On March 11, MIT-educated Julianne Malveaux, president of United Methodist-affiliated Bennet College for Women, Greensboro, NC, addressed an audience at a conference-retreat center owned by Womens’ Division, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
“To heal the still-hurting economy and restore good jobs, Malveaux argued that the nation must restore a sense of economic justice and address the widening income gap.
“We need similar treatment for similar situations,” she said. “The fact is there is no economic justice in our society. The labor market data suggests we are not committed to ensuring similar outcomes for different populations.”
Unemployment Blues: Malveaux offered some sobering statistics….
Please read full informative article (by Heather Hahn, UMNS) : Economist calls for justice in work force – UMC.org.
Malveaux speaks that which needs to be said – and heard.
We need to absorb the implications of her statements. The direct quotes I’ve extracted from the article and posted here would be good statements to stamp across every dash-board of every vehicle on American streets and roads. They need to be “in our face”, they bear repeating:
“The fact is there is no economic justice in our society. The labor market data suggests we are not committed to ensuring similar outcomes for different populations.”
Too often, when anyone calls status-quo to question, and describes hard economic truths, there’s a tendency to say : “It’s reality – get over it.”
My turn! To the nay-sayers, and the head-turners – to those who prefer to ‘blink’ when the idea doesn’t match their preferred myths: I ‘respond in kind’: “Get over it yourself! The broad culture, and its economic policies, have not attended to what happens to human promise in our economy.” (True globally also – but that’s outside the scope of this post).
Malveaux not only offers sobering statistics, she describes policies that might address status-quo conditions.
I part company with her somewhat, as I believe questions of status-quo need to be aimed deeper. I believe we’re at a stage of “disease development” where we have to go beyond “symptom remedy” and ask questions to find root causes. I don’t mean in any way to dismiss Malveaux’s suggestions. I have no expertise by which to do so. It wasn’t her purpose to drive questions deeper. It’s one of my purposes; I’m most drawn to the parts of her talk that point out problems! I have concerns that remedies might cause us to think we’ve found ‘ultimate fix-it’ solutions, when deeper questions are needed.
I believe we must question many assumptions held about ‘modern capitalist-expansionist economies’. I believe we’ve run ‘that one’ as far as humanity can take it. More entrepreneurial behavior – if it ignores non-cooperative compulsion to ‘best a competitor’ – can only offer temporary ‘repair’, if that.
One of Malveaux’s most important actions is she speaks without trying to justify or apologize for status-quo conditions. She doesn’t mollify.
Malveaux, of course, is not the only ‘voice out there’ describing reality to a blind populace bent on enjoying an emperor’s parade. In a paper, “The Meritocracy Myth“, (published: North Carolina Sociological Association’s official Journal, “Sociation Today”, spring 2004), authors Stephen J. McNamee and Robert K. Miller offer the following truthful reminder:
There is no way to determine for certain, for instance, how many potential world-class violinists there are in the general population but who have never once picked up a violin. Such “talents” do not spontaneously erupt but must be identified and cultivated.
Voices critical of status-quo, of course, go back well into ancient times. The strongest voices were sometimes quelled – with hemlock, for instance, or crucifixion. In our times, these voices have been silenced by assassination.
An equally effective means of quelling reform voices, or voices calling for deep questions to be asked, is “nicer”, much less brutal to persons involved. Advertising strategies are used to manipulate public thought; we, the public, are manipulated to believe that reform voices are ‘the enemy’.
We are not invited or encouraged, to hear reform voices, or to consider arguments in favor of reform. Independent minded critical study, critical examination and critical thinking are ‘schmoozed’ off the table. “Don’t listen! The message is unpatriotic!” “Trust us”, “trust our proof by noticing our success” is the message sent our way by those best served by status-quo. “Suffering,” they would add, “is largely self-created, self-caused, by those who refuse to get with the program.” “Suffering” (and lack of access to satisfying employment, decent housing, education, sense of safety, and health care,) “has got nothing to do with the way economics work.”
