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Community Centers as a New Beginning

With $1 billion, the US could build 4000 community centers at a quarter-million dollars each. The community centers in Vancouver Canada could be our model. Public spirit could arise to counter the exploding inequality.
By Marc Batko

If Congress ended the Bush tax cuts to corporations and the top 1%, $300 billion would be available for reconstruction projects at home (see Anthony DiMaggio's article published August 13, 2010 at

 link to www.truth-out.org)

Vancouver British Columbia has an incredible network of community centers in every neighborhood. Inexpensive food, computer access, library, game rooms, gym, theater, patio and class and counseling opportunities make the Carnegie Center at Main and Hastings so attractive.

With $1 billion the US could build 4000 community centers for a quarter million dollars each.

The neoliberal counter-offensive of deregulation, privatization and opening foreign economies to US corporations has led to exploding inequality and social resignation. Businessmen were described as the only ones who understand growth and development. CEOs were stylized as "job creators" and workers degraded as "cost factors." Average working wages in the US have stagnated since the 1970s while profits and CEO bonuses have gone through the roof. Ninety percent of the benefits of the Bush tax cuts went to the top 1%.

The person could become the subject, not the owner. Values of tolerance, intercultural learning, sharing, social justice and solidarity could be learned to recover the public spirit and joy in life steamrolled by turbo-capitalism and trickle-down neoliberal hocus pocus.

Has our wealth or the dominance of the oil industry, military industry and Wall Street made us blind or cynical toward our social nature? Wouldn't the resurgence of community centers show that cooperation and competition support each other?

Albert Einstein said the one thing we learn from history is that we don't learn from history. Has our insular "Forever Number One" mindset blocked learning from other cultures? Is there no end to the horrors of Vietnam, El Salvador, Iraq, Afghanistan, the S&L scandal, financial meltdown, structural adjustment and bank bailouts?

Do we accept a reductionist economic theory
where "the market will set things right,"
where the old business model justifies inequality as a goad to creativity,
where freedom is reduced to property and contract,
where short-term constraints eclipse long-term necessities,
where the market, money and capital become fetishes
and lakes become anti-freeze and mountains become land fill?

Rethinking should be the command of the hour. We have been psychologized, brainwashed or dummified

to think economic problems are temporary, personal motivation or industrial accidents and not systemic and structural,

to identify with the elite instead of the poor,

to confuse means and ends, part and whole, personal and private and real and imaginary.

In a "bright-sided" culture enamored with credit-bubble prosperity, short-term constraints trump future necessities as ideology trumps structure in a post-democracy (cf. Barney Frank and Thomas Frank). The dark side can be repressed and the bright side exaggerated. Rufus Keller wrote about this in "Deadly Progress and the Shadows" when Switzerland was turned into a sky circus and only beautiful women dominated car shows without a word about the deaths and destruction

In a thought-provoking age, we have lost the ability to think (M. Heidegger) and the ability to remember and mourn. In a consumerist society, memory and hope are threatened along with festivity and fantasy (cf. Harvey Cox "Feast of Fools").

The present is more than the present since it includes the promise. The future should be anticipated and protected in the present, not extrapolated from the present. (J. Moltmann).

Language can break the frozen soul (F. Kafka).

In an elite post-democracy, forms and institutions exist without substance, passion and conviviality (cf. I. Illich). As having can prevail over being, people can be enticed to surrender their freedom for authoritarian protection (cf. E. Fromm, "Escape from Freedom"). Services can serve themselves; people can be afraid to walk around the block without a doctor's prescription (cf. I. Illich). The paper chase, the race to resume heaven, can replace real job creation where universities, the media, the church and unions bereft of their independence confuse the race to the bottom and the melting of the dollar with reducing working hours and exchange of roles.

In a culture of vulgar materialism and appearance, time is saved to be killed. Privatism and consumerism are stylized as ends and not decried as traps and blindnesses. Narcissism is an epidemic that can be overcome just as prejudice can be overcome (cf. Jean Twenge, "The Narcissism Epidemic").

Christians and lovers of life should be alarmed
at the fading of the social state, at the redefinition of justice as "rewarding achievers" instead of distribution justice,
at the transfiguration of the corporation and mistaking the arsonist for the firefighter and the goat for the gardener,
at the return of the "No Nothing Party" as the Party of No
at the emergence of nitwit politicians with contempt of international law and the daily deaths of 100,000 (one child under ten every five seconds)

Elite consciousness is a frozen consciousness where there are no alternatives and bankruptcies are only normal business practice (cf. C. Boylan on CFRO Vancouver coop radio, www.coopradio.org).

Security, work, strength and health must be redefined. Albert Einstein lamented that the atom bomb had changed everything except the way we think. The one thing we learn from history is that we do not learn from history (cf. A. Einstein). Normalizing war, militarizing foreign policy and waging wars of adventure in endless Vietnamization are signs of that learning incapacity.

The me-society, the majority society, has lost its way and needs the immigration society. Sustainability means not taking chances from the coming generation and seeing nature as our mother and partner, not as a free good, external or sink.

Economic rights are at the core of human dignity. Fight the war on greed; do something for the inalienable rights:

The empire can become the republic (cf. Chalmers Johnson, "Nemesis"). The welcoming tradition of the US can supplant the tradition of fear as the free moral state can supplant the national security or police state.

Without the social contract, we become wolves to one another, commodified narcissists, rich in things and poor in soul. Solidarity, social justice and sharing open doors while tax cuts for the super-rich lead to exploding inequality and disappearance of public spirit. Building community centers would be a sign of hope, love for life and love for the future, a break from the one-dimensional profit worship that benefits only a few.

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