People Get Ready


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The political reforms that were demanded and largely achieved in the period from to —an elected Senate; votes for women; bans on corporate campaign contributions; direct primaries; the option for citizens to petition for initiatives, referendums and recalls; limited protections for labor organizing and collective bargaining; structural shifts that allowed for the development of state banks and municipal utilities; an expanded commitment to public education in general and higher education in particular—did not immediately repair all that ailed America.

In some ways, this new democratic infrastructure made things more unstable, more uncertain. But the instability was democratic rather than feudal, and it pointed toward prospects for fundamental change that would be realized as the defeated Democratic vice-presidential nominee of became the elected Democratic president of The political crisis facing Americans has to do with a more traditional definition of disconnect—the sort that occurs when a fully developed and otherwise functional device does not work because it is not connected to a power supply. The power supply we refer to is the great mass of Americans, many of them already active, many more ready to be engaged.

They need a democratic infrastructure that can translate their existing and evolving demands for an economy that translates technological advancement into societal progress. But this is not the case. The economic and social changes ushered in by long periods of deindustrialization, radical workplace change, and stark wage stagnation are creating chaos that benefits 1 percent or so of our population but that leaves the rest of us confused, frightened, and justifiably angered. The keyword of our moment is disruptive. This country is seeing the renewal of historic ideals of public and cooperative enterprise.

The United States has a vibrant Slow Food movement that has established itself in every state and every major city, along with many small towns. This movement is developing and supporting sustainable models for farming, food production, and eating out—or in. And there is an expanded vision of cooperative enterprise that has begun to renew old ideals of worker ownership and consumer involvement in a country where almost thirty thousand cooperatives have issued almost million memberships.

This country has a movement to address climate change that recognizes the economic and political challenges outlined by Naomi Klein and Bill McKibben and other visionaries. Valeo, Citizens United, and McCutcheon decisions. They seek nothing less than a constitutional amendment that will renew the fundamental American premises that money is not speech, that corporations are not people, and that citizens and their elected representatives have a right to shape campaign finance laws to ensure that votes matter more than dollars.

Sixteen states have formally requested action to amend the constitution. Millions of Americans have voted in referendums, signed petitions, and appeared before legislatures, city councils, and town boards to demand an electoral politics that is defined by ideas rather than the money power of self-interested billionaires and pay-to-play corporations. But they have not succeeded in making big-enough change—or even in creating the space where the change might be possible.


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We hear powerful and poignant arguments for this model of prioritization or that. We have made some of them ourselves. But, if history is any indicator, we know that the defining and uniting issue will be economic. And we know that the crisis of a jobless future will bring millions of Americans who are not currently engaged into a fight that extends from the First Amendment—sanctioned direct action of assembling and petitioning for the redress of grievances through the organizing of new-model labor unions and cooperatives, to the casting of ballots on behalf of candidates who really are better than their opponents.

But we also know, as was the case two hundred years ago on the moors of Yorkshire, and one hundred years ago in the sweatshops of New York, that the political process is weighted against this activism—indeed, against all activism. To do this, Sanders spoke, constantly, of the need to rejuvenate the democratic infrastructure with constitutional amendments, sweeping reforms and unprecedented levels of popular engagement.

We ought not neglect the concern, the fear, the anger, the passion, the hope, the idealism that have drawn millions of Americans to movements that are so real and so needed—and yet so frustrated. There is a change coming. It is a frightening change. Yet, because the threat is so daunting, because the requirements of a response are so great, it all becomes an abstraction. Even when people read the details of what is coming their way in ten or twenty or thirty years, even when those details are outlined by our best scientists, there is a powerful temptation to wait for a clarifying moment before leaping into action.

The trouble is, environmentalists fear, that when the clarifying moment comes, it will be too late. We fear that the same could be true when it comes to reports about how the technological revolution under the auspices of contemporary capitalism is going to create new waves of unemployment and underemployment—with more poverty, wage stagnation, and inequality, and with devastating implications for society and democracy.

