20 ways we've changed.
It's been like a class reunion. School newspaper veterans that we are, we wandered around the room--in the '90s we suppose you'd call it a virtual room--with our tape recorders, notepads, and PowerBooks, asking old classmates what they've been up to. Our lead question for some 40 scholars, journalists, curmudgeons, and poets was: "What has been the most important change in the past 20 years?"
Mostly we talked to friends, but we also spoke with longtime adversaries, who, like adversaries sometimes do, reminded us of some things we may have always shared--in this case a passionate concern about where we're all headed. Reviewing our notes hte next morning (virtual time, remember), we added up their ideas and got 20 of them--a nice, round number, don't you think?
One: The world is smaller
Computers and other technologies have generated unprecedented international interconnectedness. New data--whether collected from 1,000-year-old Mayan hieroglyphs or from today's Singapore stock market--are instantly relayed via satellite and the Internet. This knowledge of each other has become critical to our survival and inseparable from our evolution as a species. Will this new global consciousness catalyze a new global conscience?
* Estimated Number of Internet hosts worldwide in 1988: 5,089
* Estimated Number of Internet hosts in 1995: 6.6 million
* Increase since 1976 in americans with pagers: 3,000 percent
* U.S. long-distance phone service revenues in 1976: $17.5 billion
* Estimated long-distance revenues for 1996: $71.8 billion
* Number of satellites orbiting earth in 1976: 9,645
* Number orbiting in 1995: 23,691
Walter Truett Anderson is the author of the forthcoming book, Evolution Isn't What it Used to Be.
The really profound event of our time is not that technologies are converging: It's that we are converging with our technologies. Our minds are augmented by computers and other devices, and our bodies are augmented by a wide range of evolutionary inventions, from vaccines to artificial organs. Meanwhile, the world is becoming a bionic planet--networked by information systems that monitor its health, forecast its future, and govern its ecosystems. And the world is not separable from those information systems. What you get when you put them together is a true evolutionary transition. Governments make policy decisions about the world's climate and atmosphere. Businesses succeed or fail on the basis of what they do about fast-breaking changes in medicine and agriculture. Individuals and families have new choices, new powers, and new ways to solve problems. The transition also presents pressing ethical issues and enormous equity issues, because there is reason to fear that the amazing new devices that augment human life are being distributed even less fairly than more ordinary goods like food and shelter.
Two: Business jumped the border
Large capital, aided by technology, has zoomed past national regulators. Competition among American-based computer companies is heightened by using skilled, cheap labor in Thailand. A German mutual fund boosts the retirement savings of an American war veteran, but his daughter is laid off when her factory moves to a Mexican maquiladora. Capital goes where it wants, creating dynamic economic change but also new risks when borrowers, such as Orange County, California, can't pay investors back. With every economy competing internationally, there is also increased anxiety about just how precarious a place each of us occupies in the global pecking order.
* Number of merchant locations worldwide accepting the Visa card in 1976: 1.9 million
* Number of merchant locations in 1995: 12 million
* Number of multinational corporations in 1976: 10,373
* Number of multinational corporations in 1990: 35,000
Economist Paul Erdman, author of Zero Coupon, believes U.S. businesses have remained the most successful in mastering the new global economy.
Pessimism about the future of the United States began developing 20 years ago and should be dispelled. Lester Thurow's thesis was that America had peaked economically and was in decline compared to Japan and Germany. He was dead wrong. Japan is in a banking crisis. Germany totally miscalculated the economic costs of reunification, and all of Europe's unemployment is around 11 percent while ours is under 6 percent.
Wealth is created by venture capital and innovation. We do those best. We are destined to remain the most powerful economic and military power in the world.
Uruguayan historian and writer Eduardo Galeano says globalized capital has further isolated the world's poor.
In the nations of the South, the deification of the market and the demonization of the forces of change have resulted in the concentration of wealth, the multiplication of poverty, and the devastation of nature. The triumphal religion of the market acts not only on economic, social, and political realities, but also on our consciences. Twenty years ago, poverty was the result of injustice. Today, it is the punishment inefficiency deserves.
More than ever, the countries of the Southern Hemisphere are submitted to the dictatorship of an international market which lends with one hand what it steals with the other. This world of inequality is also a world of solitude. It won't be saved by giving the marketplace a "social dimension." Not even Mother Teresa as secretary for economic affairs would be capable of such a miracle.
Three: East Asia rocked
American economic hegemony ended, and the most advanced economies regionalized into three orbits--North America, Europe, and East Asia. The latter was the most dynamic. Exponential growth in China, Taiwan, Korea, and other East Asian nations followed on the heels of Japan's earlier success, one that for a time gave Americans an inferiority complex. World cultural and political change is likely to speed along the path of this economic boom for some time to come.
* Total value of China's exports to the United States in 1976: $201 million
* Total value in 1994: $38.8 billion
* Ratio of ATMs per person in Japan: 1 to 1,021
* Ratio of ATMs per person in the United States: 1 to 2,312
Alice H. Amsden is the Richards Professor of Political Economy at MIT. Her books on East Asia discuss its differences from Western-style capitalism.
Taiwan, Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia--all of these countries have transformed in an extraordinary way. South Korea in 1960 had a per capita income of less than $100--now it is $10,000. These countries have urbanized and life expectancies have increased. After World War II, virtually all of them adopted policies to take the high road to industrial development instead of trying to compete internationally on the basis of low wages and cheap raw materials.
Clearly the East Asian countries have done better than countries like Mexico, India, and Brazil, and you have to ask why. In most developing countries, subsidies are allocated under the principle of giveaway. In East Asia, governments never gave anything away. Subsidies were tied to concrete standards, especially export targets, and companies couldn't indulge in capital flight to other countries. They could have employees work long hours, but they had to give them training and wage increases.
Many Asian countries are under pressure from the West to adopt a Western style of capitalism, but I don't see much economic evidence of that happening. However, people are simply fed up with authoritarianism. One can't deny the connection between authoritarianism and rapid economic development in these countries, but I don't think that a shift to democracy will threaten further development. They have moved beyond that now.
Orville Schell, author of Mandate of Heaven: The Legacy of Tiananmen Square and the Next Generation of China's Leaders, urged President Clinton to take a more active role promoting democracy in China (excerpted from "Go to China," Mother Jones, Jan./Feb. 1993).
A society that denies its people their basic rights for an extended time often explodes into chaos, leaving a wake of global economic and political instability, which can be far more damaging to U.S. interests than any passing antagonisms over human rights standards.
