Massive amounts of time, energy and money are spent to manipulate Americans into thinking about political and social issues as the people behind these expenditures want. This is the tail wagging the dog in terms of democracy, agendas are supposed to originate with the people who then use their votes to elect those who will represent and follow their views. But the power of money has corrupted both our system of democracy and our view of democracy so that the game of manipulating public opinion has become what our democracy is now about. It’s become a kind of reality show where the cleverest liars may be more appreciated by our media for their success at constructing and spreading their lies than those who simply speak simply and truthfully.
And it’s debatable that we live in a genuine democracy. A recent Princeton study concluded that based upon legislation that’s been passed or not passed by the U.S. Congress over a number of years (consider the failure of gun control bills, jobs bills, immigration bills and the success of anti-citizen bankruptcy laws, tax loopholes for corporations and the wealthy, shield laws for polluters and corporate criminals, etc.) we’ve already lost our democracy and are presently living in an oligarchy that almost exclusively serves the interests of corporations and the wealthiest 1% of Americans.
This has been accomplished as described above, through the shameless use of billions by the wealthy in manipulating public opinion and the votes of Congresspeople who are addicted to campaign contributions provided to them by the wealthy.
Chuck Todd famously tossed out that it is not his job nor that of the MSM to correct lies that are spewed in politics. Today’s so-called “journalists” now see their jobs as being sportscasters, they just call the play-by-play and rerun the instant replays of the most spectacular “hits” that they can find. It is irrelevant to many of them if what they spotlight is dishonest and/or propaganda, it’s all about serving the corporation that employs them, exciting the viewing public to get higher ratings and ad revenue.
So, at a time in our nation’s history when our Supreme Court has chosen the wealthy to dominate our politics and the press has mostly abandoned their duty to empower the public by keeping them informed about what is or isn’t true, in this ocean of corruption, how can the people find their way back to a true and responsive democracy?
There have been signs of revolt against our oligarchy in recent years such as Occupy Wall Street, protests by fast food and other minimum wage earners and historic votes for Barack Obama’s presidency. Though some have been awakened (or have never fallen asleep) with regards to our democracy and the need for protecting it, the majority of Americans still seem too disinterested to take on the responsibilities of citizenship, they don’t actively seek information about our democracy and take action to protect it. Many don’t even vote .The level of cynicism and apathy is quite high. How can those who see the urgent need to revive our democracy get the rest of Americans to become engaged on this?
By the way, as inspiration for Americans, Jason Jones did a report on The Daily Show this week on the election in India and couldn’t find people who weren’t politically involved in their election and adamant about the importance of democracy:
The key to recruiting the activism and conscience so needed in Americans may lie in the past.
The last era when the majority of Americans seemed determined to tackle such issues as good government and protection of our democracy from wealthy and corrupting interests was also a time when such things as women’s rights, environmental protection and peace were widely supported. The 1960’s through the 1970’s was a time of great social upheaval and while many marched for a better future, there were many old school conservative types digging a Generation Gap in the middle of our society. We had very polarized communities, pro-war and anti-war, pro-corporate and pro-environment, racism and equal rights, etc. This was a social civil war that was eventually won by the Progressively-minded (though not permanently as we’ve seen). How did they do it?
It may not have been coincidental that at the same time that the younger generation and others of all ages felt driven to address all of these social and political issues, there was a growth in the exploration of spirituality.
The broadening of the drug experience combined with the rubber band effect of young people in the 1950’s and 1960’s being repressed by conservative values, resulted in rebellion and an explosion of spiritual exploration. Psychedelic drugs and music inspired many to “expand their consciousness”, New Age religion became popular, the non-Christian spiritual beliefs of those such as Native Americans and Buddhists were valued and adopted, a whole generation was seeking truth and many of their parents joined in. And of course, there was the exploration and openness of the sexual revolution.
What seems to have happened is that many in our society, especially the younger generation, were undergoing a revelation about what could be and should be (which of course created a conflict with the older, conservative generation that insisted that nothing should change). Of course, the social revolution that the 60’s and 70’s brought about could only have happened as a result of people first changing their perspectives on their lives and values.
So the proposition is, it has to be revelation before revolution.
There are passionate people on the Left and the Right urging people to “Wake up!” and enlist themselves in fighting for what’s right for the future of our country. That sentiment might be a little simplistic and moot, though one could argue that many Americans may be asleep when it comes to their responsibilities of citizenship, it may not be as simple as asking them to wake up. It may require a longer process of breaking through the cynicism and apathy that petrifies around people’s minds and inspiring a more vital and heartfelt view of life itself and humanity.
Americans have become very isolated in a variety of ways and that isn’t conducive to a society changing. Citizens have retreated behind their computers, tvs and smartphones to craft a personalized environment that can be like a bubble which is protective on one hand but isolating on the other. Instead, might it not be better to break out of our bubbles and engage with each other, to become a wider and more inclusive community and in doing so, empower each of ourselves and all of us as a whole?
So, before we can get our nation and society to change destinations from Crazytown to Coolville, we need to first bring about a change in the way we view our existence as individuals and as part of the interdependent life on Earth. Standing in the way of that are those few but powerful who believe it is their entitlement to dominate the majority of people and resources on Earth.
The goal of the minority with money and power is to keep the majority divided, to keep the majority distracted or selfishly concerned with their own immediate interests and hostile, dismissive or disinterested towards all others. Only by this divide and conquer strategy can the few with power and money remain secure and not chased out of their dominating positions by the masses. If the many were instead to reject division, were to start seeing their own humanity even in others who were different races, sexes and sexual preferences, nationalities and religions, perhaps an insistence about protecting our society, democracy, environment and future might become more broadly and defiantly embraced. And if so, might not an undivided people be powerful enough to enforce their will upon the system that is currently monopolized by the few who have the most wealth in the nation?
A more holistic philosophy, as we saw in the 60’s and 70’s, one which expressed with no self-consciousness that love was vital, that we needed to live a life of compassion towards each other and the planet, seems to have been the basis and strength for the most positive changes that followed.
Might the revelation needed be as basic as truly connecting with the humanity that we share? Might that be the prerequisite for the real coming together and empowerment so needed by citizens to retake this democracy from the oligarchs?
We might not be able to change others en masse but if we emulate the kind of conscience and compassion we hope to awaken in others and communities of people take on this sensibility, those that come upon communities like this could be inspired to join in.
History has often shown us that great social and spiritual leaders have sometimes helped to unify the people and eventually prevail over powerful and threatening forces. However, because of the power that the wealthy now have to disrupt and fracture society, to demonize individuals and groups that most threaten them, it may be necessary for such a movement to coalesce without a particular leader. And if that is what is happening now, as those being oppressed by the wealthy and powerful are brought together and recognizing themselves in others, perhaps a real change in our nation’s character could be on the way.
As Barack Obama said when he was running for President in 2008, “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
If that’s true and all of the above is true, change has to begin within ourselves and how we respond to the world…then others can change, not because they are told to, but because they see in others what they want to see in themselves.