My sign at the rally had messages on both sides. The first was my story about how Planned Parenthood was the only place I could go when I found a freakish lump in my breast, putting in motion a life-saving diagnosis and 13-plus years of remission. It’s an important story that helps many people feel the reality of the situation at a gut level. But I wasn’t marching for me. The other side of my sign read, “Human Dignity Need Not Be Scarce.”
I believe that the current leaders in our society (government and corporate) are trying to sell us a vision of the world where everything is scarce. Everything. And that everyone needs to freak out and grab and hoard everything they can, so no one else can take it away from them. And I reject that worldview.
Scarcity is what makes us believe immigrants are taking our jobs. Scarcity is why we’re closing our country to desperate refugees who hate terrorists more than we do. Scarcity is why Nestle wants to privatize our water supply. Scarcity makes scabs cross the picket line. Scarcity calls our enormous military complex “underfunded.” Scarcity means federal safety nets pass the risk to states, who pass the risk to municipalities, who pass the risk to individuals, who have to hustle (easy if you are rich, but difficult if not). Scarcity makes us want to take care of our own, fight against each other, us versus them. Scarcity is the opposite of the golden rule.
Scarcity is immoral and unjust.
Scarcity is completely unnecessary.
And I’m not talking about communism or a desire for a lack of individual’s self-driven accomplishments.
We need to talk about scale. We are a country. Being a country is an asset. It is an asset to share roads, education systems, food supplies, police forces, and a military. Communities exist at many levels, in the home, in the neighborhood, among friends, and among those that share faith. It exists in cities, in regions, and states. It exists as a country and even as a world. I like thinking about the world as my community.
We are a world rich in resources, but not everyone can access them. We are a country rich in resources, but not everyone benefits from them.
It’s a difficult balance, and no one strikes it perfectly. But there are things we know. Things that have been proven over and over again. Investing in poor children helps break the cycle of poverty. Investing in preventative healthcare helps prevent higher costs later. Affordable housing can be a steadying influence on an otherwise volatile life. Having a well-educated populace helps ensure a solid democracy. Investment in arts reaps massive intellectual paybacks. Some can attain these things on an individual level. Others simply can’t.
Strong federal programs help ensure that we can accomplish these things as a country. They can spread risk out at a level that makes it affordable for all. We should aim to accomplish this in areas of human dignity: food, shelter, education, and health. Human dignity need not be scarce. Not in this country. Not in this world.