Four: Stalin finally died
The 20th century is a graveyard for utopian dreams that degenerated into repressive tyrannies. A bureaucratic command economy, food shortages, and the disastrous Afghan invasion finally toppled seven decades of Soviet communist dictatorship, and a half century of Cold War certainty expired with it. With the global nuclear threat diminished, militaries were left scrambling for ways to sustain their budgets. Meanwhile, democratic governments replaced both capitalist and communist dictatorships throughout the world--in Spain and Portugal, in at least 12 Latin American countries, in East Asia, in Eastern Europe, and finally in South Africa in 1994.
* Decrease in worldwide nuclear arsenal since 1976: 32 percent
* Increase in amount of nuclear waste since 1976: 1,406 percent
* Increase in total number of nations worldwide since 1976: 41
Adam Hochschild is a founding editor of Mother Jones. He is also author of The Unquiet Ghost: Russians Remember Stalin.
When I went to Russia in the late 1970s to interview Andrei Sakharov, customs guards confiscated copies of Mother Jones in my luggage because of an article on the plight of Soviet Jews by Jeffrey Klein.
A few years later, copies I tried to take into East Germany were seized at the Berlin Wall. To be found subversive by regimes like that was an honor. Today, happily, Russians can read what they want, watch what they want on TV, and can travel the earth if they can afford it.
However, justice and democracy don't come easily to a country that has known neither--before the Russian Revolution or after. Russia's electoral system is shaky.
A huge chunk of the economy, both untaxed and unregulated, is now run by organized crime. Civic and labor organizations are weak. The gap between rich and poor is widening cruelly, as old former Communist Party bureaucrats cheerfully privatize factories into their own hands. And, ironically, a new Russian law makes it impossible for the majority of a company's directors to be employees--a far steeper barrier to cooperatives and employee ownership than anything in the United States or Western Europe.
Five: Tribes raised their flags
The collapse of the bipolar world unleashed terrifying ethnic and racial wars. The success of Lithuania and the other Baltic states in 1990-92 alerted every separatist from Kazakhstan to Quebec to the advantages of a state of one's own. Opportunistic politicians, usually looking for economic gain, have been willing to stir up old ethnic rivalries--as in Croatia's separation from poorer states in Yugoslavia--with frequently bloody results.
* Civil wars in which more than 1,000 were killed in 1976: 16
* Civil wars in which more than 1,000 were killed in 1994: 34
* Increase in United Nations' operating expenditures for peacekeeping since 1976: 2,379 percent
In "The Balkan Tribe" (Mother Jones, Jan./Feb. 1993), writer Frank Viviano described the Serbs who had captured him for violating a new national boundary he didn't know existed.
Shortly after midnight, I was released. The commandant offered a toast to Magic Johnson who had just led the U.S. basketball team to victory over the Croats in the Barcelona Olympics.
The tribal map is being reasserted and the tribal soldiers are wearing Levi's. They are moving away from the nation-state--backward toward the tribal dawn and forward toward the 21st century all at once. "The first thing we will do when our country is recognized," the Serbian commandant had told me, "will be to apply for membership in the European Community."
I asked him why. "So we can then do the second thing--arrange the banking connections that will allow us to have satellite television," he answered. His dream, the commandant said, was to watch the NBA playoffs in a country of his own.
Six: Mother Earth developed a weight problem
Explosive population growth in the nations of the South accelerated ecological degradation and massive rural migrations to cities, from Mexico City to Lagos. Population and environmental pressures also increased in the North, where consumer lifstyles--beamed out through the world's televisions--disproportionately strain the earth's resources.
* Chances that a human was a refugee in 1976: 1 in 1,485
* Chances in 1994: 1 in 245
* Increase in world population since 1976: 36 percent
* Number of immigrants to U.S. in 1976: 398,613
* Number of immigrants in 1993: 904,292
In an essay published by Mother Jones (Sept./Oct. 1995), population experts Paul Ehrlich, Anne Ehrlich, and Gretchen Daily argue that improving women's lives could significantly aid population control.
In nearly all developing regions, there is a strong connection between education of women and lower fertility. Even with a few years of schooling, a woman may apply her education to better manage her family's well-being. she learns to obtain pur water, use sanitary practices, and choose more nutritious foods; as more children survive, she becomes more receptive to birth control....Societies in shich women have substantial rights also have relatively low fertility rates. In particular, women who work outside the home and earn some income of their own consistently tend to have fewer children.
Donella Meadows, co-author of the 1972 bestseller Limits to Growth and its 1992 sequel Beyond the Limits, is concerned that we have not yet fully comprehended the finitude of the planet.
Twenty years is roughly the doubling time of the world economy. That means twice the number of cars and twice the tons of coal burned. World population is doubling slower than every 20 years, but other things are doubling faster. If we don't do anything, 20 years from now there will be twice as much pollution and drawdown of resources. I am very disheartened to hear the political debate just talk about growth, growth, growth. We've had 250 years of industrial growth. Poverty is still with us. How much will it take?
Seven: The '50s ended
Ever since America's astounding postwar productivity slowed in the '70s, the rich have gotten much richer, the poor poorer, and most everyone in the middle squeezed.
* Top-Rated TV show in 1976: "Happy Days"
* Top-Rated TV show in 1995: "ER"
* Number of hours average U.S. worker works per year: 2,000
* Number of additional hours since 1976 that average U.S. worker must work to purchase a home in 1994: 10,000
* Odds that a U.S. worker was in a union in 1976: 1 in 3
* Odds in 1994: 1 in 6
Stanford University economist Paul Krugman is the author of Peddling Prosperity.
By the early 1970s, throughout Western Europe and to a large extent in the United States, we had managed to produce societies with relatively equal income, relatively little poverty, and all sorts of opportunities for upward financial mobility. While we were a long way from Utopia, you could look around the Western world and say, "These are the most decent societies the world has ever seen." There are no longer any societies that fit that description.
The current best story for this decline is that technological progress threw us a curve ball. Technology continues to make us richer, but very much devalues the work of people who are not exceptionally talented, and greatly increases the income of a very few. The United States is responding with a flat hostility to the welfare state.
At some point, people will realize just how well-off the well-off actually are, and I don't think they can continue to blame our decline on government programs. I'm not saying we should instead blame the rich; I'm just saying we should soak them.
Edward Wolff, a professor of economics at New York University who has drawn fire from conservative economists for his extensive studies of wealth inequality, says government intervention will be needed to reverse the trend.
In the past 20 years, we've seen a growing inequality of wealth, by which I mean savings, assets, home values, etc. Only the top 20 percent of American families are enjoying any real increase in income. This has put lots of pressure on middle-income families, and has shown up in declining savings rates. Financial assets--the kinds of things people call on in an emergency--have dwindled for middle-income families.
