Restructuring the American Social Structure with an "Invest-In."

by Erik Olson Thursday, Feb. 15, 2001 at 8:21 PM (619) 239-1265 Invest-In Project, P.O. Box 620435, San Diego, CA 92162-0435

On Feb. 1, 2001, in the spirit of the sit-ins and consistent with the United Nations Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World, I launched an "Invest-In." The Invest-In Project seekse to dramatize and document the human rights violations of poor children in the United States.

error Invest-In Project
A project that seeks to realize Americas ideals by obstructing the wheels of injustice and investing in all of our children.

Restructuring the American Social Structure with an Invest-In.
by Erik Olson

Every school day, children throughout this country begin their day by reciting the pledge of allegiance. The pledge reads: I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, for Liberty and Justice for all. Reciting this pledge reminds us that each and every one of us has intrinsic value and worth and that we are all interconnected. This is why is the pledge says Liberty and Justice for all not Liberty and Justice for some or for a few. The sad reality is that in our divisive American social structure our poor children are not being valued and loved.

Every great religion in the world essentially says one basic thing: that God is Love and he who hates (divides) does not know God. So, today, I ask the question: Who loves our poor children in America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world? Every politician says he or she is for children. There are very few campaign brochures that do not include at least one picture of a child or infant, yet if we look at the state of U.S. children it is clearly seen that this is more of a hoax or facade than a reality. I say this because I have learned that every great religion also commands us to love not just in words, but in deed and in truth. So, let us examine the true outcome of our politicians promises.

The state of U.S. children reveals that 1 in 6, 12.1 million, children are poor. Of all the persons who are homeless, 25% of them are children. No health insurance is available for 1 in 6 children. 1 in 8 children do not graduate from high school. Since 1979, more than 84,000 children have been killed by guns. Equal educational opportunity is a myth in America with the richest school districts spending 56% more per student than the poorest. Additionally, in my work and travels across the country, I have personally seen schools that look more like prisons with barbed-wire fencing, metal detectors, and guards. I have seen hungry children at school eat leftover scraps like they have not eaten in weeks. I have seen childrens written pleas for a violence-free community so that they do not have to be afraid of being shot. I have done presentations at schools knowing that about half of the students would not graduate. I have heard stories of children stumbling across a dead body while walking to school. I have worked with high school graduates who could not write full sentences. I have seen children be absent from school repeatedly because they do not have access to health care. I have seen schools in the inner-city with no computers and little technology. I have seen far too many children live with their grandmothers because economic and social forces have destroyed their immediate family. I have seen too many young children lured by the money and work of drug dealers. I have seen far too many children homeless. And, despite the recent economic boom of the last few years, we have more children in poverty today than we had twenty years ago. This is the state of U.S. children.

Furthermore, American politicians have refused to ratify international treaties that would obligate them to uphold the human rights of our children. The treaties not ratified by the U.S. include the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been ratified by every recognized government in the world except the United States, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, the Convention Against Discrimination in Education, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. These treaties would ensure the right to economic, social and cultural rights and their implementation would mean a substantial redistribution of resources. Many countries in Eastern Europe, as well as other countries, like South Africa and India, have not only legally recognized economic and social rights through international treaties but have included them in their constitutions. If America is truly the leader of the free world, why has it not ratified these treaties?

Nevertheless, can anyone deny that our poor children are being neglected and not loved? Why does this situation exist? I believe it exists because we have created a economic-oriented society that values profits and material things more than it values the hearts, souls, and minds of our children and their families. Or as Dr. King has said:

When all is finally entered into the annals of sociology; when philosophers, politicians, and preachers have all had their say, we must return to the fact that a person participates in this society primarily as an economic entity. At rock bottom we are neither poets, athletes, nor artists; our existence is centered in the fact that we are consumers . . . This is a difficult confession for a preacher to make, and it is a phenomenon against I will continue to rebel, but it remains a fact that consumption of goods is the raison detre for the vast majority of Americans.

This sacrifice of human interests for economic interests is reflected in the fact that we have created a society where it costs millions to become a Senator and millions more to be considered for President. This money comes from the very corporations which today are essentially the government. These two groups have become a single hand that feeds itself. Thus, elected officials, from both parties, are unable or unwilling to fight for children because under this defective system they owe their allegiance to the corporations that got them into office, not to our children who cannot contribute to their campaigns nor vote.

