Asking for the Truth

It’s an election year, which means once again, god help us, our elected representatives will pay attention to us for a few months. I’ve already begun to receive chatty newsletters, advertisements, and questionnaires from local, state, and national politicians, and even a school board candidate from a different district. None of this mail impresses me very much, the questionnaires least of all. Has anyone else noticed that these “polls” seem carefully constructed to yield answers fitting the politicians’ preconceived agendas? I don’t believe I’m expressing only my own experience when I say it seems the questionnaires consistently leave off sensible and democratic alternatives in exchange for those serving corporate America.

This limiting of discourse, this pseudodebate, is of course familiar to anyone who has read 1984, and is a primary way our particular pseudodemocracy–where we regularly “choose” between two candidates, both of whom represent big business–perpetuates itself. In the interest of expanding the debate I’ve created a poll that doesn’t ignore those issues that many students, independent farmers and loggers, environmentalists, and others I know hold dear to our hearts. If citizens regularly received questionnaires such as this from our so-called representatives, I believe political apathy and cynicism would diminish instantly.

The questionnaire:

1) What’s the most important problem currently facing this country? Rank according to importance:

  1. Environmental degradation.
  2. Loss of jobs to automation, downsizing, and relocation.
  3. Corporate welfare.
  4. Lack of corporate accountability.
  5. The influence distant corporations wield over the government and economy.
  6. Lack of affordable education for all.
  7. The problems of capitalism that create structural unemployment and poverty.
  8. Endemic and institutionalized misogyny.
  9. Endemic and institutionalized child abuse.
  10. Endemic and institutionalized racism.
  11. Endemic and institutionalized homophobia.
  12. Other.

2. Violent juvenile crime is becoming a serious problem in this country. Would you support legislation exploring:

  1. The relationship between poverty and violence?
  2. The relationship between patriarchy, child abuse, and violence?
  3. The relationship between this culture’s violence to indigenous peoples, other races, the natural world, women, and children, and violent juvenile crime?
  4. Cost-effective alternatives to prison, such as education, democracy, and hope?

3. Sixty-two percent of America’s transnational corporations pay no U.S. income tax. The combined sales of these corporations total $1.5 trillion; at a tax rate of 33 percent, revenues would amount to $500 billion, significantly more than the current deficit. Simultaneously, taxes place an undue burden on many people. Should we:

  1. Decrease taxes for the poor and middle classes?
  2. Raise taxes on the rich to historical levels?
  3. Tax transnational corporations at rates higher than human beings?
  4. Emplace prohibitive taxes on destructive activities, such as those that export jobs, increase the poverty rate, destroy grassroots businesses, destroy or fragment habitat, poison groundwater, destroy wetlands, or otherwise impoverish our communities or their landbases?

4. This nation’s welfare programs have clear problems, including the creation of dependency and a cult of helplessness, massive expenditure of tight tax moneys, and contributions to economic crisis. What should we do about this nation’s admittedly excessive welfare programs?

  1. Corporations should receive welfare benefits no more than two years, as this fosters dependency.
  2. No corporation–a legal fiction–should be taxed at lower rates or receive higher welfare benefits than any human being.
  3. Corporate welfare should always be subservient to the welfare of living beings, communities, and ecosystems.
  4. Corporations damaging the well-being of communities or their landbases should have their charters revoked.
  5. Human beings should not be wage-slaves. It is incumbent upon our economic and governmental entities to produce fulfilling jobs which promote the welfare of our communities and their landbases.

5. Industrial Civilization is causing the greatest mass extinction in the history of the planet, changing the climate, and depleting the ozone layer. The forests of this continent have been killed and the landbases of our communities depleted. Recently, huge corporations have attempted to implement “takings” bills in several states, under which citizen taxpayers would be forced to pay these corporations not to further degrade their landbases. Webster’s dictionary defines extortion as the “practice of wresting money, etc, from a person by force, threats, misuse of authority, or by any undue exercise of power.” Citizens consistenly oppose these bills, as in Washington state where they voted down “Referendum 48.” Now, ignoring the interests and will of those they purport to represent, state legislators are attempting to enact similar legislation. What should be done?

  1. These politicians and corporate executives should be tried for extortion and environmental crimes. If found guilty they should be imprisoned, forced to compensate their victims, and repair damage. Corporate charters should be revoked.
  2. Politicians should take classes in biology, chemistry, and ecology to prevent travesties such as bills setting aside the global CFC ban (a move called “basic ignorance” by Nobel-prize-winning chemist Mario Molina), or Larry Craig’s Forest Health Bill, which purports to make the public’s forests healthier by allowing transnational timber corporations to cut them down.
  3. Politicians should take classes in economics to learn the “free market” isn’t free when huge corporations receive huge subsidies.
  4. Politicians should take civics classes to learn they are responsible to human beings, not fictional economic entities.

6. Politicians are commonly seen as puppets of big business, and the level of cooperation between government and big business makes a mockery of democracy. Answer yes or no to each:

  1. Should politicians admit that what we have isn’t working, and begin to speak honestly of the need to take back power from economic institutions and return it to human beings, communities, and the natural world?
  2. Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution defines treason as adhering to, or giving aid and comfort to, this nation’s enemies. As huge corporations are clearly the main obstacle between the citizens of this country and democracy, should we try for treason politicians who promote corporate over human and communal welfare?
  3. Should we study and understand those who have always striven for democracy and social justice, such as Lao Tse, Guatama, Spartacus, Jesus, the Anabaptists, Tecumseh, the Luddites, John Brown, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, Emiliano Zapata, the Wobblies, the Spanish anti-fascists, the Hungarian and Czech Freedom Fighters, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X, Noam Chomsky, the Zapatistas, Ken Saro-Wiwa? Should we learn what democracy and social justice really are, and then work like hell to bring them about? Or should we consider option D?
  4. Should we continue with business as usual and wait for the country to erupt?

It’s a sad commentary on our “democracy” that none of the alternatives presented here (except the last) will in all likelihood ever be mentioned in what passes for political discourse. If I received a questionnaire like this, I would vote for the sender in a heartbeat. My faith in democracy would be reawakened.

I’m not holding my breath. I doubt I’ll receive a questionnaire that manifests life-affirming, democratic views. The possibility does exist, though, and so every day until November I’ll anxiously go to my mailbox to see if politicians have decided to represent citizens instead of big business. But you can bet that as I take the long walk to the mailbox, in my pocket and in my heart I’ll carry the words of Emma Goldman, the Wobblies, Malcolm X, and the Zapatistas.

Originally published in “The Pacific Northwest Inlander”

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