This seems to me such a dark time in America, with a darkness that is only growing. At every turn, the forces of conservatism, inequality and oligarchy are racking up victories, with little or no or only the most pale and weak-kneed opposition from the more "liberal" or socially progressive voices in our political structure. Though some see rays of hope in such accomplishments as the increasing acceptance of the right of homosexuals to enter into marriage, I see this as only a very small drop in the bucket when we consider the larger problems of stagnant wages for the many and ever-expanding fortunes for the few, the increasing dominance of the wealthy elite and large corporations in many areas of our life. Even the supposedly ultra-liberal cable news network MSNBC runs the self-congratulatory and pro-fracking advertisements of the carbon fuel industry, and the supposedly liberal New York Times increasingly caters to the Wall Street-financial services crowd that now dominates New York City as well as the American economy.
The UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the largest international body of climate scientists in the world, released a new report on March 31st detailing how the climate is already changing with catastrophic effect, and how the dangers and crises now occurring will only be magnified if the world is unwilling to take action. As an educator, I see the trend toward increasingly standardized and regulated education only gaining strength, as influential figures from the President on down seem to be abandoning the ideals of liberal arts education in favor of increasingly vocational, job skills oriented education. When people are no longer allowed to think freely and openly, to freely explore the riches of cultural heritage and to freely experiment with ideas and activities that are freed from the stifling grip of monetary evaluation, but when the education system only trains the bulk of people to perform the tasks and functions deemed valuable by the high priests of the high-tech companies and the corporate economy, an economy organized around the maximization of corporate profits and stock market dividends, not the fulfillment of human needs, I shudder to think of the cold, heartless, fearful, high-tech prison of a society that we are building for ourselves, digital brick by dividend brick. Profits will increase but human freedom and happiness? I doubt it.
I am starting to reach the conclusion that others before me have, a conclusion that I have always resisted; the feeling that there may be no hope for saving America from its drift and decline. I actually sympathize to some extent with the right-wingers and Tea Partiers who range and rant about our country going wrong; I agree that our society is sick, but I disagree with them about the nature of the malady and the treatment to be administered. Many on the right seem to think that the root of the problem is Big Bad Government; I disagree completely. I would grant that our government can do stupid things, that some policies, regulations and programs may be misguided and counterproductive, but that calls for fixing and improving the policies, regulations and programs, not abolishing them all in favor of an unregulated libertarian utopia. I think that vision, if ever achieved, would only result in a dog-eat-dog, every-gun-for-himself, zero compassion dystopia. I see the problem lying in the power of large corporate business interests to manipulate everything to their advantage, without caring enough about the suffering of the poor or the desecration of the planet. If corporations were able to function as good public citizens and be effective stewards of society and the environment, I would be all in favor of total free market capitalism, but I do not see that being the case at all.
Without pressure from the government with its pesky rules, regulations, policies and taxation, many companies and wealthy individuals would do nothing for the benefit of others or of the world in general, but only seek to further enrich themselves and increase their plunder and power. That's what happened in such periods of economic "freedom" as the "robber baron" era of the late 1800s, in the Roaring Twenties, and in our recent period of financial deregulation and financial collapse. You may have noticed that since the bleakest days of the 2008 downturn, the stock market has recovered, big banks and financial companies are running up great profits, but many people are now working for lower wages than before the crash, many others cannot find work at all, and many people have lost their homes and had their lives ruined. In this case, the government functioned effectively to rescue the financial elite, but not the rest of us. What I conclude from that is not that we need to abolish the government, but need to radically reform it to make it more responsive to human needs. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court's ruling in the McCutcheon case this week will only make our politicians more dependent on big-money, fat-cat donors, so the situation is not likely to improve anytime soon.
I do see a ray of hope in my little corner of the Pagan world. Recent communications with a number of Norse Pagans in America have again demonstrated that I am not alone in wishing to develop a new form of American Asatru that would be politically progressive, environmentally concerned, anti-racist, anti-military, and pro-social justice. I think there are enough of us to do it. So, please do get in touch with me if you are on this wavelength. Send me a message to this blog including your email address, and note that you do NOT want this published on the blog. I will contact you off-blog and we can start networking, sharing ideas and planning. This may be a dark time, but we can do our best to be a source of light and vision, love for the earth and caring for humanity--ALL humanity and ALL the earth. A universal Paganism based in Norse traditions but not limited to them. If this resonates with you, please communicate with me.