Tear It Down to Build It Up

Last week I talked about the things that you can do. I think a follow-up is necessary. These are the things we need to build into society, things we must do collectively. This list is just as important, but it will take much more work. Very likely a good deal of pain. These are problems that are woven into the fabric of our society, and when we address them we may well be dismantling that society. 

I don’t say this lightly. The lies and blood that this culture is built on must be addressed if we are to build an equitable future, if we are to have a future at all. Because as long as the foundational injustice is allowed to stand, it holds up all the rest. And all that rest is destroying the ecological foundation supporting all life on this planet. But I don’t say “tear it down” without a good deal of trepidation. 

I have a suite of auto-immune disorders. Without daily drugs, I will die. There is no naturally existing substitute. I am an unnatural beast. Nature would not have allowed me to live this long. Of course, nature would not have caused these diseases either. These are synthetics, man-made, artificial, derived from poisons we put into this planet, believing they would never affect our own bodies. Or perhaps not caring if that happened to bodies of a certain variety. Mine.

But in any case, I am propped up by the system that broke me and I will fall with it. Along with all the others like me. I keep telling myself that perhaps some ingenious human critter will come up with some way to keep the drugs flowing. Maybe that will happen. I have to hope that.

So you see, I do not say “tear it down” lightly. And yet I do say it. Because I want my children to have a future. I want there to be a future for my grandchildren. And I want all this destruction to just bloody well stop already.

In the Collective Mind

We need to end racism. And no, that has not happened with the Civil Rights Movement and it does not appear to be happening. This is a racist society. One group of people with similar appearance and cultural background thoroughly dominates all aspects of our culture. Our culture is predicated upon this division. It will no longer exist when we stop being racist. All the images, the privileges, the power structures, the division of wealth — all of that will end. And we will not stop being racist until it does all end.

Race does not exist outside of this racist system that we daily create. It is not a biological thing; it is cultural. When we are truly freed from these fetters — and yes, white people are just as constrained within this culture though we benefit from it — there will be no race. When there is no race there may be very little left of our culture as it exists today. But it needs to end. Because the idea that one group can take and take and take, one group is owed privilege based on this idea of whiteness, one group can destroy at will, one group can be right exclusively — this idea is at the bottom of all the harm we cause to the entire world, not merely the other humans in it.

This idea of whiteness affects our ability to govern justly, our ability to create balanced economics, and our ability to move forward into this future when we will need more production, less wage work, and freedom for all people to contribute what they can to building our new world. As it is now, only a very small handful of people make decisions, control resources, hold lives in their palms. And this small handful of people is in no way clever enough to get the world out of the mess that they have, themselves, created.

This idea of whiteness must fall so that we stand a chance of standing.

As we dismantle whiteness, we must also address our relationship to gender. Not only in the sense of allowing all people to live and love after their hearts and minds. That must come. But even more important is the bond we have placed on women  — in particular those women engaged in the care and reproductive work that supports our human species. This is tied up with race and whiteness because women of color shoulder most of the generative and supporting labor in this culture that values neither women of color nor the structurally essential labor they do. Women must be equal to men. The work of supporting our bodies must be valued at least as highly as any other work. Sentiment must be stripped from these relationships and replaced with deep respect.

Finally, we must address the idea that wealth is merited and valued. That those with wealth are more worthy than those without. We must acknowledge that wealth is only generated through labor, and those that have wealth without having done the work are nothing short of thieves. There is no upper class. There is only the group of humans who have taken the world’s riches from the rest of us. This possession of possessions does not intrinsically make them superior. It marks them with guilt. Even, or perhaps especially, when they are unaware of how their wealth has accumulated to them.

These are all deep problems in our culture. They are essential to our culture. Without any one of this triad our culture will collapse. Yet, I think that if one falls, the rest will follow because they are so intertwined. So work at the pressure point nearest to your life. Use whatever leverage you have to whittle away at one or more of these three. This is essential work, more than any other thing you can do in the way of greening your life or taking responsibility for your actions. Because I think that we can’t remake the ecological world until we first unmake our socioeconomic world.

And yet, this is all in our heads. Look how little it would take to make change. We could actually bring down the world that is destroying us merely by learning to be better humans to each other. Isn’t that both amazingly hopeful and depressingly cruel? What we tell our children — share, be nice, do unto others, do no harm — all that we’re supposed to learn in kindergarten is all that we need to learn and apply to our lives as adults. Do as we teach them and we will all be better off. We may even save the world!

The Collective Real Task List

So, here is a laundry list of things that we need to push for. These are the effects of changing our minds and the evidence that we have, in fact, done that. We need to build these things into our society. I would like to think that it could be as easy as electing the right people to our national governing bodies. However, I suspect that most governing bodies in the world are so far beholden to the current system that they can not do any of this necessary work for change. So we, the collective we, need to do it ourselves, not wait for some top-down they to address the problems. We need to build from the bottom up, starting in our own neighborhoods and towns. We need to make networks of these island communities. And eventually, we need to be brave enough to turn our backs on the false governments that control us now.

There should be no development of property for profit. Sale of property beyond a primary residence and farm land needs to be considered a luxury goods sale and taxed accordingly. The sale of secondary properties within 5 years might be taxed at very high rates, maybe 50% of profits over the last sale price with no accommodation for improvements to the property. The sale of primary residence with 5 years needs to be taxed at 20% of profit unless there are extenuating circumstances that show need to move coupled with a prior intention to stay and improve the property, in which case “profit” is judged relative to improvements made not the last sale price or tax assessment as normal. These regulations will tamp down the urge to extract wealth from property by making it very difficult to extract wealth. All could be enacted as local laws.