The changes are unfolding now, in our own lives, in our own communities. The apps are being downloaded, the robots are rolling into the hospitals. Two years from the moment you read these words, the planet will add more computer power than it did in all previous history. By the late s there will likely be a thousandfold increase in computer power from where we are today. If the great mass of Americans are going to have any role whatsoever in the shaping of this future, if there is to be any chance at all that the twenty-first century will belong to the whole of humanity as opposed to the monopolists of a new Gilded Age, then the defining economic issues of the age must become the defining political issues of the age.

Americans must recognize that our contemporary political discourse stifles rather than encourages the debates about economic and social responses that might benefit the overwhelming majority of us—in large part because our political infrastructure has been organized to take essential issues off the table. Putting issues on the table is the most radical and freeing of all political acts, as it opens to everyone the range of possibility that is always available to the elites.

This is the essence of democracy. Americans must build out the democratic infrastructure, not only to repair the damage that has been done to it in recent years, but to take it to places that the boldest visionaries of the past could barely imagine. We argue that the extension of democracy to economic planning is imperative. While we mention all the main elements of such an agenda herein, we reject the notion of rank-ordering them because this is an agenda that must integrate with itself. Our purpose is to illustrate the range of possibility and the free-wheeling—and, yes, disruptive—mindset that must be brought to democratic exploration and innovation.

There is a point here that cannot be lost: Only when the democratic infrastructure is in place does it become possible to realize its promise fully. Only then do victories become more permanent, rather than fleeting. Only then do people stop fretting about their powerlessness and start using their power. Existing US capitalism is similarly a dubious fit for the present technological revolution, and it is a bad fit for democracy. This evidence is drawn from scholars and experts who acknowledge that a tension exists between capitalism as currently practiced and what passes for democracy in America.

They understand that this puts considerable strain upon the democratic values and institutions of the country. Yet, for the most part, the notion that capitalism itself must be subject to no-holds-barred political debate is unspeakable, even unthinkable. Yet there is little self-awareness in the United States today among those who ponder the jobs crisis and the incompatibility automation has with our current political economy. Indeed, most writers assume capitalism as it has come to be known is the basis for democracy and freedom, and that whatever happens in the future, the necessity of preserving current capitalism or some sped-up version of it all but trumps other concerns.

Nothing should be done to alter the power of the digital giants or the unquestioned dominance and legitimacy of the profit motive when it comes to defining the future. Even the truest believers in capitalism, if they are honest with themselves, have to recognize that this is a political gambit, a means for taking the biggest issues off the table. When we cannot have a wide-ranging debate about economics, then concentrated economic power translates into general cultural power. This is the nature of the present weltanschauung.

We live in a time when it is illegitimate to say that the emperor is wearing no clothes. This barrier to a no-holds-barred discourse about how best to organize a civil, humane, and deeply democratic future, with liberty and justice for all, warps the debate about the future. It takes not just issues, but ideas, off the table. And it leaves us with too narrow a range of options—even for scholars who have taught us much and care deeply about this country, its peoples, and its future. If changing the economy is off the table, how can the great economic problems outlined in their research, and in all of our books, be addressed?

If we may generalize, the one solution that has currency, and that is promoted by scholars who have done so much to identify the concerns outlined in this book Erik Brynjolfsson, Andrew McAfee, and Martin Ford, among them is the notion of a basic income or guaranteed annual income for all people in the nation. The sales pitch to the affluent sector of the population that will pay higher taxes to bankroll the program is twofold: It says quite a bit about the constricted range of debate today that Brynjolfsson and McAfee assert that basic-income proposals are radical ideas, at the outer limits of what might be acceptable.

The idea of basic income was first posited by those on the left in the… If people are going to organize a gigantic battle, they ought to fight for more than this. They ought to fight for a world where their concerns are central, and not struggle to be extras in a world of, by, and for the rich. In our view, a more humane approach would be to go in the opposite direction and simply remove certain functions from the market altogether as the society grows wealthier.

