Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation
I really love the Greek general strike. I love our stock market falling in response, I must admit. I suspect lots of other broke people like me do too. We have nothing left to lose and certainly no stock to lose value. Our pride went long ago. Our house went. Our health went. Then the fair weather friends and family who really just like winners – more specifically, financial winners – followed.
Soon the only thing left in a broke person’s life is hoping to gut it out with the rent paid, the lights on and food in the fridge for a few more years until death comes. Death, as Socrates saw it and Plato recounted, is either the sweet prelude and transition to a glorious life hereafter or sweet and undisturbed eternal slumber. To a broke person in America, either sounds sort of welcome some (maybe even much) of the time.
The Greek people are angry. Poverty thrust upon them through the same sorts of financial collapse seen across much of the world and at the hands of those still not suffering much tends to make people angry.
I hope the energy it takes to wage such strikes spreads more widely in Europe. In my wildest dreams, I wish Americans had the gumption to hold a general workers’ strike. But we’re a frightened and well-controlled population. Poor folks hurt each other here in America before they stand up to the boss man and boss woman. Somehow we suck it up and keep working and just hope we’re not next in line for unemployment. We’ll often watch neighbors suffer terrible fates – just watch the healthcare crisis unfold if you still have any doubts about Americans’ ability to look away from the pain of others.
But Americans are also a monkey-see, monkey-do kind of people. Oh yes, there are some streaks of independent thought and action – but mostly we like to be one of the masses claiming our unending and undying general individuality as we act more like robots of the corporate talking-heads than the Greek ever could imagine. We see a trend, and we grab it and own it. No individualism there. We throw co-workers under the bus to save our own bacon much of the time. Selfishness rules in our capitalistic society. Survival of the fittest. That’s the tough talking, big shot mentality of many, many Americans who squash the weaker among us like bugs and enjoy every moment of it.
So, right on, suffering and striking Greek people. At least you won’t go down without crying out and fighting back and forcing the world to take notice. I am so sorry for what is unfolding for so many of you and horrified by the deaths of some, but I am proud to watch the reports of your defiance.
New reports yesterday:
Economists say Greeks face years of living with less to even have a chance to avoid national bankruptcy.
Hundreds of demonstrators -- including far right wing supporters -- broke away from the marches and tried to storm parliament, shouting ‘thieves, traitors.’ At the opposite end of the political spectrum, groups of anarchists hurled Molotov cocktails and ripped-up paving stones at buildings and police, who responded with barrages of tear gas.
Do we really think that we in America can create a fully compliant and controlled corporate police state soon enough to ward off the impending doom spreading throughout the world as the profit-takers run for cover at the expense of those who made them their profits? Or are we seeing the harbinger of things to come in more nations? Even our own?
The Greek people will have to endure years of suffering. The American people will endure years of suffering too – economic suffering that includes a deepening crisis in healthcare despite the sales job surrounding the current health insurance bill that passed through Congress. The insurance bail-out bill will deepen not lift the health costs burden.
We watched this week while an oil giant fouls our coastline and ravages our fellow citizens along the Gulf Coast more cruelly than Katrina ever could have. Remember when we said we’d never allow that kind of human suffering again in this nation? Really? Well, along comes BP, and we forget. The slow, methodical unfolding of the environmental death allows us to look away again and even assume the position we become so good at owning – we’ll all pick up the tab for the damage. We will. Our kids and our grands. We’ll belly-ache and whine, but we’ll take it because BP says we have to.
What about the bankers and financiers who took $2 trillion so far of our tax dollars to prop themselves up? They refuse now to be audited. They refuse to be told what to do. Will we stand up to them? Not really. Only here and there. For the most part we’re clinging to the paltry lives we have just grateful for the crumbs while we’re robbed and lied to and stolen from and broken. Ever seen a banker or an insurance giant miss the charging of one fee to you or to me if we missed a payment or the like? Ever? But they refuse to be audited and our elected leaders back them up lest their complicity is opened to the light of day.
Will we remain silent? Will we grow more weary and complacent or will we rise up? How much pain do we endure or suffering do we watch before we say, “Enough?” Do we let our financial product giants – including the insurance giants -- and bankers ruin us for decades just to be loyal to some economic dream that is less stable than a house of cards?
What are we made of? I sure hope we answer that question with commitment to one another to change this mess, hold accountable the profiteers and secure social justice for our nation. Else, what are we really free to do? Wait for the sweet relief of death or fight on fearlessly against those who do not value anything but the almighty buck? Unless we fight, it’s all for nothing.
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