The safety net has been tearing, and people are misconstruing their financial troubles as the government's fault. In fact, I think the government can do quite a bit to fix things: index the minimum wage to inflation, get welfare benefits up to where they used to be, get unemployment coverage up to 60 or 70 percent, and have a tax on wealth, as most Western European countries do.
American labor unions have undergone a precipitous decline--from 28 percent of the workforceto only 16 percent--in the past 20 years. The AFL-CIO's new president, John Sweeney, was elected on a platform of aggressive grassroots organizing and increased confrontation with management. Richard Trumka of the United Mine Workers is Sweeney's secretary-treasurer.
American workers have seen their hours increase while their wages decrease. We've seen that translate to a lower standard of living, and that's tragic.
The good news is that we are about to see a rejuvenated AFL-CIO. We want to organize the mid-level managers who take it on the chin every time during these "mergers." You'll see us becoming more geared toward the rank and file, toward grassroots activism and less toward Washington, D.C., and the state capitals. We have to help workers help themselves.
Eight: Reagan got his revenge
When Ronald Reagan came to office, he liked to illustrate the trillion-dollar national debt as a stack of $1,000 bills reaching 67 miles high; his legacy was a stack reaching 313 miles high. The debt's increase, brought about by tax cuts, increased military spending, and growth in entitlement programs, choked government's ability to fund programs. Many argue it was done intentionally. Yet even as programs targeted to middle- and lower-class families lost funding, money was found to bail out S&L gamblers.
* Change since 1976 in value of minimum wage, measured in current dollars: -$1.70
* Number of times federal debt has doubled since 1976: 2
Laura D'Andrea Tyson is chairperson of the National Economic Council.
The simplest way to characterize the most significant event of the last 20 years is to say "Reaganomics." By that I mean a series of decisions were made to reduce revenue flows and increase spending in a way that was not sustainable over time and could only increase the debt of the nation. We borrowed a lot from the rest of the world and now we're paying interest and dividends out of the country on a net basis.
All some people seem to care about is that we get rid of the deficit, not how we get rid of it. The danger of going too fast is primarily the pain that you have to inflict to programs that are important to the economy. In the long run, it doesn't matter if you take a couple of more years to bring the budget into balance. But draconian cuts in spending in order to balance the budget too quickly will matter a lot. We have to regain fiscal responsibility. It's a matter of how we do it.
Nine: The Great Society slumped
Federal programs failed to heal our racial wounds, guarantee a good education for our kids, or protect us from factory closures. Watergate-style disclosures and lobbyist corruption have combined with Great Society failure to cause much of the public to lose faith in the government's competence--and its ability to act on behalf of ordinary Americans. The Republican Party capitalized on this anti-government sentiment and routed the party of Roosevelt.
* Number of political action committees in U.S. in 1974: 608
* Number in 1995: 3,954
* Amount spent by Jimmy Carter in his successful 1976 presidential campaign: $11.3 million
* Estimated amount to be spent by the successful 1996 presidential candidate: $44.7 million
* Percentage of Americans in 1976 who said they had "a great deal" of confidence in the president: 13
* Percentage in 1995: 9
Lewis Lapham, editor of Harper's Magazine, believes Americans need a new public narrative.
The big shift in the last 20 years has been from the public to the private sector. The word "public" has become a synonym for corruption and futility. All things bright and beautiful flow forth from the clear stream of the private sector.
Politics was a public thing; the state was something we held in common. Now it's everyone's favorite enemy--including those in Washington. The public sector is not a living presence protecting, animating, and inspiring, but has become a dead carcass, a beached whale we Eskimos are going to strip of all its blubber.
It's a shocking change. Common thought and ideas have declined. I think democracy is over as it was conceived in Philadelphia. We don't know what the narrative is. That's why we hate the public. Whose public? Who is the "we"? The times demand a writer or writers who can write the new American narrative.
Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard and author of Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership, suggests what a new American story might be.
From the 1940s to the 1970s, there was a bipartisan consensus that government had a legitimate role in most spheres of life. In the past 20 years, that consensus has eroded. There are three possible outcomes of this trend. One is that the current shift in the political spectrum will self-destruct because the Gingrichites are moving faster than the public wants them to. The second is that this is a sea change as great as the New Deal, and that means that the sea won't change back in my lifetime.
The third is that there will be a new story created. Leaders change people's minds by telling a story and embodying that story in their own lives, so that you look at this person and say, "It makes sense for that person, and it makes sense for me." There has not yet been a counterstory to the pro-market story of Newt Gingrich.
I don't think people want extreme answers. Somebody like Colin Powell might have been able to come out with an appealing new story. He's seen as pro-business and pro-entrepreneur, but he also has a history in government and supports it. He's family-oriented and appreciates the values of the past, but he is also very comfortable with the technologies of the future.
Ten: Big media got bigger
By 1993, 50 percent of the nation's newspapers, magazines, and television stations were owned by only 20 corporations. Today, these companies, like the newly merged Capital Cities/Disney group, are vertically integrated to control both the "hardware" (TV stations, publishing houses) and "software" (copyrights to movies, books, etc.). While media conglomerates have responded to the public's desire to know more about the powerful--a growing trend since Watergate--they have generally delivered exposes heavier on prurience than probity.
* Percent of americans who had a "great deal" of confidence in the media in 1976: 18
* Percent of Americans in 1995: 6
* Number of evening newspapers in 1975: 1,436
* Number of evening newspapers in 1994: 947
Bob Woodward first gained fame as part of the Washington Post team that broke Watergate.
The legacy of Vietnam and Watergate still lives. People say to the politicians and the media: "Don't let that happen again." So this is the age of full disclosure. That is, by and large, very good. But it creates a feeding-frenzy, gotcha environment. Look at the inconsistency, the inadequacy, the corruption. In the age of disclosure, political life becomes harder. It's not even a searchlight. It's a proctoscopic exam.
Bottom line: It's real, inevitable, and generally leads in the right direction, but people will live in continuing discomfort because of it. While there's not a direct line between personal character and the public role, there is a line people understand. But there's not going to be a limit, because you don't know when connections will bring about knowledge. My headline: The Age of Disclosure Is Here to Stay. Ouch!
Eleven: Nerds ruled
Phenomenal technological growth, especially in personal computers and biotech, has improved medical testing, created new industries and conveniences, sped up international communication--and made Mother Jones available online to Web surfers. Computers and robots have also displaced middle-class manufacturing jobs, and threatened a new class gulf between the technological haves and have-nots. A significant challenge for the next century will be how to create a business/government partnership that can spread the benefits of new technologies.
