I have been very fortunate in my life in many ways and having a German Mother opened travel opportunities to me at a young age. I was 2 on my first trip to Europe…and have been there many times since.
I was also able to spend summers in Toronto during my adolescence because I had an aunt living there and I lived in N. Ohio. It recently occurred to me that we have been so indoctrinated, our expectations so sub-standard, we don’t even realize ourselves how bad things are . Perhaps that explains our complacence. On a visit to Germany when I was 18, I attended some classes with my cousin who was in her final year of high school. The kids there were talking about socialism vs. capitalism vs. communism as systems of government. Not what is good vs. evil but actually contemplating the different approaches to government administration. They were 17 years old. I felt really stupid and duped. I was never given the chance to contemplate such things. I was basically told that “Socialism is bad. Communism is evil.“ We ”are right.“ They ”are wrong.” Americans are not educated to consider these differences. We are indoctrinated.
We also don’t realize that instead of clean mass transit stations, we have gas stations. Instead of renewable energy, we have coal and nuclear. Instead of sustainable farming, we have corporate, GMO roundup farming. Instead of social support we have poverty and homelessness. Instead of manufacturing, we have fracking and poverty – wage service industries. Instead of morals to stories our children get gold doubloons or bling. From the time they are tiny, they are being indoctrinated to be consumers….and to indenture themselves to that end and to settle for less, in the most important ways.
Even the “better” quality of life for the wealthy comes at the cost of the environment and society as a whole which leaves all of us with an imbalance of poverty, homelessness, untreated mental illness, major health problems, violence, crime, and lack of real education.
This spring I was able to spend 3 weeks in Europe. I stayed with family and had a fabulous time. I got to see Prague. We made several side trips to France as my family lives in Southern Germany. We did lots of touristy stuff, visited castles, drove through the French countryside. It was amazing and very different. The Green Party was so prominent in Germany. I saw GP candidate posters all over the place… in big cities and small villages . They have a real voice in government….and it makes a big difference.
We saw solar panels EVERYWHERE and lots of wind turbines being used as well. There was solar on many houses, solar fields and solar on commercial buildings. There are small farms everywhere. There are big farms too… but more small farms. I only saw a few yards that looked like fake perfect grass. Most lawns had little flowers and a variety of plants growing in it. They were nicely cut and trimmed with lots of flower beds. The tree lawns, medians and sides of the road were full of dandelions and wild flowers. No bee killing pesticides. They have been outlawed. I purchased organic food for less than what I pay here and it was delicious. There are beautiful parks with playgrounds and fitness parks with all kinds of climbing and even zip lines for the public that cost about $8. They are creatively designed, safe and well-staffed with guides and all safety gear available. The mass transit includes buses, streetcars and bullet trains and was clean, modern and safe, everywhere we went. They are clearly not sacrificing good sense to support the fossil fuel industry. The schools are clean, safe and well – funded and the teachers earn a living wage. The quality of life is so much better. We really are clueless as to the possibilities. Our physical isolation from the world has not been so much the safety net we had hoped for, but a mechanism to allow and promote our ignorance.
There is much less crime… and homelessness in Europe. The social welfare system takes care of people and they live in dignity. They may not have a lot… but they do have a decent place to live, (not a ghetto), enough food and money for non-food necessities… and healthcare… including mental health care. I actually only saw one homeless person…. and he was in Prague. I’m sure that more exist, but not like here.
My relatives there have free access to good health care anytime they need it. My wealthier relatives do have better access to health care, but my working class relatives have never suffered from lack of it. We have a mentally challenged cousin who is extremely well taken care of. She works through a government program that is protective… and has a private room in a bright, clean, well-staffed group home… fully paid for by the government, (of course), and she has free access to all of the clean, modern, safe and accessible mass transit that exists there….and of course all of her health care needs are met. She was so bright and happy. I shudder to think of what would happen to her here….what kind of life she would have. She would probably be homeless without family support…. and then she would become a “burden”. There she is an active and happy member of society and the entire social system shoulders her support and the results are so good for everyone…. for her…the family….and the society as a whole.
People say the taxes are high there. Well, the taxes are high here too and what do we get? The schools are awful. (I started home-schooling my 12 year old last year.) Healthcare is just as corrupted by corporate interests as every other industry in the US. (I recently paid $287 cash for an MRI because my insurance copay was $1300.) There is almost no social support. Health care remains unavailable for many including mental health care. Decent jobs with benefits and a pension…. basically unheard of for the average person.
I keep wondering how Third World we need to get to wake up. Where exactly is rock bottom?
About the Author:
Michelle Dalnoky is a Green Party member from Pasco County, FL. She is a Registered Nurse and has a Bachelors degree in Education. Her Aunt in Germany was an elected Green Party member in her local government. She participates in and supports local, national, and international outreach events and campaigns.
Article and photographs are by Michelle Dalnoky, and are protected under Creative Commons. You can download a pdf file of this article here.