System Change Not Climate Change
On a personal level, it seems I have always been reluctant to characterize myself as anything ending in “ist”. In my twenties, I’m sure everyone could tell I was a feminist; I always believed that girls and women were not valued equally, and we should be. But I didn’t call myself a feminist.
I was always an environmentalist — I always believed we should be conservative (not liberal!) in our use of natural resources, and that we should value health in our environment and in ourselves. Since I registered with the Green Party in 1992 I was acting as a political activist, but it took me years to call myself an activist.
Now, I realize, OMG, I’ve always been a socialist. I always knew that some people had way too much money, more than anybody needs, at the same time that other people didn’t have enough for basic needs.
Even my life style could be called socialist. Since the beginning of this millennium I live cooperatively in what I call a “community house” with half a dozen people on the property. I’ve been car-free for decades, and my main transportation is bikes, buses and buddies. I’m clear that if all my buddies gave up their cars, I couldn’t do what I do, so thank you, buddies. Having grown up in Michigan, I am well aware that the automobile, oil, and tire industries designed a transportation system for us that pretty much requires people to have a car. Anyone who still believes in the capitalist slogan that “what’s good for General Motors is good for the USA” should visit Detroit. The city has lots of good heart, but lots of economic and environmental problems.
These labels, feminist, environmentalist, activist, and socialist all have something in common. They get at the question of “what do we value?”
On my path toward recognizing that I’m a socialist, I had already realized that I certainly was not a capitalist — I didn’t have any capital. Also, for years I noticed that whenever someone talked about a person, country, or policy that was related to social benefits, someone else would call it socialism, and for years that meant you should back away from it. “Socialized medicine” was the chief example of how effectively that charge would cause people to back away from sensible solutions.
The term socialism has been gaining traction, and there are probably as many definitions of the word as there are groups or even people. For that growth that I want to thank Bernie Sanders and his popularizing the term Democratic Socialism especially in his 2016 presidential campaign; Marxist economist Richard Wolff; Peace and Freedom Party; Socialist Alternative and so many other longstanding Socialist groups; the “Pink Tide” in Latin America; and to the Green Party, for taking the step of putting Eco-Socialism in the platform. I also want to thank the millennials for understanding economics better than I did at that age. Values.