How To Avoid The Second Civil War

In a nation that has long been an innovator in the inter-related arts of public relations, advertising and propaganda, most of us get our news in a highly mediated, skillfully filtered form that caters, increasingly, to our own personal prejudices.    It seems impossible to find a reasonable consensus at this historically perilous moment.   At least 45% of the country sees Abuse of Power and unprecedented blanket obstruction of all investigations as not impeachable.

Many now believe that there are facts and there are equally valid alternative facts, in this threatening pre-civil war funhouse we are all living in at the moment [1].  We are living in a historically perilous time, like Kansas 1860, or Berlin 1932, with the unsettling overlay of the foreseeable end of a habitable planet ticking loudly in the foreground.   If we are to spare ourselves another actual bloody civil war, followed by mass extinction, we need to be very smart going forward.

We consumer-citizens rely largely on commercial mass media, run by profit-driven corporations with deeply intrenched interests– largely increasing profits — for most of our information about our limited political choices.   Noncommercial news sources like Democracy Now! and the Intercept, outlets that cover the struggles of activists against institutional injustice unreported elsewhere, (and never to my knowledge successfully sued by anyone over a false report), are unknown to most Americans and the news they report is easily dismissed by low information voters and pundits on the right and center as … choose your favorite word for the ranting of liberty-hating, unAmerican losers.

Old friends rage at each other over perceived political dogmatism, blindness, defeatism, stupidity, idiotic idealism, long friendships sometimes ending in bitter inter-partisan disagreement over how to get to the end result both may desire.   Rage is effortless on social media, where trolls reign, delighting in provocation.   

We are sharply drawn into inimical opposing camps, every one of us powerless except as part of a larger block.  As far as political action, we are largely constrained by the design of the two party system, the only game in town, and forced to vote for whichever candidate is chosen for us by a National Committee.  We try to choose the less hateful of the two and hope for the best, a sorry version of actual democratic participation.  

Both major parties run on corporate dollars and the dark money of our super-wealthy, many of them the privileged inheritors of vast fortunes.  Our Supreme Court is staffed by at least five hardcore corporate rights judges who believe that corporations are “persons” entitled to all the freedoms the rest of us enjoy, including the freedom to all the speech their vast money can buy.  Our highest court holds that corporations are citizens just like the rest of us, only with infinitely more power and influence than any thousand of us regular people working together can hope to exert. [2]   The individual, unless very wealthy (see several billionaires currently vying for the presidency) is almost utterly powerless in our democracy.  Except for our freedom to speak, to reason, and to organize.

(brace for a slightly disjointed next paragraph, citizens)

If you are the victim of an illegal practice committed against you by a corporation, join the club, it’s a gigantic one.   Millions of us are fucked by corporations on a daily, hourly basis — they are not in business to make sure consumers are not being fucked, they are in business for the bottom line– maximizing profit, by any means that is not specifically illegal and enforceable against them.  The Supreme Court itself clarified that the sole legal imperative of the American corporation is maximizing profits for shareholders.   If a corporation violates the law, the consumer must find the precise law it violated and then find a legal remedy.  No specific illegal act under law and/or pertinent regulations found, no remedy, stay screwed, asshole.

I was recently victimized by the corporate “person” that provides my health insurance under Obamacare.  On January 22, when I called to pay my premiums through June, I was told Healthfirst could not accept my payment and that my ACA health insurance for 2020 had been terminated.   A supervisor, Daiya by name, confirmed that this had been done “pursuant to the guidelines” for my failure to pay during a once-a-year ten-day “grace period”.   She told me the corporation had no obligation to inform customers in advance of the severe and irreversible consequence of failing to pay within this one-time “grace period”.  She initiated what she said was the only available appeal, an internal one within the company, and called two days later to pleasantly let me know that Healthfirst had not restored my insurance.

Working hard and having a great piece of good luck, I managed to find the only appeal process that could remedy this particular illegal act (at the NYS Department of Financial Services, naturally– here’s the LINK).   Two business days after my on-line complaint I had a call back from Healthfirst, apologizing for its “mistake” and accepting payment of my premiums through June.

Two weeks later, after my letters to the CEO of the corporation and the Attorney General’s office, I had a call from a “Resolution Supervisor” telling me “billing” had asked her to call me.  She assured me that my insurance had never been cancelled.  I was not reassured and questioned this long-suffering, apologetic woman at length.   She told me she’d try to send me the records of my dozen recent calls with Healthfirst, but had to first run it all by another office.

To my surprise, I learned there is an office at Healthfirst called “Regulatory”.  They were reviewing whether I was entitled to call records of my own calls to the private corporation.  I wrote an angry second letter to the CEO, cc’d it to the Attorney General.  I mailed it, then emailed it to her.   The next day I had a call from Healthfirst — I’d be receiving a written apology from Daiya, the confidently “mistaken” supervisor.  I’d get copies of my phone records with dates, times, person I spoke to, the substance of each call.

