Reading this book is not depressing, it is not making me feel defeatist, it is reminding me that there is work to be done which has been passed on to me and which I will pass on to those who remain after me. It is making me acutely aware that in order to survive, we as a nation/as the people must consistently do SWOT analysis on our communities and society, just as a corporation does to ensure their survival. SWOT analysis: the lead management team analyzes the company in order to assess which direction the company should head and what their strategy should be for getting there. They assess the company for Strengths, Weaknesses and observe the market and the environment for Opportunities and Threats to their endurance.
So, why shouldn’t we as a people consistently do that? The only question is: in what are these SWOT analyses - of, for and by the people - based? Are they based purely in the profit margin? Or are they based in quality of life, in humanity and relationships, in a fundamental respect for the land, species and ecosystems which are key to our enduring survival? What is our modern day compass? What have we allowed the American Dream to morph into and was it ever a worthwhile dream to begin with? I’m asking you.
What are we dealing with today that began even before the 1800’s? Well, perhaps as an example, the under-supported veterans of war who are coming back from Iraq and all of those who are still suffering from the Vietnam and Korean Wars...
This article, published in the reputable newspaper, Street Roots, which was created to build awareness to homelessness and offer work and a revenue flow to those who live in our society without a home, offers a good example of how we still have much work to do.
The following excerpt from A People’s History reveals how that work is nothing new:
“In premodern times, the maldistribution of wealth was accomplished by simple force. In modern times, exploitation is disguised-it is accomplished by law, which has the look of neutrality and fairness. By the time of the Civil War, modernization was well under way in the United States.
With the war over, the urgency of national unity slackened, and ordinary people could turn more to their daily lives, their problems of survival. The disbanded armies now were in the streets, looking for work. In June 1865, Fincher's Trades' Review reported: "As was to be expected, the returned soldiers are flooding the streets already, unable to find employment."
“The cities to which the soldiers returned were death traps of typhus, tuberculosis, hunger, and fire. In New York, 100,000 people lived in the cellars of the slums; 12,000 women worked in houses of prostitution to keep from starving; the garbage, lying 2 feet deep in the streets, was alive with rats. In Philadelphia, while the rich got fresh water from the Schuylkill River, everyone else drank from the Delaware, into which 13 million gallons of sewage were dumped every day. In the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, the tenements fell so fast, one after another, that people said it sounded like an earthquake.”
And we could remember that the 40 hour work week and the 8 hour day were not always in place, the people had to fight for that. Yes, against the millionaires, the “capitalists” and those financial elitist powers that were guiding the government. Zinn says, “In the thirty years leading up to the Civil War, the law was increasingly interpreted in the courts to suit the capitalist development of the country." The people, those doing the work that creates the fortunes for the upper class, have always had to fight in order to gain a hold in government decision making.
"A movement for the eight-hour day began among working people after the war, helped by the formation of the first national federation of unions, the National Labor Union. A three-month strike of 100,000 workers in New York won the eight-hour day, and at a victory celebration in June 1872, 150,000 workers paraded through the city."
"In Fall River, Massachusetts, women weavers formed a union independent of the men weavers. They refused to take a 10 percent wage cut that the men had accepted, struck against three nulls, won the men's support, and brought to a halt 3,500 looms and 156,000 spindles, with 3,200 workers on strike. But their children needed food; they had to return to work, signing an "iron-clad oath" (later called a "yellow-dog contract") not to join a union."
Even in the losses there was success - if the story is remembered, that is, and told and re-told, and if we remember that these are the true heroes and historical figures of our country...