Wednesday, January 24, 2007

On government and personal responsibility

Commenting on this post,

Fati asks us...

"[D]o citizens of the US have the power to make things change? When things don't change, is it really because people don't do enough or because the political agendas weigh heavier than the wants and the needs of people?"

My take on the issue:

When things don't change, it is both. It is because people don't do enough, and it is because political agendas weigh heavier than the wants and needs of people.

The two forces exist together, in every political system. Having a democracy doesn't mean the peoples' word automatically becomes god, and special interests and political agendas take a back seat.

Having a democracy, however, does mean the nation and its people have signed a contract, the agreement being that the people accept more direct responsibility for the things their government does in their name.

It makes me extremely angry, frothing-at-the-mouth-like-a-rabid-dog angry, when I hear one of my countrymen saying our votes don't matter, or saying that we voters have no power to affect the outcome of the world around us.

Those big, nasty corporations don't have one vote, not even a single vote. The shady special interests that lurk behind every door, they don't have a single vote either, not even one.

Only you have a vote, and if you aren't willing to take full responsibility for what you do with it, the problem lies at your feet, and your feet only.

It is not up to the government, the special interests, the political parties, or any other part of "the system" to serve you up a nice plate of candidates who truly represent you and your best interests. You are a member of a democracy, and you have to do it yourself. You are not a helpless baby lamb kept in a nice, safely tiny cage, getting fattened up for someone's dinner plate.

Freedom does not mean freedom from responsibility, and it does not mean freedom to do whatever you want. Only when you take full responsibility for everything you do or don't do, and everything others do or don't do in your name, are you free. Freedom is extremely heavy.

Noam Chomsky had a good comment on a similar issue. He said that it is fairly easy to attend a protest and then go home afterwards to your life as normal, enjoying what you had before, but now enjoying good feelings about yourself for having "stood up" to something.

But he reminds us that that kind of action does nothing to change anything, and real change comes from years and years of being dedicated to a cause, working for it consistently over time.

It is much less glamorous than one-off protest marches, but it is the way change gets done, and if change is what you want, there is absolutely no way around it.

No comments: