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30 april 2012

Een mooi Amerika is mogelijk

America the Possible: A Manifesto
Part II: A new politics for a new dream

Door James Gustave Speth, Orion Magazine, mei/juni 2012

[...] By 2050, America the Possible will have marshaled the economic and political resources to successfully address the long list of challenges, including basic social justice, real global security, environmental sustainability, true popular sovereignty, and economic democracy. As a result, family incomes in America will be far more equal, similar to the situation in the Nordic countries and Japan today. Large-scale poverty and income insecurity will be things of the past. Good jobs will be guaranteed to all those who want to work. Our health-care and educational systems will be among the best in the world, as will our standing in child welfare and equality of women. Racial and ethnic disparities will be largely eliminated. Social bonds will be strong. The overlapping webs of encounter and participation that were once hallmarks of America, “a nation of joiners,” will have been rebuilt, community life will be vibrant, and community development efforts plentiful. Trust in each other, and even in government, will be high.

[...] In America the Possible, our dominant culture will have shifted, from today to tomorrow, in the following ways:
• from seeing humanity as something apart from nature, transcending and dominating it, to seeing ourselves as part of nature, offspring of its evolutionary process, close kin to wild things, and wholly dependent on its vitality and the finite services it provides;
• from seeing nature in strictly utilitarian terms—humanity’s resource to exploit as it sees fit for economic and other purposes—to seeing the natural world as having intrinsic value independent of people and having rights that create the duty of ecological stewardship;
• from discounting the future, focusing severely on the near term, to taking the long view and recognizing duties to future generations;
• from today’s hyperindividualism and narcissism, and the resulting social isolation, to a powerful sense of community and social solidarity reaching from the local to the cosmopolitan;
• from the glorification of violence, the acceptance of war, and the spreading of hate and invidious divisions to the total abhorrence of these things;
• from materialism and consumerism to the prioritization of personal and family relationships, learning, experiencing nature, spirituality, service, and living within limits;
• from tolerating gross economic, social, and political inequality to demanding a high measure of equality in all these spheres.
We actually know important things about how values and culture can be changed. One sure path to cultural change is, unfortunately, the cataclysmic event—the crisis—that profoundly challenges prevailing values and delegitimizes the status quo. The Great Depression is the classic example. I think we can be confident that we haven’t seen the end of major crises.
Two other key factors in cultural change are leadership and social narrative. Leaders have enormous potential to change minds, and in the process they can change the course of history. And there is some evidence that Americans are ready for another story. Large majorities of Americans, when polled, express disenchantment with today’s lifestyles and offer support for values similar to those urged here.
Another way in which values are changed is through social movements. Social movements are about consciousness raising, and, if successful, they can help usher in a new consciousness—perhaps we are seeing its birth today. [...]

Part I: From decline to rebirth

[...] How can we gauge what has happened to America in the past few decades and where we stand today? One way is to look at how America now compares with other countries in key areas. The group of twenty advanced democracies—the major countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), including the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, the Nordic countries, Canada, and others—can be thought of as our peer nations. Here’s what we see when we look at these countries. To our great shame, America now has
• the highest poverty rate, both generally and for children;
• the greatest inequality of incomes;
• the lowest social mobility;
• the lowest score on the UN’s index of “material well-being of children”;
• the worst score on the UN’s Gender Inequality Index;
• the highest expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP, yet all this money accompanied by the highest infant mortality rate, the highest prevalence of mental health problems, the highest obesity rate, the highest percentage of people going without health care due to cost, the highest consumption of antidepressants per capita, and the shortest life expectancy at birth;
• the next-to-lowest score for student performance in math and middling performance in science and reading;
• the highest homicide rate;
• the largest prison population in absolute terms and per capita;
• the highest carbon dioxide emissions and the highest water consumption per capita;
• the lowest score on Yale’s Environmental Performance Index (except for Belgium) and the largest ecological footprint per capita (except for Denmark);
• the lowest spending on international development and humanitarian assistance as a percentage of national income (except for Japan and Italy);
• the highest military spending both in total and as a percentage of GDP; and
• the largest international arms sales.
Our politicians are constantly invoking America’s superiority and exceptionalism. True, the data is piling up to confirm that we’re Number One, but in exactly the way we don’t want to be—at the bottom.

[...] We know that systemic, transformative change along these dimensions will require a great struggle, and it will not come quickly. The new values, priorities, policies, and institutions that would constitute a new political economy capable of regularly delivering good results are not at hand and won’t be for many years. The truth is we are still in the design stage of building a new operating system. That system won’t be yesterday’s socialism, by the way, but it won’t be today’s American capitalism either. [...]

Wikipedia: James Gustave (Gus) Speth (born March 4, 1942) is an American environmental lawyer and advocate. He was born in Orangeburg, South Carolina in 1942.
He graduated summa cum laude from Yale University in 1964, attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and graduated from Yale Law School, where he was a member of the Yale Law Journal, in 1969.
He served in 1969 and 1970 as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black.
Speth was a co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, where he served as senior attorney from 1970 to 1977.

Zie ook:

Must-Read: The Powerful Final Words Of Ecotopia Author Ernest Callenbach
Climate Progress / TomDispatch, 7 mei 2012

Welcome to the 2012 Hunger Games
Sending Debt Peonage, Poverty, and Freaky Weather Into the Arena
Door Rebecca Solnit, TomDispatch, 1 mei 2012

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