As we wish one another a Happy New Year and look forward to another year, we will haphazardly spread the myth that somehow the new year will indeed be a better one without any effort on our part.
Most of us are indeed well-meaning, so we really want to believe that everyone will prosper or progress along with us. And thus, we believe that just hoping so will make it so.
Unfortunately, the world, and more specifically class society, does not work that way. In the U.S. we’ve had a taste of the failure of wishful thinking without our input. Many voted for a president who has failed to deliver the hope that we believed he would, and we’ve made no effort to hold him accountable.
Even if the president did indeed have all the best intentions that Black folks especially and some so-called progressives have assigned to him, real change cannot come about without the advocacy of an informed and activist public.
We should have known better. Did we really expect a party that has always been the liberal wing of the ruling rich to change its colors without feet in the street? It is still true that you can’t pour new wine into old wine skins.
Instead, he has dimmed the hopes for peace by upping the ante in Afghanistan and bombing the government’s supposed enemies in Pakistan — a country with which the U.S. is not officially at war. He has managed to extend tax cuts for the wealthy, bail out the banks, continue former President Bush’s failed educational initiative (just giving it another name), and give us healthcare reform that is to be managed by the profit-driven private healthcare sector that will set its own prices.
We hoped for the best and got in return half measures. Nevertheless, most of us didn’t make any effort to help make it better.
Yesterday’s headlines and last year’s news are foreboding and ominous. U.S. corporations, while patriotically waving the flag and squeezing every dollar out of U.S. consumers, are taking their jobs overseas. Caterpillar — that “good ol’ boy” company located in the Midwest — hired over half of its 15,000 new employees overseas.
According to the Economic Policy Institute, all but four percent of the top 500 U.S. corporations reported profits last year while creating 1.4 million new jobs overseas this year compared with less than a million jobs in the U.S.
Unemployment supposedly hovers under 10 percent; we all know that’s a lie, and that real unemployment in this country is probably closer to 20 percent. Black unemployment is off the chart, and the silence is deafening.
Members of the Black middle class, who could at the very least raise their voices in protest, instead simply wish their poorer brethren well. This won’t change without us demanding that it must change.
BP Oil exposed most of the oil companies for what they are, businesses driven exclusively by the profit motive with little concern for their fellow human beings, their workers, animal life or the environment. The environmental destruction in the Gulf of Mexico alone should have brought out the animal and nature lovers in droves, but it had no Michael Vick attached to it.
Massey Coal was able to run a mine that was a simmering death trap, and yet the owner found a way to blame the media and everybody else for the loss of workers’ lives that clearly sprang from his narrow focus on his bottom line.
Black and poor New Orleans is still a gentrified mess, proving after five years that Kanye West was partly right: The U.S. government “doesn’t care about Black people” or poor people.
In Minneapolis, a recent newspaper headline announced that more college students are homeless and that many can afford neither school supplies nor food. They can’t be cast into the stereotype of those looking for their next hit or drink or accused of looking for a handout or being lazy and shiftless. That headline should spur some folks into action petitioning for affordable or subsidized student housing.
We wish the students well; we hope the economy improves and violence both overseas and at home ends; and some will even pray for peace, prosperity and racial economic and social justice. However, wishing and hoping without accompanying elbow grease, without rolling up our sleeves, without getting dirt under our fingernails, is no hope at all.
Indeed, progress or a real happy new year without effort on our part is a myth. As Jonathan Kozol pointed out many years ago while commenting on the condition of public education in this country, “[A happy new year] will not come about without us, without the price of payment offered, pain exacted, vow accepted, and loneliness incurred.”
Mel Reeves welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.