What is the one thing?
L. Shaw Mitchell, Occupy South Carolina
Full text below the line for ease of online translation.
No matter what your favorite cause is — whether it is protecting the environment (a top priority for me), or fixing education, or reforming the media, or protecting and promoting civil rights (free speech, gay rights, minority rights, children’s rights, death penalty, etc.), or stemming population growth (an environmental issue if there ever was one), or ending warfare, etc., etc. — if you want to make any head way you are first going to have to create the political will to make the change. And in order to create political will you have to educate the electorate — consciousness raising. In the long run, in order to maintain an educated electorate you must first have a real, functioning representative democracy (as one of my intelligent friends, Gregory, likes to put it :-).
We do not currently have this. Which helps explain why our electorate is abjectly ignorant of cutting edge human knowledge and wisdom. Most are still stuck with outmoded or even backward views of the world. This knowledge is hindered from reaching the electorate, because the plutocracy/corporatocracy largely prevent it by controlling schools, media, and government. And then of course there is the advertising, marketing, and public relations industries — shapers of public opinion. These institutions have molded our culture. Our American culture is marketing. (The Obama campaign won best marketing campaign of 2008 by the industry.) None of these institutions are democratic. Schools and the media, as Naomi Klein put it, are the oxygen of our democracy. Our republic is, indeed, struggling to breathe.
There seems — to me, and others — to be only one way to change our sick system. Build a movement of just enough people to make happen basically one thing. And that one thing will be the foot in the door of democracy. Once the door is open we can begin to build a real, a functioning representative democracy. If we can make this one thing happen then we can begin to rid ourselves of this corrupt system of predatory capitalism. By making this one thing happen we can increase the chance of having, for the first time in this country, a democracy and capitalism for the many, not just the rich.
What is the one thing?
They have the money, but we have the people. This can only be accomplished if enough Americans get involved. We can only do it together.
Which means we must stop ridiculing the Tea Party people, et al. To deride is to further divide. This plays into the hands of the political elite and their paymasters. We have been divided and conquered by “culture war” and wedge issues, and by “politics of distraction” (the superficial issues of the Hobson’s choice game between Democrats and Republicans, which we are fed by corporate media).
There are real issues (which are seldom addressed by the corporate media nor by the political elite) to be addressed and this is where we Americans have more in common than we realize. These people, “on the other side,” are us. We must stop the divisive “Us and Them” thinking and rhetoric. We have to love on them. We have to lead by example, compassion, tolerance, empathy (all are biological traits of the human species), and civil criticism and civil dialog. As Walt Whitman said, “That could be me.” I know a few liberals who are former conservatives. We can’t wake up our brothers and sisters by bashing them.
What is the one thing?
If we Americans want this then we have to find each other and connect. I am working at this — right here, right now.
Electoral politics is the game we are given to play between the two parties (duopoly) largely owned and controlled by the Corpocratic Party. The illusion of “choice” was made for the many, by the few — the shapers of public opinion, themanufacturers of consent.) Dwight Eisenhower called it the Military-Industrial complex. I call it the media-mercantile-military matrix. In the real world many people are asleep to the fact that the two parties are largely controlled by unelected powers, which means the game of electoral politics is extensively, but not completely rigged. While it remains important to ensure that the lesser of two evils is elected, this game is tantamount to moving deck chairs around on the Titanic. Wars, Wall Street kleptocracy, and environmental destruction continue no matter who is in office.
Of the progressive/liberal non-profit organizations that I have researched almost all are facing toward state houses and the US Capitol. That is, they are focused on lobbying, or protesting legislatures who have to spend two-thirds of their time fund-raising for campaign money, 90% of which comes from rich people and rich corporations. How far are Common Cause, Public Citizen, Democracy for America, or new organizations like RootsAction (all wonderful organizations with smart, hard-working people) going to get by spending our donated money (or money from foundations run mostly by the political elites) on lobbying a bought-and-paid-for legislature? Many of these organizations have been fighting the good fight for decades, and yet the electorate, and consequently “our” government continues to move to the Right. To be fair, maybe our NGO allies have slowed this sinister shift. The narrow focus on electoral politics and lobbying is not enough to save humanity from inevitable fascistic and environmental disaster. (How many non-profits with offices in DC pay big fat salaries and sweet benefit packages to lobby political elites with big fat salaries and sweet benefit packages? Beware, if movement building is not a focus, then cashing in may be the focus. Maybe. Buyer beware.) Progressive populists must innovate and change our tactic in order to curtail the creeping chance of calamity.
What is the one thing?
Movement politics (and addressing root causes, not symptoms) is where 80% — as my good friend, a wonderful thinker, Bradley puts it — of our collective progressive time should be spent. We have a lot of catching up to do, because the Right has been movement building like gangbusters for the last 30 years or more.
