When shall we overcome?


Two years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Joan Baez. I was running the VIP and media desk at a Bernie Sanders rally in San Jose, California, and Joan was due to perform to the thousands in the scorching heat. What was funny was that she asked me who else was performing on the bill.

I said she was the only name I recognised. She said she thought it would have been the other way round! For younger readers,

Joan Baez is an iconic folk singer who sang one the anthems of the 60s, ‘We shall Overcome’, at the legendary Woodstock festival in 1969. It is a little known fact is that her mum Joan Bridge was born in Edinburgh.

I love that song and her haunting melodic voice. The words are so powerful and give a feel of coming together for the common good

But in those last fifty years, have we made progress? Yes, some, but have we overcome? In fact, who or what are we trying to overcome? Is it some distant enemy or is it the big corporations, authoritarian state or generally bad people?

Actually no, it is ourselves! We can be our own worst enemy. We vote against our own best interests or vote for people and causes to which we do not know the outcome.

So if we are truly to overcome and live out the words of this song, we will have “to walk hand in hand”.

This means working together for the common good. It means sharing more equitably the wealth we all help create and putting it to use for all. This means we all have a stake in the success of the companies we work for, not just the shareholders.

We are not afraid”. We have to be radical and bold with the policies we propose, not fear that we may not get re-elected or not be popular. We know that there can be vested interests working against us, but we have to do what is right thing and then do it right.

We will not make progress, we will not overcome until the wages of lower earners are increased so that they have enough to live on. Until income taxes are reduced on lower earners so they have more money to spend.

We could fund our future by investing in infrastructure if we had a tax on land values not an out-dated council tax system.

There are a few simple things that our politicians could do that would make life so much better for all, but they choose not to because they think it is too difficult. They fear a backlash, they fear the media, and they fear themselves. It is time for bold radical policies that will really make a big positive difference to us all.

We have to overcome, if we are to live in peace and be free.

For full lyrics of “We shall Overcome” see here

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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