Friday, October 28, 2011

Open Letter to Middle Class Americans

To the remaining middle class:

Congratulations. You have survived, through whatever combination of wise choices, fortunate opportunities, and minor compromises. You’ve probably helped a lot of people along the way. You have every right to be proud of yourself.

I mean, look at the statistics. The American middle class is a tiny fraction of what it was in your childhood. If you’re bringing in more than $27K, you’re better off than half the populace. The disparity in wealth distribution hasn’t been this stark since the Great Depression. And the light at the end of the tunnel is the headlight of a train called global resource scarcity.

You are not to blame for these problems. You have simply played by the rules which were made by people far wealthier than you could ever aspire to be. It’s hard to fathom how wealthy these very influential people are. If one could make a million dollars a year, it would take a thousand years to become a billionaire. The richest families, multibillionaires, have been amassing wealth since the dark ages. They were raised to manipulate corporations and governments.

But all that money doesn’t seem to make them any more wise or compassionate. Perhaps it’s the inbreeding that accumulates such fortunes, or maybe the air in those lofty chambers is too rare. Secure in their estates, they don’t ever see the masses they manipulate. Child prostitution, slave labor, and the brutality of war are abstracts they never need look at.

Meanwhile there are real people suffering every day. The USA has become the evil empire, invading any country that refuses to be dominated, murdering and torturing rampantly. We have more of our population, mostly the non-Caucasian portion, imprisoned than any society ever has. US based extractive corporations are raping the planet’s ecosystems and destroying indigenous populations.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The planet has enough resources to sustain a healthy human population. So how do we convince the rule makers that this is our goal? How extreme does the imbalance have to get before enough is enough? To quote the old labor song “Whose side are you on?”

Every one of us has some complicity. We may work for exploitative corporations or at least buy their products. We pay our taxes and vote for the “lesser of two evils.” We cling to our comfortable lifestyles and reject the call for revolution. By refusing to be part of the solution, we become part of the problem.

Change is inevitable. The planet cannot continue to produce all that Americans consume. No matter how wise our leadership, the American Dream must die. We cannot sustain the current group of rich people without great suffering. We certainly can’t afford more rich people. Do we have to chop the last tree, drain the last river, and mine the last stone before we realize that we can’t eat money?

I propose two questions regarding our choice of lifestyles: 1) Would it be possible for everybody on earth to live the way I do? and; 2) Will the next seven generations be able to live the way we do? If the answer to either of these questions is no, it must be time to simplify.

Right now the planet has about 4.3 people per hectare of arable land per person. That’s about 2.7 per acre. It’s a real challenge to live on the food grown in such a small space. Even with all our technology, we aren’t coming close, but with attached greenhouses, window boxes, composting toilets, and a lot of work, we might be able to eat a sensible vegan diet of local organic produce.

Your car is not sustainable. Even if every person could afford a Prius, the resulting gridlock on a paved planet would not be livable. If we devoted land to growing bio-fuel for all, where would we grow our food? There is no replacement for cheap oil. We’ve already used half of all the oil in the world with less than 10% of the world population driving. Now all the Indians & Chinese want to live like Americans, so we’d better set a better example.

The solutions are simple. Refuse to support any system that exploits. Put your energy into creating the world you really want to live in. Grow your own food. Pedal your own bike. Care for your neighbors.

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