False choices dominate our discussions around creating jobs and prosperity for the people who have been left behind by the modern economy. On the “right” we have false choices between jobs, protecting the environment, and just policies towards our diverse inhabitants including the immigrants who helped build this country. On the elite “left” we have the false belief that technology has all the answers for the economy.
The view of the techno-ideologists: Technology will continue to replace working class jobs and there is nothing we can do to shape the march towards future technological innovations as they systematically annihilate jobs – as if the technological machine has its own mind, its own will. The extraordinarily uncompassionate answer to those who found meaning building something with their bodies, with their hands, or as a team: go to code school. Yep, you heard me. Go to code school in your late 40s, set aside any experience or talent you previously had, so you can sit with a long row of coders half you age and far more technologically agile and stare at a computer screen until the moment when that job has also been replaced by the very technology you helped build. Or, alternatively, they receive a shrug as if there is just nothing to be done about it.
And perhaps some think that it is just acceptable to leave these people out of the economy, leave them with the scraps of part-time jobs working the fast-food window, stocking Wal-Mart, and then coming with there hands extended for help for cancer treatment, food, drug rehabilitation, federal aid for homes destroyed by climate disasters – having been denied the dignity of a job that meets their basic needs.
Or the sad state of affairs the profiteering leadership on the right is engineering crippling environmental, health and safety regulations, turning up the gas on projects that trudge ahead toward a climate catastrophe with unimaginable economic and social consequences, or centralizing a police state amassing power by exploiting fear to control our movement, control what we say and violently violate the physical and spiritual rights of its people. This is not how we create jobs. It is how we create war, divisiveness, destruction.
Why is it so harmful to pretend false choices with respect to our most significant national challenges? Because it shuts down problem solving for real solutions. Because it distracts us from ever having the right conversations. Because it turns allies into enemies so we can’t even sit with one another and talk about the things that are most meaningful to us: our livelihoods, keeping our loved ones safe, plotting our national course so that our children and grandchildren have opportunities and a safe world to live in.
And there is so much I don’t know because I’ve been just as isolated as anyone. For example, an article in the New York Times this past Sunday, In America’s Heartland, Discussing Climate Change Without Saying ‘Climate Change,’ talks about the perspectives of farmers in the Midwest regarding climate change and environmental regulation. They are rightly frustrated with environmentalists on the left who wrongly assume that they don’t care about the environment even though the environment arguably impacts them more than anyone. And there are valid perspectives on instances where environmental regulations came down on them, crafted by people who don’t know a thing about farming or the way they make a living, that caused real hardship for them and in some cases were ideological rather than pragmatic. And the reality is that we need to have real dialogue to come up with solutions that actually work for people and not just on paper.
So lets call false choices for what they are: BS.
Now I can’t say how to create jobs in other fields, but I can say that technology will enable a business model for my company that would never have been possible, namely made to measure garments. Yet, with equal attention I am mindful of where technology enables me to create high quality jobs for sewers and manufacturing personnel. And I know this requires extra attention and intention to ensure that people are still a valuable part of the process. But I don’t want to work in a company comprised of robots and miserable, isolated individuals. Indeed what I am building is all about connection: connection to our garments and the people, animals and resources behind them, connection to our tribe as women, connection to our power and to our world.
In the end, it is all about intention. Intention to build a new, green world fueled by the talent and power of people, for the people and for this great Earth we hold dearly.