What People Can Do When Freed of Capitalist Thinking: Two Inspiring Tales

On the eve of a new year, Retake wants to reset and rethink how we view the world. We do not have to live a zero sum game where for one to win or to succeed, others must suffer. There are options. as today’s post reveals; we all have choices. And they matter. We will analyze MLG’s just announced PRC candidates, in our next blog.

First of all, I admit I am obsessed with the degree to which our capitalist system dooms most of us to living that zero sum game; I win, you lose; you win, I lose.

Retake has long covered how the capitalist economic system and our centuries old Imperialist political ideology results in merciless misery and suffering around the globe. We have also highlighted how capitalism and Imperialism constrain nations from working cooperatively to address global environmental and economic challenges. Finally, we have also written how–over time–living within these two political-economic systems, our individual and collective vision of a better future is narrrowed by assumptions imposed by operating within these two ideologies.

Digression time. These past two weeks, Roxanne and I have taken a few steps back from Retake to restore our juices, make fun healthy (and unhealthy) meals, take long walks, and read novels and online articles, not directly related to NM politics or looming legislation. Along the way I came upon two remarkable tales. Not even I could have seen them as allegories for our nation and our world, but the first piece called it out as emerging from decidedly uncapitalist thinking. Armed with that insight, the second piece appeared to be an apt follow up to the first, with each article highlighting an individual who thought and acted without concern for self interest and simply did the right thing. As we emerge from the third of three pretty brutal years, we offer these two pieces as allegory that offer hope of different ways to think and act.

The first piece, from Pulitzer Center: “Resistance Through Assistance: Human Beings Who Care Helping Human Beings in Need” by Angel Chevrestt is a remarkable story focused on immigration. But unlike so many such pieces, there was not a single statistic cited, just a deeply personal, very human tale about people completely untethered from capitalist assumptions, guided by inner voices inherited from elders whose views and values were forged by indigenous experience and culture. They formed a collective, Casa Carmelita, which provides resources, supplies, housing and guidance to refugees in El Paso and those across the border in Juarez awaiting entry into the U.S. and asylum hearings they hope will grant them legal status in the U.S. The article, from Pulitzer Center: “Resistance Through Assistance: Human Beings Who Care Helping Human Beings in Need” by Angel Chevrestt offers a completely different perspective on being human and being in community. The article begins with this passage:

On the drive to El Paso, I stopped in Colorado City, Texas, at a local Mexican restaurant called Mi Ranchito, for what I hoped would be an authentic, home-style Mexican meal. Mi Ranchito did not disappoint; the food was delicious. But what stood out most to me was when a patron asked the waitress how much extra it would cost to have avocado added to their dish, and the waitress happily replied that she’d add a few slices of avocado at no extra charge. That simple gesture spoke volumes. 

I asked myself, ‘Is this what collectivism might look like?’ It’s common practice in American restaurants to charge extra for any added items—avocados can easily fetch an additional two or three dollars. This wasn’t the typical American profit driven model for running a business, but at this particular Mexican restaurant, owned and operated by Mexican Americans, in this West Texas town of 3,931 about a five-and-a-half hour drive from El Paso, there would be no additional charge for a few slices of avocado.  

On both sides of the border, in El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, I met people from different walks of life who join forces to help provide humanitarian aid to human beings in need. They invest their time and energies in the pursuit of making the lives of complete strangers a little bit easier. They share a common collective spirit and cause: help people in need, especially the most marginalized. They have absolutely no profit motive in mind—they don’t ask themselves, ‘what’s in it for me?’ There are no political motives behind their actions and efforts. Their motivation is rooted in an empathetic desire to simply help those in need; help human beings.  That selfless spirit hearkens back to a time when a United States President once said in a speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” But, in this case, I’ll substitute your country with people in need.

From Pulitzer Center: “Resistance Through Assistance: Human Beings Who Care Helping Human Beings in Need” by Angel Chevrestt. Emphasis mine.

The free addition of avocado to a patron’s meal served as a metaphor for living differently, for not guiding actions by what you get in return, but by what you generate for others. The article goes on to describe how one El Paso activist, Juan Ortiz co-founded Casa Carmelita because a Casa Carmelita was needed. No profit involved. Just people helping other people in need.

Ortiz, 46, is one of five founders of Casa Carmelita, a native-led collective of activists and directly impacted people with a two-fold mission: assistance by way of aid and support to the most vulnerable and marginalized people in the border region of Ciudad Juárez and El Paso; and, resistance in the form of direct action against the injustices espoused by U.S. immigration policies and the hateful rhetoric aimed at people of color. 

From Pulitzer Center: “Resistance Through Assistance: Human Beings Who Care Helping Human Beings in Need” by Angel Chevrestt

Click here to read the full inspiring story. Highly recommended.

Quite by chance I found another tale of an individual guided by an inner voice that told him he had lives to save…so he saved them. Read on!

Freezing Buffalo Man Seeking Shelter, Turned Away from 10 Homes, Perseveres and Saves a Dozen People

CNN reporters, Sharif Paget and Elizabeth Wolf in their piece,”‘I had to do it to save everyone’: Man breaks into school and shelters nearly a dozen people from blizzard,” describe what reads almost like a Hallmark made-for-TV saga of a man, Jay Withey, who was sitting at home, hunkered down safely from the frigid cold that engulfed the northeast, Buffalo getting the full brunt. He gets a call from a friend who felt of all those he knew, only Jay would be certain to come to his aid, which ie exactly what happened. Jay set out to find and save his friend, but in the process got lost himself and with his car stuck in the snow, he desperately went to the front doors of 10 different homes offering $500 to sleep on the floor, telling those that came to the door, “I’m gonna freeze out here.” None of the 10 folks would let him in their front door. We are warm in here, there is nothing to gain by opening our doors to you. The parallel to the attitude that informs our border policy is unmistakable.