* Number of domestic shipments of PCs in 1976: 53,100
* Estimated number of shipments in 1996: 18,467,000
* Number of in vitro fertilizations in the U.S. in 1976: 0
* Number in the U.S. in 1993: 31,900
* Number of Disney artists, animators, and technicians required to make a feature-length cartoon in 1976: 100
* Number required in 1995: 600
Stewart Brand, creator of the Whole Earth Catalog and author of How Buildings Learn, is optimistic.
Intel founder Gordon Moore came forward with a law in 1975 that the number of transistors on a chip would double every 18 months. He was right. Computers became faster, more efficient, cheaper, and smarter every generation, and there's no end in sight. The hacker's dream that everyone would be a hacker has made education even more essential.
Is the tool good or bad? In the early '70s, when word processors were coming, the secretarial and clerk unions were trying to ban them at Stanford. It was ridiculous.
Mother Jones' namesake Mary Harris Jones was a union organizer. Would she use a personal computer and consider it right and useful? If she was as bright and bold as we think, then she'd say, "Wow!"
Gary Chapman, of the 21st Century Project at the University of Texas, says new technologies will end work as we know it.
Shoshana Zuboff's In the Age of the Smart Machine tells of pulp-mill workers who once assessed whether wood pulp was ready to move from one process to another by sticking their fingers in the batch and "tasting" it. Once their plants were automated, they moved to a glass booth filled with computers and instead watched numbers and bar graphs. This seems symbolic of the change--a radical transformation from somatic knowledge to abstract knowledge, from tangible experience to mediation of experience by numbers, data, and images. If you work at a machine you don't really understand, it takes a toll on your ability to grasp how the world works and how it affects you, including the political system.
Whether you call it "post-scarcity" (the optimistic view) or the "jobless future" (the pessimistic view), we'll eventually have a world economy in
which most people will not have to work, and work will not be available for them. This will continue to expand over the next 100 years, as profound an alteration of human experience as moving from a superstitious and divine view of the world to a scientific one.
Neil Postman, author of Technopoly, Amusing Ourselves to Death, and, most recently, The End of Education, believes that information is no substitute for human values.
We already have enough knowledge to feed everyone on the planet. If there is crime rampant on the streets of a big city, that has nothing to do with information. As you go through and look at our most serious problems, you'll see they have very little to do with information. They are not amenable to technological solutions. There is an audience out there waiting to be organized to make sure that we think a little more clearly on these matters. Parents are wondering about television. They're wondering whether they should be paying money to have their kids sit in front of computers for hours and never go out on the street and talk to anyone.
Twelve: Schools got scary
Public schools are funded by local property taxes such that schools in poor neighborhoods are scrambling for textbooks and working toilets, while wealthier schools are creating their own Web sites. And while the nation still recognizes schools as the first building block of the American dream, support for public education is declining. The disparity in opportunity grows at the university level. With the disappearance of good-paying, blue-collar jobs, a college degree is now the price of admission to a middle-class life in the Information Age.
* Increase in suicides among 10 to 14 year olds in the u.s. between 1980 and 1992: 120 percent
* High School seniors in the U.S. who reported being threatened with a weapon in 1976: 27.7 percent
* High School seniors who reported being threatened in 1993: 37.3 percent
Henry M. Levin is director of the Accelerated Schools Project at Stanford University. Now in over 800 elementary and middle schools, the project has had remarkable success in turning around poor schools by viewing all students as gifted.
What happens in education is heavily determined by political events. In an age of civil rights and affirmative action in employment, the schools will set priorities that reinforce these areas. In an age of conservatism, budget restraint, coddling the religious right, and economic uncertainty, the schools are pushed toward basic skills rather than critical thinking.
If schools become starved for resources as more at-risk students are deposited on their doorsteps, middle-class parents, worried about the futures of their children, increasingly may look for alternatives to public schools. If, however, a priority is put on defusing conflict through educational systems that work for everyone, transformative schools can build on what we have learned about good teaching and learning, good teacher preparation, appropriate use of technology, and connecting schools with the lives of children and their families. Educators are increasingly well positioned to respond if this happens.
David Osborne is author of Laboratories of Democracy. He makes the case for school choice (Mother Jones Sept/Oct. 1993), arguing that to revive public schools we should give them real incentives to perform.
What would happen under school choice? Kids would leave those awful inner-city schools/ That's good for those kids. Under a real competitive system, what would a school board do if a school lost 40 percent of its students and 40 percent of its money? They'd give the principal a year to turn the damn place around or get out the door. There would finally be a reason why somebody had to care about these schools. It would work for the kids left behind even more than for the kids who move.
Thirteen: Man beat nature. Not.
As the globe heats up and species die out at a rate not seen since the Jurassic Age, the kind of arrogant science that gave us CFCs and nuclear weapons is beginning to feel as outdated as a Soviet steel plant. But there are also scientists who have been sounding alarms about global warming and bacterial resistance to antibiotics. There is promise in this new science that proceeds out of respect for nature, rather than the expectation of conquering it.
* Total energy generated by wind power in 1980, measured in megawatts: 10
* Estimated Total in 1994: 3,710
* Average worldwide temperature in 1976, measured in degrees fahrenheit: 58.62
* Average worldwide temperature in 1994: 59.57
David Brower has been at the forefront of the environmental movement for the past five decades. His new book is Let the Mountains Talk, Let the Rivers Run.
We can't keep thinking we can outguess God and nature. That's the philosophical lesson. I'm not against civilization, technology, or science. I just want us to use them well. We haven't learned to do that yet.
We're good at taking things apart. We need to learn how to put them together. If you think you can't make money in restoration, [just] take your car into the shop or your body to the doctor.
We need a cost-benefit analysis of growth. What's a tree worth? The marketplace tells us about pulp and two-by-fours, not about locking up carbon and releasing oxygen and moving the flow of water and being part of the ecosystem. We need to make an effort to start finding out.
Jeremy Rifkin is the author of The End of Work and president of the Foundation on Economic Trends.
We've been laboring under the Baconian concept of science based on detached power over nature. We could develop a new approach based on connection and community--technology that maintains rather than chains the environment. Take the old approach: Build a Sears Tower--isolated, detached, and expressing power. A new one would want a passive solar building based on the science of connection and community. Is that any less scientific?
We've seen the shadow side of science and technology, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, for example. But a realistic diagnosis doesn't preclude hope for the future. Grim determination to look at the problems is a necessary beginning for restoration.
Francis Fukuyama is the neoconservative author of The End of History & The Last Man.
There's a broad recognition that our real problems can't be addressed by top-down social engineering. Trying to master nature through big engineering projects doesn't work because of environmental and social consequences. TVA was not only a big electricity project, it flattened towns and broke up communities. The consequences were not benign.