This is why the American political center has been steadily moving to the Right. This also explains part of the reason why American wealth, due to American working class productivity, has been moving up into the bank accounts of America’s wealthiest 1% — families who mostly don’t work at all, they just own. Once the foot is in the door we can fix our anti-trust laws.
Progressive organizations must, in my view, change their focus away (at least 80% of the focus anyway) from trying to speak truth to power. Power already knows the truth — as Chomsky put it. The truth must be sought, by critical thinking, together as a people. Consciousness raising, organizing, movement building, educating, awareness raising, community building: These are the only mechanisms that we have available — the others have been bought off, centralized, and consolidated, by the wealthy. Government is supposed to be our mechanism. Of, by, and for all of the people.
What is the way to get our “mechanism” to work for the “general welfare” as our constitution states?
What is the one thing?
As far as I know, a few progressive organizations are beginning to build the infrastructure needed to facilitate movement building, however, the focus tends to be on band-aid issues. Yes, we need to stop the bleeding cuts (symptoms and effects), but if we don’t take away the sword (the cause) we will be changing bandages for the next thousand years — if our habitat lets us stay here that long. A democratic movement must build itself around a theme that addresses root causes of what is harming our anemic republic. Root causes are something that almost all Americans can get behind and gather around and work for. We will not all agree on every issue. None of us do. We don’t agree on everything with our closest friends and family. But we can all agree that our republic is in dire need or repair. We can agree to argue the culture war issues along the way toward fixing our republic. With healing the republic as priority number one. And once our open society is secure we can continue arguing issues. Democracy is messy — but, as it has been said — it is the best political system we yet know.
Government springs naturally from humans. Humans are social beings who form cooperative/competitive groups with rules — ever evolving social norms and conventions. Even cooperative-competition (i.e., mixed-market economy) requires rules. As I define it: Government is where people get together to decide how we are going to get along. Government is where the rules of the playing field are decided (“playing field” aptly implies competition. There is a distinction to be made between benign competition and malignant competition — sport or war.).
And, I’ll add, for my Left Libertarian and Right Libertarian friends, that we can’t get to socialism (anarcho or not), or a free market (anarcho or not) without first getting a true representative democracy.
That is, we can’t get from here* to there, without first fixing “here*.” (*State-sponsored, centrally planned [by corporations and their minions], Capitalism for the few.)
I will be satisfied by having a representative democracy and an educated electorate. But if you want your “Utopian” society to have a possibility of becoming a reality, you are going to first have to educate the electorate. And you can’t achieve this until you get rid of our plutocracy/corporatocracy that stands in the way. First, together, we must fix our republic, and then you can have the opportunity to work on your next step, if you still find your current ideal of a society to be desirable.
Our government reflects us — the electorate. Our elected officials come out of us, they are us — the body politic. We can best fix our government by fixing us.We must stop us from being molded by corpocratically controlled or influenced institutions, and by well paid political elites and pundits — who move through the revolving door of business and government. We must remake us, educate us, in order to create the government we deserve. We must democratize our social institutions.
What is the one thing? What’s the first step, the foot in the door?
Tikkun, peace, empathy, science, democracy,
L. Shaw Mitchell
P.S. I have embedding a lot of links in this essay. These links lead to information that can help us to wake up to a more accurate perception of our reality and to the lies we’ve been told.
“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt
“Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power.”
– Benito Mussolini
The Democratic and Republican Parties are the two wings of the Corpocratic Party.
– Consensus of those who have awoken from the Political Matrix (e.g., Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, et al.)
“We, the people, are not free. Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means we choose between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. We elect expensive masters to do our work for us, and then blame them because they work for themselves and for their class.”
– Helen Keller
“We can have democracy in this country or we can have
great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we
cannot have both.”
– Louis Brandeis
“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
– Frederick Douglass
“THE SPIRIT of the times may alter, will alter. Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. A single zealot may become persecutor, and better men be his victims. It can never be too often repeated that the time for fixing essential right, on a legal basis, is while our rulers are honest, ourselves united. From the conclusion of this war we shall be going down hill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, will be heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion.”
– Thomas Jefferson
(Written during the Revolutionary War)
“The only way to defeat organized money is with organized people.”
– Bill Moyers
“The founding fathers in their wisdom decided that children were an unnatural strain on their parents. So they provided jails called school, equipped with tortures called education.”
– John Updike
“Education is the state-controlled manufactory of echoes.”
– Norman Douglas
“To me the worst thing seems to be for a school principally to work with methods of fear, force, and artificial authority. Such treatment destroys the sound sentiments, and the self-confidence of the pupil. It produces the submissive subject.”
– Albert Einstein