What do we do when we finally understand that the elections really are stolen? Or rigged? Or thrust out of our reach by the manipulations of rich and powerful people? Corrupted by corporations?
How long does it take before we call the bluff? Another disappointing election cycle? Two? Three? How much more gerrymandering, corporate buying of elections, voter disenfranchisement, and outright fraud can we stand? When will we take seriously the necessity of change?
This is not a democracy of, for and by the people. And, at the rate we’re going, it never will be.
We cannot, as many claim, vote our way into power when no aspect of the two party duopoly represents anything other than elite interests. The system is designed to empower rich people and their massive corporations, no one else. Over the years, it has been modified to allow different faces to represent it, but the agenda has stayed much the same.
We must see the system in all its cruelty and injustice. We must be brave enough to surrender our false hopes and wistful ideals about it. From 1787 onward, this government has been designed to serve the privileged, to reinforce such privilege and to protect the “property” of the wealthy class, including at one point, women and African-Americans. It’s high time for that to change.
We, the people, were never asked, back in 1787, what sort of government we’d like. Only a scant handful of people from a mere 6 percent of the populace (white, propertied males) were invited to actively participate in crafting the Constitution. The rest of us have struggled for freedom and power ever since.
Perhaps it’s time to have that much-belated conversation about the kind of government we’d prefer to participate within. (Undoubtedly, a pay-to-play elections process requiring millions and billions of dollars is not high on the average, broke, Americans‘ list of ideas.) We, the people, are long overdue for a deep, revolutionary discussion about what sort of decision-making structures we want to see in our world. And, it’s time for a serious nationwide movement for democracy, with all the breadth and depth of possibility the phrase entails.
Democracy is not merely a form of government. It must be a way of life, a set of ethics and an ethos of a culture. For functional democracy to arise, it must be a widespread practice in our work, schools, homes, businesses, markets, religious institutions and social clubs. We must strive to understand the spirit of the word, not merely the form of the word as embodied by the process of voting every few years for a representative.
We must dare to dream in the complex intricacies of what we don’t know about democracy. We must study democracy like a foreign language, learning processes like sentence structures, practicing our articulation, searching for the words to describe what me mean when we cry for democracy. We must examine the immense richness of humanity’s many experiments in shared decision-making and become familiar with the successes, failures and potential pitfalls.
We must also break free of the conditioning of disempowerment and dare to imagine what decision we might make — for good or for ill — if we, together, designed our society, politics, economics, and culture. Democracy in any format requires a revolutionary re-envisioning of our way of life. A nation of brow-beaten workers, automatons, consumers, or bosses will never succeed in functional democracy. A real democracy requires a broad spectrum of humanity to show up with all our varied talents, skills, and perspectives: Dreamers, artists, engineers, mothers and fathers, scientists, doctors, lovers, students and more. In short, it takes us all to discover what will work for us all.
It will take love; and the foundation of love, respect. Democracy, as is so-often said, is more than two cats and a mouse deciding what’s for dinner. Indeed, it is. We must explore that “more” and illuminate what is required. We need to make vast changes in how we create media, entertainment, education and public discourse to find the practices that better serve to foster understanding and conflict resolution.
We need to increase the types of cultural experiences that move us toward loving and caring for our fellow citizens, rather than hating and fearing them. Real democracy requires levels of knowledge, compassion, and respect that we, as a nation, have never practiced before. Here, then lies the groundwork of our democratic revolution: We must build the respect among ourselves by which a real democracy can hear and meet its peoples’ needs.
For we are talking about a revolution. To sustain and avoid the pathological destructive desire for vengeance, the revolution must be nonviolent in nature, but its scope is a massive upheaval, not just in politics, but in society and culture as well. Make no mistake: Our culture is far from democratic. Even the overhaul of the injustices that burden the current political apparatus would require revolutionary changes.
An effort that seeks not just minor adjustments, but a profound re-envisioning in the ways we make every decision in our lives is nothing short of a revolution. It should be treated and understood as such. We should prepare ourselves for the reality of demanding such change. We must gird ourselves for the struggle if we ever wish to see government of, by, and for the people, all of us, together.