Political Paralysis, Direct Democracy and Personal Action: If the People Lead the Leaders will Follow

This is off topic, so If you’re looking for a horticultural twist here, there isn’t one.  Those of you who don’t know me should understand that my first degree was in Sociology, that I had intended a career in urban planning.  Things happened.  The fit was wrong.  But, the function of our social institutions, like our political system, has always fascinated and exasperated me.  I am not a man of faith as a rule and I expect those above me to demonstrate their competence and hearts in their work.  Words are too often used as a smoke screen.  I think we are way beyond the point where words can substitute for action.  So, here we go.

What’s on my mind? Lots lately. The growing crisis in affordable housing here. The yawning chasm between the super wealthy and the rest of us and their spending of money to buy legislation and Congress, climate change which apparently has been banned from some states…the solution should be so simple….
The letter below is what I’ve been thinking of most recently, a letter to Americans of all political affiliations and stripes. The future is upon us friends. We have not been invited to the party!!!

Letter to America

I am a bit obsessive in the way that I look at the world. I can’t let it go though I’m regularly told that I would be happier if I did. Global warming, the looming Cascadian Subduction Zone Quake, the yawning chasm between the super wealthy and the rest of us, the violence and war that has become common place, a growing human population that is putting every resource under increasing pressure from arable land, to fresh water, building materials and petroleum to wildlife habitat and the wild places that can replenish our spirits and restore us; Congress and governments at every level that seem incapable of ‘correcting’ anything, mired in juvenile squabbles, the mind numbing loss of species worldwide and in our own country that we seem resigned to, oh well, what can be done? There is a blasé sense of resignation that takes the place of a meaningful public dialogue…that and finger pointing. And our leaders seem okay with it. We wait for resolution, for rescue. We accept our powerlessness self-medicating, each in our own way, consuming and blaming others, asking ourselves if it’s still good enough and struggling hard to find confirmation, that things, as bad as they may be, are still okay. And we cling to the old paradigm, all of the beliefs, the skewed priorities that put all of us in a weak position, not sacrificing for the greater ‘good’, but in service to an economy that has never really served us, we attend it as if it were the center of our religion, of our beliefs, in the hope that some day we will be rewarded, that its promised beneficence, will some day be ours. We work and we wait while the modern day economic ‘gods’ who directly attend to the mysteries of business pass judgment on us as well. False ‘gods’, tainted and small. We wait. We are hungry. We live in a time of powerful small men whose power has twisted them. They are guided only by the concept of more and their greed. They see no reason to address the problems of the day because it is precisely these problems that serve them. There is nothing to be gained by waiting, only much to be lost. It is up to us. The power to change the world has always come from us. We just have to take it back and act directly on our own behalf and on that of our children, our communities and the planet. When the ‘health’ of the economy lies in the destruction, the consumption, of the planet, there is no solution to be found by following it.