Instead of participating in this divisive and destructive system that neglects our poor children, I am initiating an Invest-In. In the spirit of the sit-ins of the 1960s and consistent with the United Nations Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World (2001-2010), this Invest-In is being implemented in order to address the inherent inequality that is produced by a defective American social structure that:

1. Leaves 12.1 million children in poverty in the richest nation on earth;

2. Reduces all people to economic entities by sacrificing human interests for economic interests;

3. Loves corporations, the military(war), and prisons, not children or their families;

4. Taxes people without their true representation; and

5. Harms and diminishes all people physically and spiritually.

Growing up in a poor, Latino family and having felt the effects of our defective social structure, I have come to understand that true compassion is not about giving charity to the poor, but about seeking to restructure the unjust society that produces poor people. Though I no longer have chains on my feet having recently graduated from law school, I feel as though I am one of the fortunate ones to have escaped this defective system and now have an obligation, like Harriet Tubman, to go back for my brothers and sisters with whom I have suffered. Thus, after amassing a student loan debt of $90,000 trying to free myself, I cannot in good conscience give this money to financial institutions who help to imprison our children in poverty. To do so, would preserve the present unjust system and, thereby, make me an accomplice in this evil act. Instead, I will redirect half of my student loan payments from financial institutions to a poor child, for his/her health and education, and half to the United Nations Childrens Fund (UNICEF), whose mission is guided by the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The hope is that by participating in this advanced form of repayment these financial institutions, who have direct access to politicians because they have what is valued most in our society (money), will be persuaded to create a new social structure truly founded on the democratic principle of Liberty and Justice for all.

Since our politicians, as a whole, choose to neglect our poor children, I have no choice but to invest in their freedom myself as children caged in poverty can never be truly free. I initiate this invest-in by redirecting my student loan payments from corporations whose bellies are full because they are truly represented in our society to poor children whose bellies are empty because they are excluded and lack representation in our defective democracy. In so doing, I say that feeding children is more important that feeding banks.

This act is merely a first step. The Invest-In Project now seeks to realize Americas ideals by building a mass moral voice that will compel corporations and politicians to create a new social structure where all children are invested in. I am asking all people of goodwill to join me in this effort of replacing this old chaotic and divisive world with a new world filled with love and unity. (See for more details on ways to join the Invest-In Project - all do not require much risk.) In order to make America truly great, we as a nation will have to undergo a radical revolution of values. We must shift from a thing-centered and profit-centered society to a person-centered society. The Invest-In Project believes that in order to form a more perfect Union, we must begin by honoring the human rights of the most vulnerable and victimized group in our society, our poor children. The Invest-In Project seeks to confront the root cause of poverty, not just give temporary aid to those in poverty. Money is what drives the current social contract and those who control it. Thus, this is precisely where the Invest-In Projects attention, energy, and influence will be focused.

In closing, I ask you where do you want to go from here: chaos or community? Are you truly satisfied with the life you are living and the world that surrounds you? Does your life give you meaning and fulfillment? If not, for our children, let us rid ourselves of this old world of hate and division and create a new world dominated by love and unity. I must confess that it will not be easy and that we will face many difficulties and dangers. Others will say that it is futile, but we must remember that ordinary people have always done extraordinary things and that it was always initiated by a small group of thoughtful, committed persons. Others will choose and make claims of expediency, but we must remember that expediency has led us to the chaos we have today. Others will allow their timidity to control their lives, but we must remember that courage is the greatest of all virtues as it allows us the opportunity to gain all other virtues. Others will choose comfort, but we must remember that nothing truly worthwhile comes without great struggle and personal sacrifice and that we can never be truly comfortable while others are in misery. Therefore, let us struggle on as we remember that sunshine always comes after the storm and that the self-executing laws of the universe are on the side of the just and righteous. For amid all the brutality, hate, ignorance, and poverty in this world, life still persists, the sun still shines, and flowers still bloom. To me, this is proof alone that love conquers hate. From this day forward, let us all choose love by joining the Invest-In Project in its quest for "Liberty and Justice for all.