Home > history, Learning, politics, Reflections > power to change everything

power to change everything

One year ago, I couldn’t have told you how World War II began. Sure, I’d studied it in high school history classes, but that was more than twenty years ago.

Having immersed myself in history and politics for the last year, I understand more now. Most significantly, I understand how economic distress fueled Hitler’s rise.

Germans were not a uniquely evil people. They were a distressed people, susceptible–in those specific circumstances–to finding both the wrong villains and extraordinarily wrong solutions.

On Sunday, I wrote about how neoliberalism created the conditions for the weekend’s tragedy in Charlottesville.

Yesterday, a dear friend replied that she’d seen the pictures. The racists she’d seen pictured weren’t economically oppressed, but well dressed and clean shaven. They were privileged.

I’d reply today the same as I replied yesterday. That is to say, I’d reply by noting I’m no fan of privilege theory, which conceals (grave systemic failures) much more than it reveals (anything actionable).

But I wondered: How could I express the pain of enduring economic squeeze to those who haven’t yet felt it?

When Noam Chomsky spoke with anarchists in Buenos Aires, they talked about “expanding the floor of the cage.” They know they’re in a cage. They know they’re trapped.

Since they can’t break the cage in one fell swoop, they have to start by working to make the cage bigger. By making more room for bigger changes later.

Water bill increase in red. The same amount of red line takes up very different proportions of each cage’s floor

I didn’t really understand this when I first read it, but I now see that we all live in cages. Some cages, though, are bigger than others.


One of neoliberalism’s key features is privatization of previously government-controlled resources. This typically leads to significant price increases for many in pursuit of increased profits for a scant few.

If water rates increase $20 a month for both Maria and Heather, Heather might not even feel it. If anything, she can drop a few Sunday lattes and keep rolling. Her financial cage has shrunk so incrementally that the change is virtually imperceptible.

On the other hand, that little-to-Heather change makes Maria’s cage noticeably, painfully smaller. Having already begun with too small a cage, she has to start skipping a meal or two daily so she has water to cook food and bathe her kids. The impact of a single utility’s price changing causes her genuine pain, as her cage’s bars press deeper into her flesh.

Heather doesn’t know what it’s like to be squeezed. Maria can’t remember anything but.

In between them are cages full of people who started where Heather remains, and who see their cages are en route to being–enduringly–as small as Maria’s has always been. As tens of millions of Americans’ cages have always been.

And so: They revolt, in entirely the wrong direction.

Are the active racists of Charlottesburg
guilty of deplorable behavior? Absolutely. Should that behavior be challenged vocally and forcefully? Damn right it should!

Should we write them all off as innately, irreparably evil wastes of space? Or should we, perhaps, consider the lessons of World War II, and thus be inspired to rectify root causes instead of simply condemning their consequences?

How you and I choose has the power to change everything.

  1. Nemorino
    August 16, 2017 at 12:18 am

    Interesting analogy of the cage.

  2. August 16, 2017 at 5:14 am

    We do each need to choose wisely. Kindness, in various forms, goes a long way. Thanks for this!

    • August 16, 2017 at 5:16 am

      I wish I’d done a better job showing kindness many months of the last year, but … I’m on a different road now, and so glad for it. ♥

  3. August 16, 2017 at 5:48 am

    Great point. Very much enjoyed the example.

    • August 18, 2017 at 3:48 pm

      I used to draw tons of stick figure drawings here, so that I tried to imagine how I’d draw a stick figure representation. Thinking of being stuck in circles (tubes) made me think of being stuck in circles (cages), which makes so much more sense to me now than it did a year or so ago.

      I don’t want to coddle hatemongers, but by the same token … I want the context of their hage to be understood, since it has such a direct impact on my husband and sons (to start). So, fingers crossed!

      • August 19, 2017 at 12:44 pm

        Being in a similar place as your husband and sons I think you showed great context. I again have to thank you for sharing.

  1. August 16, 2017 at 5:06 am

Please weigh in--kindly!

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