Frank Touby: Chin up! Things really are much better than they seem

I was 14 when I heard the devastating news that a bunch of judges in Washington D.C. had declared that American children would have to share their classrooms with monkeys. In my then largely redneck town of Miami, Florida where the Stars and Bars of the Confederate flag decorated automobiles and many front porches, it was the damn Yankees’ final insult to a superior-but-defeated people.

The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that separate is not equal. That “Negro” children would attend the same classes as “us.” They and their parents could be seated anywhere on the bus and not just the rear bench. They could drink from any public water fountain, eat in any restaurant, sit in any theatre, swim at any beach. Hell! They could behave just like they’re as good any White people!

America was plainly going to the devil.

I’m so glad I have lived to see a black man leading the race (and races) as a candidate for the U.S. presidency. I’m writing this before Nov. 4, but in 1954 I would have never believed it possible except in a Vaudeville skit that Barrack Obama could have been anything but a slicked-up lawyer on a shantytown sidewalk.

When you’re young you think what your peer group thinks, even if your parents try to tell you otherwise, as mine did. Your peer group tends to rule, and even more so when they’re inclined to discipline heretics with their fists as rednecks can often be. I was oriented to that lowest crude denominator that stated with utmost authority and self-righteousness the creed that blacks were a separate and lower mammalian form than people.

What all that is leading up to is the bright light at the end of a tunnel we’re going through. Despite what looks like imminent tragedy with the economy pointed downward and doomsayers predicting disaster, things are also looking up. A tipping point is just ahead of us, if we’ve not already crossed it.

One huge sign of hope is the way young people have responded to the U.S. election, seeking a bold new political approach and yet not disillusioned or cringing under the shadow of a looming police state brought on by overreaction to the Twin Towers tragedy. But it’s only one sign. Another is how a youthful movement in the Liberal Party had brought Stéphane Dion to the forefront with his professorial green tax and even gave him the leadership. It was a non-starter as political position—a born loser of a platform—but it energized them in a way Dion’s replacement could not have done and his replacement will benefit from that youthful energy.

They showed what is resonating around the world as a promising awakening of young people to planetary and social concerns and to the needs of people.

In China that favourable change is also apparent. The new Chinese generation is patriotic in a different way than previous young people there. They’re concerned about the welfare of the nation and of individuals. Witness the hoards of young people who made their ways unbidden to the recent earthquake zone to help. It’s a heartening transformation to see and prompts us to hope that when these young people ascend to power, as they will, China will be transformed in their kinder, more assured mindset.

The eruptions in the world economy have been caused mostly by the followers of Ayn Rand-style thinking who have tried to partition the world for themselves and brought it near to ruin. But it’s not ruined. Their predatory corporations, endowed with a benighted legal interpretation that gives them the rights and powers of real human beings, go about acquiring other corporations and cashing them in. They produce nothing and employees of their victim companies are dumped so the raiders can line their own pockets.

The monster corporations that control through monopoly power too many aspects of our lives can be brought to heel. Like Standard Oil of the early 20th Century—and the middle of that century—monopolies can be broken up. In recent decades, governments have lacked the will to do so. But do so they must. Pure capitalism always consumes itself because the purest aim of all businesses is to grow to their maximum possible sizes; to monopolize. That’s why government must ensure it doesn’t happen by using anti-trust legislation and enforcement.

We have many examples of the public badly served by industries dominated by a few suppliers. Like energy. Like agriculture. And just look at how you’re gouged for your cellphone. There should be dozens of providers. Instead there are only four monstrous corporations enjoying a lucrative monopoly bestowed by a government that should be preventing them from exploiting you—or itself providing the vital service as it rightly does with the post office.

There is hope in a new generation of politicians of whom Barrack Obama is the foremost example. He and those resonating with him can reduce the destructive power of monopoly corporations and the harmful accommodations governments have made on their behalf. It’s mostly to benefit those monopoly powers that governments have put the world in the pickle we’re in.

Predatory free trade agreements, such as NAFTA, that merely provide cheap labour for big business and harm ordinary citizens, can be abrogated.

Things have gone too far, too long, in the wrong direction, but there are many reasons for optimism that the paradigm is shifting and brighter days are right around the corner.