Saturday, February 6, 2010

Open Letter To Representative Jim Davnie

Tuesday was Minnesota's night for precinct caucuses. Precinct caucuses are Minnesota's version of primary elections, although we have those as well. Citizens get together with other members of their parties to choose candidates for office. It's an off year; there's no presidential election until 2012, nationally no senators are running, and our Democratic House member -- Keith Ellison -- is pretty much of a shoo-in for re-election. There were a few resolutions in our precinct, including one that the DFL (Minnesota Democrats) support a Constitutional Amendment stripping corporations of personhood (passed unanimously). The main reason we got together was to choose among us who would go to the next meeting and choose candidates for governor and school board. Even then gubernatorial candidates come out of a primary, and the convention only endorses a candidate, who may or may not win the primary. I went because we are promoting the notion of transition towns, and the caucus seemed like a good place to invite people to our Sustainability Fair on the twenty-seventh.

Among notables who visited our gathering was our Representative to the Minnesota House of Representatives, Jim Davnie. I liked him, but his response to one question bugged me. I wasn't interested in sidetracking the caucus, but my own question remained. I e-mailed Representative Davnie what follows.

Dear Representative Davnie:

I appreciated your visit to my precinct caucus (9-6), and was impressed at your presentation, and at how organized your thoughts were. Your response to one man’s question was surprisingly frank, but left me with an even larger question.

Perhaps you remember the question I’m thinking of. It was a rambler, and you said that you hadn’t followed it all, but thought you might have caught the gist. You offered an answer and the option for the questioner to correct your understanding. Nice!

The question itself amounted to “How are poor working families supposed to accomplish what we need to in this economy?” You expressed understanding and sympathy, but pointed out that Democratic leaders have limited resources, and sometimes must ask their friends (your word) to wait.

I believe your answer satisfied the questioner, but it reminded me that poor families who lose their homes, or are thwarted in the pursuit of education, etc., ultimately won’t be satisfied. Wait for what?

There seemed to be an unspoken assumption, in your answer, that things will get better, that the trend in human progress will continue to be toward greater quality of life for more people. I wondered if you really believe that. If you do, how do you justify that belief in light of what I believe are facts, and which I will list in a moment. If you do not believe that things will get better, why not say as much, and why not be aggressive in remaking Minnesotan, American, and world society?

The “facts” which I claim are various trends, but they all argue that economic progress has stalled and will remain stalled (creating a needy, tractable population) until there is an economic sea change, be that change purposeful human integration with the ecology from which we came, or disaster.

The trends I see are:

* Human Population Approaching or having reached Carrying Capacity;

* Global Warming, and other pollution;

* Peak Oil, and Asian industrialization, changing the energy auction from a buyers’ to a sellers’ market;

* Debt;

* Concentrated Wealth;

* Offshored Manufacturing Base;

* Absurdly Extravagant, even imperial, Military Spending;

* Aging Population, and consequent changes in spending (putting this one next to Overpopulation is sure to bake your noodle).

There are no doubt other trends I have forgotten to include, but these outline the picture I see. The demographic trends should be enough to forestall real recovery for a decade, by which time the others will have put humanity in a genuine bind.

To a certain extent, this letter can’t help but be rhetorical, but, deep down, I don’t believe you need the facts of life outlined for you (nor, I think, does Barack Obama, who increasingly seems more like a rich lawyer, and less like a community organizer). I’m genuinely curious about how you guys -- meaning liberal elected representatives -- rationalize what appears, to this sixty-year old, as the end of the time during which humanity made progress.

What’s up? Are poor people, and most of the rest of us, out of luck?

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