"You spend a lot of your life at work. So, don't leave your values at home. Bring them to work."
Simultaneously sobering and uplifting, journalist Bob Hennelly joined d@w for a live, virtual event one year after the release of his book, Stuck Nation: Can the United States Change Course on Our History of Choosing Profits Over People?
Giving the audience an update on our ongoing stuck-ness from the past year, Hennelly focused on the COVID pandemic, how it has disproportionately impacted poor people of color, the stunted relief efforts for the masses during the corporate profit windfall, and the weak and negligent response of our political leadership. “How many ‘couldn’t see that coming’ fiascos will it take to own the reality that death and disease is the outcome when you have a healthcare system that runs on wealth accumulation and its preservation?”
In one of his answers to questions from our live audience, Bob explained why he addressed the grave threat of the military-industrial complex in Stuck Nation. Abroad, the post-911 war on terror destabilized nations, created a refugee crisis, and spread American made munitions across the globe. At home, while proposals to fund things like full-time universal child care were stymied by nervous fiscal austerity, debts to fund further military spending were approved without hesitation. “I do believe that we will not be able to turn around our circumstance without addressing the military-industrial complex in a fundamental way.”
Bob reminded us there was a ban of assault weapons in the US in the past resulting in a dramatic drop in mass shootings. However, stuck choosing profit over people, Congress catered to the desires of the weapons manufacturers and gave them an indemnification from being sued. “When they say ‘It's all about the open, free and fair market,’ it is not. It is about very much a tilted playing field, and that's because of the campaign finance connection to capital”
But Hennelly’s book and live talk reminds us that there’s hope.
As a labor reporter, Bob sees striking as just one powerful tool in the tool chest of many strategies. NY city and NY state comptrollers enlisted like-minded pension managers and bought enough Amazon stock that they were able to impact the annual shareholder meeting. Rather than being able to rubberstamp the board of directors, Amazon had to face a shareholder resolution and 27% of the outside stock voted against their reappointment. “That is a toe hole in the door.”
Finally, Bob talked about our human values in this moment and the individualism that keeps us apart. He shares a personal story about participating in the foreclosure resistance movement. When we feel shame about not being able to pay our bills and hide our struggles, we lose the opportunity to unite and build shared power. “Once you come to recognize the commonality of human experience, then that fear and anxiety becomes the base for organizing.”
While covering the Poor People’s Campaign March in Washington DC on June 18, 2022, Bob realized most of the thousands of people marching were not alive when Dr. King planned the first Poor People’s Campaign March but still continue on his legacy. “Yes, these glimmers of hope are thanks in large measure to a younger generation who are embracing the reality that only through truly collective action can we turn the tide for our planet.”
Bob’s insights in Stuck Nation find our place in our country’s history and find a path forward in the struggle and are more than relevant a year after its first release.
Bob is continuing to report on the issues reflected in this event and in his book. Be sure to follow him on Twitter to hear more of his work and analysis.
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