Make broadband Internet access free and ubiquitous. Make healthcare free and ubiquitous. Make extensive public transportation within cities and between them free and ubiquitous. Make all education free and ubiquitous. The list goes on and on. At some point, down the road, inequality is eliminated and humans enter an entirely new phase of their history. Education is where the major battle for the future is going on today. Most of the arguments are economic: This is a largely utilitarian view of education that sees it as developing labor skills and high incomes for students. Technology is offered as a way to reduce the reliance on human teachers—and in the form of so-called distance learning to eliminate schools themselves.

One can only wonder where this leads when there are far fewer jobs and people are increasingly living off basic-income vouchers. What is lost in this calculus are the two reasons the United States implemented public education in the first place: School reformers often claim they want to create schools to help poor kids become rich adults, but commonly they send their own children to exclusive private schools, with hardly any testing and, ironically, very little technology. Indeed, research shows that a disproportionate percentage of tech billionaires and CEOs went to alternative Montessori schools as children.

And in the Silicon Valley many of their children go to alternative Waldorf Schools that emphasize freedom, flexibility, and the arts. In short, these CEOs and their children are educated in an intimate, non-competitive environment with few tests or grades and an emphasis on personal growth, creativity, and critical thinking. That seems to be the civilized and humane target for a post-scarcity society. Why not make this the basic premise of every education debate? The drama of the story is revealed in the retelling of how dispossessed and oppressed human beings gained for themselves a place at the table of democracy—of how African Americans, Native Americans, Chicanos, women, immigrants, religious dissenters, freethinkers, radical editors, trade unionists, poor people, young people, and gays and lesbians achieved full and meaningful citizenship.

This is the greatest American story. These struggles built our democratic infrastructure and an understanding that only through solidarity, through a commitment to one another that bridged difference and indifference, could we all be free and prosperous. This is the story of how the promise of democracy became the reality of democracy. And it is vital to understanding the work of building a democratic infrastructure that is sufficient to the challenges that are coming our way. From the beginning of the American experiment, there has been an understanding of the basic requirements of democracy: The Populist and Progressive Eras recognized that the character of America was changing as a once predominantly rural and agrarian country was becoming increasingly urban and industrial.

New democratic practices and arrangements were developed to counter corruption and inequality. The backroom deal was finally ended as a directly elected US Senate was established. Citizens were given the power to write and veto laws via initiatives and referendums and to remove officials via the recall power.

Government was given strength and meaning in relation to economic power, via the establishment of the progressive income tax, the authority to tax corporations, and the banning of corporate contributions to campaigns. But even this progress was insufficient, as the Great Depression and the rise of fascism confirmed with scorching force and immediacy. Realizing just what is written above would constitute nothing less than a political revolution, and an economic revolution.

Our economy would need to be radically transformed—to get off the drug of militarism, to end crony-capitalism policymaking, to get real about planning and social investment—in order to provide all the elements of the economic bill of rights.

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And the transformation would need to be ongoing. For instance, the ancient sanction against corruption must be updated to guard against the privatization and outsourcing of public education and public responsibilities. It is imperative to remove profiteering from the provision of public goods: If recent decades have taught us anything, it is that Dwight Eisenhower was right to warn against the threat posed by a military-industrial complex. And it is becoming increasingly clear that, as taxpayers and citizens, we cannot afford a prison-industrial complex or an education-industrial complex.

Democracy cannot be maintained when profiteers obtain lucrative contracts and then use the money to hire lobbyists and fund campaigns so that they can obtain yet more lucrative contracts. Likewise, having an ecology that can sustain human life is not some premium channel a society can select in addition to the democratic basic package. It is not like having satellite radio added to your new car purchase.

It is the very foundation for human existence for all societies and must be regarded as such. Environmental movements have come to understand and advance the idea that their success rises and falls with movements for democracy and social justice worldwide. Which was kind of true, except that the riches went to only a few people. And in the process they melted the Arctic, as well as dramatically increasing inequality around the world. Also increasing is the sense that we are all in this together, and we have common interest in a democratic infrastructure.

