Fixing America: the choices are elections, revolt, or passivity
My series about America has sparked much discussion, unusually intense (as it goes on the FM site). How can we reform America? This is the third in a series about this, perhaps the most important issue for our generation of Americans.
My opinion is simple (perhaps simplistic)
- We are in this together. Reality/nature/God enforces collectively responsibility.
- Individually we are weak. Collectively we are strong.
- Our reluctance to take personal responsibility for the Republic is our greatest problem. Ingenuity at producing excuses does not substitute for taking action.
- What are the odds of success at fixing American? It does not matter; nobody cares (not our forefathers, not our descendants).
Judging from the comments, this is a minority view. All of the comments disagree, most suggesting that passivity or outright revolt are our only effective options. This post shows comments about possible solutions.
- The problems
- Our responsibility for both the problems and fixing them
- Possible solutions
Please post your views, especially any evidence or citations supporting your view. As always, comments should be brief, topical, and civil. My posts about America are listed at the end.
gpanfile, 21 December 2007
one wants so much to feel optimistic and go in the direction of your recommendations… the problem is those pesky facts. we live in the most propagandized era of human history, unprecedented in its breadth and sophistication. the institutions that should have led us in the right direction from the beginning are now part of the problem… the government, the media, the corporations, the educational system… as they all drown us in propaganda and tell us about everything other than that, to serve their own short term ends.
given the core problem of our British roots, in that we have attempted to graft democracy atop a greed-based, imperialist elitist system, it’s no surprise things have come to this. royalty has essentially reasserted itself on all levels. all our institutions are discredited, having lied and failed and articulating no clear solutions to anything.
what to do about this? one thing would be to reassert our control of the airwaves we license to the craven moneychangers. but most important, i think would be to rethink our concept of how freedom and the consitution are connected.
that is, only voters should be entitled to the liberty our system offers. something like a tax for not voting, or denial of public services for not doing so, a fine for not doing so, money withheld and then refunded when one votes.
the theory, and to me this is utterly valid, would simply be that if the authority of the government derives from the just consent of the government, you have no right to anything from the government if you refuse to participate, period. this is not fascistic or unconstitutional, because it does not compel voting for any particular candidate or party, just participating in the process. the ‘none of the above’ choice could be required on all ballots, in case that would help people realize the fairness of this.
the point being that freedom should not include a free ride in terms of being able to not even exercise the most rudimentary act of choice and still receive the benefits. if people want the rights our consitution guarantees then, regardless of their political opinions or who they choose to vote for or against, their options should be these: vote, pay or leave. no more free lunch for deadbeat citizens. certainly this could not make our electoral results any worse than they have been…
Judasnoose, 4 June 2008
Ash wrote: “Well, it’s good that you encourage the public to vote: that has to be the first step. 60% of eligible voters turned out in 2004. Wouldn’t it be great if more than that turned out for 2008? ”
Apparently 40% of US voters think that their vote either makes a difference or is owed to the state.
I think the voters would make a stronger statement if 99% of them could agree to stay home until the jiggery-pokery of the election process had been abolished. A vote of no-confidence in the government would be inferred by such a voting strike, even though the American system does not formally recognize voter refusal as an effective vote of no-confidence. This tactic is often advocated by anarchists, which means that it is not likely to make dramatic advances into the currently compliant 40%. On the flip side, 60% of US voters either believe in anarchy or can’t be bothered to demonstrate that they don’t believe in it. The ideological former group is presumably much smaller than the apathetic latter group.
Fabius Maximus replies: Future historians may conclude that the special genius of the 21st century American may be to develop high-sounding justifications for doing nothing — and shifting blame for the resulting outcomes.
I urge you to get out there and write — organize — get involved in the political mechanics — write checks to candidates you like — and vote.
Judasnoose, 8 July 2008
“People’s power exists only collectively, acting together. … Collective responsibility is one spur to collective action. Otherwise we get what many Germans did under Hitler: enjoy the benefits, then deny responsibility when things end badly.”
If collective action comes down to “write your rep and then vote” I think it’s been nonfunctional in the USA for many years. Jeff Vail and John Robb have offered some thoughts on resilient communities. I suspect the non-voting behaviors of resilient communities will amount to more collective power than all the votes of all US voters — BUT if one could combine resilient community with voting, that would be an awesome force for change.
Also, I like Pete’s comment:”few of us common folk have the ability or the moral authority to topple an unjust government”…
Fabius Maximus replies: I am astonished that the concept of collective action is so foreign to us that it should need the degree of explanation apparent from your reply. That is very depressing, suggesting that my theory (b) is correct, that we are no longer capable of (or perhaps interested in) carry the burden of self-government.
Perhaps we have evolved into passive, coach-potato, chip-eating serfs. Fortunately we have TV to keep us entertained, and the internet over which to exchange whines.
Plato’s Cave, 8 August 2008
I will propose, for the sake of argument, that Fabius’ suggestion that we just vote in the next election is hollow. Merely voting is about as meaningful as choosing which tv channel to watch. Or, as a friend says, it has the same effect on the outcome of the game as rooting for your home team.
Elections are a sham and a distraction in our current system. Both major parties agree on the essentials of foreign and national economic policy. No one gets to run for national office without being vetted by the party elders, and indebted to the corporate interests which finance his campaign. A US Senator like Feingold is a miracle in the US Congress.
My favorite blog, after Fabius’, is Stop Me Before I Vote Again, a site “devoted to the deconstruction of the Democratic party.” I hope there’s a similar one on the Rebublican side.
Fabius Maximus replies: Voting is just the beginning of citizenship, not the entirety of it. As I have said many times: Vote. Get involved. Donate your time and money. Write. Talk to friends and strangers (e.g., walk precincts).
