Monday, February 28, 2011

Organizing Collectively In The 21st Century

Workers have lost trillions of dollars in income, their homes, jobs, and years of savings and retirement funds. While the banks and corporations that were the cause of the economical meltdown have used taxes from those same workers to subsidize and consolidate more power and economic control. So in answer to this atrocity, what do we see happening? We see our good people being rallied by corporate interests through astroturfing in order to redirect their anger towards the government's ability to limit corporate power and regulate the economy.

None of the criminal activity of these Wall Street and corporate cartels have ever been prosecuted. And I expect they never will as long as we allow them to continue unabated. Until the people understand who the real enemy is, we all will continue to suffer under the rule of the real elite whose complicity in crimes of nature and humanity knows no bounds. The Academy Award winning documentary Inside Job traces the rise of this rogue industry and unveils the corrosive relationships which have corrupted politics, regulation and academia.

These new attacks and stategies we are seeing in Wisconsin and other states from the corporate shills is not really new. It has been waged on collectives since the idea of organized labor first saw the light of day. And the corporations have been very successful at making unions the scapegoat. I am certainly not saying that organized labor is perfect. Not by a long shot! As many of my brothers, sisters, local and international officers can tell you, I have been a small thorn in the structure's side and I have always pushed for more socially community oriented organizations, basically social unionism.

But all the blame for organized labor structures cannot be piled solely on their shoulders. Political and corporate laws have built unions into what they are today. The business union model was by design. The labor laws were put in place to restrict the union's power and limit the size and power of people collectives. It is the laws of big business which have constricted their power and dictated what organized labor can and can not do. Unions structured themselves to accommodate the ruling class as much as the working class. Just another big concession the working people have had to make to satisfy their masters.

The free market ideology has held us hostage for far too long, and organized labor has even adapted those same beliefs. Much like labor's version of the Stockholm Syndrome. Organized labor has been playing defense forever in this market system and operating without an effective offense. And the corporate designers and negotiators have known all along they could effectively limit the power of organized labor by keeping them on the defense. By forcing unions to fight constantly just for the ground they held, the corporate interests could effectively keep them from organizing and expanding. By accepting this all mighty economic system as the only one possible, organized labor has effectively corralled itself into a defensive corner.

Concentrated power in the hands of a very small economic elite will destroy not just organized labor, but every last one of us. It is a game designed by the corporate house and the odds are always in favor of the house. The old cliché of "What is good for business is good for America" is a lie. We should be screaming "What is good for America is good for business." Not only are corporate profits financially and morally bankrupting us, they are literally killing us here in the states and around the globe. Organized labor does not need to be on the side of the corporation. We should distance ourselves from these corporate criminals and wage war against the atrocities leveled on their behalf over the entire world.

Collective bargaining can no longer be entirely about wage and benefit packages. It has to address and encompass the community and social problems that have occurred due to these entities that have broken our industries and who have created this economic armageddon. It has to address business practices that exploit the people and pollute our environment. Entire communities must have collective bargaining as a tool to organize their power as a way to fight against corruption and to better their self-interests. Now is the time for organized labor to put on it's work clothes and begin rebuilding a real social movement to fight against these embedded corporate interests.

Now is the time for organized labor to break the chains that have kept it bound, gagged, and controlled by the corporate/political model of capitalism that feeds a few and starves the many. Not since the last depression have working people needed as much help in organizing against such atrocities. Injustices which worsen as each day passes. Now is the time for organized labor to publicly ostracize all politicians who take money from those who created these dire straits in which we now find ourselves. It is time to take a moral stand and initiate an effort to remove high finance out of our political system because it has destroyed any semblance to democracy we might have once had.

Organized labor should embrace this opportunity to energetically support alternative transportation, energy and infrastructure rebuilding. It is time to work with environmental and economic groups in developing new sound and sustainable industries and community models that work for the people rather than against them. In short, it is time for organized labor to play some offense in the name of what is right and what is good for all the people. Not just in a short term focus on wage and benefit packages, but on our future as human beings on a mega-connected and quickly changing over populated world in crisis.

We must use collective bargaining for the common good, and begin connecting our unions with other groups who fight for the common good. Economic justice advocates, civil rights advocates, food safety coalitions, and financial reform groups must become part of a broader community of social justice unionism. There has never been a better opportunity to redesign organized labor into a major force for needed social change. We can either continue playing defense until the big money offense completely annihilates organized labor, or we can go on the offense and help create a better future for all of humanity. We must build our power of people from the bottom-up and fight corporate/political criminality from the top-down.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Critical Thinking Through Altered Consciousness

A trusted friend mentioned that many of her friends are critical thinkers and she asked the question, "How did you learn to analyze this way?" The question itself was a little problematic for me. First, if I chose to answer the question, I felt it might be somewhat presumptuous of me to consider myself a critical thinker. Even though I would like to think of myself as having the ability of critical thought, I really do not think I am qualified to make such an assumption. Secondly, I was not sure if what I consider to be critical thought could equate to a one size fits all definition that would be accepted. I view the process of critical thinking to be a personal undertaking in analyzing myself. I can only understand the exterior of my world and all its integral parts if I have an understanding of my inner self.

Most people seem to relate the ability of critical thinking to lessons learned from family, education, or as a prerequisite of a chosen profession. I have given it much thought, and I cannot reasonably say I can attribute any ability I may have to either of these examples. The closest my Dad came to urging me to use critical thinking was when he told me, "Son, don't believe anything you read and only half of what you see." Perhaps that was enough, seeing how it has stuck with me all these years. I can't say the 30+ hours of community college instilled in me the process, although it may have helped to a certain extent in developing skills in researching, analyzing, and evaluating information. And although problem solving in the pipe trades was indeed an attribute worthy of possessing, I do not see it as being an essential building block to learning or increasing the process of critical thought.

In reply to her question I half jokingly said that the use of mind altering drugs of the late 60s were possibly the building blocks to my thought processes. After giving the question much more thought, I have concluded that my experimentation with mind altering substances were indeed my most influential teacher of critical thought during my life. It is not something that is easy to talk about, and even harder to explain. I find this subject is not one that is readily accepted in most social interactions and I am always hesitant to speak of it. I suppose the labels which mainstream society attached to these things have even left their mark in my psyche as well, and tend to cheapen the profound effect of the experience. But the truth is, those experiences in mind altering realities did change my life. They forever changed how I would relate to the world, and more importantly, in how I was to think about every single thing from that point until the present.

In the past I have tried to relay these feelings and changes I experienced in these altered states, but have found it most difficult given my limitations of language. However I am aware of many other individuals, who are much more intelligent than I, who have just as much difficulty relaying their same experiences with the altered states of consciousness. So I decided to let them tell their stories and relay their thoughts on how they were influenced by their introduction and use of these now illegal substances. Albert Hofmann is the Father of LSD, and this enlightening documentary done by Connie Littlefield is entitled "Hofmann's Potion". I hope the documentary says what I am not capable of saying, and somehow relays how this chemical alteration had so much to do with what I feel to be my awakening to the process of critical thinking.

Hofmann's Potion par Connie Littlefield, Office national du film du Canada

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