Review Section, March 20, 2016.  Or go online at riskcalculator.org.