Convergences

Ralph Nader

I went to hear Ralph Nader this evening at our local independent bookstore – Book Passage – talking about his new book Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State. There was a large crowd to hear him, and it included a fair number of young people.

He started with the conclusion – “It’s easier that we think.”

The book is about convergences. It’s about getting past the Left-Right, Liberal-Conservative, Red State-Blue State feuding that paralyses this country and finding areas of common ground on 25 key issues, including:

  • UunstoppableRequiring the Department of Defense budget be audited annually
  • Adjust the minimum wage to inflation
  • Break up the “Too Big to Fail” banks
  • Push community self-reliance
  • Revise trade agreements
  • End corporate personhood
  • End the ineffective war on drugs
  • Prioritize the protection of the environment

Two issues that resonated with me were:

  • Protect children from commercialism and it physical and mental exploitation and harm
  • Oppose the patenting of life forms, including human genes

Nader talked about going to a meeting of evangelicals a few years ago and getting a standing ovation after his talk about protecting children from rampant commercialism. Through direct marketing aimed at children, parents have lost control over what their children see and the choices they make. We are raising a generation of children who have been marketed to eat junk foods, and buy addictive products such as tobacco, alcohol and medications. The results of this are record levels of child obesity and young teens dealing with addictions. This is an issue that needs convergence to take on the hucksters who are profiting off of our children.

The issue of patenting life forms touches on GMO products, but also the work done and patents issued on gene research. But it is especially in the area of GMO labeling that the corporate state dominates. According to Nader, 90% of the American people want labeling on genetically engineered foods. However, Monsanto has prevailed over the majority. There is a growing movement to get labeling laws passed at state and local levels, but a nationwide movement is needed.

We have to reclaim our power and make the people in Washington, DC or state legislatures address them by speaking up, marching, writing letters, making phone calls and – most importantly – getting people to vote. When politicians know that people are engaged and willing to vote for or against them based on how well they listen to them, things will get done. Several examples of this was stopping the move to intervene in Syria in 2013 and the grassroots effort to stop the Orwellian-named Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) a few years ago.

It doesn’t take a lot of people to make these convergences work, usually less than 1% of the population, but it takes persistence and talking to people to help these ideas spread.

I would like to add a few more convergences that I think could find some common ground. They are:

  • Food labeling
  • Subsidizing organic foods – fruits and vegetables

Along with the labeling of GMOs, we also need to revise the current food labeling laws so that we get more information about the types and amounts of sugars in food and clearer information about harmful additives.

In this country, as I’ve written about before, we subsidize the foods that make us overweight and sick, instead of organic fruits and vegetables. There are large numbers of people who want to eat healthy, but find they can’t afford these products. It’s time to make our voices heard on this issue.

Nader is a realist – he’s been doing this work too long to be otherwise – he knows that there are challenges in making these convergences happen. But he comes back to the conclusion – It’s easier than we think.

Let’s get to work!

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