With conflicts in eastern Ukraine continuing despite serious attempts to enforce a cease-fire, and bombs and missiles dropping in Iraq and Syria, and hundreds of migrant refugees drowning in the Mediterranean, as they try to escape the ravages of war, famine, homelessness and fear in Africa, and the Dow-Jones average climbing to the stratosphere, and politicians in many jurisdictions attempting to bridge the gap between state incomes and state expenditures by zapping needed human services, and First Nations communities in Canada's north "existing" under a boiled water order for the last fifteen-plus years while another community has been moved to escape flooding for the fourth year in a row, United States media and voters were treated to one of the more refreshing pieces of news in months this week: Independent Senator Bernie Sanders has officially thrown his hat into the ring as a candidate for the Democratic Party's bid for the White House.
Sometimes, a little piece of news, has to serve as an antidote to the steady diet of violence, corruption, racism and institutional failure, in the public's insatiable thirst for a glimpse of hope, reassurance and confirmation that the world is not literally and metaphorically disintegrating before your eyes.
(On that very thesis, Chrysta Freedland has a piece in the most recent "The Atlantic" magazine that documents the shift in the consciousness of international corporations from little or no interest and focus on geopolitics to a concerted, if somewhat slow, attempt to survey the evidence of shifting sands in all areas of the world, so that they can better manage their fortunes and potential profits and losses.)
Good news, sometimes, has to come from stories about royal births, as it did this morning in London, with the announcement of the birth of the Princess of Cambridge, sister to Prince George.
Back to Bernie Sanders.
Why is his announcement so significant to the American electorate and to the people of the rest of the world?
Most obvious is his lifelong advocacy for principles of equality, fairness, including higher corporate taxes, what he would call "their fair share"..and the removal of private cash from the politics of election campaigns. And in a country in which the uber-rich are living in gated communities in cities and towns across the land, "above" the rest of their community, and the next level of wealth forms another layer of stratification also "above" ordinary people, and then there is the galloping growth of ghettos inhabited by the poor, the unemployed, the less well educated, and the people who struggle without hope of escaping those ghettos, unless they win a NFL or the NBA, or land an entertainment contract from a record or movie company.
While Sanders' entry into the race may look like a small finger in a dyke that is already broken from the overwhelming rush of cash into the political coffers, the man himself is serious in telling anyone who will listen that he is not in the race to move Hillary Clinton to the left, but he is in the race "to win".
Call that quixotic if you like, and while some 35,000 contributions averaging $43 flowed into the Bernie Sanders for President coffers on the day of his announcement, his is still a steep mountain, craggy, windy and lonely, to climb even to gain serious coverage from the largely horse-race-addicted national media. The American culture is imbued with the profound belief that competition makes everyone better. And certainly, Sanders will provide a small voice of competition to Ms Clinton, her Fort Knox of cash will vastly outweigh anything Sanders can raise.
This is a time, however, when the unpredictable is the only sure thing, and the least likely can easily become the accepted and even victorious outcome. ( In Canada, this upcoming week, a province governed by a Conservative government for over four decades is about to vote in a "socialist" government under the banner of the New Democratic Party. That province is Alberta, the home of the tar sands, the Prime Minister and the largest black eye on the Canadian reputation for reducing greenhouse gases.)
Also, there is a growing, credible and diverse choir of voices emerging from the small and independent news outlets, including the blogosphere, that is increasingly impacting both the coverage of the corporate news machines, and the relevance of the previously insect-like political voices. Can Sanders garner the respect of those voices with a close look at his two decades-plus political career as an "independent" who has shouted the causes of the times long before they were even a blip on the radar screens of the large television and newspapers' radar?
This is one space, in which the articulations of Bernie Sanders will receive critical acclaim, if for no other reason, than the commodification, and objectification and digitization of all human activity, including the Darwinian race for survival of the fittest (judged only on the ability to pay!) is threatening not merely the American political system, but also the world's attention and focus on wealth as the definition of human purpose.
It is not, never has been and never will be!
And if Bernie Sanders serves to raise the unconscious sleep-walking power structures inside America, and hopefully around the world to the reality that human beings are much more, and much more complicated and interesting than the size of their bank accounts, then we will all owe him a debt of gratitude. And we will begin to re-focus the efforts of all governments and all cultures and all faith communities on living together, sharing, collaborating and learning how best to resolve conflict, without the rush to bullets, bombs and missiles as our "defence"...when we all know they do not provide that security we all desire.
Lets raise a toast to the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, former mayor of Burlington Vermont, too often ridiculed as a "boutique" state by the political establishment, and shed light on the reality that, for many of us, the most interesting and most creative and the most artistic experiences of our lives as consumers have come in small boutiques of highly creative encounters.
May Bernie Sanders be another of such experiences for the American political consumer!