My hopeful interpretation is that we're coming to recognize the principle of subsidiarity, that one ought not handle a problem at a higher level that can be handled at a lower level.
Author Jane Smiley wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Thousand Acres and teaches at Iowa State University.
The last 20 years have seen the end of the family farm with hardly even a yelp from anyone in the media. If a society chooses mechanized, exploitive, giant-scale agriculture, an agriculture based on the ideal of genetic and economic uniformity, then their relationship to nature is systematically lost. If the relationship to nature is lost, then their relationship to the delicacy and complexity of what's around them, and who they are, is also lost.
Fourteen: Band-Aids got more expensive
Health care costs in the U.S., driven by a number of factors, rose an eye-popping 575 percent between 1975 and 1993. The high-stakes battle, most recently focused on Medicare, led health care lobbies to pour an unprecedented $21 million on legislators between 1979 and 1994. While insurers would prefer to insure the healthiest and wealthiest segments of the population, much of the public would prefer the security of universal coverage and a choice of doctors.
* Increase in U.S. per capita health expenditures between 1975 and 1991: 384 percent
* Average hospital stay in 1978, measured in days: 7.2
* Average stay in 1993: 6.2
Marc Roberts is a professor of political economy at Harvard University and author of Your Money or Your Life: The Health Care Crisis Explained.
Health care costs are so high--even exceeding corporate profits--that corporations engage in every conceivable stunt to get out of paying them. They reduce full-time staff and hire temporary workers. As recently as two years ago, health care costs were the major cause of labor disputes.
One reason costs are going up is the aging population, in part due to the success of the health care system. As we keep people alive, they use health care more--a failure of success. Preventive medicine generally doesn't save money, either. If people stop smoking, health care costs rise, because smoking tends to kill people with inexpensive diseases at an earlier age. If they live, it costs that much more to care for them.
However, costs have to be viewed not in terms of saving money, but in terms of saving lives. In many cases we ought to provide cost-increasing care.
Part of the problem is Americans have unrealistic expectations. They think death is optional for holders of U.S. passports. Another problem is that hospitals are still building stuff, even though we have excess capacity. It's an arms race.
The one way to limit health care costs in the long run is to set a budget and say, "This is all we can afford." Unless--and until--we do that, we'll never bring costs under control.
In "Restoring Public Trust" (Mother Jones, Nov./Dec. 1995), well-known pollster and political analyst Daniel Yankelovich wrote that, for a health plan to be successful, it must appeal above all to the public's sense of what is right and practical.
The president's announcement of the health care plan in September 1993 won acclaim across the land. The idea of providing health insurance to all Americans, including the 41 million uninsured, struck the majority of voters as morally sound, and the idea of controlling costs by cutting waste and greed appealed to them on both moral and practical grounds.
As the debate unfolded, however, the Clinton plan progressively lost credibility. The mechanisms for saving money seemed unrealistic and overly complex, and the addition of costly new entitlements and the massive effort to fix those parts of the system that, in the public mind, were not broken, failed both tests--practical and moral.
Fifteen: Women marched ahead
Modern feminism has transformed our workplaces, homes, and civic life. Susan Faludi's book Backlash (excerpted in Mother Jones, Sept./Oct. 1991) described the conservative reaction to feminism, but it is clear that most of the movement's gains are here to stay.
* Number by which men exceeded women in earning a bachelor's degree in the U.S. in 1976: 84,104
* Estimated number by which women will exceed men in 1996: 71,000
* Increase of women in the workforce since 1976: 59 percent
Betty Friedan helped inaugurate modern feminism with her 1963 classic, The Feminine Mystique.
The last 30 years have transformed the consciousness of women. The majority of women are taking a place in society and are working in every field and profession. Women have reclaimed control over their own reproduction, their own sexuality. We're not only beginning to make decisions but actually beginning to define the rules as only men had done before.
What I see next is a new vision of community that creates jobs for everyone. We need a shorter workweek and protection of benefits for contract workers, in order to provide more jobs, more time with family, and to allow older people to stay in the productive mainstream.
Patricia Ireland is president of the National Organization for Women.
Twenty years ago we were on a roll. [But] 1975 was also the beginning of the politicizing of the religious conservatives. There's great frustration now, but our work is a continuum from one generation to another. Our foremothers fought for 72 years to get the vote. We, too, need to learn vigilance and patience. We need to keep the outside-advocacy, community-group pressure campaigns on politics and have more of us on the inside. I think of my mother and my grandmother and what they had, and what I have by contrast, and I feel hope.
Deborah Tannen, author of Talking From Nine to Five.
In the last 20 years we've learned men and women can work together as equals and have different relationships on an equal basis. We have a whole new way of being in the world. Similar points could be made about ethnic and culture differences. I'm hopeful about gender, and there's reason to be hopeful about race, too. We've learned that women and men can live together and work together on a somewhat equal footing but that we aren't the same.
Sixteen: Families took heat
The rates of teen pregnancy and single-parent homes have risen dramatically. While the left has emphasized economic factors and a lack of government support for programs like daycare, the right claims "family values" or moral codes have declined. Regardless of the cause, increasing impoverishment of children and the social problems associated with children of single-parent households have taken on greater urgency.
* Increase in children living below the poverty level from 1976 to 1992: 42 percent
* Increase in children living with one parent from 1970 to 1992: 118 percent
Robert Reich is the U.S. secretary of Labor.
The most significant thing we've seen is the steady decline in median wages of male workers when you adjust for inflation. This has had cataclysmic consequences on the family, the economy, politics. It meant women fled into the workforce. I wish I could say women were in the workforce for the wonderful opportunities there are for women today, but actually most women went to work in the 1970s due to declining family incomes. Families also had fewer kids in the 1980s, not because they wanted fewer, but because they couldn't afford more. Americans went into record levels of debt in the 1980s and, last, a growing number of workers have become disillusioned and detached from the political process.
Four steps can be taken: First, make education and job skills easier to attain throughout people's lifetimes. Second, ensure that people can join unions without losing their jobs. Third, create incentives for people to keep their workers, upgrade their skills, and share profits with them. Instead of tax breaks for investments in equipment, provide tax breaks for investments in people. Fourth, raise the minimum wage and expand the economy.
Author and commentator William F. Buckley Jr. thinks we must revive a public ethos.
We have to revive an ethos that's pretty dead and explore a civic penalty for creating a baby which you have no intention to bring up. A man once boasted to Bill Moyers of fathering six children with six different women with the intention of continuing. Shouldn't he lose the right to vote or his driver's license, or be required to do 20 hours a week of social work or have his income garnisheed?
