A look at a Resilience piece about why we can’t return to the “normal” that is killing us and the planet. We also examine the outrage over Michael Moore’s controversial film, “Planet of the Humans.”
Tremendous Analysis of the “Normal” Our Leaders Desperately Want to Restore
I am in the midst of reading Joanna Macy’s Active Hope. One of its premises is that to achieve a transition, or “Great Turning,” we need to understand what we’re turning from. We can find motivation and courage in understanding that what we reject is intolerable.
Right now, all of us are yearning for some form of normalcy. And political leadership, especially among the GOP, are panting at the prospect of returning the workforce to their jobs so that their lost stock values and earnings can return to “normal.” Certainly, it is understandable that most people with an eye on a diminishing checking account are also eager to return to “normal.”
But in “Normal Was Killing Us,” originally published in 3E Strategies and reprinted by Resilience, Cylvia Hayes, the former Oregon First Lady, outlines why we should not be yearning for a return to “normal,” describing clearly why “normal” was killing us. From Hayes:
“Before the onset of the pandemic more than fifty percent of all Americans were living paycheck to paycheck with little or no savings. In other words more than half of us were already living below or near the poverty line – half! Most at that marginal level were working long hours and multiple jobs just to pay monthly expenses, stay slightly above water and do their part to keep the economy growing. You could certainly make the argument the economy wasn’t really working for them; rather they were working their hearts out to feed the status quo economy.”Resilience: “Normal Was Killing Us” by Cylvia Hayes
Hayes goes on to describe how half of the US population lives precariously close to poverty, and she points out how the entire economic system is founded on mounting debt and was doomed to collapse before Covid-19, as the level of debt required to prop up Wall St. is unsustainable.
Of course, the corporate sector has long been able to make their growth sustainable by sucking on teet of Congressional largesse, and with its laser-like focus on quarterly profits, not on long term sustainability, it merrily proceeded without care. We saw it when Wall St. ignored how the real estate boom was unsustainable, and then when the bubble burst Congress and Obama came to the rescue, restoring us to the “normal” that has persisted until now.
“After the great recession of 2008, for the most part, we did just go back to normal; we got the economic engine churning again and through hard labor, escalating environmental destruction, propping up Wall Street and the finance industry, blowing open oil and gas drilling, and mushrooming the chasm between the ultra-wealthy and all the rest of us. And, well, that led us to where we are today.”
Hayes then zeroes in on the pharma industry to illustrate how the priorities of industry may serve their profit motives, but not the public:
“The U.S. pharmaceutical industry stopped manufacturing antibiotics because they don’t turn as much profit as other, less universally necessary drugs; we now get 97 of our antibiotics from China. Meanwhile Big Pharma artificially hikes rates of certain life-saving drugs and, like big Oil, gobbles up millions in federal subsidies each year. “Resilience: “Normal Was Killing Us” by Cylvia Hayes
Clearly the rush to return to normal will benefit Wall St. and its corporate allies, but will it benefit us? Hayes’ overall premise is that just because something is viewed as “normal” doesn’t mean it is good. Certainly, it is “normal” and good for the corporatocracy and the 1%, but is it good for the rest of us who live in increasingly vulnerable economic conditions, at risk of bankruptcy with the onset of any health crisis or income disruption? And this gets worse every year.
But our political leaders, at the beck and call of their corporate benefactors, are eager to push us all back into the work grind that benefits them enormously while leaving us working non-stop to keep pace. And while it is normal after suffering from this extreme crisis to be eager to embrace anything that looks and feels like a normal life, maybe it is best for us to use this pause to question this “normal” and to initiate a process of exploring a new normal. Hayes makes precisely that suggestion, asking that before we accept the “normal” that has been created for us, perhaps we should envision a new “normal” organized around our priorities and values. She poses the following questions to stimulate that thinking:
- What kind of work would we like to do?
- How much would we like to work?
- Do we really need to drive to work everyday?
- What kind of businesses would we like to see in our community?
- How and how much would we like to travel?
- Are we really OK with so much wealth in the hands of so few?
- Are we really OK with the ecological destruction that has been normalized?
- What actually makes us happy?
I think this is an excellent starting point and I am eager to speak with Cylvia Hayes this week. Our discussion will be aired this Saturday, May 2, at 8:30 am on KSFR, 101.1 FM or via audio-visual podcast, posted at this link by Saturday afternoon. In the meantime, what other questions do you feel we should be asking?
A Comment from Eduardo Krasilovsky, a
Longtime Retake Subscriber
The discussion above focuses upon the suffering of Americans, as did yesterday’s post. But one of our longtime subscribers, Eduardo Krasilovsky, made two important comments about yesterday’s post. The first comment was that we shouldn’t focus exclusively on Trump and his immorality, as there is a long litany of others who may not be as ill but are just as wedded to the priorities Trump advances. From Eduardo:
“The ‘subhuman beast’ in the White House acts the way he acts, together with many of his class, only because they consider us subhuman. Expendable animals like the rest of life. To be enslaved and/or worked to death just like the owners of the meet packing plants are doing today. But this elite, the plutocrats, or American aristocrats, mostly men creating and sustaining dynasties, passed from father to son for centuries, always existed in the midst of humanity.
And we do have to name them, the Doles, the Tysons, the Bezos of America. They always existed in plain view but also hidden behind the likes of City Bank. The Republicans in Congress and in many states agree with them.
So, do not just blame the insane one at the head of our Empire. Blame all his friends and family because to them we are also subhumans.
Eduardo then went on to quote Smedley Butler, author of War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier. The quote illustrates how our “normal” has been dependent upon the enslavement of the populaces of countries throughout the world, suggesting the need to add a few more questions to Hayes’ list.
“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”Smedley Butler
That’s it for today. Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay home. This ain’t over by a long shot. Please weigh in on the Moore film, and add more questions we should be asking before accepting a return to our unsustainable “normal.”
Paul & Roxanne