From prisons to water, from electricity to Social Security… From California to Colombia to China… privatization is a really bad idea. It’s selling our future to the highest bidder. And: holding on to the status quo, strapping oneself to a deck chair on the Titanic, is an equally bad idea!
I think it’s about time for us to come up with some GOOD IDEAS, the visions of a future that works for ALL LIFE.
A few weeks ago, I ran into a friend of mine, a radical activist postal worker here in Portland. He was telling me about a demonstration to oppose the privatization of the Post Office. I said to him, “Privatizing the Postal Service is a terrible idea — just about as bad as leaving it as it is!” (He looked shocked.)
I went on. “If privatizing is a bad idea, and the status quo is an equallybad idea, who’s working for the GOOD idea? What does the Postal Service of the future look like? And how can we make that come about?”
The response to bad “innovation” is notclinging to a status quo that doesn’t work. We must envision new systems and structures – ones that work for LIFE (not “money”). As you’ve heard me say a million times: if “money” is your primary value, you will make the wrong decision every time.
I once led a discussion in Southern California on “prison reform” in the face of massive efforts to “privatize” the existing system. Instead of talking about efforts on how to maintain an abusive, inhumane status quo, I challenged the participants — how could they use the “for-profit” prison system TO THE ADVANTAGE OF THE PRISONERS AND THE COMMUNITY?
[Yes, I know there are those who say that we should get rid of all prisons. They obviously haven’t met some of my former colleagues from Camden, NJ! Yes, once we stop criminalizing cultural behavior (like marijuana prohibition), the prison population will dramatically shrink. But, take off the rose-colored glasses – there are a lot of people out there who do not play well with others…]
Prison is a coercive environment — why not “coerce” them to do things that are GOOD for themselves and their community? Mandatory yoga, mandatory organic food, mandatory community service, mandatory alternative health care, entrepreneurial classes, mandatory discussion groups, mandatory victim service… instead of walking around a yard aimlessly as “exercise”, how about energy generation, intensive gardening, art classes… If by definition a “prisoner” is someone whose freedom has been cut off by society, how about cutting off their “freedom” to absorb junk food, mindless television, or mind-numbing boredom?
And: instead of FIGHTING prison privatization, instead of asking somebody else to open such a prison (and “protesting” when they don’t do it right), get the activists to open the “alternative” prison! Instead of hiring sociopaths and wannabe cops as prison guards, hire people dedicated to nonviolence and trained in alternative dispute resolution. Most importantly: Dedicate the “profits” to benefit the prisoners, the victims and the community.
Lesson: When faced with an unacceptable status quo or an unacceptable alternative… CHANGE THE PARADIGM!