Friday, January 13, 2012

Democracy Means No Idols

I don't view the Occupy movement as a sustainable political movement. Partly because the organizers never saw it as that either. It's more of a long-term, several-site teach-in/demonstration/experiment.

And a darned good one too. This isn't meant to belittle the Occupy's. They serve many functions and bring awareness and an energy to social justice issues sorely lacking in the US and throughout the world. And, equally important, they help to envision what true democracy can look like.

Which is very different from what we consider to be democracy.

We tend to view democracy as the process of voting. Which is a part of democracy, but not the essence of it. Democracy is rule by the people. Though we are taught what we are participating in is democracy in the United States, we must be honest: it's oligarchy - rule by the few, the elites, the powerful. That is how it's been set up since the beginning of our nation. That is a root cause for the American Civil War: the right of slave states to count their "property" (slaves) as representative votes without extending to the slaves the right of those votes (thus, the slave "owners" will have the power of voting for as many slaves as they have without allowing them to self-determine. Quite brilliant, really. But also eerily familiar to current political practices [cf, Florida]).

We citizens have very little say in how our nation is run, but rather we pull a lever for a person that we believe will rule to our benefit. Every once in a while, however, we are infused with a dynamo, a leader that we are led to believe will or has lead us to new heights, a true leader that represents our best interests at heart. A benign sovereign. A messiah.

John F Kennedy. Bobby Kennedy. Theodore Roosevelt. Abraham Lincoln. Franklin Roosevelt. Thomas Jefferson. Bill Clinton. Ronald Reagan. Barack Obama. Ron Paul.

President Roosevelt op kameel /American President Roosevelt on a camel in the desert

These presidents and presidential contenders have endeared themselves to legions upon legions* of devout followers. They inspire. They have an aura around them to make us believe that they can fix what ails us... given the opportunity and enough power.

And so we give them that power.

And they always disappoint. Always.

fp030909-03 And so we turn our focus to our next leader, hoping for better things.

It's a game, really. Not to repeat the ridiculous charge that each politician is just like the other and that we might as well all vote for Animal from the Muppets (although that would make a great poster), but the focus of all of this is to siphon off and centralize our own power. That's the focus and scope of Republican and Democratic leadership since at least as long as they've been in power.

I believe we need to self-determine within the context of our communities and the surrounding context. And the route to that is not through more oligarchy. It is not through another Great Leader. It can not be through putting our eggs into such fragile baskets who always succumb to the ragged entrails of personal authority.

The problem isn't that we have the wrong people/person in authority. The problem is authoritarianism. The idea that we should and need to give all of our power into the hands of a person or group of people who can save us.

Rather, we must put our eggs into invest in each other. We must actively seek to empower ourselves to act in community, to listen to each other, to find out where and how we can collaborate and act together. It's in acting as neighborly, finding what we can all bring to the table, how we can help each other, how we can benefit and trade our goods and services in ways that are complementary to each other.

*Deliberate word choice, yes.

1 comment:

  1. Very well thought out and said. Even though I am a conservative I agree with pretty much everything you said. I would like to say one thing or add one thought. When people think of the "Great Leader" the reason they are so often disappointed might be because they forget that that person doesn't have unilateral power.


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