by Tom Egan
As the true son of quick-tempered Irish American parents, my life has included generous portions of anger driven over responses to a long parade of personal and social villains—from some nuns, neighborhood bullies and little league coaches of long, long ago to the Lay’s, Wolfowitz’s, Sharon’s, Limbaugh’s and global corporate polluters of today. However, when now I reflect back on my life long history of anger-energized confrontational responses to the many personal and social villains of my past, I increasingly find myself facing the very unpleasant truth that I was often wrong in my judgments and frequently hurtful in responding so angrily to their self-righteous verdicts.
“we are in the midst of a great struggle to make the world a sustainable and just place”
Today, many of us whose names appear in this directory share the view that we are, wittingly or unwittingly, in the midst of a great struggle to make the world a sustainable and just place, with very dire consequences for the entire planet if we fail. The villains we judge responsible, from corporate polluters to religious extremists of all the major faiths, frequently get us boiling mad and energized for confrontation. These views I certainly share. However, my life experience also urges me to be very cautious. Venting and confrontation rarely solved anything for me personally and often made things much worse, particularly when my targets turned out to be the wrong ones in hindsight.
Marjorie Kelly, in her book The Divine Right of Capital and Kevin Phillips in his Wealth and Democracy caution us that today the real villains in the destruction of our environment are not “the global corporations”. Instead the real villains are world’s wealthy oligarchy whose large shareholdings in these corporations force their managers to pollute and exploit to increase this oligarchy’s wealth still more. Thus, just possibly, the effective solution we all seek may lie in re-forming the structure of the world’s capital markets and tax codes, rather than in jailing miscreant CEOs and changing corporate charters. Similarly, religious extremists and their political spokesmen anger us with their condemnations. How good it would feel if just once we could effectively confront them. Still, Thomas Friedman and many others point that grinding poverty and hopelessness is the true root cause that gives the religious fanatics and their politicians their following. Thus, I often wonder, wouldn’t energies focused on relieving global poverty be a more “sustainable” path than working hard to put Limbaugh off the air, bin Laden in jail, or even Bush out of the White House? At least with approaches like these we have no risk of doing harm if we find later we were wrong.
by Tom Egan
Tom teaches economics at Moravian College and is a founding member of the Alliance.
This essay was originally published in the Alliance’s 2004 Directory of Organizations That Promote Sustainable Communities.