Saturday, June 29, 2013
But Who Wants to Be Institutionalized?
Mary Martin, the Socialist Workers Party candidate for mayor of Seattle, was interviewed by the Seattle Times the other week. She spoke of how she would fight for the working class as mayor. She said, “No other candidates except those from the Socialist Workers Party advocate the goal of working people taking political power out of the hands of the capitalist class.”* Ah, you go, girl. I love it when you talk dirty. I don’t kid myself – I think that any political party which is organized enough to call itself a political party has become an institution and you know what institutions do, don’t you? Come on, you in the back of the room. I get tired of seeing the same hands all the time. Institutions support and nurture institutions. This is a problem with most organized human groups. They start out with the best of intentions – social and economic reform, production, employment, salvation, housing, food, and shelter, for example – but turn into organizations that have to meet their overhead. People who love to have power are drawn to leadership positions, and pretty soon the institution is more about making sure the president can have a nice hand-woven carpet in the Oval Office, or the Bishop has a nice new Jaguar S-type sedan to drive (full disclosure: the car that ran into my car a few weeks ago was a Jaguar S-type sedan). When I worked for King County a few decades ago, one year during the week between Christmas and New Year’s the employees of an entire large county department were given the week off so that their offices could have new carpeting. Did the offices need new carpeting? Not so much. The point was, they had some money left over in their annual budget, and if they didn’t spend all that money, they would not get as much money in the next year’s budget. So they got new carpet. Oh, look, the financial people could then say – they spent their entire budget this year. We must give them at least that much money, and probably a little more, for next year. This is how institutions work. In other craziness, I had a prescription I’ve been taking for years renewed this month, for the first time getting it with my Medicare prescription coverage. A couple of weeks later I got a letter from my insurance company informing me that they had let me get my prescription “temporarily,” but this drug is not in their formulary. Now that I have insurance, I have to go back to the drug that costs $100 more per month because the cheaper tablet is not covered, and that’s how that institution works. This is the sort of cultural/economic insanity that makes me tic and twitch and mutter to myself. Our human brains are always trying to find patterns and make sense out of what we perceive. The only sense I can make out of the upside-down, inside-out, bass-ackwards way our country and economy are presently run is to frame it all within the paradigm of supporting the institutions which have the money and power. Will the working class rise and cast off their chains? Perhaps. Then they will evolve, over time, into the forgers of new chains. It’s a human thing. Meanwhile, Mary Martin will not be taken seriously as a mayoral candidate, because she is a Socialist and because she is a woman. She will get a small percentage of the vote, but no more. It’s too bad. Socialists have some pretty sensible ideas, as do women. It is profoundly sad and infuriating to me that we live in a time and place when the sensible and down-to-earth are not taken seriously, but are either patronized or vilified. I do not care for politics and I do love people, mostly. You can’t have one without the other, so I’m still working on how to live with both. I’ll get back to you on that. *©2013 The Seattle Times