Why Am I A Socialist?
My name is Adam Flowers. I was born and raised in Northern California and live in San Francisco. I am a professional musician. I am a teaching artist. I am a son, brother, husband, uncle, and colleague. I am a Socialist.
The short answer is that I was raised to be a Socialist. My parents provided me with an upbringing full of love and support and gave me all the opportunities and assistance that their middle class economic status would allow, and then some. They were not self-identifying Socialists. So why did they raise me to be a Socialist?
Ever since I can remember, my parents taught me to work hard, tell the truth, help my neighbors and those less fortunate than myself, to be of good cheer, to use my imagination and creativity to solve problems, to share what I had with others, to collaborate and cooperate with those around me so that many hands made work light, to never accept the advancement of myself at the expense of another, to repudiate greed, envy, arrogance, dishonesty, violence, and cruelty, and to “never resist a generous impulse,” as my departed father Mike loved to say.
Whether they knew it or not, my parents were raising me to be anti-capitalist. Capitalism is the harnessing of greed, competition, and self-interest to power and organize a society. I started to slowly realize that I was poorly trained to function as a successful or even functional Capitalist as I had been indoctrinated to keep the flame of that generous impulse shielded from the winds of cruelty and selfishness and to cooperate with my fellow humans, not compete against them. This was further magnified by my profession as an artist (an opera singer, to be specific) that starves in the windswept desert of competition and pumps collaboration and selflessness as its lifeblood. Once the curtain opens and the maestro motions the downbeat, it is collaborate or perish. Music, like all art, is the collaboration between various and sometimes opposing forces and personalities. I have seen collaboration change human lives for the better through the muse of art or in the crucible of the classroom. Think of it this way: when you compete for resources, there will be a winner and there will be losers. Victory means loneliness. Even in the wild, collaboration is the only way to survive with a modicum of comfort. The only other option is to kill or incapacitate anyone in your way.
The two strongest motivators in my decision to be “out” to my friends, family, and the world as an anti-capitalist Democratic Socialist are my experiences as a teaching artist and my father Mike’s journey with cancer.
When I teach my students how to create or perform in an opera, I don’t teach them to compete. I don’t tell them to hoard their talents, time, or resources. I tell them to prepare and share. This not only results in the best collaborative artistic expression, but it provides the most enjoyable and pleasing experience. Most of the time spent in any artistic endeavor is the practice, rehearsal, staging — the preparation. If the preparation is unpleasant, what is the point? If I taught my students to operate under the principles of capitalism, the art would be bad, they would be unhappy, and nothing would get done. As social animals, collaboration is our only option. This is what we teach our children. Why are we then surprised that it is so horrendously flawed as an organizing principle for an entire society?
“But it works well for me!” you may protest. And that is the entire point. If you can only succeed at the expense of others and you not only accept that but also endorse it, then you are an exploiter. I find this intolerable. That is one of the reasons why I want to end Capitalism and build in its place a Socialist economic and political system.
The other main reason I choose Socialism is my dad. In 2008, my father Mike Flowers was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor at the base of his tongue. He had to have his tongue and epiglottis removed. He had extreme difficulty speaking clearly and he could no longer swallow anything. But from the time he was released from the hospital after his surgery in January of 2009 until the cancer returned and took his life in June of 2011, my father lived almost a second lifetime. His tribulation became a rallying point for his renewed sense of purpose and joy. He became a one-man army of kindness. And what started as a solitary, fragile army of one quickly grew as his example of love and charity spread throughout our hometown of Davis, California, and throughout the world, thanks to the Internet. My father’s cancer focused his worldview and his desire to help others. He had always been a thoughtful, kind man, but now he was a force of nature. He dedicated his final days to showing the people all throughout his community that they were special, that they had value, that they were loved, and (most importantly) that they were worthy of that love. He used both words and deeds to accomplish this mission. He enlisted the help of friends new and old. He mobilized an entire community to help those who needed it, to “pay it forward.” Until the day he died it said on his business card, “Here to Help!” I witnessed first hand the effect this had on those around him. It was electric. It was like anything could be accomplished if we all worked together and centered joy and compassion at the heart of all we did. As my father had only weeks left to live, it occurred to me that this was the way it could be for all of us. This joy, this love, this compassion…IS HERE. It doesn’t need to be created. It is within each of us; the ability to place the needs of others above our own is simply a choice. I also believe that if we do not choose it, the alternative will kill us all.
I choose Socialism because I feel it is realistic. I choose socialism because I think that the only way to deal effectively with racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, economic inequality is to deal with the root cause of these symptoms: economic and societal exploitation. That exploitation is the fuel in the engine of Capitalism.
I do not choose Socialism because I think it will make the world a paradise or that it will cure all of the world’s ills. I do, however, think it will help alleviate many of the world’s ills and I refuse to continue living my life at the expense of those exploited by our current system. It is no longer acceptable to me. We need to make the concerted effort to alleviate as much suffering as possible. If giving people the basic material goods to fulfill the human needs of Shelter, Healthcare, Food, Clothing, Education, Artistic Expression is not at the center of EVERYTHING you do, then you are forfeiting your life to greed. The accumulation of wealth is a grievous error that is killing us all, either all at once like Philando Castile or by degree like so many of us who can’t afford healthcare or the time to take care of ourselves.
I invite you to join me. We have the power to help each other, to lift each other up and give each other support and the space for joy. Refute the lie that greed is good, that it is acceptable for you to thrive while standing knee-deep in the blood and gristle of others.
What is stopping you from this great adventure? Don’t let fear or greed prevent you from helping others one second longer. It is best practice and it feels good.
Choose each other. Choose Socialism.
Solidarity now and forever!
“Here to help!”
Democratic Socialists believe that both the economy and society should be run democratically to meet human needs, not…www.dsausa.org
Democratic Socialists of America - San Francisco Chapter seeks to create a system based on justice and equality for all…dsasf.org