Glimpsing the future
Word Press is constantly changing. So is Flickr. Some of these tweaks are improvements and others have just been silly and annoying. This week, WP tells me that you, my treasured community, like it best when I post on Fridays at 9 am Pacific time. OK! I hear you and your wish is my command. Given that a better post might materialize if I put it up whenever the spirit moves me instead of a preset time, I hope you will all indulge me when these blatherings are rather rough and spontaneous, as this one will likely be. This will be an interesting experiment, if nothing else. 😀
I could have titled this post: Forward to the past. I might have already used that in an earlier essay here — I don’t recall.
For almost two years I have thought about defining a so-called “Progressive“. For those of you in the US, this will be a familiar term. Elsewhere, you all have differing names or titles for this sociopolitical approach and will have to translate it to local terms. Personally, as I have stated somewhere along the way, I don’t like labels, categories, pigeon-holes of any kind. There are 7 billion+ people on earth and each of us is unique.
But, as a behavioral scientist, I have learned to take qualitative data and quantitate it so I can be temporarily comfortable suspending my philosophy here and considering the idea of progressivism for the purposes of an intellectual exercise. And, I hope I don’t become abstruse and abstract in the process.
Let me start off by saying, first and foremost, I do not want to be lied to by the media and its talking heads, any politician or public figure, or anyone from our governments, at any level, and I will not allow myself to be influenced by dissembling and misrepresentations. To me truth with all its warts is the foundation for progressive doctrines.
Each week’s news brings examples of the future society in which we will all live, so all I need do is cover one seven-day sample and that will define progressive tenets along with what I believe is ahead for all of us.
Yesterday, a Presidential candidate gave a ground-breaking speech on voting rights at Texas Southern University. They named each governor, many of whom are now Presidential hopefuls, who has enacted severe voting restrictions aimed at limiting the citizens’ ability to cast a vote. The very fact that in the 21st century we have to debate the issue of allowing every adult in this country to vote is appalling to me. In the future, it will be one person one vote, just the way it is in the overwhelming majority of civilized democracies. Oregon has pioneered the motor/voter law that was originated in DC. Every citizen over the age of 18 is automatically registered to vote at the local DMV. The premise is that the government has a role to play in facilitating the vote in a healthy democracy. There was a true democracy in our country just 50 years ago. So, we know what it looks like. Progress is returning to that notion and enfranchising everyone. The diabolical traps and tricks that some states have slipped into the election process are backward and bigoted. Too bad if a handful of billionaires and corporations are afraid of giving each citizen a powerful stake in our own lives. Your plutocratic days are numbered.
California is finally cracking down on agricultural water consumption. It is not that farmers, who supply the world with the Golden State’s bounty, should be punished or unfairly limited, it is that big agribusiness companies should not be given a free pass on necessary curtailment of wasted water. Similarly, we should not be allowing unrestricted access to ground water and subterranean aquifers, simply because we have always done so. Doesn’t anyone remember the Dust Bowl? That had to be corrected and it was. We need to go back to that policy, nation-wide and particularly in drought-stricken regions. We know it can be done. The future means prudent husbandry of limited resources so they are not squandered in the name of unreasonable profit.
Retraining our “peace force” to engage in the community they serve, wear body cameras, resist the reflex to reach for a firearm, and develop a direct relationship with all the people they are to protect is on the horizon again, along with increased funds to make this possible. Police driving around town in military-style SWAT gear, patrolling behind dark windows of armored vehicles is not the way to do this. If we look to Britain for example, we see a country with a far lower arrest and incarceration rate than ours along with far less violent crime. It can be done. It is not a new idea, it is an old one that has been successful through all kinds of demographic changes in other civilized nations. Our grandparents knew the ‘cop on the beat‘. Our prison-industrial complex and cost of maintaining millions of people in these airless concrete vaults is backward and dysfunctional. As is the practice of state-sponsored capital punishment. In the not too distant future, we will rid this country of for-profit private prisons, paid for with our taxpayers dollars. Humane incarceration and abolishing the death penalty is on the horizon, even in such conservative states as Nebraska, poised to pass an astonishing law banning the latter.
A broad understanding and general acceptance of gender diversity is an idea whose time has come, at last, in America. I say, let’s let people style themselves as they wish and be respected for it. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Caitlyn Jenner’s public transition will be drawing back the curtain on what it really means to be female in our country even today. It isn’t easy! And anyone who has experimented with switching roles, knows that women are treated differently from birth. While it is nice to enjoy the creativity and artistry that can come with being feminine (and something I personally celebrate every single day), there is a downside to being objectified through appearance, to feeling vulnerable to power manipulation that male physical strength advantages impart, to having one’s ideas and analyses ignored, and being paid three-quarters of what our counterparts are paid for the same productivity. But gender equality is also the future here.
The camps are further dividing in this country on the settled issue of climate change and planetary warming. As all of you who read this blog know, I am staunchly in the camp of the peer-reviewed, highly respected, thoroughly trained, ethically responsible scientific community that states unequivocally — and backs these declarations with sound empirical research — the climate is warming, globally, and it is now overwhelmingly caused by human activities. If man broke it, s/he can fix it. But first we have to own it. This goes back to my ongoing discussions here and on other social media sites, about philosophy vs fact. I have no problem with the intricate mental embellishments of ideological pondering. The adventure that ensues when creative minds get together in thought journeys is appealing on many levels. But, when the coasts are being swallowed by oceans, cities flooded by rivers, sea creatures cooking in acidic hot waters, dirty volatile fossil fuels seeping into our aquifers and exploding on the doorsteps of nuclear missile silos, I can’t condone sitting around playing mind games. We have to act.
