If we want America to become the “we society” that represents the highest outcome of democratic governance, we must get a large enough progressive majority in Congress to actually pull it off…
The hits just keep on coming! Thanks Thom. Great essay, yet again. The problem is capitalism. I am not opposed to capitalism, AFTER basic needs for everyone are considered - food, housing and health care. But, Capital always....always...aggregates into fewer and few hands. Politics can't stop this because eventually, Capital buys politics. Think of Capital as a hungry beast that constantly feeds, grows and needs ever more. The right-wing SCOTUS has endorsed Capital aggregation and hurried it along. The only thing that can mitigate or slow this process is regulation. However, eventually capital (as we see now) buys off regulation, too. When people are desperate, there comes some type of revolt. MAGA is but a symptom. It's an endless cycle. It really doesn't have much to do with "we" and "me." The "me" hoarding the wealth is only a tiny percent of a tiny percentage of "us." The handful of "me's" force people who otherwise would be more communal, to withdraw from community and focus on saving themselves and their families.
A side note on Reagan which, it seems, also applies to Trump. The two both had fatal weaknesses which led to them being owned by he money powers.
Reagan was an empty suit, he had no ideas, no moral center,he was and died a class B actor.
Without a script he was nothing.
"Where is the rest of me?" Reagan cried out to Gorbachev. According to witnesses, this was the bonding moment between the two world leaders. Thanks to a 40-year-old film, the cold war melted and they agreed to a joint statement.
That was followed by a paperback book. "Here is the Rest of Him". I've tried to google that book, and it has disappeared, but I read it in 1983 or 84.
The author, a former aid, said that Reagan would sit at his desk, face drained of color, lifeless, jowls sagging, until someone shoved a script in front of him, then he perked up blood ran to his face, his jowls tightened and he came alive.. He was in fact a fool and a tool for the powers that be.
Then along came Trump, vacuous, dull, unintelligent, narcissistic and motivated by money, and more than anything fame, to make up for his inferiority complex (the stuff of bullies) .
The money powers are smart or think they are. The Republican party is corrupted, as is some Democrats and they will fellate anyone for money.
They financially, and through their control of the corporate media, have taken full control of Trump, by playing to his insatiable need for publicity and acclaim.
He is the vessel by which to satiate their greed., their addiction.
Looking to history Hitler was subsidized and empowered by Germany's own oligarchs, like Thyssen who admitted such, and they did well under Hitler, the recipients of contracts to build machines of war and chemicals of destruction (Bayer and Zyklon B)
Of course it all came crashing down, in May 1945.
After the war some of the industrialists were captured, tried and imprisoned, but were soon paroled and many wound up in government again, elected or appointed by the conquering powers that be.
You can read about it in the pdf https://archive.org/details/crimepunishmento0000bork or buy the book on line.
There were corporate meetings in Switzerland after DD Day, between corporate America and Corporate Germany, to strategize how to save Germany's corporations.
To answer the headline question, NO. America has gone too far down the road to self-seeking and wealth-worshiping to have any hope of finding a collective/communal center. Before we make our planet uninhabitable, that is.
As for a "progressive majority in Congress," how can that come about when progressives are demonized by all Republican members and marginalized by Democratic leadership?
While reading this article I had an “aha” moment. Thom’s article points out exactly why so many Americans have devolved into a cult, devoted to a smash and grab “burn it all down “ criminal narcissist terrorist. Swallowing years of hate radio, 24/7 Fox noise propaganda and other “what aboutism “ spewing right wing sites has made many of our electorate indifferent to reality, scientific facts and the outright criminal behavior by elected officials (as long as the corruption represents their world view or their tribal mindset). An example- In my neck of the woods recently a local store owner was shot and killed when confronting a man who tore down a pride flag displayed on her store front. Death is now the answer to situations that these crazies object to? Also a less tragic observation- but I swear people on the highways are becoming more aggressive and indifferent to road curtesy, willing to flout the law in order to express their disdain for everyone else. (I’ve long called these road terrorists trump supporters). These “deplorables” cannot think rationally, believing only the lies their exalted ruler spouts on social media. These people are a lost cause sadly, filled with hate, bigotry and lack of critical thinking ability. HRC was right- the “ basket of deplorables” are willfully willing to hand our democracy over to authoritarian rule in favor of the oligarchs because something something “socialism”, LGBTQ rights, women’s autonomy advances, POC rights, etc. It was a nice democracy while we had it.
It seems, as Jan Weir hints at in his comment, the problem is a human one. We like to wag our fingers at the "morbidly rich", blaming them for our ills, but the middle class, which many would like to reaffirm, exhibit the same traits. A simple image comes to mind - the home garage. A generation ago, families, if they were wealthy enough, had a small garage, and they kept their car in it. Today's middle-class homes have two, three, sometimes four garages, and the vehicles, for the most part, must park outside because the garages are filled with "stuff". The middle class accumulate, just as the rich do - much more than they need. If the human race became minimalists, there would be enough to go around for everybody. But the middle class, as well as the rich, are addicted to accumulating more than they need. It's what keeps the Walmart's of N. America humming. We do need a "we" society that consumes only what they need for survival, but that would require revamping everything about this society we live in. To quote Kathy Tankersley from her comment today, "it was a nice democracy while we had it".
Too much wealth divorces most people from their humanity.
