I have two separate but equally effective proposals to make that will drastically and surely make Vermont a much, much better place for all of us. OK, not for all of us, ’cause there are a handful of people that gain from the backwards, nonsensical world that Governor Douglas and his corporate stooges have built and continue to weasel us towards. These status-quo capitalists, as many of us are now familiar, have a simple program of claiming corporate greed and profiteering as “freedom” and simultaneously decrying the collective action of the people to take care of ourselves- for ourselves as well as our most vulnerable and downtrodden neighbors- as anti-freedom, socialistic (which somehow means “bad”) coming-of-the-anti-christ evil. But for the vast majority of us, these two suggestions would be net positives. As a result of my first proposal, farming on the scale that fits the Vermont landscape and social climate (i.e., relatively “small scale” farming, at least as compared to the big ag of the Midwest and California) would be a sustainable enterprise, as far and the financial field of view is concerned. Dairy farms would no longer be servants to out of control processing conglomerates who make record profits while the farms who supply their milk fold or file for bankruptcy at the steady pace of ‘taps’ on the funeral drum. As a result of my second proposal, the social services and safety net which takes care of our most needy friends and family, which as well provides and nurtures a great many of the finer aspects of life in Vermont which we’ve come to enjoy (not to mention the ordinary aspects of life, like going to the DMV), would be not only saved from the pillaging efforts of the Douglas Administration, but would possibly even thrive and grow to be better, more efficient, and more outstanding.
My first suggestion is for the diary farmers of Vermont to dump obscene quantities of milk into Lake champlain. Seriously. French dairy farmers, facing conditions quite similar to Vermont dairy farmers, recently decided to dump obscene amounts of milk into a well-known, public and touristy waterway, and not only did their action garner international attention (I read about it in the Times-Argus) but I’d be willing to bet that it helps lead to a resolution of their grievance. Elsewhere in France, as well as in the Netherlands and Germany, dairy farmers have been on strike- refusing to deliver their milk- in protest of the low amount they’re being paid (bellow the cost of production) and while some have chosen to collectively dump their milk (cows have to be milked, whether you’re on strike or not) in high-profile places, others still throughout Europe have been donating their milk to neighbors and the needy, while yet others have taken the direct action of raiding grocery stores and giving their product away free to shoppers.
And I promise that if Vermont’s dairy farmers did the same, their woes (and ours, in fact) would be largely over.
OK, these actions won’t end all of society’s ills. But between mega-conglomerate producers like Dean Foods and the political elites who must put the best face of “taking care of the little guy” forward in order to keep their jobs, to the myriad of economic interests wrapped-up in not only dairy farming but agriculture in general, I assure you that the powers that be will act quickly to ensure that Vermont dairy farmers get whatever it is they demand in order to stop dumping (or giving away for free) their milk. This will greatly effect the rest of us (who don’t milk cows for a living): for starters, the continued existence of dairy farmers throughout Vermont ensures the survival of open space and preservation of our majestic hillsides and valleys. The environment (and “environmentalists”, who I guess are defined as people who like having a clean, healthy place to live) would obviously benefit as the micro-ecological zones of Vermont would continue to allow for an abundance of wildlife both big and small to flourish free of the cancer of mindless development. This, of course, effects our incredibly important (like it or not) (and I don’t) tourist industry and the billions of dollars which we live off because people from somewhere else want to see our wilderness and farm-scapes and rolling hills, etc. Which, of course, keeps many of us employed in restaurants and hotels, and ski resorts and building condos, etc, etc. Plus, the rest of the Vermont farming community (who aren’t in the traditional dairy business) would be expected to be inspired, excited by the power of the diary farmer’s victory and perhaps even begin taking collective action for their needs and conditions- suddenly the whole State could be in an uproar about food security and availability and affordability and sustainability! It would be Scott Nearing’s goddamn utopia around here!
A bit more seriously though, the economic as well as social interests in Vermont which would not be willing to stand for such bad PR- to say nothing of the heated political climate- would act quickly to ensure, in whatever way they can, that our dairy farmers get paid a fair, livable wage for their milk. Everyone, except for the processing conglomerates and the political hacks like Douglas who support their free-market hubaloo, would win.
My second proposal is for the State employees to go on strike. Immediately. Wildcat if necessary (a “wildcat strike”, if you don’t know, is a strike either by workers who don’t have a recognized union, or who individually or as a group chose to go on strike without perhaps the formalistic, legalized steps typically required for unions to go on strike). I’m very serious here. If you or your mate or one of your friends or family members work for the State of Vermont, please either consider or talk to them about considering going on strike as soon as humanly possible. Obviously, if just one or two or ten people do it, not much is gonna happen except you’re quite likely to lose your job. But if dozens, if hundreds or even more of you (they) do it, I’m certain big things would happen. And I mean good big things.
Douglas and his worldview want to dismantle as much of the State’s services as possible, to leave the welfare of society out to bid to corporate interests that do a shitty job and which hoard obscene amounts of money into the pockets of their bosses and shareholders. Listen, I don’t prefer that the State be our savior or our nanny- far, far from it actually- but the State is, at the least- a far more progressive entity than private, capitalist enterprise. While private corporations are by definition the exploitation of most by and for the profit of the few, the liberal democratic State is, at the very least, an entity intended to bring about the betterment and survival of the collective whole. The State has no CEO’s to pay, and no profit margin to push. It seeks only the efficiant delivery of the services demanded of it by the public.
Personally, I would prefer to see neither the private corporation nor the State, but that’s for a different discussion.
In the meantime, the State of Vermont exists for what should be very basic reasons: namely, to provide for the collective good of all of ourselves. When I’m down and need help I hope that society is there for me, and when I’m not, I hope that my success can provide for the help of someone else who may be down and in need.
And it is the workers of the State, from DMV clerks to IT specialists to Tax Department receptionists and welfare case workers and Health Department inspectors to do just that. And if none of them (you) showed up for work tomorrow or next Monday, and even if you returned to work Tuesday (though better yet if you didn’t) you would immediately demonstrate the massively disproportionate amount of power that you hold over the Governor or any other politician or political entity which is looking to take your job.
Douglas is insisting on layoffs- so give it to him. Let him, and the Vermont GOP and the Legislature and the powers that be and the political elite all see what life is like when every single State office, every single State phone, is dead. No one at the desk, no one answering the phone. No one processing the application. If that’s the direction their “free market” ideology wants to take them, let it. Let everyone in Vermont know the difference between you showing up to work- or having a job to even show up to!- and not. Every politician from North Hero to Marlboro will be running in front of a camera to declare they’re on your side and want to ensure the security of your job.
And it’s that simple. Farmers: dump your milk. State workers: go on strike. Both of these things, now. And Vermont will continue to be a place of strong, rural agricultural traditions where our food is from here and our farmers are the anchors of our communities and their open lands provide for the economic as well and ecological and spiritual (for lack of a better word) fulfillment of ourselves and our neighbors; and Vermont will continue to be a place of increasing good will and social strength amongst peoples who come together for their own individual prosperity as well as that of their neighbors and community, especially the sick, the elderly, the disabled, the down-on-their-luck.