Progressives, liberals, left-wing, independents. I don’t care what we call ourselves. Those are just labels for easy consumption. Humans are endlessly more complicated than that.
This election week has been something else.
I’ve never seen such outpouring of grief and fear on my Facebook feed and the media in general. It should not be dismissed. But I’ve also seen otherwise calm and rational individuals react with superiority and indignation, which, up until Tuesday, was reserved for the “other” side. Those religious-based conservatives who just don’t “get it”, no matter how much we liberal-splain it. This is a mess, but at least we have finally established that trying to force the moral upper hand is rarely effective and tend to just deepen the divide.
But I’m not here to talk about that. The internet is drowning in articles trying to understand what the hell happened this past week. I’m here to remind us of our environmental, anti-war, and freedom of speech victories that people on both side of the aisle accomplished despite corporate corruption of government and career politicians.
I’ve been an activist for about five years. As I was pursuing my masters degree in sustainability, which I chose because I enjoy nature and I wanted to learn about the true state of the world, I quickly realized that the most important concept in sustainability is systems thinking, or thinking about the world in terms of systems. And each system is deeply interconnected and there is no way to tear them apart, except in the human mind. If I want to save the environment so that forests will thrive and snow leopards can roam, I need to understand everything about the global economy, which is only possible through intense study of history and how we maneuvered the industrial revolution and beyond. If I want to influence the economy to better support the environment, I need to understand and participate in politics. It’s been a long fall through the rabbit’s hole, to say the least, and I’m still tumbling.
In 2013 president Obama gave a speech that was essentially a green light for a boots-on-the-ground war in Syria, claiming the Assad regime had crossed the ever-important “red line” on use of chemical weapons. The media reported this with little editorial input. The internet buckled. Protests sprung up locally all over the country. The pressure on congress and senate grew so strong, through online and grassroots movements, their office phones and email accounts blew up. In less than a week the ‘war’ was called off. Drone strikes and secret missions continue to this day but a new American war was averted.
In 2015 we were fighting for the future of the internet and free speech. All (corporate) systems were a-go to pass a two-tier, pay-to-play internet law. It would mean that all commercial and corporate owned internet sites would get priority access and lightening fast speed, and all non-profit, independent and activist sites would be slowed way down unless they paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for fast access. It would have been the biggest restriction of free speech in modern age. And it would have been permanent, with some ironclad intellectual property rights thrown in for good measure. Post a picture of Mickey Mouse on your website or Facebook profile? Disney could easily sue. It was so close to pass. But we beat it – with relentless petition signings, emails and telephone calls, marches in the streets. We didn’t get a lot of media attention (all the major media conglomerates wanted the bill to pass) but as it turns out, badgering your elected representatives does actually work. They are just people. Your vote got them their cushy position. They don’t want you to hate them. The internet is still an even playground, but don’t get too comfy. The next battle on net neutrality is sure to come.
And finally, the TPP. The Trans-Pacific Partnership. The latest and greatest in trade deals that would ensure total corporate control over the pacific region (US and Asia minus China) and 42% of world trade. It’s been called NAFTA on steroids. It has been negotiated in secret by 12 states and the world’s 600 largest corporations. It included 24 charters in which only 6 deals with trade. The rest has to do with intellectual property (again, ironclad, which not only disrupts your Facebook profile and online presence, but also would set scientific research back decades.) The scariest part of the TPP allows for a supernational corporate court which would, funded by billion-dollar corporations, allow them to hire the best lawyers on the planet who would then sue anyone that came in the way of those corporations ability to profit. If Coca-Cola wanted to drain your small town of its drinking water to make more coke there would be nothing, legally, that could stop them. Your local government would never be able to fight Coca-Cola in court and now, they would even own the court that decide the outcome. Forget about stopping climate change.
But guess what? Global mass protests and constant civic pressure has convinced politicians from both parties in both congress and senate that the people do not want more corrupt insider deals, and now the Obama administration is officially declaring the TPP dead, today, days after the 2016 election.
Dead! Can you imagine the millions of dollars spent on meetings all over the world for eight years trying to patch this thing together? The thousands of hours spent by some of the smartest people on the planet? Even Obama, who seems to care about the climate, has been peddling this for years. And now it’s just dead. Because the people are waking up and realizing what truly matters.
It doesn’t matter who is president. It doesn’t matter what you call yourself. Progress tends to triumph, but the road there is long and bumpy. I find it helpful to remember that the natural state of the universe is entropy. That means as time, as we know it, progresses the universe goes from order to disorder. Everything from molecules to galaxies start out stable and good, then come apart. Except human progress. We are the exception that proves the rule. We have empathy and we can visualize the kind of future we want. This is real power.
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