Treating People Equally while Taking Away Their Benefits
I first wrote this on March 1, 2017
Mark Snyder, the director of communications for the Equality Federation, a national advocacy group: “Businesses have been leading the fight for full equality over the last few years. LGBT people are part of the fabric of our nation. We have families, we go to work, we simply wish to be treated equally.”
Back during the late 1980s, when I came out as gay, the activists I met and befriended in the Raleigh–Durham–Chapel Hill area of North Carolina had a different kind of agenda from the one summarized above. We didn't want to be treated equally, and that seemed like an unrealistic dream anyway. Instead we wanted to celebrate our differences while building a more diverse society with better economic equality for all.
Instead of asking for same-gender marriage, we criticized the concept of marriage as a fundamental economic unit and embraced alternative types of relationships and social economics. Instead of asking for LGBT people to serve openly in the US military, we criticized the hyper militarization of the US and its imperialist missions overseas. Instead of asking the Fortune 500 multinational capitalist-lobbyist establishment to treat us equally (i.e., in the same exploitative ways as they treated straight people), we imagined various kinds of social democracy or socialism in which all people had access to lifelong education & training, health care, housing, food, transportation, employment, pensions, and child care.
In other words, we viewed discrimination against LGBT people as a symptom of a wider set of problems that also included sexism and racism and poverty, imprisonment and exploitation, nationalism and global militarism. An alliance between wealthy corporate-aristocratic interests and a perverted form of conservative "Christianity" was holding humanity back while simultaneously destroying the global environment.
During the 30 years since, I've watched LGBT rights advance in various ways, along with advances in the achievements of individual women and people of color. So many of the progressive causes of my youth have flourished and become more mainstream.
Meanwhile, the corporate-aristocratic interests have adapted to these causes quite painlessly. Profits as a fraction of GDP are at record highs. Income and wealth inequalities are returning to levels like those of pre-industrial times. Union membership continues its long decline. The federal minimum wage hasn't increased a penny since 2009. Global CO2 emissions are still accelerating, and human activity is causing the same level of species extinction as when asteroids pelted the dinosaurs.
When huge multinational corporations such as Apple and Google lead "the fight for full equality" what they are really fighting for is twofold:
(1) They want to be able to hire and exploit talented workers regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, physical disability, etc.
(2) They want to be able to sell products to consumers regardless of their gender, race, sexual orientation, religion, national origin, physical disability, etc.
This is a very limited fight for full equality. The right to hire whomever they want, and the right to sell stuff to everybody.
What they are fighting for is a more rationalized version of global capitalism. That's all.
Last year the CEO of Apple, openly gay Tim Cook, held a fundraiser for the Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.
What have Paul Ryan's biggest goals been lately? Reducing tax rates for corporations and wealthy people, and either cutting or extinguishing federal entitlement programs for health care, pensions, food, housing, and education.
Tim Cook has also spoken openly and eloquently in favor of treating all people equally, regardless of race, gender, national origin, sexual orientation, etc.
And here you can see the fundamental conflict at the heart of US politics.
On the left, we want to treat all people equally. On the right, we want to cut taxes and entitlements. Multinational corporations want both of these things, and spend billions of dollars on both Democrats and Republicans in the hope they can get both of these things.
Yet, the voters are not quite ... not quite that stupid. They understand, in varying idiosyncratic ways, that treating people equally while taking away their benefits is not a good deal. And they understand, in varying idiosyncratic ways, that the same corporate fundraisers are behind both the Democrats and the Republicans, and that both parties have presided over increasing economic inequality for the past 36 years.
When you contemplate the horrible election of 2016, with unpopular Hillary against unpopular Donald, and the most unpopular of the two winning, don't forget the wider context. That the "fight for full equality" being waged by multinational corporations is leaving most of us behind.
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