2011-09-30 / Columnists

The Progressive

By John Paul Culotta

Antonio Gramsci, the Italian political philosopher, linguist and one of the founding fathers of the Italian Communist Party, was imprisoned by the fascist government of Benito Mussolini. While in prison he wrote about political and social issues. His writings have inspired many Marxists all over the globe and in my humble opinion, some of his ideas have been co-opted by the radical conservative movement in this country. He formulated the theory of cultural hegemony. According to Wikipedia, this theory states that, “a culturally diverse society can be dominated (ruled) by one social class, by manipulating the societal class (beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values) so that its ruling class worldview is imposed as the societal norm.” Simply stated, those who control the forum where the parameters of ideas are expressed eventually control the corridors of power.

In times of severe economic crisis it is amusing that most economic story lines that our media are following express the ideas and aspirations of the Wall Street tycoons and their academic minions. There is scant coverage of the suffering of the majority of this nation’s population. Little coverage is given to the successes of the original stimulus programs. Our automotive industry has been saved. Many state, municipal, town, and county civil service positions were maintained as these localities faced difficult choices. Police, emergency workers, schoolteachers, and medical delivery staff were working because of the stimulus dollars. Now, unfortunately, many have lost their positions because the conservative thought that prevails has decided not to promote job creation and American industry. Their ideology of a pristine capitalism where the marketplace will balance all levels of society fairly over time prevents them from seeing the larger picture that is that the markets need regulation. Recent evidence of rogue trading is a prime example of what unregulated markets can become. Free trade policies where our nation’s manufacturing sector can be sacrificed in the name of the market and profit have led to widespread misery in many parts of this nation. In the Empire State many manufacturing industries that flourished are now non-existent. New York, in our recent past, produced air conditioners, furniture, gloves, clothing and shoes.

Most of these industries are now located overseas. We can compete but only if we change how our corporations are incorporated and demand that, if the corporations want the protection of our laws, they behave in the national interest. Our nation must pursue the policies of Singapore, China, and other nations where the only objective is to ensure employment for their citizens. Seeking short term profit for the stakeholders of a corporation is not the way to a vibrant, aggressive growth economy. Using financial markets simply to run for profit without the building of green industries, the building of speedy mass transportation, space exploration, affordable medicines and educational institutions that inspire a love of learning and not institutions that are run for profit only, is folly.

It would appear that all our major social and economic institutions are corrupted by our desire for profit. Media is more concerned with the sensational than serious discussion. Our religious leaders are more concerned with the matters sexual than the message of the prophets regarding social justice. Was it not Jesus who said it was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God? Our schools now serve the corporate test-taking industry. Our colleges prefer the revenue of foreign students than to help struggling American students. Recent New York Times articles demonstrate that many American young people without financial means are finding it more difficult to attend universities. Sports in our colleges and universities are used for revenue making primarily and not character building. Our Congress is too busy seeking political gain to address the needs of a desperate people. Our states, cities and localities are in bidding wars to attract retail and manufacturing through tax relief and zoning exemptions. Our financial institutions are fighting necessary financial regulation and reform. On September 22, 2011 the New York Times in the business section had an article regarding the DelMonte corporation’s desire to prevent the Food and Drug Administration from enforcing food safety regulations with vigor despite wisteria, e-coli and other harmful residue in fresh produce. Our labor leaders are not forcefully declaring the needs of the workers and making their needs a part of the national discussion. Our president is stymied by the meanness of the opposition. His desire for bipartisan consensus from an opposition that sees victory and glory through an unmitigated blitzkrieg of tried and true espousal of the no taxes, benefit cutting, fear of the foreigner, and religious fervor attack is at a cost. Our Democratic Party is too willing to cut essential popular benefit programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to get minimum concessions from the Republicans.

Our corporate leaders who claim to be job creators do not tell us the jobs created are overseas. All of American society is culpable. We need to examine the messages that we receive.

Are we following belief systems that do not address the needs of the nation? Has the country lost its integrity?

How can the nation recover?

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