Tuesday, October 25

a dear john letter

Dear free market capitalism and first-past-the-post voting schemes,

We want you to know how hard this is for us. Even as we write to you, there’s a war going inside us pitting a desire for stability and fear of the unknown with a deep-seated passion for change and hope in something both dramatically better and dramatically different.

What we’re trying to say is that this shit ain’t easy. Part of us still loves you to bits and thinks that you can and want to treat us well. But part of us knows – just knows – that you can’t change. That you won’t change. If you won’t, then we have to.

We need to start by acknowledging how much you’ve done for us over the years. 400 years ago you two were both so revolutionary. You both embodied all the hope for change and fairness and freedom that had been denied us for so many centuries. You were so shiny, and so generous, and we fell for you. Hard. In fact, we loved you so much that we were willing to split up with our monarchs and Mother Rome’s control to start up with you. Do you remember that?

And we remember that it really worked for a while; it wasn’t all bad. We were really in love with you and, we think, there was a time when you really loved us too. You allowed us to enjoy a period of unprecedented growth, both economically and socially. We fought from time to time, we know, but we found ways to work it out. Equality, although never actually reached, became a larger spot on the horizon. We got the vote for women, recognized racial injustice and walked a way down the road to addressing that too, among other things. There was movement, an often unsatisfying give and take that resulted in some change.

But not enough of it. Never enough.

We prospered in many ways, increasing the standard of living for large portions of us in the developed world. But we managed that too often at the cost of the least developed, the most vulnerable. It always seemed you were willing to give, but only if you got to take somewhere else. It never seemed fair really. The scales didn’t balance and, when we’re talking about people suffering needlessly so that others can prosper, is there even any such thing as balance?

But still, we need to honor that love once existed, that we shared something for a long time, and remember the gifts you gave us, even now as we move towards ending this.

And we need to end this.

We look back now and even the good times are tinged with a certain level of regret, of an awareness of selfishness on our part, a sense of denial that let us embrace the wealth while willfully ignoring the injustices. We admit that part of our love was completely co-dependent; we have blame in this too, and need to acknowledge that.

But something changed, changed even from the days when it was unbalanced but you seemed pretty good to part of us. Some of us point back to the last forty years or so, at the way that the corporations have learned to buy the law by buying politicians, and the way that you first-past-the-post politicians – so, so many of you – have been too happy to bend over for those corporate friends. We feel betrayed.

Here’s the thing, somewhere in that process of corruption you became more and more distant and unwilling to talk about things. And then you crossed a line and started being abusive and manipulative. We can barely even remember the first time now. We loved you so much and couldn’t believe you’d betray us that way. But you did.

We let it happen. That’s the truth. We wanted to believe that we could make it better; that even though you were changing in one direction, we could find a way to redeem you and change you back. We believed you when you said you were sorry and promised that that time, that last time, when you wounded us, or wrecked our home, or threatened our children, that it would be the last time. We believed you in spite of all the evidence amassed that you would never change. And I think we still liked the gifts, the idea that if we were quiet and obedient, you’d treat us well.

Somewhere, deep down, we think we always knew though. And yet, we wanted to think it could go back to being good (but never perfect ) so bad that we just pushed all those lies down, ignored the bruises and cuts and stitches and casts, even tried to ignore it when you hurt the kids.

But no more.

We need to reclaim our power and the intrinsic dignity that is our right as members of the human race.

We need to stand up for ourselves, take responsibility for this mess, and make it better. We need to square it off and make good of it, the way a carpenter would when they screw up a cut.

We need to stop and take a hard look at ourselves, figure out who it is we really want to be, and then figure out how to be that species.

Because this isn’t it. It can’t be. We believe in every fiber of our heart and with every drop of our blood that we can be better than being with you has allowed us to be. That we can build a relationship based on respect and trust and honor and empathy. That we can replace the gold standard with the golden rule. That we can think farther forward than four or five years at a time and develop a society that will honor the love we have for our kids and for theirs.

And please, don’t say that you’ll change. We simply can’t be so naïve anymore. There’s too much at stake, and you’ve sent us to the hospital one too many times, and we know that the next time might be the time when you kill us. We can’t be your punching bag any more.

Just. Can’t.

Please, for the sake of everything that we once had, just go and don’t turn back.

We’re already dating, you see, already courting direct democracy and consensus-based decision making and preferential voting and representational distribution. (Which makes us sound a bit lascivious, doesn’t it? But it’s been so long since it felt good.)

Please don’t judge us for wanting something more honest. Please don’t hate us for seeing the possibility of something real, perhaps in itself only a next step, but nevertheless something so pristine and burgeoning with potential that it might be worth risking everything for the chance to dance with it, to taste its kisses, to feel its touch.

So yeah, this is it. It’s over. All that’s left is to see how things get distributed. To see how hard you’ll fight to stay in power. To decide whether we want lawyers. We think you will. You always did love the stuff more than us.

That’s it. That’s what we needed to say. This is ending and we aren’t changing our mind this time. Get used to it.

The ball’s in your court now.


p.s. I saw the Sam Roberts Band in concert last night. It. Was. Awesome.

(sorry for the ad at the start)

p.p.s. Occupy Vancouver is being threatened with eviction from the VAG square. It’s too bad. Mayor Gregor Robertson has flipped on his initial support for the occupation (or at least tolerance thereof), but is saying that he’d prefer not to use the police (who have also been so good up until now) to end the occupation. He says that he’s been in negotiations with #ov leaders, but everyone at #ov denies that – there are no leaders, after all. Last night the Oakland PD raided the #Occupy Oakland camp and destroyed everything while making multiple arrests. I’m hoping that Robertson doesn’t do anything silly, and not for another couple weeks if he does. I’m going to Calgary next week and, after being there for the start, would hate to miss the party.