Today, for work, I had the pleasure of watching a webinar on Connectedlearning.tv (also embedded above) where a panel of people heavily involved in making/coding/connected learning discussed the +/- of the “learning to code movement.” On the panel were some Writing Project folks (and friends of the Writing Project)—Mia Zamora, Joe Dillon, Doug Belshaw, and Mitch Resnick—and they had some really smart things to say about why learning to code is important.
I feel betrayed. I feel like I’m slowly running out of air. I read headline after headline and story after story and at first I’m in disbelief but it quickly turns to outrage. Some of it I don’t even believe so I dig deeper to find the shred of evidence that contradicts the insanity that’s just flooded my brain. There is no contradiction. Our government, as a whole, does not love or care for us, and the perverted thing is we have created it to be this way.
Business as Usual
Our government is run like a business, not a democracy. All decisions that are made are heavily influenced, if not completely decided, by money. You can’t even run for office without having enough money for your campaign (as we’re reminded by the senatorial situation in Hawaii). Democracy is defined as being equal before the law and having equal access to power and I think those that “represent us” in the government are proof that we are not all equal here. If we all had equal access to power and opportunities, would these be the congressional demographics?
- 448 men, 98 women
- 579 members over 40 years old (479 over 50) and only 29 members under 40
- 460 married (presumably heterosexual), 79 other
- 457 caucasian, 82 other (44 African American, 27 Hispanic, 10 Asian, 1 American Indian)
- 469 christian (largest single denomination being catholic at 158), 70 other
Government as a business is not a sustainable model. Businesses are cut throat. They try and make the most profit with the least amount of expenses, and as with any business model, there are just going to be casualties: human and/or environmental. If our government truly cared about creating jobs, then why does it allow corporations to send those jobs elsewhere? In 2010 American companies created 1.4 million jobs overseas, whereas they created less than 1 million here on their own turf. Here’s what I think:
- You don’t need to pay people in other countries as much. Less expenses means more profit, but through the exploitation of your fellow humans. But who cares, right? At least we’re not exploiting Americans.
- There’s a belief that you don’t need to treat people in other countries as well as you would treat your fellow Americans (i.e. provide safe working conditions). When you see that 85% of our Congress is white, it’s hard to believe our government makes decisions based on the fact that all people are equal, and how does this affect our business decisions on a global scale?
- It’s not our land and resources, so who cares what happens there? We’re reaching a limit of exploiting our home environment and people, so lets expand the “American Dream” of make, sell, buy to developing countries where the hunger for this stuff is fresh, and the consequences unseen or too distant to seem real.
There is no way to make large sums of money without either taking advantage of people or the environment. It’s just not possible in our current model. Though we’re lead to believe–by our business-like government–that improvements to the economy help us, the American people, it’s just not true. Not when it’s at the expense of our health, education, environment, and ultimately our future.
Don’t you think that a government that cared about its people would put them first? Not the corporations that make things for their people, but the actual people. A government that cares about its people invests in their environment, education, and health; the things that really matter. Well-educated people create a better society. Healthy people create a better society (and consequently cut down on costs overall, think healthcare). But guess what? Health care is a business too due to lack of regulation by the government that is supposed to be protecting us from this greed (I’ll get into this later).
When you spend $671 billion on defense and only $77.4 billion on education, I think that pretty much shows where your priorities are. You’re [the U.S.] a business with investments, so you have to protect those investments. Is America being attacked? Is our homeland being invaded by marauding hordes? No. Our battles are overseas on other people’s soil. Why? One word: oil. Our government is touting the ideals of democracy as an excuse to send our young men and women into war to protect corporate profits.
So if this is a corporate war, they’re paying for it, right? No way. We The People are. Through our taxes and at the gas pump. Correction: some of us are paying for this. The rich, of course, have less taxes than us in the middle class and therefore have more expendable income to influence government and set this whole wheel spinning. The cost of increased oil prices does not fall on the shoulders of oil companies and rich supporters, but is passed on to the majority of Americans: the middle and lower class. Oil companies make record profits while the majority of Americans lose jobs, take pay cuts, and pay more out of pocket. We have the technology to end our dependency on oil but there’s not as much profit for the current owners of America. As long as people in this country are ignorant enough to believe that we’re actually fighting for freedom around the globe, then there’s no need to change this model (until there’s no longer a profit to be made of course). Our government does not only turn it’s back to this corruption, it openly supports it.
