by Susan Rosenthal
(Updated at: Feelings Aren't Facts)
Most people feel some level of dread most of the time.
We fear for our personal survival. In a recent poll, 61 percent of Americans agreed that “most people today face increasing uncertainty about employment.” We fear that we will be unable to provide for our families and keep a roof over our heads.
We fear for the future — for growing environmental destruction and the spread of war. We see our rulers failing to solve these problems, and we fear that no one can.
Human safety depends on our ability to solve problems together. As a result, fear activates a biological need to connect with others. However, capitalism divides us by class, nation, race, religion, etc. These divisions are reenforced by lies: that there is not enough to go around, that foreigners are to blame, that if we don’t massacre people in other lands they will come and massacre us. By promoting such lies, the people in power enrich themselves at our expense.
Some forms of organizing are encouraged — churches, charities, and neighborhood associations. However, organizing that challenges the profit system is actively discouraged — unions, demonstrations, and groups seeking real social change.
What to do? We look for other ways to achieve a sense of security. Lottery tickets give us hope. Pets provide comfort. Drugs, especially narcotics, activate the same brain centers that are activated by secure human bonds. And it’s hard to resist the draw of TV and movies where all questions are answered and all problems resolved.
As we pursue the illusion of safety, the real dangers grow. Some say that there is no hope for humanity, that we are heading down the road to extinction. Others believe that civilization must collapse before we can create a sustainable society. I disagree.
Feeling disconnected is not the same as being disconnected. Humanity is more connected than ever. All over the world, youngsters watch the same movies, listen to the same music, eat the same (fast) food, and wear the same clothes. When the U.S. threatened to invade Iraq, people demonstrated in synchronous fashion around the globe.
Feeling powerless is not the same as being powerless. When auto-parts workers struck in Michigan, the entire industry ground to a halt. Today’s computers are manufactured by Chinese workers, assembled by Mexican workers, sold by American workers, and serviced by Indian workers. Any one group of workers could disrupt the entire chain. By pulling together, they could take control of it. The same is true for most other industries and for society as a whole.
I prefer to believe in humanity and make a mistake, than to give up on humanity and make an even bigger mistake. My New Year’s Resolution is to strengthen my belief that you and I can work together to change the world.
For more on this subject see POWER and Powerlessness, Chapter 3, “Who Needs a Heart When a Heart Can Be Broken.” Available at www.powerandpowerlessness.com