Elite solutions for the environment, just like the economy, will tend to serve elite interests. As the saying goes, if you are not at the table when decisions are being made, you are the dish that is being served.

Making folk music a part of our everyday lives

A full democratic infrastructure provides more than the right to vote. Full democratic infrastructure provides economic and social security, a free flow of information, and absolute protection against discrimination and corruption so that every citizen—not just those who are wealthy—has the freedom to engage fully in the politics and governance of the nation. None of this presupposes a particular type of economy, yet all of it presupposes that every American will have the right to participate fully and meaningfully in determining what type of economy best serves her—and best frames the future.

When a crisis causes a jolt, as will surely be the case with the technological and social transformations that are now unfolding, citizens must retain the power to put economic options on the table—and to embrace the best of those options. Constitutions underpin and frame our democratic infrastructure. Yet, they do not always make it functional. Nothing thwarts political and economic democracy like a constitution so imprecise that it allows right-wing judicial activists to make buying elections easy and voting hard.

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Instead of democracy, the Constitution of gave us an unelected Senate and an Electoral College and other structures intended to control rather than empower the unruly masses. Americans who had fought to end the abuses of old elites objected to the prospect of being abused by new ones. They demanded and by had won the ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights. Seventeen more amendments have come since then. Seven of those amendments overturned Supreme Court rulings, and almost all of them sought to extend democracy, end corruption, and make the federal government more responsive to new times and new challenges.

To get to democracy, there has to be a democratization of communications that ensures that all Americans are sufficiently informed to fully engage as citizens. There are no market solutions, no technical fixes, no new economic models. People—citizens—will need to be in charge of the funding of the next media system. With roots that go back for decades, the media-reform movement came together in its modern form to thwart Bush-era attempts to effectively eliminate limits on the amount of media that one corporation could own in one community—and, by extension, nationally.

More recently, it has blocked efforts to undermine net neutrality, the essential tool for defending free speech and the free flow of communications on the Internet. In an age of rapidly changing media, then, the media-reform movement has already engaged millions of Americans in the fight to prevent some very bad things from happening. Media-reform activism must be part of a broad democratic agenda for a digital age.

Citizens who possess little or no wealth must have the same information that citizens with great wealth now enjoy. Hedge-fund managers and CEOs do not seek information as entertainment. They are not spectators. They get the best information that can be found and they act on it.


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  5. Citizens who would be their own governors must adopt the same sensibility. For obvious reasons, journalism that democratizes access to information will not be funded by the elites. So the United States should give the people the tools to subsidize independent, not-for-profit journalism. The United States developed a press system that was the envy of the world in the early nineteenth century through massive postal and printing subsidies for newspapers. The founders of the American experiment were not familiar with the term public good, but they treated the press as just that.

    And they did so in the only way that made democratic sense, by providing generous postal and printing subsidies to all publications—even those that dissented, even those that, like the abolitionist press, proposed radical change—so that none were puppets of the government. She can split her two hundred dollars among different qualifying nonprofit media, indicating her choice on her tax return or a simple form. This program would be purely voluntary, like the tax-form check-offs for funding elections or protecting wildlife.

    Simple universal standards can be developed for media that qualifies for voucher funding, erring always on the side of expanding rather than constraining the number of qualifying newsrooms. A small existing agency, such as the Postal Regulatory Commission which has some history in this area , could provide necessary oversight and administration. Based on a proposal from economist Dean Baker, the Citizen News Voucher program we outline here represents a literal and practical response to the transformation of media in the digital age.

    It combines a healthy hostility to government control over news content with a faith in the power of individuals to make their own choices, and it recognizes the public-good nature of journalism. A news voucher program would allow public-media organizations to dramatically increase their funding. Imagine if a public television station in a metropolitan area of one million people that was ill-served by existing media—which is to say any and every metropolitan area—managed to get fifty thousand viewers to donate half of their Citizen News Voucher to help with the development of a newsroom to cover state and local elections and government.

