Building a Movement for Constructive Commonwealth

Building a Movement for a Constructive Commonwealth By: Lean Hall, Executive Director Alliance for a Just Society I have challenged people in diverse communities — inner-city black folks from New Orleans and New York, immigrants in Idaho, and rural families in Montana — to draw a picture of the community they want. Their pictures are strikingly similar: Their sky is blue and their air is clean; the schools are good and the kids are happy; there are parks, good food, and safe places to live and work, as well as artistic, cultural, and religious institutions that reflect the richness and diversity of our communities and society.

The desire to create strong communities where families can thrive seems almost universal, and this is true despite the presence of conservative ideologies that promote rugged individualism. We all hold this kind of vision; this paper is offered as an early step in building the strategy for transformation toward the political and social economy that sustains this vision. The kind of society we want to build can be described by the phrase, “Constructive Commonwealth. I use the words “Constructive Commonwealth” because it engenders our capacity to address hat is broken and rebuilding it, and the imperative for constructive, positive solutions to build a true commonwealth. Our Constructive Commonwealth is an innovative, equitable, and sustainable economy that measures its success on the well-being of people and communities across the globe.

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The notion of “well-being” of people and communities extends to the environment that we live in; the education of its members; the creation of shared wealth and prosperity; access to housing, health care, and healthy food; and a truly participatory democracy governing our public institutions, government and corporations. A participatory democracy requires a well-developed civil society with people coming together to build people’s organizations and institutions that advance local community-based leadership that can interact with public and private institutions from positions of power.

The imperative to recreate and transform our economy comes from three fundamental dangers that we face today: the crisis of global inequity that thrives on racial bias, threats to democracy from increased implementation and corporate control, and the global environmental crisis. Ignoring the confluence of these crises is not an option; we need to lay claim to innovation, ingenuity, and inventiveness to advance new solutions and build the Constructive Commonwealth. Retreating this shift will not be easy — it will require a cultural, power, and policy shift—to move in waves across our country and the world resulting in the reanimating and transformation of our economy and society. Many of us, myself included , think the economy is like the weather. We act like the economy is an abstract force that we have little control over. But that is not true; our decisions and actions shape the economy, which, in turn, shapes our lives. Every relations. And these influences often are Justified in terms mammal’s” and morality.

For a constructive commonwealth, we want to bring a prevailing sense of morality into the political sphere and then shape the economy. For example, in the Bible, Jesus becomes outraged by the money-changers and their exorbitant credit rates and throws them out, declaring usury immoral. Congress’s decision to lift the Glass- Steals Act allowed the financial sector to create new, highly speculative and risky investment “products,” becoming a critical factor in the recent and ongoing financial crisis.

Campaigns to regulate the environmental impact of products and corporate practices have had a significant, although insufficient, impact on the quality of our lives. The movement during the Great Depression to put people to work and the post-war enactment of the 6. 1. Bill changed lives, shaped communities and had defining impacts on our economy. And while they didn’t go far enough, these public investments greatly reduced inequality. The economy is not a separate sphere; the notion of a Constructive Commonwealth recognizes the social nature of the economy and holds it within the public sphere.

Our actions stem from our beliefs. To spur action for change, we need to reflect on and assert deeply held beliefs and values into the mainstream culture and politics. 1. We all do better when we all do better. Inequity is a crisis in the U. S. And globally, with more than 56 percent of the world population living on $2. 50 a day. L While inequity is color-coded and international, it is also a universal crisis. As inequity grows in a society, people of color and low- income communities are hardest hit.

It is also true that there are worse outcomes — health, life expectancy, crime — across the board. Addressing inequity will require that we understand our society from both a gender and racial Justice lens. 2. Race matters. Today our society is shaped by institutional and systemic racism. We will not achieve our aspirations unless we understand how racism functions and address it directly. Just look at the foreclosure crisis. As CNN reported in June, “White Americans have 22 times more wealth than blacks — a gap that nearly doubled during the Great Recession. The housing bubble and subsequent recession greatly exacerbated existing inequities. One need only look at the predatory lending 1 The Great Transition page 23 practices of the banks and the foreclosure crisis to get at the root of this wealth loss. As the market has become less regulated, we have seen skyrocketing inequity across the United States. These systems that undermine equity are embedded in our history of manifest destiny, slavery and the near genocide of native peoples. 3. Human beings, not corporations, have rights.

As Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his Four Freedoms speech eloquently stated, human beings should be afforded the freedom from want, freedom of speech, freedom of religion and freedom from fear. Today that can be translated into access to basic needs: clean air and water, shelter, health, and food; a De-militaries society and a redirection away from a national budget dominated by military spending; an increase in availability to safe, dignified work with adequate compensation; and an end to the promotion of hate and the denomination of groups of people who are deemed to be the “other”.

This kind of hate and denomination serves to divide us in ways that intensify inequity and diminish democracy, while weakening cross-cultural solidarity. It also advance our understanding of human rights, we must address the reality that report money and power have limited our democracy and freedom. 4. Global warming is a social and economic crisis. James Hanson, Anna’s director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, warns that if Canada’s tar sands are exploited, dramatically increasing carbon dioxide levels will alone cause accelerated melting of ice sheets and rising in sea levels that would destroy coastal cities.

He predicts that 20%-50% of the earth’s species would become extinct and our whole civilization would be at risk. I Just as our future will be shaped by the choices Canadians make, ours will also shape the rest of the world. It is time that we understand that our futures are deeply interconnected and interdependent. To date, corporations have not been required to internalize the costs of environmental degradation.

It is time to assess the real cost of the production of goods by factoring in the future costs to society and to dramatically increase our investment in clean energy. 5. Corporate culture of consumption is not freedom and does not create happiness. Driven by marketing and advertising, we have been transformed from citizens into consumers. Collectively, we have forgotten that it is our family, community legislations, art, ideas, and spiritualism that fulfill us.

As a society, we tend to value things over people and measure our worth based on what we have. The point about corporate-consumer culture should not be MIS-understood – Economic insecurity, financial worries, and uncertainty undermine agglomerations and full participation in our democracy and the cultural life of our communities — this, in turn, undermines happiness. 6. A healthy democracy is an essential part of our path forward. Our political democracy is awash with corporate dollars. The influence of this money is growing

Jesse
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