By RA Monaco
It is no surprise that nurse-advocates are on the front lines of a myriad of social justice issues—prevention of illness, promotion of public health and protection of the planet is in their professional DNA.
“It’s an immediate and short-term threat to planetary civilization” warned University of Washington professor Peter Ward, Ph.D. while explaining how inert methane in our soil and ocean floor could rapidly dissociate into gas, releasing trillions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere. An author of many books including Under a Green Sky, Professor Ward’s research on global warming includes habitability and mass extinctions of the past and what they can tell us about future mass extinctions.
The consensus of climate change scientists like Prof. Ward are drawing comparisons from what is known about five other mass extinctions and they universally agree that our rising global temperatures have a tipping point which would trigger a threat to planetary civilization. “It’s an uncontrolled experiment” said Penn State University professor of meteorology Michael Mann, Ph.D. and “there is no precedent for what we are doing to the atmosphere, you can only recognize that tipping point once it’s too late to do anything about it.”
In a Void of World Leadership National Nurses United Takes Action
In the face of a crisis of world leadership, National Nurses United—a leading nurses’ organization with 185, 000 Registered Nurses across all 50 states—is actively taking the lead in a myriad of social justice issues. They were in New York City to participate in the Great Climate March which saw over 400,000 protestors hit the streets. Along the way, they protested in solidarity with environmental advocates at Daley Plaza to speak out against the mounds of petroleum coke that continues to pollute Chicago.
The next day, they took the protest to a KCBX Terminal—controlled by petrochemical billionaires Charles and David Koch—on the Southside along the Calumet River where huge mounds of exposed pet coke are piled. Fearlessly, these marchers carried out a “die-in” where they simply pretended to be dead along the rails and actually stopped a train, preventing it from passing.
Though the victory may seem small in the scheme of our fossil fuel climate crisis, Chicagoans and activists should be pleased to learn that Beemsterboer Slag Corp. will close their Calumet Transload Facility and leave the city. The Koch controlled KCBX Terminal on the other hand, has decided to hunker down threatening to sue the city if they’re even required to cover the dusty piles of pet coke before 2018.
Working Poor Have Become the Norm in the Community
It is no surprise really, that nurse-advocates like National Nurses United are on the front lines of a myriad of social justice issues—prevention of illness and the protection and promotion of health is in their professional DNA. They are the foundation of public health in our society. Nurses work because they are called, because they care, because they are givers and, make no mistake, because they are fighters too.
National Nurses United has seen corporate profits soar while economic opportunity for far too many Americans has become a mere illusion. Nurses see people struggling daily to meet the costs of basic needs—housing, food, and medical care. They’re keenly aware that the “working poor” have become the norm in their community and how everyone is affected when healthcare, pensions, safety net programs and education is cut for anyone.
Importantly, National Nurses United is doing something about it and at a time when neoliberal business models mutate around the globe actively working to undermine labor unions. Since uniting with leading nurses’ organizations in December 2009 the ranks of National Nurses United has grown rapidly.
They recognize that the “medical industrial complex” is active in all aspects of the economy attacking staffing standards while working to reduce full-time positions into a contingent work force. In the eyes of National Nurses United, the same forces that are trying to destroy the profession of Registered Nurses are also destroying our planet—they’re sinister mutations of the same few top echelon corporations intent on transferring wealth from the public to private interests.
These nurse-advocates want people to know that local hospitals and clinics are being gobbled up by giant corporations whose primary purpose is not to promote public health but to cut costs and increase their profits. Cheap outpatient clinics, promoted as “improving access to healthcare” in reality, are a ruse to sidestep critical healthcare regulations and safe RN staffing standards.
Crafting a New Blueprint for Society
Nurse-advocates aren’t content in a role to solely alleviate pain. Organization’s like National Nurses United (NNU) and their international counterpart Global Nurses United (GNU), have set out to be part of crafting a new blueprint for society with social initiatives and campaigns like “OUR PLANET, OUR PATIENTS, OUR FUTURE.”
They’re calling for a “Main Street Contract” on behalf of the American People that demands living wage jobs, equal access to quality public education, guaranteed healthcare for everyone, a secure and dignified retirement, protection from hunger, housing, and a just taxation system where corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share.
Nurse-advocates want to revitalize the U.S. economy while protecting and providing a safe, clean and healthy environment for people. They seek to expand and improve Medicare for everyone with a single standard of care for all based on patient need, not ability to pay. They’re speaking out on behalf of seniors who face poverty, homelessness and forced to work far into their retirement years.