    Millions of people came to the defense of the open Internet to tell Washington, in no uncertain terms, that the Internet belongs to all of us and not just a few greedy phone and cable companies. Then we got them. The information we need to utilize and maintain a democratic infrastructure will be ours if we make the struggle for that information part of an agenda that recognizes the necessity of political and economic democracy. And if we hoop ourselves together to advance that agenda, we can get it. Indeed, if we hoop ourselves together at a moment when people will be demanding transformative change, we can get a whole lot more.

    It seems like everyone gets it. When the Occupy movement exploded onto the scene in , even Republicans talked about inequality as a problem, albeit for a split-second. Dramatically lessening economic inequality is required to have a functional democracy; there is no two ways about it. One of the essential explanations for mounting economic inequality in the United States is the increasing monopoly power over the economy.

    This was well understood in the Progressive Era, the New Deal, and even in the s. Monopolies themselves were recognized as singularly anti-democratic constructs that needed to be weakened. Economic concentration is far more prevalent today than in any of those earlier times. The digital economy is nothing if not a hothouse for monopoly. Yet the issue gets barely any serious discussion; massive monopolistic corporations are treated as if they are part of the unchangeable scenery, like the Rocky Mountain range.

    It shows just how powerful these firms are that they can buy their way out of critical analysis. It must be addressed squarely or any hard-earned popular reforms will be fleeting. Fortunately, the current crisis is sparking a renaissance in thinking with regard to corporate power and monopoly. Teachout took it as such. Although calls to break up the banks failed, the mainstream demand lives on. Banks are bigger and more concentrated than ever, but the consensus ideology was burst.

    However, the anti-monopoly sentiment stayed largely caged in its own arena, an idea reserved for banks, not for a way of seeing the economy more broadly. Comcast, even without the merger, threatens our liberties. One-hundred-and-ten years ago, a group calling itself the Antitrust League held events around the country, demanding the government break up big companies.

    The modern antitrust leagues are just now forming. But why stop there? Breaking up monopolies makes sense in some cases, but in others, indeed in the most oppressive of monopoly circumstances, it is virtually impossible to break up a giant company into five or ten competitive parts. There is an old argument that could be made new again. If ads still aren't showing, look into tweaking your browser settings so that they start to show. Thank you for supporting our work. People Get Ready Paramount Producer: People Get Ready by Aretha Franklin People Get Ready by The Housemartins People Get Ready by James Taylor People Get Ready by Phil Collins You must obtain permission directly from the owner of the image.

    Occasionally, Duke University Press controls the rights to maps or other drawings. Please direct permission requests for these images to permissions dukeupress. For book covers to accompany reviews, please contact the publicity department.

    Covers of People Get Ready by The Impressions | WhoSampled

    Instructions for requesting an electronic text on behalf of a student with disabilities are available here. In People Get Ready , musicians, scholars, and journalists write about jazz since , the year that Curtis Mayfield composed the famous civil rights anthem that gives this collection its title. The contributors emphasize how the political consciousness that infused jazz in the s and early s has informed jazz in the years since then. They bring nuance to historical accounts of the avant-garde, the New Thing, Free Jazz, "non-idiomatic" improvisation, fusion, and other forms of jazz that have flourished since the s, and they reveal the contemporary relevance of those musical practices.

    Many of the participants in the jazz scenes discussed are still active performers. A photographic essay captures some of them in candid moments before performances. Other pieces revise standard accounts of well-known jazz figures, such as Duke Ellington, and lesser-known musicians, including Jeanne Lee; delve into how money, class, space, and economics affect the performance of experimental music; and take up the question of how digital technology influences improvisation. People Get Ready offers a vision for the future of jazz based on an appreciation of the complexity of its past and the abundance of innovation in the present.

    Jazz, Improvisation, and Communities in Dialogue. Rob Wallace is a teacher, writer, and musician. He holds a Ph. Sign up for Subject Matters email updates to receive discounts, new book announcements, and more. Create a reading list or add to an existing list.

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