Lets be clear right from the beginning, we now live in a nation in which all the power of decision-making is in the hands of a very small group of oligarchs, an economic elite approximating about 1% of our population. Whatever way you present that fact, you cannot make it fit with any real definition of democracy. That does not seem to stop those in power from insisting that we still live in a democracy.
The result is that what happens reflects what that ruling elite wants and not what the general citizenry want. As a matter of fact, when those two groups do not agree, what occurs is what the elite dictates, no matter what the polls or public opinion might suggest.
This is a problem for the people of this nation if they want to continue to consider themselves as citizens of a democracy in more than name only. We need to stop giving cover to those who are stripping us of our democratic heritage.
A democracy requires that all the citizens have a voice, at least in a truly representative way, and not that the voices of a small segment be the only voices that really matter.
The question is, “What needs to change to take us back to democracy again?”
First of all the ordinary citizens must recognize that they outnumber the decision-makers by a margin of 99 to1. This is not difficult math and all the money in the world does not change that basic distinction.
Second, no society can function effectively without at least the tacit support of those they are governing. This support may be accomplished by manipulation, propaganda and/or intimidation, or by apathy and submissiveness, or by simply accepting the instructed powerlessness of the ruling elite. But it must be accomplished somehow.
We certainly have enough citizens who recognize this themselves and would encourage others to stand up and act.
The problem is the way we have chosen, or been led, to act. The accepted methods, the conventional wisdom of the long standing establishment, is to choose an issue and then to work for a reasonable solution by organizing those who favor that change and working against legislation that opposes those solutions. The activity usually centers around forming organizations, raising money, lobbying and demonstrating, writing letters, visiting representatives and being active in elections.
All of those means are carried out with genuine positive intent and by earnest, intelligent, and caring people. There are two problems with that approach. First, the focus seems to be on distinct and individual issues. They are all important issues, but those issues are now myriad and continue to grow daily, resulting in our energies and resources scattered over many different issues. We only need to think of all the donation requests we receive monthly. We would like to support all of them but can’t afford the time, money or energy to do it all, so we choose a few. They are all competing for the same pool of resources.
The reality is that this scatters our energy. Why can’t the 99% overwhelm the 1%? Because they are scattered over 99 different (and important) issues. They need to unify their resources under one banner. But which of the issues should take precedent? I can hear the arguments beginning already, everyone willing to go to the barricades for their issue.
Here is the real problem, we have been dealing with the individual problems…the issues…within the system now controlled by that economic elite. That system is set up to suggest that we can change the system from within using the methods listed above. However, and we see that despite all our hard work, the results are often spotty and meagre. We see that the system is set up, rigged, to swallow our energy and resources and not really allow any significant change.
We have been playing in their ballpark by thinking an issues-approach is the answer, only to find our resources scattered and often ineffective, leaving us frustrated and burned out.
The real problem is a systems-problem and not an issues-problem. This is much like not being able to see the forest for the trees. That is not to say that the issues are not important, only that the present system of rule by an economic elite is set up not to allow those necessary changes to occur.
The neoliberal economic system, run and controlled by an economic elite, has failed us as a nation and as a people. It is time to change systems. This may seem radical, but the system change we want is to go back to democracy…hardly radical and more a part of our heritage than their system ever will be.
So we must unify under the banner of Democracy. This does not mean giving up on significant specific issues, but only understanding that we must unify first move back to a democratic system in order to have the means of resolving those issues.
Democracy First, and then solutions are possible. Under a democracy again, many of those significant issues will be resolved by having a democracy again and the other issues will be closer to solution through full discussions within a democratic tradition.