Identifying the root of our problems

The environmentalists are fighting their fight, the anti-racists are fighting their fight, those who want universal healthcare are fighting their fight, the anti-imperialists are fighting their fight. I could go on and on but the message should be clear . . . we are divided into pockets of struggle, ignoring the very issue that is the root of all these struggles and around which we should all unite . . . CAPITALISM.

While watching Democracy Now! last Thursday, I was struck by an interview with James Cromwell, actor and environmental activist.

For years, Amy Goodman would open her newscast with the comment “talking truth to power.” It’s been years since I heard her make that promise or claim. However, James Cromwell did, in fact, talk truth to power this past Thursday.

Mr. Cromwell had been arrested for an act of civil disobedience in which he and 5 other environmental activists blocked traffic outside the construction site of a gas plant in upstate New York. The activists say the plant would promote natural gas fracking in neighboring states and contribute to climate change.

Mr. Cromwell stated, “We are, all of us, engaged in a struggle, not to protect a way of life, but to protect life itself. Our institutions are bankrupt. Our leaders are complicit.”

Cromwell did what few people have done, either because they are unaware or they are frightened of the consequences in connecting most of our social, environmental, and economic problems on what he calls the disease or the cancer . . . capitalism.

“And it is time, actually, to name the disease. Most people can’t put their finger on the cause of it, but everybody perceives the threat. Capitalism is a cancer.”

Mr. Cromwell went on to further explain his view of capitalism using the above mentioned plant as an example.

He was clear when he stated that the extra electricity that would be produced is not needed and that the only reason for this plant is for the companies to create profits.

There is a broader view to the issues than the narrow one we limit ourselves to and Cromwell points that out. He refers to the Middle East and the US government together with other colonial powers like Britain, France, etc., refusing to allow countries in that area to move toward a democracy that would compromise access to the home country’s gas and oil. In other words, what is going on in the Middle East, why there is so much death and destruction, is occurring to ensure that the Western colonial powers maintain their access and control of the rich resources in that area.

Cromwell then went on to explain the reason he participated in this civil disobedience and his willingness to go to jail. “I think going to jail is a statement about how we have to lift our game. It’s no more good enough just to picket and to petition, because nobody is listening. The way people get the message out is you do an act of civil disobedience.”

Living under the umbrella of capitalism, means that everything is for sale, everything is commodified. The goal and the obligation of those running businesses is to create as much profit as is possible. This means that products and services must be produced at the lowest cost possible which translates into finding locations with the lowest possible cost of labor.

The impact of their efforts to the environment, the standard of living for those who provide the labor, the constant need to expand markets and access to resources, which often result in war, are what has and is creating most of the problems we, as a society, have to continuously cope with.

Capitalism will eventually destroy life on this planet. It is time to seek alternatives.


Dave Alpert has masters degrees in social work, educational administration, and psychology. He spent his career working with troubled inner city adolescents.

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One Response to Identifying the root of our problems

  1. Tony Vodvarka

    Mr. Alpert rightly identifies the identity politics trap that our vestigial “left” has fallen for, hook, line and sinker. At a time when American working people badly need some solidarity in the face of a new gilded age backed by unprecedented authoritarianism, we are endlessly bombarded with accounts of white against black, men against women, working class against snowflake urbanites, Republicans against indistinguishable Democrats, gays against straights, gun owners against security addicts, heroic cops against helpless citizens, east/west coasters against fly-over people, lavatory invasions, Hispanic invasions and, by God, if we don’t fight them in Iran, were going to have to fight them here, and on, and on, so it goes. The whole mess appears so beyond remedy that it seems vain to appeal for the formation of a labor party, one big union, open to all regardless of employment status, that would finally give some push-back to American workers that are now being exploited without restraint.