Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Politics and simple living

You might have noticed that there's a lot going on politically these days, and I won't pretend that my simple living mindset is not related to my liberal political leaning. It absolutely is.

After reading this, I decided it was time to write this post. This writer explains something that I've always felt but couldn't quite put into words regarding the difference between conservatives and liberals. Basically, the conservative view point is one of self-interest, self-reliance, and self-discipline. If people are successful, it is because they have chosen to put themselves on the correct path. They are hard-working and have otherwise good moral standing, and they pass those qualities onto their children. People who are not sucessful are therefore lacking discipline and must get out of their problems independently by developing the qualities of the successful people.

This interpretation of the conservative perspective might not be the way that conservatives see themselves, but I do think that this is the way that liberals (if I must categorize us as one or the other) view conservatives. It is the way that I view the conservative perspective, and I have seen nothing to suggest otherwise.

I'm outraged at what I have seen going on with our country over the past decade. We believe that there is this great debt that we all owe, yet I continue to see people driving expensive vehicles, living in expensive homes, taking vacations, and buying, buying, buying. Yes, I believe we have been in a recession, but whose recession has it been exactly? Those at the top don't seem to be affected. How can that be if our entire nation is in crisis? Is it that the people at the top are more disciplined and hard-working as the ones who find themselves laid off?*

We are struggling with our budgets nationwide. But the responsibility we feel to correct budget problems shouldn't guilt us into taking money or authority away from schools, unions, or healthcare. There's a proposal in Detroit that would reduce the number of schools and push the number of students per classroom to 60. Sixty kids to one teacher. "Well, we have to cut somewhere." No, we don't; we have to gain somewhere. Instead of thinking about taking away, we have to switch to adding, to increasing the means of surviving and thriving. We're giving money to people and businesses that subscribe to the self-interest, self-reliance, and self-discipline way of thinking. By definition, they aren't interested in increasing our collective survival.

Schools, unions, and Planned Parenthood, though, are concerned with exactly that, by definition. These programs and institutions are designed to increase the means for surviving and thriving for everyone, even for people who could afford to do it on their own. The point is to increase our collective access to that which will allow us as a nation and a culture to survive.

What do we gain by taking from those who are already bled dry? What do we gain by limiting opportunities for those who already don't have them?

Simple living is more than a hippy-dippy lifestyle choice. It's about survival--not just my own, but all of ours collectively. I believe that what benefits my community also benefits me. I might want to have unpolluted air to breathe and parks to play in for myself or my family, but air and land is shared. Without community action, it'll never happen for me or for anyone else.

We are stronger when we act together.

For this reason, I just can't comprehend the direction our country has been going, and I can't comprehend the reasoning behind conservativism. It's counter-intuitive. The upside to all of this is that for a while now I've been sensing that some major changes are on the horizon for us. I've been feeling like the dam is going burst at any minute, and the protests that we've seen in Wisconsin, the revolutions taking place in other countries, and the general rise in political activism tell me that maybe we're on the eve of something really great. Maybe, if you push us hard enough, we'll finally push back and reclaim our democracy from today's tyrants.

*If you believe that, you're an idiot. And I'm not just name-calling here. There is no evidence that the people who struggle financially are any less disciplined or hard-working or morally good than those at the top. So, if you believe that all poor people got that way by being less righteous than rich people, then you are basing that belief on prejudice, not facts, and I can't think of a better definition of "idiot."


Elly said...

Great post! Very well written.

I really do think that many of "the rich" see themselves as morally superior to those that have less. The people/companies who are pulling the strings in the government have successfully used the Republican party to frame the debate and demonize the wrong people. Teachers and union auto workers aren't the ones making too much money.

Even worse, I know people who are really struggling and could use some of the government programs that are on the chopping block, and they believe that there is a chance that they will become "rich" one day, so they vote with the people who actually are rich. It blows my mind. These are people who are unemployed and undereducated.

I am incredibly grateful with where Chris and I are, economically speaking, and I know that part of the reason is because my parents are also educated and they could afford to pay for college for myself and my sister. (Obviously, you and Chris are examples of being successful entirely on your own merits through college loans.)

I agree. Something's gotta give. It sure feels like we're on the cusp of another Worker's Revolution. Let's hope so. And let's hope that this time things are less bloody.

rockygrace said...

"There is no evidence that the people who struggle financially are any less disciplined or hard-working or morally good than those at the top". But they ARE, in general, less educated. I have come to believe that mandatory education in this country, instead of K-12, should be K-12, plus college. That way everybody's got a shot.

Just my opinion.

Domestic Kate said...

Rocky, I don't disagree except in the "mandatory" part. Our public education system needs a real overhaul, but to keep this comment simple, I would say yes, education should be paid for past grade 12. On the other hand, making anything mandatory is as good as labeling it "punishment." You're absolutely right, though, that poor folks do tend to have less education (in the formal sense of the word). They have few opportunities to pursue education and because of that they have fewer opportunities in the working world. They might work their butts off, but their hard work is not proportionate to the amount of money they can make. Plus, uneducated people tend to be people who can't advocate for themselves, so they might be in this position without really knowing how unfair it is.

Domestic Kate said...

Elly, I agree that there are many in the upper crust who equate their financial success in life with holiness. That's the best description I can think of for the Johnson County crowd in Kansas. It wasn't just "I have more money than you, and I'm going to use it to manipulate the situation." It was "I have more money with you because I'm a better person than you are." The combination of Christianity with money is potent.

rockygrace said...

Oh, Kate, you're right! Higher ed should be free, but not mandatory. Thanks for pointing that out.