Concerned about climate change, don’t wait for Congress or the State to act: reduce your carbon footprint now; choose to have zero or only one child or provide a home to a child in need, there are plenty already out there; get rid of a car and don’t replace it or get a high mileage vehicle; move or restructure your life so that you are less dependent on petroleum powered transportation; make a habit of riding a bicycle, not just for recreation, but to help you accomplish your daily needs; or a bike with an electric assist if you aren’t physically capable of propelling yourself around; or a gas scooter, mine gets 85mpg; understand that a large home, even if it is well insulated and ‘efficient’, is still large and consumptive of material and energy to build and maintain, so live ‘small’; buy locally and avoid the costs that accrue to any product that must be shipped; remember, the first ‘R’ is refuse…don’t buy it in the first place; trade in bigger, faster, more for ‘small is beautiful’ and ‘enough’; start to question the concept of ‘convenience’…what about the benefits of engagement, skill and physical competence…isn’t convenience just another marketing concept like newer, different, better…we are shaped by the things that we own, that we use, is this ‘convenience’ good; the idea of human being as a ‘consumer’ is part of a marketing strategy to get you to buy, to never have enough, to look for fulfillment through ‘consumption’; begin defining yourself internally not by the standards of others, find joy and satisfaction in ‘being’, we are, after all, human ‘beings’, not humans buying, wanting or consuming; consumption is not an end in itself, it is a necessity, a fueling of the physical body, that enables maturation, becoming, being, the attainment of wholeness, of being complete…it is internal, not a collection of stuff or some kind of scorecard. Each one of us has the ability to make decisions in the way that we live that can make a small difference. Collectively, these can be transformative in a society. We only need to see our role in the wider society and act with the strength and confidence that it requires of us. Acting in your own long-term best interest, valuing community and the life on this planet, when we do this it will give us a certain peace of mind that is freeing. Many of us today live with a level of dissonance, an internal conflict, between what we know we should do and what we are doing. Give yourself permission. Take back the power that each of us are born with. Let the conflicts that ‘this’ life today has imposed on you go away. Be your own hero. Rescue yourself and in the process we can rescue each other and the things of value in this world. Simply act…and don’t beat yourself up with questions of, ‘is it good enough’. Don’t judge, act now. Make the world better directly and be at peace with that.
Powerlessness is unnatural. We have been taught to be reliant upon politicians and ‘leaders’. We have built institutions and empowered them to act on our behalf. We elect representatives who ideally represent our values, priorities and dreams. We have been taught to believe in the system. We have been taught to be patient and to understand that in a world with so many people that we can’t always get what we want. Compromise, we are told, is essential. We are ‘cowed’ by experts and taught that many things are beyond our understanding and we are reminded that we must have faith in the system, that it will do the best that it can for us and we are continuously cautioned about ‘them’, ‘they’, ‘others’, those who want what we have and that this world is hard and there will be some losers. We learn to shut up, to accept, to identify with us, we, America. Fear, peace through strength, securing resources, stabilizing populations and regions, sacrifice, militarism as foreign policy, police action, control, security, power over not with, never with. Tell me, how can this go on? George W. spoke of a new era of continuous war, a world in violent opposition to us. This is the language of the ‘end times’. And again, what if we would chose differently. Then take your power back. Take responsibility. Demand a positive vision, a future that includes your children and of community. Understand that ultimately people want the same things though they will be ‘packaged’ differently. Muslim, Black, Chinese, indigenous tribal, Caucasian American or Russian, gay, straight, young, old, tribal, civilized, educated or not. It is greed and power that divides. Megalomaniacs want what is not theirs to have. Billionaires will never have enough. They don’t even understand the concept. They see the rest of us as weak, stupid and unambitious…and, as threats. People to be separated from what could be theirs. Conflict is a choice and can come at great cost. Who is paying it? Who is benefiting from this choice? It is likely not you or me. Ask yourself, ‘Is this the best possible world?’ And then ask what can you do to make it so, because Congress and governments in general won’t. Governments are not comprised of visionaries. They are managers and politicians playing within the rules they are given and these rules are being rewritten everyday excluding more of us. We, the poor and the middle class, have out lived our usefulness and, as such, are being squeezed out. Don’t believe me, than wait. Go along. One day you will find yourself left standing alone in the dust. Or, has it already happened and you are still refusing to believe that they would do this to you. Don’t expect them to make significant or effective changes. This system today works just fine for the few. It will always fail ‘us’.
This is all very unpleasant stuff to consider, this is America after all, and we are citizens. We believe and we’ve served and sacrificed. Surely we are among the included, the ‘chosen’. I only wish that we were. You commonly here these days that, ‘Freedom isn’t free!” No, it’s not. We have grown complacent while we benefited. We defend ourselves against a never ending series of outside threats, yet can’t bring ourselves to believe that the biggest threat may be internal, by those in position to do so effectively, with our own compliance and support. We are being isolated and left on our own, while the ‘lifeboat’ continues to shrink. Have you been faithful enough. What do you have to offer. Why should you be brought along? There is a whole generation being set adrift today. Sure, there are exceptions, there always have been, just enough for us to cling to our beliefs in the system. If this is all bull, call them on it, they will have nothing to hide, but don’t be shocked by the resounding silence. This is a topic only to be denied not discussed. So, I leave you with that, think about this, discuss it with those around you that you trust. Look at what is happening in the world around you. Take action or accept. It has always been our choice.

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