Perhaps the signature characteristic of our time is our political polarization. Right and Left have always argued, but the radical views and vehemence of late may indicate something else, something deeper at work. Something that can actually unify us, if we stop letting it fracture us.
It’s seems that these days, everybody’s yelling about something. In the echo chamber of social media, we hear grievances again and again. In the din, it’s possible to lose the sense of what it means to be conservative, or what it means to be liberal. And, maybe we should. Especially when it comes to our freedoms.
There is an objective, non-partisan reality that we are living under the weight of an increasingly bloated government. And that massive, complex governments characterize the end of empires, historically. But the more we squabble, the more the government grows complex, as filigrees of judicia sprout over alternative solutions, like dendrites in the brain, requiring more laws and more enforcement and more courtroom battles.
We need to keep sight of the big picture.
In Florida right now, for instance, it is illegal to live off the grid. Living off the grid means self-sufficiency, supplying oneself the power or water or both to survive without being connected to systems under the “International Property Maintenance Code.”
And last year, in Texas, members of a sustainable community were handcuffed at gunpoint by SWAT teams threatening to shut them down.
You read that right. Handcuffed at gunpoint for living sustainably through alternative resources.
Controlling someone to not live self-sufficiently is fascist, Orwellian, and downright terrifying. It’s everything counter-intuitive to living in a free country. Running people out of an off-grid neighborhood with SWAT teams, that’s an idea people usually roll their eyes at and chalk up to conspiracy theory, or attribute to some “backwards foreign country.” But it’s happening, it’s happening now, and it’s happening here.
So, who are the folks actually building these homes and communities on their own steam? Are these people unstaunched liberal renegades, out there doing the alternative lifestyle-thing with green, renewable energy, or are they the hardened, doomsday-prepping conservatives who say, “Look pal, you can’t tell me how I should or shouldn’t live my life…”?
We’ll hear all sorts of justifications for these unreasonable laws and brutal enforcements. We’ll hear about how it’s for our safety. Or, at the very least, it’s for accurate census-taking. But far worse than the rhetoric, we’ll hear the conservatives in the media spouting about how this latest instance of invasive government is just more from the bleeding hearts and their liberal agenda, or we’ll hear the liberals complaining that it’s the ignorant conservatives who don’t believe in climate change or resource depletion or the benefits of alternative energy sources.
But the reason why Florida and Texas are working to make it impossible to live off the grid has nothing to do with political ideology.
It’s about money.
It’s control exerted by the monied interests. And those interests, as they permeate government, skewer and make stick-puppets of both sides of the aisle.
It’s about greed, and the means to power. It’s not a nefarious scheme, it’s not a conspiracy theory, it’s not the Illuminati, it’s human nature. Without reasonable, enforceable restrictions on the corporate lobbying industry, or on the size and shape corporations are allowed to take, we inherit a plutocracy, an oligarchic government that is the farthest thing from a popular democracy. It is not for the people or by the people. It’s for the ruthless and unsympathetic, the “Imma get mine” addicts out there competing to be the richest man or woman in the grave. People who often justify their position through a perversion of the capitalist theory that pure self-interest will be the best for everyone.
Our government has grown complex, and we have become an over-regulated society, precisely because of the deregulation and championed, selfish individualism which preceded this period. While it’s easy to conflate the development of a large government with a liberal agenda, it’s just as easy to make the case that unfettered capitalism and neoclassical economics are what dragged us here. The allowance of plundering, the absence of maximum salaries or a reasonable ceiling for wealth and capital, the co-opting and tailoring of maxims from our predecessors – from Darwin to Jefferson to Adam Smith. Greed and nearsightedness characterize the legacy of post-war America.
So, if you’re not in favor of big government inhibiting our basic freedoms, but can realize that it’s our current version of capitalism (since, at least, the formation of the Fed, and then spanked into hyper-drive in the 70s and 80s) which got us here — then one what side of the aisle does that plant you?
No, labels shouldn’t matter much. And they don’t. It’s the de facto dismissal – or even outright hatred – based on party presumptions, which plagues our society. So it’s not so much the labeling that needs to be addressed, but the root of our division, the culprits fanning the flames to overblow our differences of opinion and personality into something much more than they need to be.
Everywhere I look lately, I see problems that are affecting all of us (none the least of which is mandatory, on-the-grid, police-enforced living), but we’re so at odds about how these problems came into being, or what to do about them.
The thing is, this sort of confusion, squabbling, and derision are what an impinging plutocracy of monied interests want from us. We serve them best when we’re quibbling over political trivia. Arguing party dogma, picking fights over symptomatic issues. Distracted, consuming, and misinformed, this is today’s ideal citizen. One who doesn’t question from where their food, energy, or currency comes. One who focuses on party ideology and makes an enemy out of their brother or sister.
What we need to do is stop fighting and to stop giving them what they want. We need to come together.
There are people out there who care. You’re one of them. And there are legislators who are trying to do the right thing. There is good in the world, tucked away in places. But right now, the big, pasty, bald-headed, red-faced, puff-adder white bastards are winning. And they each have more resources than ten thousand of us, and their greatest resource is their ability to manipulate popular opinion – to essentially manufacture that opinion in a culture industry with which the hydra-like tentacles are roping around the megabytes in your computer as we speak.
In fact, just yesterday, The Supreme Court overturned four decades years of national policy and judicial precedent when the Court decided to allow federal officeholders to solicit and individual donors to pour as much as $3.6 million directly into federal campaigns every election cycle – “buying unparalleled personal influence in Washington and drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens.” (Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor)
This is not good.
We need to begin remaking the world by quitting the quibbling. We work to make the adjustments we can in our own lives – and, at every step of the way, we question, we learn, and we have real conversations with one another. Not snarky banter about left versus right, but a dialog that looks deep into the mystic. Not fighting one another, but fighting the monied interests that have influenced our food supply, our children’s schooling, our air, our water, our land – every aspect of our lives. We do this by finding our center, by learning to balance ourselves in preparation for the long haul and the uphill battle – to take joy in what we can, in our families, in our friends, in life’s small pleasures. We derive strength and love from these things, and then we stand together to put an end to the cycle of empires.