I am a perversely insistent motherfucker living in a corporately run nation where we non-corporate persons have  very few protections of any kind from routine predatory practices by largely unaccountable entities.   While I was helpless prey I managed to luck onto to a mechanism to almost immediately reverse an extremely stressful interruption of my ongoing medical treatments.   I was fortunate to find someone in an agency, a sympathetic woman who listened carefully, who told me how to get an emailed copy of the sections of the laws that Healthfirst apparently violated in putting me into that upsetting situation.   

I was surprised to learn today that the corporation is giving me everything I asked for without forcing me to bring a lawsuit against them.  I will soon be able to look over the law itself and see which specific sections and subsections were violated in my non-terminal termination.  I am positive than I am the lucky one in a thousand, or ten thousand, maybe a million,  getting almost immediate relief from intolerable, illegal mistreatment by a health care provider, under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

I am have a certain skill set, I’m diligent and, in this case, my illegally terminated health coverage was saved only by a miraculously fast resolution process that is well-hidden from the average consumer.   We live in a country where the powerful are free to oppress the rest of us, often without consequences to themselves, the burden being heavily upon those fucked to figure out how to unfuck ourselves (not easy, I can tell you for sure).   The laws that exist are co-written by expert lobbyists providing careful loopholes and provisions (like the now ubiquitous “arbitration clause” in every contract — thanks to now-Justice John Roberts, a genius of corporate law) that protect their fantastically powerful clients against things like class actions.

What was done to me, personally, can be multiplied by a hundred, or a thousand, or tens of thousands, just in New York City, where I live.  The woman at the NYC office I spoke to today (NYSDFS) told me they get HUNDREDS of health insurance complaints every day, many similar to mine.   

Do we have vast institutional problems in our country, including opaque laws that allow gigantic unaccountable private profit-driven institutions to do business largely unrestrained by effective laws?   You betcha.    Are many of our government officials, the people we trust to protect our interests, incompetent, lazy, corrupt, complacent or otherwise of little use?   You betcha.   Is the Republican Party, supported by vast funds from our wealthiest and most greedy, going to address this oppression of the many by the few?  Not likely.  (Picture me holding a fortune-telling 8-ball when I ask these questions)   Is the Democratic Party, supported by vast funds from our wealthiest and arguably slightly less greedy, going to address institutional injustice?   Perhaps over the next hundred years, if history is any guide.  If there are still two political parties by then.   If the earth itself is still a habitable place for human life.

We, people of good faith who are living through these viciously partisan times, when even old friends savagely attack each other like angry rats in a failed lab experiment, must find a way forward.    We must talk to each other as reasonably as we can, allow ourselves to hear and consider reasonable arguments. 

We need to meet likeminded strangers, and strategize and organize for effective influence and representation in our Republic. 

We need to act in concert to put pressure on, and keep pressure on, elected officials and the political parties that choose them.    How we do that is a great challenge in our atomized social media surveillance state.   I embrace that challenge as my only alternative to crippling hopelessness, though I have no immediate way forward to report.

I leave you with these wonderful, wise words from historian Howard Zinn, delivered while accepting a prize, toward the end of his life, for his groundbreaking A People’s History of the United States :

I wanted, in writing this book, to awaken a consciousness in my readers, of class conflict, of racial injustice, of sexual inequality and of national arrogance, and I also wanted to bring into light the hidden resistance of the People against the power of the establishment.   

I thought that to omit these acts of resistance, to omit these victories, however limited, by the people of the United States, was to create the idea that power rests only with those who have the guns, who possess the wealth.  I wanted to point out that people who seem to have no power — working people, people of color, women– once they organize and protest and create national movements, they have a power that no government can suppress.

I don’t want to invent victories for people’s movements, but to think that history writing must simply recapitulate the failures that dominate the past is to make historians collaborators in an endless cycle of defeat. 

And if history is to be creative, if it’s to anticipate a possible future without denying the past, it should, I think, emphasize new possibilities by disclosing those hidden episodes of the past when, even if in brief flashes, people showed their ability to resist, to join together, occasionally to win.

I am supposing, or perhaps only hoping, that our future may be found in the past’s fugitive moments of compassion rather than in the solid centuries of warfare.

(you can watch Zinn deliver these short remarks HERE, highly recommended)

 

 

[1]  fact or alternative fact?   From CNN:

The Department of Justice has dropped its criminal investigation into former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe without bringing charges.

Back to me (channeling an alternative fact citer): a president pursuing “groundless” two year DOJ criminal investigations into his personal enemies is not an abuse of power, and even if it was, fuck off you partisan haters!   See Article Two!   It’s the only one you need to read!

[2]  The great Bill Moyers had the best reply to the legal fiction of “corporate personhood.”   He said “I’ll believe that corporations are people when the State of Texas puts one of them to death.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s