Nurse-advocates have seen through the discredited ideology of unregulated capitalism and the mythical narrative propagated by sinister corporations, self help gurus and others, that if Americans dig deep enough within ourselves, focus on happiness, find our strength, or believe in a miracle, we can have everything we desire.
Most importantly, while citizens have been blinded to the corporate structures that have made it impossible for families to live with dignity or lift themselves out of poverty—now approaching nearly 50 million people in this country alone—National Nurses United has thrown themselves onto the front lines and taken action to stop the corporate apparatus designed to enrich a tiny elite while plundering the nation.
Challenging Inverted Totalitarianism
The work of justifying corporate power today is being carried out by educated elite, who manufacture propaganda to keep us trapped in a culture of political illusions. According to Sheldon S. Wolin, Professor of Politics, Emeritus, at Princeton University and writer on contemporary politics, inverted totalitarianism represents the “political coming of age of corporate power and the political demobilization of the citizenry.”
Unlike classical totalitarianism, the corporate forces behind inverted totalitarianism purport to honor electoral politics, freedom and the constitution, but so corrupt and manipulate power as to make democracy impossible.
The model for Twentieth-Century corporate and government advertising and publicity embeds their messages with the confident knowledge that “the force of an idea lies in its inspirational value. It matters little whether it is true or false.” They’ve developed and honed these fundamental practices since the founding of the Committee for Public Information—the first mass propaganda machine created during the Woodrow Wilson administration designed to win support of the nation to enter World War I.
Today, nurse-advocates are doing battle with huge, sophisticated and well funded propaganda campaigns designed to emasculate powerful social movements that denounce capitalist exploitations.
Lifting tactics from the propaganda playbook that fueled our mass consumer culture, companies like ExxonMobil are funding networks of grassroots organizations opposed to the science of climate change. They’re recruiting scientists to publish non-peer-review articles challenging the scientific evidence and using those “experts” on the national airwave to manufacture confusion. Worse, they’re funding the political campaigns of Representatives and Senators willing to deny the science of climate change.
The powerful techniques of appealing to emotion, of creating pseudo-events that a public could confuse with reality, of constantly taking the pulse of the public through survey and opinion polls to appear to give people what they desire have left our future in the hands of the enemies of truth.
Dark Money to Deny Science and Democracy
As if the challenges of protecting humanity and our environment weren’t difficult enough for advocates like National Nurses United, the amount of untraceable or so-called “dark money” donations funding organizations denying climate change has risen dramatically in the past five years. Most troubling, is how this untraceable money amplifies certain voices that confuse the science over the scientist themselves.
In a recent study, Drexel University environmental sociologist Robert Brulle, Ph.D. conducted the first academic effort to uncover the financial underpinnings of the climate denial movement. Notably, Brulle’s study found that traceable cash flow has disappeared from traditional sources such as Koch Industries and ExxxonMobil.
The largest, most-consistent money fueling the climate denial movement comes from well-funded conservative foundations where only a fraction of the hundreds of millions supporting climate denial efforts are from identifiable sources. According to Brulle, failure of the world to act on global warming is attributable to a well funded countermovement where money that cannot be traced flows through third-party, pass-through foundations like Donors Trust and Donors Capital.
As a matter of democracy, accurate information, democratic politics and government accountability have become impossible. American voters deserve to know who is behind these efforts. Our understanding about the roots and remedies which climate scientists have made clear, threatens human existence.
Nurse-Advocates Should Write the Next Chapter with the Help of Artists
By shutting down reform mechanisms, the corporate state has created a closed system defined by polarization, gridlock and political theater. The working class is being subsumed completely by the power elite and a naïve inability to question the utopian promises of unfettered capitalism and globalization.
Art has long been our window into cultures of the past. Artist and musicians gave later generations a language by which they, and their society, could be understood. As an example, try to imagine the protests of the Vietnam War without the music of the 60’s. Art and music help us to sort the confusion and tells people it’s OK to think and feel unpopular things. Without that assurance, people are isolated with their own perceptions of reality drifting in the clutter of a digital media landscape, retreating to official conformity even when it betrays the ideals it is meant to support.
Future generations won’t likely see cave paintings of “OUR PLANET, OUR PATIENTS, OUR FUTURE” or murals of nurse-advocates trying to save the planet from climate denial propagandists feeding at the troughs of dark money. But, it is with the melodies and lyrics of musicians, defiant voices of activists, artists, documentary film makers, journalists, storytellers, nurse-advocates and those yet to be stripped of humanity, tenderness and empathy that our next chapter should be written.