We understand that the issues involved are complicated but we offer here our own seven recommendations – or reminders – for how to build a progressive culture:
1) Consume Less. The United States is 5 percent of the world’s population but consumes 30 percent of its natural resources. It also spends half of the world’s total annual advertising revenue. Nothing perpetuates the world’s problems like American shopping habits. As important, because Americans are obsessed with “freeing market forces” they, as a whole, refuse to recognize that thinking about the environment is ever one of the determinants for assessing value, cost, and so on. We recommend: buying less, buying used goods, limiting our use of natural resources, supporting environmental causes, recycling more, taking public transit whenever possible and driving fuel efficient vehicles when it’s not, fighting to hold onto every last inch of public land, and insisting that the environment be inserted into all thinking about economics. It’s not just good for the environment. Consuming less will also keep you out of debt.
2) Work with unions. By supporting their strikes and struggles, opposing attacks upon them, learning about their needs and what they can do for us we can guarantee that corporations will not entirely take over our country. While we lament the corruption of some unions and the conservatism of many union members, the labor union as institution is the only protection the individual has for labor rights, decent pay, reasonable benefits, and dignified living. Get rid of unions and all of this will disappear. 30 percent of Americans used to be in unions fifty years ago during the prosperous post-war years. Now only 8 percent are and most of these work in public positions. Not surprisingly, the value of the wage has declined since then making it necessary, not just a choice, to have two working parents in a family in order to maintain the standard of living of our grandparents (regardless of how much over-consumption has contributed to this discrepancy). We need to build unions up, not allow them disappear or fall into a stupor of conservatism. We recommend, for example, getting involved with Jobs With Justice. We also advocate the founding of cooperatives in which employees or tenants or patrons own their workplace, apartment building or banks (banking coops are usually called credit unions).
3) Reach out. Work with neighbors, family and friends to become involved in labor, environmental, and social justice issues in our communities. The right-wing in the United States has shown how effective network building can be. If we desire to build a society that, while respecting the rights of the individual, and demonstrates a concern for the health of the collective then organization is the key. Nothing has deterred the advancement of justice in the United States as a false notion of individualism has. We need to support each other or all of this is for nothing.
4) Organize. It’s the only thing that has ever led to social change: founding, steering, or joining organizations that will achieve the goals we stated above. Here in Chicago, for example, we don’t have a functioning recycling program. Only a mass movement for an effective recycling program is going to change anything. What are you waiting for?
5) Educate. The only way to convince others of the appropriateness of our agenda is by publishing and distributing e-mail, internet, or print media that reinforce the values and causes we outlined above. One of the institutions we would like to see resurrected are politicized summer youth camps devoted to teaching all ages of youth our vision of the world with hands on experience. As adults they would be challenged to reconcile what they’ve learned with the very different world we live in. A milestone for hope would be reached if f environmental, labor, and other organizations united to make this possible.
6) Build Democracy. It seems the meaning of “democracy” has been reduced to the elections, every couple of years, of wealthy people who have very little concern for us and our needs. More recently, it has meant the same but with even poorer people collaborating in the endeavor in the name of anti-communism (which they have interpreted to mean a moderate Democratic president, who happens to be black). A functioning democratic society is much more than that. Inviting involvement with other groups, individuals, and coalitions to build a network on a democratic basis so that everyone is involved assures that democracy thrives beyond the much less democratic process of voting. Also, recognizing that disagreements arise and that historically this has decimated the left, we will remain cooperative for the greater goals we want to achieve even with those who may disagree with our decisions.
7) Dialogue. Pan y Rosas does not have anymore solutions than anyone else. Only continued discussion – that is, the democratic process – can lead us to these goals.
Appendix: Suggested Reading