At one time, people understood their environments. Our Native Americans did and had a balanced relationship with nature. People like Rachel Carson sounded the alarm. And further to that notion, you can reach back to Teddy Roosevelt at the beginning of the last century to prove to yourself that cautious conservation of our precious earth is not a new idea. But, it is the future. Without it, we will have no pollinators and thus no fruits and vegetables. We will stop tormenting and torturing sentient beings in the concentration camps that are euphemistically referred to as factory “farms”, hidden out of sight of the ordinary citizen and staffed by impoverished immigrants desperate for work. These inhumane plants of torture should be beneath the dignity of every American. I can say with complete confidence the future is veganism, if the fossil fuel industry doesn’t destroy our farmland first. I have been a vegetarian for over three decades and a vegan for ten years. You will have to take my word for it — I am thriving on and enjoying delicious, healthy, cruelty-free food every single day. I truly use food as medicine and that has saved me a ton of money over many years.
Along these same lines, we will employ biodynamic farming practices nationwide. Is this a new idea? It is over 100 years old and in practice all over the world. It works, it is responsible agriculture and the only people who resist it are the Monsanto/Conagra crowd. And why? Because it is such a bad idea for the 7 billion +? To the contrary, it is to take a few pennies off the trillions of dollars being vacuumed up by irresponsible, runaway corporate greed. Doing away with the “meat” industry, farming without pesticides, returning to family-run agriculture, favoring alternative forms of energy such as wind and solar, will not only save this planet from destruction but will feed the hungry, worldwide. It is easy for comfortable westerners to ignore those starving and doing without clean drinking water. But that is an antediluvian attitude and eventually will be considered as vestigial and depraved as tossing 12th century babies back and forth between buildings. Or bleeding people to cure them. Or burning women at the stake for being clever. Or slavery.
Although I love our Senator from Vermont, there is one point on which he and I strongly disagree. He does not stand up to the NRA. We cannot condone an overly armed populace in the future. That libertarian idea is reckless and retrograde. The world is not the wild frontier it once was. We are crowded and as such, our natural human combativeness and selfishness cannot be litigated at the end of a barrel. There are gun-restricting places with far lower crime rates. I personally see no sport, bravery, or pleasure in shooting anyone, human or otherwise. I love archery and target practice and I see the beauty in old and lovingly made artifacts. But weapons are meant to hurt, and I don’t believe in deliberately hurting for fun. I do understand self-defense. But our Founding Fathers, whose Constitution was a child of its times and has been altered and updated to reflect progress and new conditions (robust and flexible, magnificent instrument that it is), did not mean to have gun-happy renegades parading their ersatz manhood amid our kindergartners in our urban areas. Every reasonable person on earth understands this. I am sorry Rand Paul, but your dad’s false freedom cries are the gasps of an earlier age. Healthy adults do not need to threaten people. They have no place in a civilized future where we need rational limitations on human urges or we cannot be an orderly society. More people, more crowding, fewer resources means more sane rules, less corruption, less fibbing about the facts, less runaway profiteering by manufacturers, more responsible, prudent, cautious, reasoned, behavior is mandatory. Accepting life as it is, not as we wish it to be or long for from an earlier and over-idealized, uber-caricatured mythology has to be the rule. Liberty is not license, it comes with responsibility. And if we as individuals cannot be counted on to control ourselves, we need to have it imposed in a fair and firm way by a system of laws, not vigilantism, upon which we all agree, as thinking and caring beings.
And lastly and perhaps most delicately: progress means not inserting your spiritual ideology into public policy. Anyone molesting a child, sexually or otherwise, is committing a crime and must be processed through the courts, whether juvenile or adult. And as a child psychologist I advocate against any statute of limitations on child abuse. Refusing a marriage certificate to an eligible couple based on your own personal beliefs is wrong and should be illegal. We are a nation of civil laws, first, and must govern according to the Constitution. No individual’s idiosyncratic belief system will be permitted to trump the law in future civilization.
I could probably write an encyclopedia on what it means to be progressive. I don’t need to. It simply boils down to progress. And progress is the outcome of human invention to solve problems so we can all live a happy, peaceful, healthy life, side by side. This includes leveling the playing field so there is true racial, ethnic, gender and socioeconomic parity. It means providing universal pre-kindergarten education to every eligible child and a living wage for their parents. Scandinavia has been doing these things for decades and now enjoys the highest standard and quality of life on the planet. It was Roosevelt who clearly understood the balance that must exist between the people and the powerful. Lincoln understood it. Eisenhower did too. Somehow this country went off the rails thereafter. But not forever. People will work hard when the system seems fair, but will eventually revolt when the rules are unevenly applied and those at the top get all the breaks.
It matters little to me what political affiliation any of us has. I am for progress. I am for accepting what is and supporting it so I am not holding back anyone. And like most responsible people, I do not sleep easily at night knowing there are others suffering, no matter their species or nationality or circumstances. Resolving just that issue alone would be my “happily ever after“.
To me all of this is the essence of being progressive. I simply chose long ago to face in the direction the horse is traveling.
Images: Beth Byrnes/Santa Paula