Charles Murray, author of The Bell Curve, thinks we need to stop looking after the poor economically, but I'm not sure stopping dependency is the answer. I'd like more creative thinking on this because it's the great problem of the future. And so is our problem with the aged, who live too long and exhaust us economically. We need a national corporate commitment to public service to help look after them. We aren't able to provide the resources unless the young pay something for their patrimony through public service. I sound like a goddamned socialist!
Seventeen: We still have a dream
If the voices of separatists have been raised in the aftermath of the Simpson trial, integration is, as historian Eric Foner recently wrote, "still a very radical idea." There has been significant progress, especially the growth of the black middle class, and the integration of schools and workplaces. The persistence of problems associated with the large number of poor among minorities, however, has given politicians from Louis Farrakhan to Pete Wilson fuel to stoke ethnic resentments. Moreover, racial solutions are no longer black and white, especially with the recent wave of immigrants from Asia and Central America.
* Increase in number of whites with a high school education since 1976: 17 percent
* Increase in number of blacks: 28 percent
* Increase in number of hispanics: 15 percent
In "Mixed Paint" (Mother Jones, March/April 1995), Louis Menand says the sense that there is more friction between cultures is because we are more, not less, integrated.
The cultural antagonisms that look like a new and dangerous tribalism are simply the epiphenomena, the shaking out, of an irreversible process of integration in American life. Contrary to most assertions, American society has become much less like a mosaic and much more like a can of mixed paint. The life-paths of men and women, and to a lesser extent, of black and white Americans, are much more likely to be congruent than at any time in history.
Anthony Lewis, a New York Times columnist, insists we must not give up on integration.
The optimism I felt about our race problem turned out to be fatuous. Politics in the South has been transformed but the essential enmity between us is ongoing. We ended official segregation but did not, as Ike said, change the hearts of men. We are obligated to keep trying. Our self-interest of living together should be paramount. The notion that we will solve all our problems through individualism is absurd.
Lani Guinier teaches law at the University of Pennsylvania.
There is at least the appearance of increased diversity on college campuses, legislatures, city councils, school boards, and on TV. On the other hand, much of that is cosmetic, and temporary. People may work in a multiracial environment but live in a very homogenous neighborhood.
I am actually optimistic. I heard about a study in Boston asking parents: What do you want for your kids? And the first thing these parents--who crossed ethnic and class lines--said they wanted their kids to do was learn how to swim. Second, they wanted their kids to do better than they had in terms of education. Third, they wanted their kids to learn how to get along with people who are different, because it was a skill the parents did not have.
Eighteen: We arm the children, we arm the world
The American formula of combining ubiquitous guns with ubiquitous imagery of gore and mayhem has yielded the most violent culture in the industrialized world. And we've become the largest exporter of the formula--in the form of weapons and movies--to everyone else.
* Percent of americans who favored the death penalty for a convicted murderer in 1976: 66
* Percent in 1995: 77
* Increase in reported violent crime since 1976: 92 percent
Mother Jones interviewed then-Surgeon General Joycelyn Elders (Jan./Feb. 1994) on the subject of gun violence.
Homicide is the leading cause of death for young black men and the second-leading cause of death for all people aged 15 to 24. That makes it the leading health issue, particularly when guns are used in combination with drugs and alcohol. Guns kill more teenagers than the other big killers--heart disease, cancer, and AIDS--combined. We can begin to address the issue of guns by teaching our young people how to deal with situations in nonviolent ways. Someone said to me the other day, "What our adolescents need is not so much health care, but healthy caring."
Nineteen: "Me" battled "Us"
The late '60s mantra "Do your own thing" blossomed into the "Me Decade" before provoking a counterreaction. American Demographics magazine calls individualism the "master trend of our time," stronger even in the younger generation than in their baby boomer parents. But the associated loss of a sense of personal responsibility has alarmed everyone from environmentalists--who associate it with rampant consumerism and corporate arrogance--to the religious right's Promise Keepers, who are nostalgic for traditional forms of authority.
* Odds that an american man attended a religious right "Promise keepers" convention in 1995: 1 in 184
* Number of california cars with vanity plates in 1976: 312,000
* Number in 1994: 1.4 million
Cultural critic Camille Paglia wants a critique of '60s values.
I would say the great lesson of the last 20 years is the tragic story of the '60s generation. We had enormous ideals about society but also suffered from overweening arrogance. The progressive ideals of the '60s were real and we deserve credit for trying. But lived life is less easy and less glamorous than we thought. We rebelled and didn't realize that our rebellion was predicated on peace and a minimum level of prosperity. There was incredible cant and arrogance, rabid talk against capitalism and the industrial society--from people from comfortable homes in places like Long Island who had stereo systems, televisions, and magazines. Capitalism produced the culture, and it produced feminism.
The Dionysian '60s went too far against the Apollonian '50s and so we've swung back again. Our ideals were too simplistic for political realities and we got out of touch, which made Republicans become the voice of the people. We need to regroup psychologically and be honest about where we screwed up without renouncing the ideals of the '60s--toleration of nonconformity (including gayrights), racial, and gender equity.
Bill McKibben, the author of The End of Nature and Hope, Human and Wild, calls for a different pursuit of happiness.
The market forces pushing convenience, individualism, and comfort are still stronger than the attraction of community, fellowship, and connection with the natural world. What we call the environmental crisis is really a crisis of desire. We're losing the battle to offer people an alternative set of things to desire. It's Disney and GM who are creating our desires. Our task over the next 20 years is to demonstrate that to live simply is more elegant and pleasurable than consumer society. It's important not to say that TV will rot your brain, but that it's satisfying to take a walk in the moonlight instead. If consumer society has one Achilles' heel, it's not that it is going to destroy the earth (although it is). The Achilles' heel is that consumer society doesn't make us unbelievably happy.
Colorado Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder thinks we must re-create an active civic life.
Consumerism shouldn't dictate to us. If we aren't allowed in the marketplace of ideas, then where is our freedom? Wal-Mart pulled T-shirts saying a woman could be president because it bothered their "family values." How could they keep that from consumers? People need to stand up passionately for what we're for. In other words, where are our Mother Jones people? Where is the give-and-take of democracy and respect for minority views that comes from living in a community? If there are town meetings and forums, almost nobody comes. The challenge of the next 20 years is how to find community and civilized discourse.
Twenty: We looked for each other
Rapid change and the uprooting or discrediting of traditional structures of social support have left a well of insecurity and loneliness at the center of modern life. As a result, many Americans are trying to rebuild forms of community and create stronger relationships to nature or God--from traditional worship to New Age quests, from the Million Man March to support groups on the Web.