“Primary farm land” is that which the owner works directly or with properly paid labor, but not rent/sharecrop.

All HOAs need to be eliminated. Any access restrictions/covenants to acquiring homes and land need to be made illegal.

All zoning needs to allow for multiple uses and a variety of housing types. At all scales. 

There should be no restrictions on inter-household trade and services, except those that regulate toxins and waste or discriminatory/violent practices. Farm stands, yard sales, repair & care services, goods exchanges can all be run out of the home property. None of these transactions will be taxed. All uses of property for food and fiber production should be legal — no more rules stating you can’t have chickens or can’t grow food in the front yard — except those that introduce toxins or waste.

A common sense land use goal: all housing includes 1/8-1/4 acre of productive land, either attached to the home or as an allotment.

Health care needs to be nationalized and localized so that there is medical care wherever there are people. All health care should become a non-profit, state-run enterprise, including manufacture of drugs and prosthetics. Health care will be free to all. 

A couple addendums, since we’re fixing health care problems: Doctors and nurses need to be compensated equally. Ideally, medical people will go to patients more often than the other way around to contain infectious disease and to make it easier on the people who are already ailing. Let the healthy party travel.

Energy and communication networks need to be nationalized eventually. While we are waiting on that to happen, we need to build redundancy in the form of many smaller regional or local grids. There should be nested and overlapping circles of small grids.

All waste expense is on the waster. Trash removal provided by towns should be expensive. No poison will be dumped on land or water. No food or plant waste will be accepted in trash removal. All localities should maintain compost and other recycling facilities as well as repair centers. Any waste or destruction from business practices should be illegal; any past harm must be remediated by the business.

It should be easy to open and operate non-profits and cooperative ventures. These should be the default business structures.

Property and wealth taxes need to replace income and sales tax. Revenues need to remain local. As truly local tax collection is unfeasible at the moment, “remaining local” means collected by the smallest body of government possible. 

All current wealth over an agreed amount is subject to, say, a 0.5% annual wealth tax. I would say anything over $500 million is well in excess of what could be redeemed for real world value in a human lifetime. So get that out of one person’s hands and redistribute it where it can do good, where it can drive productive activity.

All compensation packages that are over 10 times the lowest wages paid by a given employer should be made illegal or taxed in such a way as to make them unappealing. There should not be a huge gap between the top and bottom salaries in a business, especially as those at the bottom tend to be those who do the actual work.

There might still be income tax, but no income tax on income under some base number that will allow those depending upon it to meet their needs. This exists to some extant. That base needs to be increased to reflect cost of living. Of course, as cost of living declines then that number can again come down.

All luxury or regulated/harmful goods and services should be subject to a fairly high sales tax, perhaps as much as 20%. All other sales tax should be eliminated.

All entities that do business are taxed in the locality in which they do business. This is a tax on the business, not on the transaction, not a sales tax but a revenue tax, a business income tax.

All subsidies — from giving cheap access to land and resources to paying for labor training, infrastructure, and research and development to supporting a labor force that is not paid living wages to enabling offshoring of taxes — need to end. If your business structure does not support itself through fair and sustainable practices then you don’t need to do it. You do not get subsidies to prop it up.

Business must be held absolutely accountable for all waste and destruction. No externalizing any costs onto society.

There needs to be a transaction tax on all stock trading, and should increase with rapidity of trading. Short trading destabilizes the whole market; it should be costly.

There needs to be a basic income that essentially pays for care and reproductive work. It needs to be equal to full time work at minimum wage and must be distributed to all citizens regardless of need. (Wealth tax will remove it from those who do not need this money.)

The Last Days of Top Down

These last few goals I’ve written specifically for the “last days” of our federal government. I suspect other colonial powers will find these ideas useful if modified to fit.

All treaties with Native tribes need to be honored now. Reparations need to be made in the form of property. Any non-native people (not business entities, actual humans) affected by this property transfer will need to be compensated by the federal government in the form of equivalent property elsewhere. Business will not be compensated. Persons wishing to remain on Native land need to apply to tribes for acceptance, pay tax to tribes, and follow tribal law and regulations — including making private property communal if that is tribal law.

Reparations to all descendants of slaves need to be made in the form of lost wages (equivalent to some work-length value, say 20 years, multiplied by the current annual basic income) for every slave ancestor. It is on the federal government to disprove ancestry if questioned. It is assumed all African American ancestors before 1865 were slaves — because their freedom was tenuous at best. For the many who can not trace ancestry, it will be assumed that there are sixteen slave ancestors for all people of African American descent.

Reparations to all descendants of unjustly incarcerated persons or persons discriminated against in ways that systematically reduced their capacity to earn income need to be made from the federal government in the form of at least one year of basic income.

The military needs to be dismantled. Assets will be transferred to localities. Waste clean-up and all restoration will be the last items on the federal government’s budget.

The Collective Elimination List

I also have a small list of illegal things in a world that is ecologically balanced. These could be proscribed locally now. Eventually loss of market will make them disappear.

— weaponry used for killing humans
— slavery, including wage slavery
— selling bodies, including sex (You can have all the free sex you want.)
— creating waste and poison
— discriminating on any basis except merit relative to the need 

©Elizabeth Anker 2021