Our Causes Are Connected, Our Movements Should Be Too

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Above Photo: From Popular Resistance

Global corporations and international government alliances are pushing war, environmental destruction, economic exploitation, defunding of schools and housing, hateful divisive ideologies, and reductions in rights and liberties as a package wrapped in shiny foil, tied with a bow, and advertised in hundreds of different advertising media.

. . . and in this corner we have local and national organizations, segregated by race and other demographics, raising pitiable sums to fund nonprofit work, each to work against one or another particular item out of the package. Occasionally a movement will propose to take on two or three items at once but be shouted down with cries of “WHAT IS YOUR ONE DEMAND!?”

In my view, not only was Thomas Jefferson right to list all of King George’s wrongs, not only was Martin Luther King Jr. right to propose taking on militarism, racism, and extreme materialism all together, but the way to an effective movement — not just a larger movement, but a coherent movement with a vision for a better future — is to go multi-issue, big-tent, cross-border, and otherwise “intersectional.”

We’re facing environmental disaster. It might be mitigated by a massive investment in clean energy. The only possible source of the kind of money needed is in the institution that is currently doing the most environmental damage — so, taking its funding away serves a double purpose. I’m talking, of course, about the military, to which Trump’s budget would give over 60% of discretionary spending. For what? For “stealing their oil” and “killing their families.” Once you start opposing killing families, the remaining purpose for the military stands out as rather anti-environmental.

But that 60% of discretionary spending is also why the quality of life, life expectancy, health, and happiness of people in the United States doesn’t match up with its level of wealth. You’ve heard all about the wealth hoarded by the billionaires. It’s a drop in the bucket. Throwing the military $700 billion a year, year after year, explains not having free college, free clean energy, free fast trains, beautiful parks, wonderful arts, a basic income guarantee, and why the U.S. isn’t leading the world in actual foreign aid rather then begrudging it a stingy token. I don’t mean that we could choose one of these other things instead of military spending. I mean that we could choose all of them. I’d gladly give Donald Trump the leftover billions too just to shut up. Who cares? The world would be a wonderful place.

I usually don’t include healthcare in the list of things we could fund because we’re already over-funding it. We’re just funding a corrupt system of private insurance companies that wastes a lot of it. This corrupt system is the result of a corrupt system of government defended by increasingly militarized police cracking down on the use of the First Amendment. Failing to connect these issues leaves us fumbling in the dark. Refugees from U.S. wars are blamed for their suffering and then used as justification for more wars.

The wars are fueled by racism and in turn fuel greater racism and bigotry, which does its damage within the United States and at the locations of its wars and its bases around the world. Part of the bigotry fueled by war for centuries is sexism. Part of what keeps the wars going is perverse machismo. We should trace the roots of these fears, as many of those roots can be found in military spending to just the same extent that the lack of funds for teachers can.

Yet we try to address the erosion of civil liberties as though it stands alone. What would be the justification for spying on everyone, for example, if there were no enemies? It sounds fantastic, I suppose, but numerous nations that are not at war do not have enemies. The United States should try it sometime, if only for the novelty.

There is another serious result of putting our resources into wars, though, and that is the generation of so many enemies, so much hatred, such widespread hostility and resentment. There is, of course, a way to overcome the fear of terrorism, and that is to stop engaging in the terrorism that produces blowback.

There is no divide between foreign and domestic. There is no pro-war environmentalism, or crony capitalist human rights work, or racist peacemaking. If the absence of The One Single Demand troubles someone, give them the single demand that they go read a book.


  • SinglePayer2017

    What a relief that a white dude writes an article about “intersectionality” connecting movements, not falling into single-demand issues, anti-militarism, anti-toxic-masculinity and uses an image produced by Women of Colour to head the piece.

    Perhaps now the public will give the content the “serious” attention it deserved back when women were saying it. Speaking of that, I wouldn’t have said anything if there was a hint of giving credit to the people who’ve been pounding these issues from the margins into the mainstream consciousness for Decades…..all so Mr. Swanson could write as if this is the New Discovery…..that needs to be Told to the lowly margins….as if we weren’t the ones who told YOU. Back when you bought into the Corporate Duopo-Lie. Hook, Line, and Sinker. Do tell, Mr. Swanson, do tell.

  • Jon

    This hostility toward one of the leading innovative thinkers on peace and justice misplaced and counter-productive. I too, another aging “white dude” has understood this interconnection for decades, but feel no need to beat up on someone who is just coming to the same conclusion. Rather the appropriate and generous attitude ought to be “Welcome aboard, Let’s see what we can accomplish together.”
    But I want totake it one step further thanDavid. We need notonl to mewrge the various conceptualizatons into athe unifying concept ofanti-imperialism thatincludes allof the above, buy consolidate ORGANIZATINALLY.

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  • Peter Baldwin

    Intersectionality is not optional. It is all integrated. You can not fix healthcare without fixing preventative care, you can not fix preventative care without better food. You can not fix food without fixing agriculture/soil health. You can not fix agriculture with out fixing subsidies. You can not fix subusidies with out fixing PACs and money in politics, etc. etc.etc. We can not get to where we need to be to ward off catastrophic climate disruption without a total makeover of our culture and lifestyle. It is an utterly mammoth task, but it is our only option and only chance to give the most of us the most chances.

  • DHFabian

    Did you know that Martin Luther King, Jr., organized the Poor People’s Campaign? Poverty was a core focus of his agenda. He gave speeches in which he pointed out that the majority of US poor are white, and explained why it was in the best interests of the poor AND the nation for the poor of all races to unite, to push back against the “corporate state.” Dr. King actually had quite a lot to say about the corporate state — things that you won’t hear in contemporary MLK Day speeches!

    Starting with the “Reagan Revolution,” a tremendous amount of work has gone into splitting people apart, pitting us against each other by class and race.Many believed that the years of the Obama administration represented our last chance to begin turning this around, bringing people together, for the common good. It was worth a try, but didn’t work. Now what?

  • DHFabian

    Did you know that not all white dudes are alike? A good chunk of today’s homeless population consists of white dudes who truly don’t get that whole “white privilege” thing.

    Not everything is about race. The US itself is an economic entity. Virtually every aspect of our lives is determined by economic/class status. Not race. Corporations couldn’t care less about the color of the people they exploit. It’s our capitalist system — supported by the middle class and rich of all races — that is broken. Note that the majority of poor are white.

  • DHFabian

    We can’t move forward without recognizing how deeply we’ve been divided by class and race.

  • DHFabian

    Good grief, none of those things can be fixed without first legitimately acknowledging and dealing with our poverty crisis, and Americans clearly don’t want to.

  • Clash_1

    The argument was never that the causes were not connected, only one of priority. Deciding, which one is of the highest priority, seems to divide. So now we are deciding, late as usual, in a fervor due to the present circumstances. Change the direction the species is pushing climate, change the world, but then the intelligent chimp with the opposable thumbs has never been to bright.