Desperate to find a path to survival, Jay returned to his car, seeing another lost soul along the way. Together, they huddled in Jay’s car and called the police to be rescued, only to be told that the police could not get to where they were stuck. He also found out his friend had been rescued. At about this time an elderly woman tapped on his window, asking if she could get in the car with him. her van was stuck and almost out of gas. Jay doesn’t turn folks away; his border is open. and so the three of them huddled in the car using their body heat to warm the car that had by then run out of gas.

At some point the elderly woman said that she really needed to pee, but jay sensed she was too shy to pee in front of others.. Besides, in that cold who could drop their drawers and squat to pee? He saw a light on in the near distance and using his GPS identified it as a school, so he walked to the school, broke a window to gain entry and let in his two new friends, not content, he then noted that there were older people stranded in cars outside the school and he went to them and brought over a dozen people into the school. He then broke into the gym and secured matts on which to sleep, then broke into the cafeteria and secured apples and cereal to eat.

Jay stayed at the school with his cohorts in frost, until Christmas day when he was sure they were all safe, leaving a note behind for the school.

First, it is crazy that Jay thought he had reason to apologize for anything. He selflessly saved over a dozen lives and as he put it, “we were just trying not to die.’

Most people who had done what Jay had done would figure, time to go home. Not Jay. Seeing that there were still cars outside stuck in snow, he found a leaf blower in the school and and headed out to use the leaf blowers to free those cars.

My take away from this story and the first one, is that most folks have a sense of right and wrong and if left to their own instincts will do the right thing and we always have choices. Even of the ten folks who closed their doors to Jay, one who saw Jay later using the leaf blower, came to him and said he felt horrid about his failure to offer shelter. Withey viewed the entire saga differently.

“Withey, who describes himself as a religious man, said he views the whole ordeal as a blessing in disguise. If just one person had taken him up on his plea for shelter that night, he would not have saved all those people, he said.

One man who turned him away saw Withey snow blowing the cars and approached him in tears to apologize, saying he couldn’t sleep that night knowing he had denied Withey shelter.”

From CNN: “I had to do it to save everyone’: Man breaks into school and shelters nearly a dozen people from blizzard,” bySharif Paget and Elizabeth Wolf

We All Have Choices & Our Choices Matter

The two pieces summarized today depict people who listened to inner voices to guide their thinking and more importantly, their actions. They were driven by the needs of other people. American culture does not typically reward selfless behavior. Our mythic heroes are those who build their personal capacity, accumulate resources and build empires. Paul Bunyon, Daniel Boone, Henry Ford, John D.Rockefeller, Steve Jobs. And more ignominiously, the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma.

Today’s post is trying to illustrate that the thinking that landed us in this horrible environmental and economic mess will never get us out of it. We must move outside the constraints of capitalist thinking and Imperialist behavior, if we are ever to live in a world where doors are flung open when those in need appear, where bridges are built not walls, where fears of others do not cause us to close our minds, our doors or our wallets.

IN 2023 and beyond, we will face climate disasters and policy disasters. We will have choices: do we turn away or do we listen to that inner voice and do the right thing? Do we open doors or shut them?

So, today, Retake asks you to think differently and deeply about your New Year’s resolutions. Sure commit to joining a gym, losing some weight reading more books, all good things, but, see if you can’t carve out a bit more time to opening minds and opening doors.

Start the new year off on the right foot….

Plan to Join our Huddle on Weds, Jan 4 from 6-7 and find out more about Retake’s slate of door-opening legislation and how you can help open the minds of some key legislators who will be the difference between whether we open doors in 2023 or slam them shut. you must register to attend.

Jan. 4 Huddle: Click here to register.

Happy New Year and lets make 2023 a year to remember!

In Solidarity & Hope,

Paul & Roxanne

Bonus Coverage-Today’s Retake on the Radio Show with Liz Stefanics

There is a reason Liz Stefanics is one of Retake’s favorite legislators. She reliably introduces and pushes transformational legislation every year and 2023, is no different. In this interview we discuss no less than six pieces of legislation she will be sponsoring in 2023 and they focus on energy, water, and the environment. Great interview with an important legislator. Even if you heard the interview live, we continued for a good ten minutes after the close of the radio.

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5 replies

  1. Silver City Unitarian Fellowship works with Border Partners and others in Deming to provide for the needs of asylum seekers. There are so many caring folks in NM

  2. This quote from the first paragraph, “ We will analyze MLG’s just announced PRC candidates, in our next blog.”

    New Energy Economy sent out an email on the 1st with a link to the Santa Fe New Mexican article about the three appointees. One of the three picks is not even transparent about his support for the Avangrid PNM merger as is the governor. The writing is on the wall.

  3. Like many Retake Members, I heard the words of JFK as a call to me; I have lived accordingly. Your post today shows that subsequent generations also hear this call. Numerous actions have been taken by those who live for the greater good, not the capitalistic reflex. The moments that haunt me in this life are the few times I have failed to meet the needs of those placed in front of me.

  4. I love this blog post. Thank you.

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