* Number of Americans interested in New Age ideas in 1976: 500,000
* Number interested IN 1995: 20 million
* Americans who believed in God or a Univerisal spirit in 1976: 94 percent
* Americans who believed IN 1994: 96 percent
Gary Snyder, a California poet and ecologist, suggests we settle down and discover meaning where we live.
Frederick Jackson Turner's thesis was that the frontier ended at the end of the 19th century, which was literally true in that homesteading stopped and the remaining unsettled lands of the West became public lands. But, psychologically speaking, the frontier is only ending now. We're finally getting past--as an immigrant population--that we're in a new place, that resources are always available and so is mobility.
The old story is over. The new story is discovering your neighbors and getting real about your community. Turn around the lesson of mobility. Kids are returning home because they can't afford to live on their own. Families have to block up and share resources. This is an age of limits. We can learn to live and work together.
Turn around the lesson of mobility. Kids are returning home because they can't afford to live on their own. Families have to block up and share resources. This is an age of limits. We can learn to live and work together.
Poet and author Maya Angelou says we must act on our beliefs. Her books include I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and A Brave and Startling Truth.
The lesson of the last 20 years is that there are lessons to be learned. Oftimes when a person or persons come up with a great idea - like uniting the nations or the laser beam or starting Mother Jones or civil rights for all - as soon as the idea comes out of the great unknown, many begin to feel it is a fait accompli. Our intellect informs us that we have learned lessons, but we have not.
To know and not to do is in fact not to know. We need to be active instruments against evil. We need to do. Let us, then, be up and doing.
RELATED ARTICLE: A Robust, Confident Movement
What happened to the movement that integrated America, stopped the costly war in Vietnam and opened workplace doors for women? Several commentators offer opinions on where the left went wrong and where it should go.
Noam Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at MIT and author of the upcoming Powers and Prospects.
American society is now remarkably atomized. Political organizations have collapsed. In fact, it seems like even bowling leagues are collapsing. The left has a lot to answer for here. There's been a drift toward very fragmenting tendencies among left groups, toward this sort of identity politics.
People here should do what they did in the Haitian slums, where it was possible to construct grassroots organizations that enabled the democratic system to function. They forged a very lively and vibrant civil society. To talk about our bringing democracy to Haiti is a joke. We should look there and find out how it worked. It works when people get organized and are willing to work together and have a sense of solidarity and are willing to put aside their own immediate personal issues for a broader concern.
Pete Hamill is author of the forthcoming book, Piecework.
[A lot of what's wrong with politics] started with Vietnam. The government got arrogant and lost its authority by waging a stupid war that they wouldn't even declare. That started to unravel our sense of civility around political discourse. The left began to demonize its opponents, like LBJ, which the right has now really picked up on.
A lot of good things happened in the '60s. But the left wore itself out by the time of Watergate. People were just tired of all the confrontationalism and overblown rhetoric, which just played into the hands of the right. The left became a compendium of grievances instead of a great, robust, healthy, confident movement to change the world.
Todd Gitlin is a sociologist and author of The Twilight of Common Dreams.
John Mitchell was right when he said, "This country is going to move so far to the right you aren't going to recognize it." The right took seriously the project of coming to power. Meanwhile, the left was tangled in knots. How did we lose? The main project of the left was perfecting differences. America is a bigger place than the Bay Area or lower Manhattan, and you can't do serious politics by opening up divisions of race, gender, and sexuality.
Unless the setting is conducive to overall equality, the right can accentuate the zero-sum game where the proverbial white guys don't see anything in it for them--and there are too many of them. What do people have in common? If it's just about fighting for scraps at the bottom of the table then we all lose.
Robert Scheer is a columnist and a Los Angeles Times contributing editor.
We leaned too hard on the center. Going back to the '60s and '70s, we, on the left, felt mainstream liberals--Rockefeller and Eisenhower by today's standards--were centrist. We thought domestically that we'd up the ante. These leaders collapsed. The Republican moderates collapsed too. Who'd have thought we'd have to fight about teaching Darwin? It's rearguard and dispiriting...but we'll win.
Walter Truett Anderson Eduardo Galeano Donella Meadows Paul Krugman Edward Wolff Laura D'Andrea Tyson Lewis Lapham Howard Gardner Bob Woodward Stewart Brand Neil Postman David Brower Jeremy Rifkin Francis Fukuyama Betty Friedan Patricia Ireland Deborah Tannen Robert Reich William F. Buckley Anthony Lewis Lani Guinier Camille Paglia Bill McKibben Patricia Schroeder Gary Snyder Maya Angelou Paul Erdman Alice H. Amsden Orville Schell Adam Hochschild Frank Viviano Paul Ehrlich, Anne Ehrlich, and Gretchen Daily Richard Trumka Gary Chapman Henry M. Levin David Osborne Jane Smiley Marc Roberts Daniel Yankelovich Louis Menand Joycelyn Elders
Paul Wellstone Gary Delgado Barbara Dudley Winona LaDuke
Noam Chomsky Pete Hamill Todd Gitlin Robert Scheer
RELATED ARTICLE: CELEBRATING HELLRAISERS: BARBARA DUDLEY
Barbara Dudley's resume reads like a guided tour of activist highlights from the past quarter-century: the anti-war movement; the Berkeley Tenants Organization Committee; the socialist-feminist movement; the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board; a move to New York to become president of the National Lawyers Guild; and then director of the Veatch Program, one of the nation's major funders of progressive political causes. Finally, three years ago, she moved to Washington, D.C., to become executive director of Greenpeace U.S.A.
Looking back at more than two decades of political involvement, Dudley takes some solace in remembering that this isn't the first time things appeared bleak. "In 1976, I was downright discouraged. Everyone had gotten really pure about politics. What brought down the socialist-feminist movement, for instance, was the debate about which oppression was more primary--race or class or gender. That's like asking how many angels dance on the head of a pin.
"The left had an uneasiness about power," she recalls. "We were afraid of being corrupted, which can happen with power. So we didn't even try."
Dudley points to the overwhelmingly upper-middle-class background of New Left activists--mostly kids radicalized at private universities--as the reason for such squeamishness. "We could all be very pure by being very radical as individuals. But if you're going to live that way, you can't get down and dirty and do real politics.
"The primary lesson we need to learn," she observes, "is not to pick each other to death. Look at the Christian Coalition. They know how to compromise."
Noting that the Christian Coalition might be perceiving the same problems as the left, Dudley envisions a world in which Pentecostal deacons might be important organizers for economic justice and in which new Greenpeace members come from the current ranks of the Wise Use movement.
"I wouldn't start with the left. It would be a much broader group of people, and I'd invite the left to join. I'm not sure they would even call this progressive. But it would be people interested in a way of community that precedes global capitalism. It's called local self-reliance."
