Fwd: Call for Essays on an Alternative Society

Agent Smiley (smiley_777@hotmail.com)
Sat, 27 Feb 1999 12:26:00 PST

Date: Sun, 21 Feb 1999 14:45:44 -0800
From: Wade Hudson <whudson@igc.org>
Subject: ESPEssay: A Call for Essays

+++++++++++++++++++++ PLEASE FORWARD ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A Call for Essays:
Transforming the System

The Economic Security Project is calling for writers,
activists, scholars, and ordinary citizens to submit
essays on "My Vision of an Alternative Society." In
3,000 words or less, describe the kind of society you
would like to see by the year 2020. Assume that the
general public will support your vision strongly enough
to implement it. Please include a one-sentence summary
of the primary purpose of your society and name it in a
few words.

Deadline for submissions is September 1, 1999. We will
publish the best essays on our website, www.igc.org/esp,
and may publish a book and/or convene a conference to
discuss the submissions.

Many people have argued to enact "fundamental social
change," "change the system," or "transform society (and
ourselves)." But so far, no one has articulated an
understanding of what these slogans mean in a way that
is clear, convincing, and compelling to large numbers of
people. This project aims to encourage the composition
of such statements (and to encourage reflection on these

The major institutions of American society - business,
finance, government, media, criminal justice, education,
religious, entertainment, sports, and culture - are
interwoven into a social system whose primary function
is to enhance the wealth and power of those who are
already wealthy and powerful.

This system concentrates wealth and power not by
accident, but because various individuals, operating as
agents of the system, have established public policies
to achieve that objective. However, we can not assign
total responsibility to any one individual or one group
of individuals. In fact, every individual shares
responsibility to some degree and even the most powerful
individuals are replaceable if they fail to operate as
expected. Thus, the system is self-perpetuating.

This system inflicts poverty and/or the threat of
poverty on most of the population, effectively
disenfranchises the electorate, foments isolation and
division, and spreads a culture based on
self-centeredness and materialism. These consequences
reinforce the system.

The whole world, already in serious trouble, stands on
the edge of disaster. Global warming could destroy life
as we know it. Turmoil in Russia could lead to
devastating nuclear accidents or even nuclear war. The
United Nations, the guardian of peace, is being weakened
daily. The Asian financial crisis, or its successor,
could trigger a global economic meltdown. Potential
catastrophes such as these call for urgent action. But
the global power brokers declare, "Full steam ahead."

For many, the apocalypse has already hit. Even in the
United States, quiet disasters suffocate daily life.
Over the last twenty-five years, most Americans have
suffered either a loss in income or barely broken even.
Wages have fallen. Poverty and homelessness have
increased. Job turnover has quickened. Unions have
declined. Insecurity has worsened. Those households that
have gained on inflation have largely done so by working
longer hours. Most Americans no longer expect today's
children to do better financially than their parents.
The overall economy has grown steadily, but most of the
benefits have gone to the rich and super-rich. Economic
inequality has reached a record.

These economic conditions damage the nation's soul.
Parents have less time to spend with their children,
millions of whom are left home alone after school.
Workers find less community at work, as loyalty becomes
old-fashioned. Families become more scattered, as
workers move about looking for a better future, leaving
elderly parents behind with little support.

Our winner-take-all society increasingly becomes
dog-eat-dog, as more people, anxious about their future,
become self-centered. For many, winning the lottery is
their main source of hope. Others forsake their ideals
and concentrate on "making it" by moving up the ladder
of success as rapidly as they can. Unfortunately, the
rungs on the ladder are limited in number. One person's
success is another person's failure. As the pot of gold
at the top of the ladder multiplies, life at the bottom
hardens. Backstabbing and meanness spread like a plague.
"Greed is good" becomes society's mantra. These
priorities are reflected in national and international

Public opinion polls reveal that Americans are
profoundly discontented and support progressive reforms.
Cynicism, however, is widespread, for most avenues of
action appear to be blocked. Multitudes of progressive
organizations work on their own issues and seldom unite
to support one another. When they do coalesce on single
issues such as NAFTA and Fast Track, they do so
effectively. But soon they return to building their own

Single-issue and local campaigns are not sufficient. We
also need to unite and deal with national and global
issues. A shared vision of an alternative society,
relatively long-term in nature, could enhance the
prospects for success in this struggle. This call for
essays on "My Vision of An Alternative Society" is an
effort to contribute to the composition of such a vision
(or visions).

Wade Hudson, Coordinator
Economic Security Project
San Francisco Progressive Challenge

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