Quite frankly, I am not sure which of my many blogs (as I have many hats I wear) to write this post on. In the end, I decided to write on this blog as it came out of my discussion with my husband, and in so doing, it made me reflect upon my many roles as a woman, a mother, and a community leader. And since this blog’s areas of focus are on these vary things, I suppose this is the most appropriate stage to share my thoughts, even if I digress a bit from my usual writings about motherhood.
Now that I’ve put this into context, here is what I have been wondering: Perhaps the United States of America can learn from my home country. In what? In a socialism.
Now, before, I get bogged down or dismissed by anti-commmunist or conservative capitalist negations of my wondering from readers out there, I just want to say, let us at least look at what do I actually mean by that above statement.
I do not mean for the United States to become a socialist country, and I also do not think socialism and communism is the same thing. I do not mean for the United States to become this liberal “progressive” hippie commune bohemian society.
I just mean that perhaps, socialism has a place in American society and economy. Or maybe it is better to explain it as humanism having a place in American society and economy (although according to Jean-Paul Satre, existentialism is a humanism, and Erich Fromm’s thoughts on humanism leads toward socialism).
I have come from a country that was under oppressive authoritarian rule for past 63 years and only came into a fledging newborn democracy that has barely taken its first few steps in the past few months. The institutions in my country of birth have been almost completely destroyed, along with its infrastructure and civil societies. However, as with many groups of people who face countless adversities, there is incredible resilience as well, and one of them is the incredible humanism that runs through the fiber of our culture. It is partly due to our majority religion. It is partly due to the survival need to overcome the decades of constraints within our societies. But one of the first things to flourish in the country as it finally emerges into the light, is the growth of civil societies, or otherwise known as charitable organizations here in the United States. Interestingly, one of the other few things to flourish as vibrantly is the arts community.
Civil societies, and their closely related charitable social enterprises, are the driving forces of social change and healing agents in my birth country. While the new democractic government attempts to create a safe, just and equitable, and repair all the damages caused by the previous oppressive governments, it is really the work of these civil societies and social enterprises that are addressing the immediate legal, economical, social and psychological needs of the nation’s people. They are indeed socialism at work. Here I stress on the “social” part, rather than the “-ism” part.
These civil societies and social enterprises both advocate for or ensure that resources, as well as responsibilities and rights are shared proportionately and equitably, and provide the opportunities for production and distribution of wealth in a shared fashion. However, rather than complete common ownership, the market forces, i.e. captialism, are still allowed to happen, and rightfully so since the country is in dire need of economic development. Therefore, the emphasis here is the “social” rather than the “-ism” of socialism. The social needs are met through the shared ownership. It is not only shared ownership of wealth and resources, but also shared ownership of the problems and challenges.
So what has this got to do with the United States, or for that matter, about motherhood, womanhood, and even personhood? Well, the discussion with my husband had been about government bureaucracy and how it interferes with businesses and grassroots community work, i.e. my personhood as a professional, which has always been a challenging issue as a woman who is a mother. I straddle between working and home-making, while very much burdened by the fact that my working does not produce any real substantial income at all, due to the charitable nature of my work. In my charitable work, I understand that with funding from government coming from public taxpayer money, accountability and thus the inevitable bureaucracy is necessary to assure responsible use of such funds by grantees, either business vendors or non-profit agencies providing services to the community. However, at some point, the intervention or the management of government in social problem-solving becomes more of a hindrance than an assistance, yet how else can public accountability be addressed otherwise?
My tendency toward creativity or out-of-the-mold thinking leads me to wonder then, what if, just what if, non-profit organizations, or social enterprises, or even better yet, corporations that have embraced social responsibility as integral value of their businesses, take on the fiscal responsibility, then perhaps the government’s ever looming, clanky rigid bureaucracy would become unnecessary and cease to be relevant. This would free up the agents, whether non-profit organizations or social enterprises and socially responsible corporations, to lead and become effective social service agencies. If this is to be the case, then all the government needs to do is to create an environment that is conducive and welcoming of such charitable organizations, social enterprises and socially responsible corporations to flourish.
This leads me to think about my birth country, where this very growth is happening currently, and it seems that, if given the right reinforcements and socio-political space, they will continue to be the main pillar for a civil country. Perhaps then, my birth country has a thing or two to teach the United States about how to utilize these socialist agencies to solve social problems in the country, rather than rely on the government’s interventions and support system to do so. Having shared responsibility in the country’s challenges, and shared resources in overcoming these challenges, may be the solution to the inefficient and top-heavy social service system here in the United States. And the main part of the sharing is the social involvement and the social movement. That is how the people and societies in my birth country are solving the long-standing problems and coming up with quite responsive solutions that truly get to the heart of the people, and that are becoming real changemakers, even before the government can respond quickly enough to these demands of a newborn country.
Just a thought. Word up, word out, lay low, my mothas.