Who Are We?

After exposing the horrors of the American medical system, Michael Moore concludes his documentary, SiCKO, by asking, “Who are we, that we allow such suffering?” When Moore appeared on Oprah’s talk show, she turned to the television audience and repeated the question.

Naomi Klein poses the same question. Her new book, The Shock Doctrine, documents how the people in power engineer catastrophes and exploit naturally-existing crises to profit a few. How awful! Who are we, that we tolerate such injustice?

Capitalists and their supporters reply, “Human nature is brutal and cannot change.” They want to keep the door shut on any discussion of who we are and the kind of society we could have. As far as they are concerned, we are their creatures and should remain so. We labor to enrich them. We suffer and die to build their empires. That’s who they want us to be.

Who decides who we are? Moore and Klein and a growing number of activists are saying, “We decide who we are.” And so the revolution begins.

Who do we want to be?

People value kindness more than any other characteristic. Compassion in thought, word and deed is universally appreciated regardless of nationality, culture or religion. By acknowledging kindness as the highest human value, we define who we are and the type of world that we want.

We want to live in a compassionate and sharing world, a giving-and-forgiving world, a help-each-other-out world, an all-for-one-and-one-for-all world, a socialist world, democratically managed by all of us, for all of us.

A truly democratic society can remake itself in any way it chooses. As Klein points out, the idea that people should not have the power to decide how the economy functions “is and remains the single most anti-democratic idea of our time.”

The capitalists don’t want a kind world or a democratic world. There would be no profit in it. They want more and bigger weapons, more surveillance, more prisons and more repression to keep their profits flowing and protect their power to shape society for their exclusive benefit.

However, when millions begin to ask, “Who are we?” the days of the oppressors are numbered.

We are the majority, and we can build a fair and just world. We lack confidence in ourselves and each other, but that can change. Together, we can release ourselves and our oppressors from this heartless hell of chasing profit. There can be no act of compassion greater than that.

Susan Rosenthal is a life-long socialist, retired physician, union member, and the author of POWER and Powerlessness (2006). Sick and Sicker: Essays on Class, Health and Health Care (2010), and Rebel Minds: Class War, Mass Suffering, and the Urgent Need for Socialism (2019). She can be reached through her web site or by email: susan@susanrosenthal.com. Read other articles by Susan.

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  1. bomp said on October 9th, 2007 at 12:32pm #

    Right on the money. I love when Capitalists talk about being Christians. Just like that “real” Capitalist, Jesus. They are pathetic.

  2. Ron Horn said on October 10th, 2007 at 1:39pm #

    Love your writings, Susan. Keep shining your light in this world of darkness: never ending wars, exploitation, and the widespread impoverishment of the people and the earth for the benefit of a few under capitalism.

    I recently came across this little story about an old Cherokee who is teaching his grandson about life:

    “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
    “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.
    The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win grandfather?”
    The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

    Life under capitalism feeds the first wolf, whereas under socialism the second. Unfortunately we live under capitalism and all its hideous influences while wanting to live in a better world. It seems to me that the challenge for all those who want to change the system is to filter out all the negative influences and lies of capitalism, and to seek the truth wherever we can find it while learning to trust and love one another enough to be able to move together to change the system.