While the defense budget looms as the single biggest expense of our government, it is only increased year after year, while cuts are made across the board for services that directly benefit the people in this country. In fact, $4 billion just got cut which includes some of the most influential and important education programs in the country such as the National Writing Project, Reading is Fundamental, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and Teach for America. That’s almost 5% of the education budget, but would only be a mere 0.5% of the defense budget. You can’t have soldiers though if our youth are educated and finding jobs. Following the current path, the future we are investing in is as bleak as war itself.
Our Government Doesn’t Value Our Health
Maybe that’s a little harsh, maybe it’s not that cut and dried. Maybe there are many in Congress pushing for better regulation of food quality, clean water, clean energy, pollution reduction, and better health coverage. However, it does not appear this way. Where to begin?
It seems like a standard role of government should be preventing its people from being poisoned; seems like a basic assumption. Just a glance at the toxic water series by the New York Times is enough to see where we stand with drinking water alone (and I will say, it is not good, especially not for the richest country on earth). And how about that genetically modified food? The latest issue was with alfalfa and if you’re like me, at first you think, eh, what’s the big deal? It’s mostly for cows anyway, right? But that’s not quite right. The reason they wanted to genetically alter it was to make it resistant to pesticides they use to kill weeds. So your genetically modified alfalfa, which is now covered in poison essentially, goes to dairy cows as their food source, and you do drink that milk or consume that milk in other products. One would think feeding our dairy cows poison-covered food would be a bad idea.
Then there’s processed/fast foods. We all eat it for various reasons, some more frequently than others. But the cheapest food you can get out there is processed. Who needs cheaper food? People with less income. Who has less income? Typically women and minorities. Of course with a poor diet comes poor health. In steps the next mostly-non-regulated-business taking advantage of Americans: health care. President Obama and the Democrats have worked hard to put some sort of health care reform in place, but now more conservative government officials still want to limit the government’s role in regulating/providing reasonable health coverage for everyone. This makes sense due to the fact that again, the people in this country are being represented by mostly rich, white men who are not affected by many of the things they seek to destroy. Health expenses are crippling many households in this country, because the health care system is a massive, unchecked business (think oil companies). A business is out to make money and pharmaceutical and insurance companies make their money on sick people. Where is the benefit to this massive industry in having a healthy population? That is why we have government. To protect us from this, yet many in our government don’t seem to see that as a very important issue.
Where’s the Justice?
Another important part of a democracy is being equal before the law. I think many would assume part of the role of government is to create and uphold laws that are fair. It’s interesting to then look at the gross imbalance of race and socioeconomic standing with regard to that of people in power verses people in prison. There are only 44 black members in Congress yet black people make up nearly 40% of the entire incarcerated population. Black people are five times more likely to be imprisoned than white people. This clearly is not a coincidence when the black population is only 12% of the total.
While many minorities and poor are imprisoned for years for stealing cars or being caught in possession of drugs, those that caused the biggest financial collapse since the great depression were not only free, but still collected enormous bonuses not even two years after the economy tanked. Who’s responsible for this if not the government? And why on God’s green earth would people in America still be screaming for less government? It is a complacent government that got us here in the first place and continues to allow this stagnation.
Is It Too Late?
These problems took decades to create and they’re going to take many years to rectify. That’s assuming we recognize them as the serious problems they are and can survive the current model. But there are still many people in our country that don’t believe our planet is at risk of destruction from global warming. Still many believe that waging war on foreign soil is just, and right, and exactly what America needs to continue. Millions of Americans believe the government should be less involved (read: no regulation for the major corporations/banks). Many in our country continue to vote for wealthier, white, Christian men to represent them. Do not misinterpret this. I am not saying that white, Christian men are evil. I am saying that there is an imbalance in our government on a race level and on a wealth level, and it is negatively affecting all but a few Americans. Our representatives do not represent the actual make-up of the population of this country. We can not believe we live in a democracy until those in power represent the average American and the government turns towards protecting and caring for its people, not it’s products and profits.