Jump Off the Treadmill of Defeat!

by John Spritzler

May 20, 2013

Americans are on a treadmill of defeat. That's why things are getting worse, not better. Working class and "middle class" Baby Boomer parents know that things are getting worse. They know that that life is a lot harder today for their children than it was for themselves back when they were young adults looking for their first real job. Good-paying jobs are more scarce. Expectations in life are lower. Student college debts are now so oppressive that they render new college graduates virtual debt slaves forced to work a job they don't like just to pay back the debt.

Suicide rates are shockingly high for those who enlisted in the military and found out that their mission in Iraq or Afghanistan was not the noble one they first thought it was, about protecting Americans from terrorists, but rather something vile that they have trouble living with--literally. The grandchildren of baby boomers don't go to schools their grandparents remember attending. Now working class schools are test-prep centers for standardized tests that are designed to fail a pre-determined proportion of students no matter how well the students learn their lessons. Children are terrorized by the lie that if they fail the standardized test it means they are not worthy of enjoying a good life when they grow up and will have only themselves to blame for being at the bottom of an increasingly unequal society. Teachers are forced to drill students for these tests instead of instilling in them a joy of learning and confidence in themselves as young people who deserve as good a life when they grow up as anybody else.

Regardless of the political party in office, trillions of dollars get taken from uses that would make life better for regular people and placed instead in the pockets of the owners of a military industrial complex that needs, and when necessary creates (as it does with drones), a bogeyman enemy to justify itself. Many Americans lack adequate health insurance, are unemployed or are homeless because the plutocracy that controls the United States wants the American working class to feel so insecure and desperate that it will be grateful for low-paying jobs with lousy benefits. And virtually all our politicians pretend we have a government of, by and for the people and tell us that if we just vote the right way things will get better.

The treadmill of defeat operates by persuading us to accept, as a permanent fact of life, that our society must remain one in which money is power and most people don't have any, in which making a profit for an employer is the highest priority in life, before which all other considerations must bow. Being on the treadmill of defeat means having no vision of a better society. It means limiting one's aspirations to whatever crumb a politician or employer may throw us, feeling grateful for it because a crumb is better than no crumb, and then seeing even the crumb get taken back before too long, as Social Security is now being cut back, and savage budget-cutting is taking back social services we once took for granted.

How Do We Jump Off the Treadmill?

Jumping off the treadmill of defeat means building a revolutionary movement--revolutionary in the sense that it has the revolutionary goal of creating a much better kind of society, one in which there are no rich and no poor because everybody who works according to ability (and those not expected to work because of age or disability) shares equally, according to need, in the fruits of the economy; and in which social order on a national or even global scale is achieved by voluntary federation of autonomous local communities where all the people who support equality and mutual aid are welcome to participate as equals in writing the laws of their local community, and there is no central government of a few hundred individuals in a faraway capital writing laws and ordering everybody to obey them. This is the goal of democratic revolution, as opposed to Communist or any other kind of revolution.

Jumping off the treadmill of defeat means using every opportunity to challenge what IS with a revolutionary vision of what COULD BE. Here are just a few examples:

  • IS: Many people who are able and willing to work cannot find a job and thus suffer great economic hardship, simply because no employer finds it profitable to hire them. People unable to work (because of their age or a disability) must live in poverty on "welfare."
  • COULD BE: To get a job requires nothing more than a) pitching in wherever people are doing work or b) learning a skill so as to be able to pitch in later, because the economy is not a capitalist economy based on profit, but a sharing economy in which all who pitch in reasonably according to ability (and all who are unable to work) share in the fruits of the economy with equal status according to need--no rich and no poor.
  • IS: College costs a fortune so only the wealthy or those willing to take on a huge debt can get a higher education.
  • COULD BE: College is free (like it was until recently in Sweden); the cost is borne by society because society benefits from having people well educated.
  • IS: 30 million Americans will have no health care insurance under Obamacare.
  • COULD BE: All people who contribute reasonably to society have an equal right to the health care they need for free, with equitable rationing according to need when there is a scarcity of a required kind of care.
  • IS: Big Pharma, to make its Big Profits, needs sick people to buy (via steep health insurance premiums) its drugs; if an inexpensive cure or treatment for a disease (such as eating a certain diet or being treated with a common inexpensive substance) is discovered, it would threaten Big Pharma's profits, thus causing the entire health care industry to be biased against such cures or treatments.
  • COULD BE: The economy is not based on profit and everybody benefits if an inexpensive cure or treatment for a disease is discovered.
  • IS: Public K-12 schools are controlled by and run for the benefit of the richest and most powerful Americans for the purpose of making working class children blame themselves for failing standardized tests (which are are a form of child abuse designed to fail a set percentage of children no matter how well students learn the material). In this way schools are used by the very rich to make working class children accept their place at the bottom of an increasingly unequal society and feel unworthy of having a good paying job or even a job at all because they are not "smart enough" or didn't work "hard enough" to score higher on the standardized test.
  • COULD BE: Teachers and parents, who want to instill in all our children the confidence, skills and joy of learning that can enable them as adults to take charge of society and make it more equal and democratic and caring for all, run the schools in a genuine democracy.

The Treadmill Keeps Us On It With LIES

Those who want us to remain on the treadmill of defeat tell us that there is no alternative to the present social system, that we have to make do with the system we've got, that any crumb is better than no crumb so be thankful for crumbs, that one has to work for this political party or vote for this politician because the other party or politican is worse, that people aren't ready to hear talk about revolution and even if they were a revolution only makes things worse. These are the kind of people that, back in the days of the American Revolution against King George III, would have said, "King George is bad, but hey, he's the only king we've got." They would have dismissed as "dangerous" or "foolish" Tom Paine's revolutionary writing that eventually persuaded Americans to make a revolution. Today they want us to believe that our fellow Americans don't want a democratic revolution, even though most Americans, when informed what it means, say they do indeed want it! These people today use the fact that Communist revolutions are anti-democratic to argue against democratic revolution; they never explain that the reason Communist revolutions are so ugly is not because revolutions have to be ugly but because Communists never wanted either democracy or equality to begin with. These people warn that revolution is impossible because of the "82 Airborne Division"; they don't admit that a revolutionary movement made up of a majority of Americans can win over men and women serving in the military--whose family members and neighbors and friends are in the movement--to refuse to attack the movement and even to defend it against those who do.

The treadmill of defeat makes us choose from various bad alternatives that politicians and employers offer us. It's "Choose your poison!" Choose higher pay and better benefits that will make businesses leave and seek cheaper labor elsewhere, or choose to "race to the bottom" to keep your jobs but with wage and benefit concessions. Choose ending wars based on lies and the resulting loss of defense industry jobs, or choose to keep waging wars based on lies. Choose jobs and pollution or choose clean air and water but no jobs. To pay back a debt we don't rightfully owe in the first place, choose higher fares for public transportation or choose to lose public transportation. Choose news reporting and opinions--with a liberal NPR slant--that don't challenge the "money is power" basis of our society, or choose news reporting and opinions--with a conservative talk radio slant--that don't challenge the "money is power" basis of our society.

We need to jump off the treadmill of defeat. Let's start Thinking about Revolution.