To older generations, it’s a dirty word synonymous with communism, Marxism and the elimination of personal property. Socialism: it’s scary, it’s an epithet, it’s anti-American.
Only it’s not any of those things.
To my generation, socialism means something completely different. To us, it is not merely a political ideology, but a way of living.
I’m currently employed as a dispatcher for a local plumbing company. During the subzero cold snap back in late January, we received a barrage of panicked phone calls about burst or frozen pipes. Our plumbers worked quite a bit of overtime during those few days, braving the cold to help our neighbors. Of course, our plumbers get paid to be on the clock and the homeowners paid to have their pipes fixed. People helping people is the only way to pull through Minnesota winters—or survive any trying time.
My point is that coming to the aid of one another in the most dire circumstances is a prime example of what socialism means to millennials. If we are to move forward as a healthy, progressive society, taking care of one another is imperative.
Socialism does not have to mean a dramatic overhaul of legislation or public policy.
At its very core, socialism means looking out for each other. It can mean helping your neighbor mow their lawn or carry their groceries inside. It can mean bailing out your parents’ basement when it floods. It can mean helping a stranger change a tire on the side of the freeway. I bet you volunteer, donate goods or funds, and help others in thousands of small ways.
Relying on the people around us for guidance and assistance, regardless of whether or not we know them personally, is socialism. The word “social” indicates a sense of collaboration and seeking input from those around us.
Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are all examples of socialist policies. Federal health care insurance ensures that we are able to receive the medical care we need as we age. Social Security sets up a financial safety net for us as we age and are no longer able to work. Socialist policies seek to take care of not only ourselves as individuals, but ourselves as a society.
As I see it, socialism is not compatible with a society based on rugged individualism. We’re so isolated these days. We stick to our own schedules, stay out of other people’s business (some of us more than others) and believe that success is only dependent upon how hard we are willing to work as individuals.
The self-made man is a myth and a dangerous mentality. In striving only for individual success, we lose sight of how much more we can achieve as a community.
We can and should lean on each other. In crafting public policy, a group of people working together is so much more effective. Together, we can draw out more diverse, creative solutions to our most intractable problems: climate change, poverty, racial disparities, health care inequalities. No person is an island; no one person can do it all.
We need to embrace socialism for its true definition: collective solutions to community problems. Socialism means we all contribute—and we are all better for it.