Dudley speculates that critics will say this new movement will ruin the economy. "That's hogwash. This would create all sorts of jobs. And it's easy to talk to people about these things. A lot of people share a suspicion of both big government and big business. You could talk about this in any fundamentalist church and people would agree with you. They don't want to live in a Wal-Mart world."
RELATED ARTICLE: CELEBRATING HELLRAISERS: GARY DELGADO
A founder of both the Center for Third World Organizing and the Applied Research Center (ARC), Gary Delgado has spent the past 25 years paying attention to conservative movements. Specifically, he organizes minority communities against them. Even so, he says he is awed by the right's current political muscle--flexed most recently during the 1994 elections. "If you look at the right over the last five years," he explains, "you'll see they've opened up over 200 research institutes. They've built a number of grassroots organizations that use the same techniques we used in the 1960s. Look at their infrastructure, their ability to do research and develop new leaders, their ability to place people in key positions."
Part of the right's success can be blamed, Delgado believes, on the left's unwillingness to take firm political stands. "I was trained in the 'go do it' tradition of community organizing and believed one should not be ideologically attached. That was a mistake," he says, "because when right-wing groups blow onto the scene with a clear message, they look visionary."
Delgado points to the 1994 passage of California's anti- immigrant Proposition 187. "I think any community can be disrupted by the intrusion of an issue that's been defined by the right and not discussed in community organizations."
After seeing how effective proponents of Proposition 187 were in pitching the anti-immigrant message, even among immigrant communities, Delgado's Oakland-based group led workshops to broaden the discussion to include economic, racial, and political perspectives.
It's just a part of what Delgado has accomplished since 1981, when he founded ARC to help grassroots groups develop an educational infrastructure of their own. Like many think tanks on the right, ARC distills the latest academic and political research into a usable form for activists.
Delgado criticizes mainstream research groups for failing to focus on grassroots policy education. "We are going to have to get public universities accountable....Right now they do not provide information that helps a community understand how a particular policy proposal is going to affect their lives."
Delgado would like to see universities and other research groups sharing and developing policy with community groups. "We need the benefit of not only the best thinking of the people in the community, but also information from the experts about the economic and political impact of certain kinds of decisions."
RELATED ARTICLE: CELEBRATING HELLRAISERS: PAUL WELLSTONE
Twenty years ago Paul Wellstone was a young college professor in rural Minnesota, always rushing between faculty meetings, a household with three kids, and rallies in support of family farmers or low-income people. Now, he's just as busy, scrambling across the floor of the U.S. Senate to build political support for family farmers, low-income people, and the simple idea that government should be a tool to improve opportunities for all Americans, not just defense contractors and brokerage firms. The mere fact of his election to the Senate seat gives Wellstone a streak of optimism about the future.
"The pressure for change--progressive change--is almost always external," he says, noting that it often comes from outside Congress, city hall, or a state legislature. "In the last 20 years the most positive changes have come as a result of really good grassroots organizing. And it's critically important because right now that is what's really absent."
When the Senate debated the telecommunications bill, Wellstone says, Capitol Hill was crammed with delegations from communications companies. But when the Senate debated education or social services bills, "there was almost a complete lack of people to fight for these causes."
According to Wellstone, the success of the Christian right should remind us of a lesson or two about politics. "I have a real respect for people who do phone trees, call-in radio shows, who write letters to the editor, run candidates for school board, do voter registration, turn people out to vote. I think to a certain extent that a good many of us in the progressive community have forgotten the importance of good grassroots organizing. We're going to have to do it over again."
That was the secret of Wellstone's victory in 1990, when almost no one gave him even the slightest chance of winning against well-heeled, two-term incumbent Rudy Boschwitz. Environmentalists, rural activists, union members, and legions of his former students at Carleton College hit the streets and the phone lines on his behalf. He won with 52 percent of the vote.
"I spend a lot of time just saying to people in the progressive community, 'This is no time to become depressed or walk away from all of this.' This is one of those moments in the history of this country where I think a tremendous amount is at stake. I hear Newt Gingrich say this is the future. I don't agree.
"My own view is that people in this country are in a populist mood, not a right-wing one. That ought to be the kind of politics we thrust forward."
RELATED ARTICLE: CELEBRATING HELLRAISERS: WINONA LADUKE
In 1982, after graduating from Harvard with a degree in native economic development, Winona LaDuke packed her bags and moved to White Earth, the ancestral lands of the Anishinabeg (Ojibwe) people, located in a poor rural county of northern Minnesota. "The thing about being an Indian person," explains LaDuke, who grew up on the West Coast with her Anishinabekwe father and Jewish mother, "is that you feel most at home with your own people."
LaDuke took a job as principal of the local reservation high school, but quickly found herself involved with a lawsuit to recover lands promised to the Anishinabeg people by an 1867 federal treaty. When the case was dismissed four years later, she founded the White Earth Land Recovery Project to continue efforts to regain lost lands. Over 90 percent of the original 837,000 acres are in the hands of non-Indians. Using grants and a $20,000 human rights prize from Reebok, the group so far has bought back 1,000 acres and hopes to acquire 30,000 more in the next 15 years.
Still, LaDuke, 36, has encountered local resistance. When people from the Land Recovery Project recently blockaded a lumber truck used in clear-cutting, the tribal council let the driver use reservation roads to get out.
Although the tribal chairman and two other tribal officials are now facing 44 separate federal indictments for election fraud, mail fraud, embezzlement, and bribery, LaDuke doesn't ignore them. "I need to deal with them because it affects other people where I live." It's the same with the power structure in any community, she says. "You've got to take them on and change them. You've also got to build an alternative to show people."
What keeps her going, in part, is the intergenerational nature of Native American organizing. "We tell our stories to the children. It's incumbent on us to offer oral history because no one else will," says LaDuke, the mother of two. "We make sure the kids are part of everything. In most of America, it seems you don't matter if you're not between 25 and 50."
Traditional Anishinabekwe religion is LaDuke's other source of power and sustenance. "Spirituality is the foundation of all my political work. In many of the progressive movements in this country, religion carries a lot of baggage. But I think that's changing. You can't dismiss the significance of Eastern religions, earth-based religions, and Western religions on political work today. What we all need to do is find the wellspring that keeps us going, that gives us the strength and patience to keep up this struggle for a long time."
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|Title Annotation:||Mother Jones' 20th Anniversary; includes related articles on hellraisers and thoughts on the Left|
|Author:||Clark, Josh; Krasny, Michael; Walljasper, Jay|
|Article Type:||Cover Story|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1996|
|Previous Article:||Our past, their future.|
|Next Article:||The dark side.|