How wonderful a world it would be if progress could be achieved by sitting on our couch while complaining about America and deciding if any of the candidates were worthy of exerting ourself to vote.
While widespread adoption of this attitude would mean rapid collapse of the Republic, it would be good preparation for life in the new regime. Each of could choose a viewpoint suitable for a subject: irony, detachment, or resignation. For those interested in philosophy or religion, there were the traditional choices of a Roman aristocrat under the Empire: Stoicism, Epicureanism, Hedonism, and Christianity.
goesdownbitter, 8 August 2008
First of all, Rush is an elitist to end all elitists. He doesn’t know anything about America and has only a passing understanding of the truth. The renewal starts at home and then your neighbor and then the next as we rebuild America house by house and block by block.
If a candidate wants your vote then they need to pledge to dismantle government and stop the reign of terror by law enforcement and the judicial system.
Rush is the worst kind of elitist who pretends to be one of the little people while using his power and wealth to destroy not renew. Nothing Obama or any Democrat could ever say would meet his approval. An elitist is someone who is the best of, or most knowledgeable or superior in some way. We need elitists for leadership in all areas of society but politics is one area where there are few elite. Obama is not an elitist and the false claims of Rush and his Nation are simply a smokescreen to keep the baa baa baa happy in the Bitter Hinterlands.
Don’t mistake us for supporting either McCain or Obama, neither is qualified to be the next president. Don’t think that we support the howling from the left either. This country’s elites from academia, the media, government, judiciary, religion and business have been waging war on freedom and on the Republic before the ink even dried on the Constitution.
No one in power currently deserves our support. No one.
Fabius Maximus replies: What does is mean that Rush is an “elitist”? How do you this that he is one, and that Obama is not? My any usual meaning of the word, so were many great people in American history.
Judasnoose, 15 August 2008
There is a simple way to maintain a “modern military,” but one that would ultimately destroy the state to save the nation.
Simply start training with firearms in grammar school. Require basic proficiency in military science for all high-school graduates. Require all college graduates to know enough chemistry to synthesize explosives. Make home arsenals more common than home computers. Be prepared to keep the policies in place despite a massive uptick in American-versus-American gun violence.
Of course, revolution and civil war would break out, because the USA is no longer a unified nation but rather a divided empire of subcultures. But there would a gun behind every blade of grass, and no one would dare to invade.
For the less bloodthirsty, an alternative would be to simply stop going “abroad in search of monsters to destroy” and focus the effort on healing America’s numerous subcultural divisions. That would mean a vastly diminished military, and a vastly decreased amount of foreign policy bribery. The US would have to shrink back into being a republic — it would be a loss of glory! God forbid that the US might no longer lead the world in military modernity!
The USA is parasitized by plutocrats. The plutocrats make money from US social decay. Ergo, one must either get rid of the plutocrats or tolerate the social decay.
If one tries to rebuild neighborhoods, walk the precincts, get the vote out, and otherwise work within the system — the plutocrats will skim all the profits out of the system, and all your effort will merely serve to enrich your enemies.
Fabius Maximus replies: Interesting analysis.
“If one tries to rebuild neighborhoods, walk the precincts, get the vote out, and otherwise work within the system — the plutocrats will skim all the profits out of the system, and all your effort will merely serve to enrich your enemies.”
Is this said on the basis of extensive analysis by multi-disciplinary teams and extensive computer modeling? Revelation from God? Psychic powers? It must be something certain, to justify abandoning any civic responsibility. Nothing like certainty of failure to rationalize passivity.
Judasnoose, 16 August 2008
“Reform efforts repeatedly failed in France’s Ancien Regime, leading to the bloody French Revolution and the dictatorship of Napoleon. Signing on to a program going in that direction by passivity does not seem wise…”
Refusing to work inside the system does not mean total passivity. There are also ways to work outside the system. Consider a Jane Q. Hypothetical, a Daughter of the American Revolution who decides it is impossible to work within the system.
- She could remain within US territory and arrange a high-publicity civil disobedience arrest;
- She could emigrate to Russia and set up a newspaper telling the world why America has gone wrong;
- She could emigrate to the Gaza Strip, and try to help Palestinians as a protest against US-Israel collusion;
- She could become a Quaker war correspondent, write for justworldnews.com, and get linked by Fabius;
- She could devote her life to spray-painting anarchist slogans in public places;
Fabius Maximus replies: These conversations on this site are astonishing. It appears that are many folks who evidently consider the US a dictatorship like NAZI Germany, justifying the extreme steps you describe in these comments.
Folks will apparently go to great lengths to avoid real work, like organizing and working elections and the many simple steps that produce real change in societies. Comic book fantasies that you’ll never actually do are so much more fun.
Please share your comments by posting below (brief and relevant, please), or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).
Other posts in this series about America, how we got here and how we can recover it
- Forecast: Death of the American Constitution, 4 July 2006
- Diagnosing the Eagle, Chapter III – reclaiming the Constitution, 3 January 2008
- A report card for the Republic: are we still capable of self-government?, 3 July 2008
- Americans, now a subservient people (listen to the Founders sigh in disappointment), 20 July 2008
- de Tocqueville warns us not to become weak and servile, 21 July 2008
- A soft despotism for America?, 22 July 2008
- The American spirit speaks: “Baa, Baa, Baa”, 5 August 2008
- We’re Americans, hear us yell: “baa, baa, baa”, 6 August 2008
- Obama describes the first step to America’s renewal, 8 August 2008
- Let’s look at America in the mirror, the first step to reform, 14 August 2008
For all posts on this subject see America – how can we reform it?.