Did the societies you mentioned get to "we" or start out with "we" and then go to "me"? Can a charismatic, macho leader get us to "we" or will it be a grassroots groundswell? Perhaps a gentle gay man with a genius brain could get us there. And it probably wouldn't hurt if he was good looking and already had a cabinet position!
In 1862 much of the land granted under the Morrill Act had not been ceded to the federal government. Thus, many state colleges and universities were built on land stolen from the Native American nations who had lived there for centuries. Colorado State University is just one example.
The best way to create a new society would be to install a maximum wage if possible about 10 times the minimum wage with a flat tax. Anyone found guilty of violating that law would be sent far away for good. Greed is the problem. You can't let psychopaths attain unlimited wealth which is capitalism. Also, no campaign contributions above $100 and no lobbyists or else they get sent to wherever society agrees they belong. Death sounds fair to me. With public flogging for liars and criminals also, we can make a WE society.
Many good points made and examples given here, but I think you're missing something here, Thom. Something big: there are pockets of "we" within our "me" society, and some of them are large. You mention Native tribes as an example of "we" -- unfortunately, the implication here is that "we" societies are sitting ducks for "me" invaders, especially when racism and me-me-me religion are taken into consideration. Consider also many African American communities, which would not have survived without a strong focus on "we." Daniel effing Patrick Moynihan and many other white observers didn't know what they were seeing when they yammered on about the Black "matriarchy."
Which brings me around to the big one: women. In more patriarchal cultures than this one, it's been women who do the "we" work: raise the children, keep everyone fed, hold communities together, etc. And of course this work is devalued and ridiculed by the me-me-me guys (and the women who think "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em"). But it's crucial, and we could learn a lot from it.
Don't forget that Reagan (and Thatcher) neoliberalism was in part a reaction against the women's movement with its emphasis on the community of women. That was profoundly threatening to the patriarchal "me" in ways that many people still don't get.
Ironic. Today in an email chat with a neighbor, I reacted to hearing that another neighbor had just boasted her college-grad son was getting rich as a day-trader. "To me, it is sad to hear that anybody's vocation is just amassing money. I recall my dad, just before he died, telling me that he was so proud of me followed with: 'You make more money than I ever did.' It saddened me that money was his criteria for success."
At the time my dad shared his compliment, I was a Navy officer providing direct research support to the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon, the head of a big Federal agency, and the Vice President. That I was contributing to national policy was, apparently, of lesser relevance to judging success than the size of my house and the car I drove. Dad was a "me" Reaganite. But after 12 years of Catholic school, I had been groomed to be a bit more "we"-oriented.
It might be useful to look at how societies outside the U.S. have handled this.
For example, the idea of a social-market economy is the foundation of the Federal Republic of Germany and the EU. With that as a founding idea, the governance systems of the FRG and the EU have avoided the mistakes of the 18th Century presidential models.
Countries such as Russia and the Central Asian "republics" exhibit how there is a need to get beyond the idea of elected monarchs, who often turn into dictators.
That's about as clear an explanation of the goal of a truly democratic society I've ever read. It actually describes the society I grew up in back in the 50s during the "liberal consensus" before the liberal class died off and the neoliberal racketeers pulled off their coup.
To reverse the situation requires quality information disseminated via evidence-based media like this report and many other similar publications that now thrive on Substack. The Hartmann Report, along with Heather Cox Richardson's Letters From An American, The Chris Hedges Report, Tom Cleaver's Thats Another Fine Mess, Robert Hubbell's Today's Edition Newsletter, and many others are purveyors of the essential quality information the late Gregory Bateson defined as "a difference that makes a difference."
A society aligned with the cardinal virtues of mutual aid, compassion for others, a collective burning desire to live in harmony with the diversity of the world's peoples and species, as well as the ecological protocols of the source of everything that lives-- our great Mother Earth, Pacha Mama, is the consequence of government established for the benefit of the common welfare, not just the rich, in a word--Democracy. The educational inspiration ignited by the aforementioned voices of this universal governing ideal is essential in establishing the "We" society that polls show the majority of us yearn for. That's why I subscribe to these and other resources and choose to share this educational adventure with others on the Substack platform. The community of citizens arising here is a vital source of the powerful fertilizer needed for enriching the soil of the new American democracy now being born.
Thom, you lay out a case so well about how we behave. I lay out cases dealing with how we think. This is the beginning of "GET THE STORY STRAIGHT" that I sent last week: "Change who we think we are. Go from wanting the most money to wanting the most good. Every culture has a creation story that clues people into what is expected of them. Adam and Eve is about humanity being born to suffer. Now, even science shows us we are born good, here to flourish. In a lineage from Pierre de Chardin to Thomas Berry to Brian Swimme, my #1 storyteller, we get the Universe Story. If humanity makes it, that story will underlie reality. We’re riding the horse in the direction it’s going. The most important and most basic thing to do is to teach that story to everyone now. It will get people feeling good about being human and wanting the best for everyone. That would get us creating the world we’d like to be in." The rest is here: https://suzannetaylor.substack.com/p/roadmap-to-the-future-part-one
Mr. Hartmann, my admiration for you is a matter of record. However, I must inform you, from where I sit that, like most things in the United States, your treatise leads into a constant cacophony of conversations and narratives that exclude me. Because, you see, "I" am not "you". "We" are not "U.S.". And "yours" is not "ours". Never has been and the statistics confirm that it still isn't.
I am so very flattered...and inspired.
Thank you, my Alkebulanian brother.