Monday, August 06, 2007

Pay Attention

The 2008 Presidential election is going to be one heck of a show. As I'm sure you're aware, it has already begun. I humbly admit that this is the first time I've paid very close attention to politics, but I feel that this time, especially, it's very important to do so. This little blurb is just to encourage you to do the same.

There seems to be a feeling of futility circulating among the Americans I know regarding politics and the democratic process. We see big problems and are at a loss to know how to address them. They seem too big for one person to impact. We bitch a lot, but don't make significant changes in our own behavior or take social actions that might actually change something.

I was struck recently by the lyrics of John Mayer's song "Waiting for the World to Change":

Now we see everything is going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don't have the means
To rise above and beat it

We seem to collectively feel that we are powerless to make changes in the status quo. What kind of 'democracy' is that?!
I don't like the message in Mayer's song. I think he captures the futility people feel, but I wonder if the 60s generation would have waited for "the world" to change the situation in Viet Nam? They took to the streets. They organized. They protested. We don't have to "wait." We just have to act. Mayer seems to want to let our generation off the hook.

I think we need to take a significant look at the forces which keep us from organizing and acting. One is that our system of credit in this country keeps most of us complacent and satiated. We don't have to struggle too much or suffer too long before satisfying our needs. Most of us are in debt up to our ears, but we can still have the latest gadget or outfit when we want it.

The individual has also been, for the most part, excused from our so-called democratic process. There is no requirement for citizenship--only that you pay taxes. Voting is optional, participation in other democratic processes in one's community is left to the discretion of the busy individual. Being accurately informed about issues of importance to the average American is left to a media that is funded by advertising (thus influencing our choices) and driven by the need for ratings to use other tactics such as fear and sensationalism to secure their audience.

I would like to see the average American re-empowered and encouraged to participate in the democratic process. We hear the word "democracy" thrown around these days as if we actually have one. We praise the democratic system as the best in the world and insist that it must be spread to all those with other forms of government. But when even the most privileged, best educated Americans are feeling that they have to just "wait for the world to change," and when the average American spends almost 1.78 hours/day shopping (see here) [that's 12.46 hours/week] or 3.24 hours/day watching TV, it seems that something is wrong with our democracy.

Maybe if we all just take a little more responsibility for it -- i.e. pay attention and get involved-- we might not have so much waiting around to do.

Suggestion: form a block association and find out the needs/concerns of your neighbors. Establish regular meetings and communicate with your district representatives. No need to wait around for the world to change. Do something.

At least, follow this Presidential election, inform yourself from reputable sources and vote responsibly!

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