Americans were persuaded by such manipulation to believe “communism” had no “drive for justice” at its roots. Human ego, (Stalin, Mao), not held in check by democratic practices, allowed Marx’s thoughts to be “show-cased” in Soviet and Chinese communist excesses. Manipulated general populace “logic” came to blame Marx for his “evil” questioning of expansionist-capitalist practices.
The cheery argument from capitalism: “See, we bring you so much stuff and opportunity!” has run continuously unchecked most especially in the last 100 years, and most especially in the United States. This has been accomplished by thought manipulation as unchecked, perhaps, as what was dished out to general populace in “those communist countries with their brainwashing techniques”.
Advertising-style manipulation has only to ‘inoculate’ us. Once we’ve heard the phrases enough to remember them, and to believe them, we keep manipulation active and operational – all by ourselves! (‘Our’ manipulations are ‘nicer’ than those of communist countries; ‘ours’ are delivered with more smiles and more ‘goodies’ to distract us from underlying humanitarian dangers.)
I don’t argue by any means for a re-run of communism in some imagined improved version. But I find Marx’s scrutiny of flaws inherent in capitalism an overlooked guide to critical examination of what we’ve got in place. He describes capitalism’s built-in dynamics; he brings in need for humans to experience satisfying lives. He makes a very good case against the possibility of a full-fledged capitalist system to ever “bring human promise to fruition”. We may believe his ‘solution’ had major flaws, but his diagnosis has profound, perhaps vital, insight that we’ve stubbornly ignored. “Repair” made without study of profound critics like Marx, are made in ignorance.
Marx was a deep and comprehensive investigator of human nature, human potential, and human social-economic structure. One interpretation of Marx, for example, says: “…he believes that capitalists are as alienated from their human nature under capitalism as the proletariat, even though their basic needs are better met.”) This wisdom, and its associated profound questions, given to us at the dawn of the 20th Century, has spent nearly 100 years in the shadows, or behind curtains of bias against Marx.
More than in other countries, “free-thinking” Americans have missed out on wisdom in Marx’s analysis. If we really want to honor the spirit of human creativity and enterprise – and also want to honor commitment to “raise up one another” – we’re going to have to ask some deep and challenging questions of ‘status-quo’. If we’re sincere, we’ll research best minds as resources. We don’t need to worship every idea Marx offered, any more than we worship every notion Freud delivered to give us our 20th Century start in psychology. We’ve got to ‘get over’ our resistance to Marxist analysis!
We need hard data, information. No – we already have lots of data. We have lots of strong, intelligent, voices, of many who have studied deeply. In ‘modern time’, Marx ‘got the ball rolling’. Thousands, even without direct reliance on Marx, and without mentioning his analysis, have followed. Today’s post brings you two: Malveaux, and joint work of McNamee and Miller. [McNamee and Miller published their findings for general distribution, book: The Meritocracy Myth, 2004).]
But generally, these voices are little heard. In the broad culture, we have either never had these ideas brought to our attention, or we’ve heard rumors that the questions and challenges are ‘evil’, ‘communist’, ‘unpatriotic’.
We resist hearing of reform, it’s our ‘patriotic duty’ to refuse to listen. We don’t like the message of deep problems in our economic policies unless they ‘match’ status-quo explanations: “support systems must go; more and bigger corporate power is the solution”.) We’ve no time to study reform analysis by others, or to run our own examination.
Like a person diagnosed with critical illness, we respond with denial. We turn to manipulative mantras as ‘correction’ for any discomfort we feel. (“This will all be over soon, it’s cyclical, can’t be helped.”)
We’ve been told, have not questioned, and have come to believe: “capitalism, especially Big Capitalism, is worthy of religious-quality faith in its ability to bring human promise to fruition.”
We need to “get over it” — our preference for myth.