Only academics and religious leaders can save us

Over the past 30 years, our political leaders have pursued increasingly immoral, unconstitutional, and destructive policies: fraudulent wars, torture, rampant corruption and mismanagement, reckless deregulation, tax cuts for the rich, erosion of civil liberties, bailouts of culpable billionaire corporations, outsourcing of jobs and profits, dismantling of public journalism, fixed elections, corporate personhood, and prosecution of whistle-blowers, to name a few.

The Republican Party has been taken over by radicals who are increasingly brazen in their efforts to enrich the rich and undo 100 years of progress, precedent, and science. The Democratic Party has mostly wimped out or sold out. Meanwhile, the news media have been downsized, consolidated, and dumbed-down. As a result, there are few audible voices of sanity. People no longer trust the government, the politicians, or the media.

Many people fear for the future. Wealth and power concentrate into fewer and fewer hands. Healthcare and education are increasingly unaffordable. Unemployment is stubbornly high. Conspiracy theories abound. You can buy an assault rifle with no background check at a gun show. The best-case scenario would seem to involve a slow decline in America’s political and economy power. Economic collapse, environmental devastation, and the outbreak of right wing despotism seem like real possibilities.

Who can save us?

Ralph Nader says that only the rich can save us. But it seems that too few rich people are willing to step forward.

Corporate leaders are legally bound to maximize shareholder value. Union membership has dropped precipitously, to the point that the Democratic Party barely even bothers to serve union interests.

The news media just ignore most mass protests. (Perhaps the protests need to get larger or more disruptive.)

The only remaining institutions with any stature and clout are the universities and the national churches.

I call on academic and religious leaders to protest our politicians’ destructive policies.

Academics — especially economists, historians, and political scientists — should be protesting the economic, military, and judicial policies of our political leaders. I’m sure they have consciences and opinions.

Academic and government scientists should be protesting the attacks on climate science and the irresponsibility of our leaders on the addressing the reality of human-caused global warming.

Academics can protest by making joint statements, under the auspices of professional organizations and university councils.

Likewise, religious leaders should be protesting the corruption and the immoral economic, military, and civil rights policies of our leaders. I realize that many fundamentalist churches are sympathetic to conservative ideology. But are they blind to corruption? The mainstream Protestant churches, the Catholic Church, and most Jewish organizations should be supportive of most progressive views. Yes, there would be disagreement about social issues such as abortion and gay rights; and support for Israel may prevent some Jewish and conservative Christian groups from opposing the so-called war on terror. But most religious leaders should be eager to support the social justice components of the progressive agenda.

One problem with this plan is that successful academics may have little motivation to protest social injustice. Tenured academics have lifetime employment with high (six-figure) salaries. Many private universities have billions of dollars in endowments. Tuition and fees at private universities exceed $50,000 a year. Government subsidizes education for many students unable to pay full tuition. It’s reminiscent of the insurance industry. Furthermore, nobody is more sympathetic to cut-throat capitalist thinking than successful academics. After all, full professors fought their way up the academic ladder and now enjoy the fruits of their labor and smarts. They probably figure they earned their power, prestige, and pay. (They must be aware, though, that much of their funding — for research, scholarships, and grants — came from government programs.)

This phenomenon — why should I worry? things are OK with me — is what allows injustice and despotism to flourish. Like frogs in boiling water, people still benefiting from the system realize that something really bad is happening, but things aren’t bad enough yet for enough people to force real change to occur.

Another problem is that even if large numbers of academics and religious leaders spoke out, GOP leaders would ignore or ridicule them.

Chris Hedges believes that the system is beyond repair:  the forces of avarice are too strong and the  liberal class and its supporting institutions have sold out or been emasculated.

When the state and national budget cuts take effect over the next few years, people may wake up to the reality of the situation we’re in.

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