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February, 2007

Vision and the Fight for a New World
This column is a place for revolutionaries to debate why a cooperative society is a practical solution to the problems people are fighting out. We welcome your thoughts about the articles we are running and we welcome your articles. You can view all articles at here. E-mail info@peoplestribune.org or write: People's Tribune, P.O. Box 3524, Chicago, IL 60654

Extreme Makeover: America Needs One

BY JOHN SLAUGHTER

It's a beautiful story. A mother with three children loses her home in a fire. Then her son is killed in an automobile accident. Then she loses her job. Somehow the TV show, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" hears about her situation. Thousands of volunteers are organized to come in and tear down the old structure and build a fantastic new home in practically no time. And it's free! Hugs, kisses and tears all around. Don't you just wish this could happen to everybody?

Now this: This month, on Valentine's Day, the annual Poor People's Day will convene in Atlanta, and the theme this year is "For the Love of Georgia, End Poverty, Hunger and Homelessness." They will be talking about the 16,000 homeless living on the streets of Atlanta, 40 percent of whom are families. They will be discussing the fact that in Georgia more than 900,000 people are what our government now calls "food insecure" (Hungry!). Also, there are now 1.7 million people living in Georgia who have no health insurance.

"Extreme Makeover" is actually a pretty good model. With a hugely cooperative effort by the community, all of the needs of a family are met. The problem is that the TV show only provides for families in dire need, and only one a week at most. That doesn't even begin to address the needs of the millions of others who are in similar circumstances.

Our house, let's call it America (even though it's now becoming more a global house), has a structure. That structure is designed to shelter and meet the needs of the inhabitants, our family. Only it isn't. Because it is designed to put profits before people, greed before the good of all, this old house is in the process of self-destruction. On top sit the corporations and the wealthy, intent on maintaining this system which creates more wealth on one pole and more poverty on the other every day. This house is structurally flawed, because a house is supposed to shelter and meet the needs of all the people, and it can't. It is not even designed to do so.

We can't begin to end poverty, homelessness and hunger within the constraints of this system. Like the house on "Extreme Makeover," we need to build a new house, with different structures, which is built along cooperative lines, which is designed to meet the needs of the people first, which puts people before profits. America needs an Extreme Makeover.

And we can't just tinker with it. We're not talking about a facelift. That is a kind of makeover, but it is only skin deep. And we're not talking about a remodeling, trying to fix this here and that there, without really affecting the fundamental structures.

Katrina and the Gulf Coast are a reflection of what is happening to the whole of society. The houses have been torn down; Katrina took care of that. There has been a massive tearing down, but there has not been any real reconstruction. As in New Orleans, all over America homes are being torn down and in their places, developers are making millions building luxury condos for the wealthy. Homes for the rich, homelessness for the poor. The same old same old, only more.

You can't just build the same old house back again just the way it was. Remember Humpty Dumpty? America needs a new home, a new design. We already have all the building materials we need. We have the people. All we have to do is get that old house out of the way and begin the rebuilding. It will be a house we will all be proud to call home.

For the love of America, end hunger, homelessness and poverty forever.


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