published 6/4/15 Lakeville Journal
Brigadoon versus Bristol: Marshall Plan, Looting, III
Here in the Northwest Corner we think of ourselves as living in the musical comedy heaven (and haven) “Brigadoon.” Everything works. People are fair and happy. We do not suffer tension often. We have distance from the agonies of big cities and the problems of suburbs both poor and rich. We have budgets that seem fair and in line with what we need. We have school systems that work. No riots, fire-bombs, angry confrontations.
Our proposal for calming the country – see Baltimore, North Charlestown, Cleveland, etc. – for looking to the future for reassurance and advancement, is simplicity itself. Our own American Marshall Plan.
Industrial giants sitting on mountains of cash could invest in the needs of a collapsing city or town for an extended promissory length of time.
Beginning with an identified area’s first grade students, all students would receive an “allowance” of one dollar a week – in second grade, two dollars; in third grade, three dollars, etc., through high school. (A senior at HRHVS, for example, would receive $624 in his/her final year.)
At the same time the Donor industry (-ies) would be teaching its targeted kids about itself, what it does, how it benefits the world, and how employment in it can be exciting and worthwhile. Donors would generate a public relations bonanza, as well as training kids in its program for positions at all levels so that a well-prepared and able work force will be built for the future.
This creates knowledge in young people about economic life in the US, making choices, learning about their own communities so that the temptation, under stress, to tear down, riot, burn and loot their own neighborhoods diminishes over time. Further, it makes new consumers of them and their families.
What at first seemed a simple plan is a little more complex. It is still NOT a government plan or give-away. It is APOLITICAL, neither favoring neither Democrats nor Republicans, boys nor girls.
Who benefits most quickly and why? Naturally, poorer families and children. Kids who before hadn’t a chance at finishing high school, let alone imagine going on afterwards to college on their own. Kids who are not yet brave enough to stand on their own, kids who are prey to the mood swings and attitudes of others. Kids who pick up a stone and heave it without thinking: i.e., kids who are scared.
Secondly, the Donor company or corporation, family-held or even listed on an exchange. The public relations benefits of stepping up and trying to solve America’s trade and infrastructure and labor problems, on their own, are enormous. Especially for those outfits whose p.r. really and truly needs good news: oil companies, banks, military industrial complexes, technological giants who daily seem to be taking over the world.
Thirdly: insurance companies, whose clients are less likely to be torched, broken into, looted. And who, therefore, are our number one targets for funding.
How do we begin? Admittedly, the US cannot – either privately or publicly – solve each of its problems overnight. Most Americans, however, are today living with a tiny worm in their guts: things aren’t going well. (See NYTimes, 5.26.15, A-9: “One Man’s Millions Turn a Community in Florida Around”.)
In this agreement is salvation. We agree on a goal: to pull the country from the doldrums of self-deceit and unstable conditions. (Our international standing in education, in scientific activity, in living conditions – our own sense of where we are.)
(1) The formation of an attack for the future: we build a governing board of volunteers with experience in our own failings, people who have learned from the past.
(2) This board has no power but to persuade and convince others of goodwill to aid and assist localities in strengthening fiber, tissue, and building visions of the future.
(3) Our board members need not be billionaires themselves: they will need, however, to be able to persuade the better off, to contact them and convince them, to join in this national effort to prepare for the coming years. If we take the stones out of our shoes, our climb will be easier.
Now we begin winnowing through our memories for men and women of achievement, of humor, of strength. Our “board” might consist of people who, yes, have access to funding; people in local government; people who can communicate easily with industry, with insurance, for example, or with construction and education; people with solid legal backgrounds; people who understand how far funding can be stretched and how; people with access to IT labs and equipment; people of vision yet without agenda but for improvement, peace and forward motion. People who together can decide whether we start small (why not start here, for example?) or large (Baltimore, a suburb, a town rapidly folding, a community on the ropes).
This is not another extraordinarily versatile Berkshire Taconic. We are dealing with negotiating the future with townspeople, period. With underwriting the dozen years to come, let’s say. To educate and apprentice a current generation unsure of itself and its history.
We might even rename ourselves.
The Lakeville Plan.
Next: lab examples – Bridgeport, Bristol, Baltimore. And just how much money are we really talking about?