Dear People of 2013:
We got your letter! No need for forgiveness or apologies, we understand how difficult it can be to only see part of a trend. Wish we could answer each question, but we are limited to 2 pages. When we think we have touched on a question we put its number in brackets like this: [Q14].
[Q3, Q4, Q10-Q13] In the US, the implicit criminalization of poverty threatened to return us to debtors’ prisons of yesteryear. One of the writers from your times saw this coming:
Homelessness is illegal. In my city no-one is homeless although there are an increasing number of criminals living on the streets. It was smart to turn an abandoned class into a criminal class, sometimes people feel sorry for down and outs, they never feel sorry for criminals, it has been a great stabilizer. (Winterson, p. 19)
All that started to change in 2065. The crowdsourced fourth Complete National Count included all the empty homes that wealthy people owned but didn’t live in. Backing that up with data on the traumatic effects of homelessness we were able to pass the One Home per Owner law in 2101 over the objections of many wealthy people. But, when wealthy people sold surplus homes to avoid the added taxes housing markets stabilized. People were not taxed out of their homes, and we had fewer people thrown to the curb by evictions and foreclosures.
Another great spiral of social evolution began with a simple idea: partnerships—mutual, voluntary, co-equal partnerships. For inspiration we looked back to 1992 and Imagine Chicago. [Q6] Because of the power of partnerships, national and international ideas about sovereign governments morphed to consider each person, each family, etc. as sovereign. Gradually, rather than laws which relied on compelling behavior, pledges, which relied on voluntary good and mutual faith, began to get significant traction.
[Q4] Beginning in 2125 up until today, the Shared Fate Pledge has cut unemployment down to under 4 percent. For companies, this means in lean times everyone working for the company, executives included, accepts an hour and pay cut, with those in better paid positions taking more of a cut as a percentage of pay than those in less well paid positions. The key is everyone keeps their jobs. This isn’t new, of course, Lincoln Electric (since 1958 has had a no layoff policy), Southwest Airlines, and the Seattle Public Library were using something similar (though without public pledges) back in your day.
Philosophy and History departments in 2120 engaged the public in conversations keyed to the 500th Anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower. Their theme was “What cultural legacies did those 17th Century Calvinist Puritans leave us?” For example, John Winthrop, speaking on board the Arabella in 1640 led off his remarks with
GOD ALMIGHTY in His most holy and wise providence, hath so disposed of the condition of mankind, as in all times some must be rich, some poor, some high and eminent in power and dignity; others mean and in submission.
Winthrop said their colony could become the “city upon a hill” but many people questioned if these attitudes led to American Exceptionalism to always strive to be dominant and the separation of people not only by race but also by status or class.
The professors turned matters around and asked what American Humility might mean. “How would the main branches of government act?” “How would citizens view other cultures and nations?” “How would corporations act?”
[Q13] Around 2140, a spontaneous national longing arose to get out and meet each other “in the valleys.” A framework was resurrected from an activity used in high schools in the 2000s called Mix-It-Up Day. Sports teams began to encourage tailgate parties to “mix-it-up” and by 2157 brave families up and down and across the economic levels were “mixing-it-up” on Thanksgiving.
Much evolved from the combination of mix-it-up events and partnerships, but we’re out of space! Thank you for initiating a National Dialogue Network discussion on Wealth and Poverty in the US “back in the day.” Is that how you said it?
Say hello to President Obama from 2188 if you see him!
Letter Back 7 Generations High School – College Partnership