By Terry Sterrenberg
When we started announcing the topic of our new documentary, OUR New Economy, someone asked us “What are you doing? Are you moving away from advocating for Single Payer healthcare?” The answer is a resounding NO.
We learned a lot making two films about healthcare. We learned about how the motive to make profits has superseded the notion of taking care of people; about how profiteering has become the vision and goal of the American way of life; about how making money has become more important than telling the truth and manifesting common good. About how the idea of getting ahead has taken over the American dream and left many of us struggling.
In making those documentaries I learned that the United States of America that I was taught about and envisioned and loved as a child growing up has disappeared – if it ever really existed – and today in some circles that dream is even being demonized. People working together or getting welfare is a bad thing (often called ‘socialism’).
As a child I was taught to believe that society was in a positive growing curve that was based on what seemed to be common knowledge- that people are basically good; That individuals working together produced a common good for all; that racism and prejudice was an aberration that society was correcting and that the government and those in power were working to create a culture that benefited all persons. In fact, the middle class in this country was the biggest it has ever been in history at the time when I was growing up. All seemed to be good. “ Utopia” was well on its way to being a reality.
Making these movies made It clear to us that the beliefs underlying the injustices of the healthcare system in the U.S. just illustrated a much deeper disparity within the economic system itself. Economics is about having access to goods and services. Most of us have a job in order to make money to gain that access. However in making these movies we became acutely aware that most money went from the many to the few. When we paid our apartment rent, our car payments, our health insurance, and even our groceries our money was going to a few big corporations, i.e. real estate conglomerates, banks, car dealerships, and health insurance companies that kept changing their rules, and could raise prices at any time. We learned that working hard gave a lot of access (money) to owners and bosses but not necessarily to employees.
We discovered that the ultimate healthcare crisis goes beyond providing healthcare to all. It has to do with how the issues get sidelined rather than talked about, and how communities treat each other in regard to these problems. The general line is that access, i.e. money, is available to everyone if that person works hard enough. Honest investigation and conversation reveals that this basic premise is not true, but instead of using this information to inform us about the problem we tend to blame and attribute personality issues to those who cannot attain access. Certain groups of people just cannot be trusted. Certain groups of people are just lazy. Certain groups of people just cannot and perhaps should not make it in life. Our national dis-ease is lack of trust and integrity and in many cases lack of compassion. It manifests as an inability to solve problems and hoarding of money. It is a tragic profound mental health issue no one is identifying or discussing and it may be a life and death issue for our nation. The way we deal with issues reminds me of a circular firing squad.
To believe most of our TV shows and movies about the future is to believe in a future of oppression, revolution, violence, and confrontation. Is a dystopian future the only possibility?
We knew there were other projections leading to positive futures and we set out to find them. We did our research and found that there are economic models that provide access to the good things in life. We discovered there are common elements for these proposals including the use of new sustainable technologies for local food production, housing, energy, etc.
Our next documentary film, OUR New Economy (working title) looks at how some communities are trying to solve this ultimate health problem by localizing their economies, changing the notion of economic development to shared prosperity, by keeping money in the community, by generating cooperative businesses, and by developing local industry. Achieving this economic transformation is the next step we are aiming for, after gaining universal healthcare in the U.S.