I hope you’ll excuse my not channeling this week, and the length of today’s blog. I was really inspired by the political happenings in the US this week and it seems to me that there is a spirit of hope suffusing the continent.
I was watching parts of the US Democratic National Convention on television this past week and not because I have ever considered myself an especially political animal. I had the sense that I was watching an event of historical importance. The last time I had this feeling was when I stayed up very late to watch a man walk on the moon.
To me, what’s happening in the US isn’t about Democrats or Republicans; rather, it is about the end of the old and the beginning of the new. When Obama first showed up on the political radar of the US, I was dubious about his ability to overcome the corrupt political machinery that is politics today – in every country. I had been feeling overwhelmed with hopelessness.
The husband of a friend of mine is a German politician. Four years ago I was visiting them in Germany and he and I were left at the dinner table one evening while the rest of the family cleared up the kitchen. I found myself telling him that I had had very little to do with politics in my adult life, and that it wasn’t because I didn’t care or that I was lazy, but because I felt betrayed, alienated by the system and hopeless.
The political system doesn’t feel transparent to me. There seems to be massive levels of corruption and arrogance, and little that goes on after the election promises have been made seems to bare much resemblance to what the people around me care about. He looked at me. I think he heard me but he didn’t say anything. I don’t know if what I said made an impression on him. But it might have. He was, in my world, the first politician I had ever been able to talk to, face-to-face.
Someone might be listening …finally
Judging by what Obama said in his speech in acceptance of the Democratic party’s nomination, he and his party are listening. I think that’s why he’s getting so much support, even from traditional Republicans and Independents. I don’t think we’re all being snowed yet again – I fervently hope not!
Maybe this is when critical mass becomes so important. It takes the final straw to get enough public feeling – and it was feeling that I saw being expressed in that huge stadium in Denver – to counteract the arrogance of the power brokers in the existing American electoral system. Paying lipservice to what people want and then going your own sweet way once you get into office, and blatantly rigging ballot-counting, and lying to the whole world in order to go to war, and taking away citizens’ guaranteed rights and freedoms, can only last until enough people wake up and say, “Hey, wait a minute. You’re not listening to us and you’re supposed to be representing us”.
I met a local Whitehorse politician and his family at a social gathering when I was up there in May and I had the feeling that he was and is listening. I hadn’t expected it and was encouraged to believe that maybe something is changing in modern politics. I felt, in my heart, that he has a sense of integrity.
We’re only impotent as long as we believe we are. Once we take our power back and realise that the people who vote outnumber the people who pay for candidates’ campaigns, we might exercise our power by using it. I say ‘we’ very deliberately because, although I am not an American, I am under no illusion that their economic system doesn’t run ours and those of the rest of the world. I believe that we are all watching the Americans turn their system around and will be empowered by it – enough to demand the same at home.
I am optimistic enough to believe that political change can come. There are mutterings about a Canadian federal election this fall and it seems to me that Harper, our current Prime Minister for those of you readers who are not Canadian, has been sleeping very close to Bush’s cronies; something that I find very worrying indeed. I’m not impressed by the current opposition either.
Obama, who seems to be a different kind of political animal, appeared to come out of the woodwork, so-to-speak. He was there in the Senate, but not an obvious candidate for president. I hope the same is possible in Canada. Maybe we don’t necessarily need a leader with a lot of political experience, as long as the person is smart enough to surround herself or himself with quality advice and information and has the ability to make tough decisions, defend them and follow them through. We need leadership and communication instead of familiarity with toeing the line of the power brokers in our nation’s capital.
Hard work and sacrifice
I heard Obama say in his speech that every citizen was going to have to participate and that the changes weren’t going to be easy, for him or the public. I think people balk at making sacrifices when they don’t trust their leaders; when it looks like the leaders aren’t sacrificing at least as much as they are. That’s when they feel cheated, duped.
Personally, I’m not looking for the easy route. I’m looking for the route that makes sense in the long run. I’m just tired of flip-flopping governments, and parties, blaming the other party every time someone proposes a course of action that means we might have to make some sacrifices in the short term for some pay-offs in the long term. I don’t want empty rhetoric; I want sanity.
Democracy … endings and beginnings
I believe this US election is the beginning of the fall of the old empire, which will mean the beginning of a new era of involvement and responsibility. Enough of us will model the behaviour required to make it work, encouraging others to believe that it’s possible to have real representation in governance.
I think that the principles behind democracy are sound even though they have never been fairly applied. Our economic and sociological power structures have got in the way. Maybe the Greeks and Romans weren’t enlightened enough to be more inclusive but we have no excuse. We have the past to teach us what happens when we don’t look after all of our society equally.
We’ve had inequality when land ownership was a criterion, and sex, and race, and language, and still money. It’s time to sort out the unfair influence and corruption of Money-as-God, and get on with applying the original principles of participative democracy.
Teaching involvement and responsibility
In my opinion, our kids need to see citizenship at work in their everyday lives, in all its complexity. I’m clear that for most of us, our political education hasn’t been thorough enough, at home or in school. Our society can teach and model citizenship and prepare kids to be active citizens. Young adults should be outraged at any infringement on their rights and privileges as citizens. They should expect to be consulted and to vote. Voting should be a rite of passage; more so than learning to drive. It’s as important as physical exercise and good eating habits. The welfare of our country, and indeed the world, depends on it. They don’t all have to become politicians but they need to learn how to be informed on the issues that affect their lives, and know how to hold their political representatives accountable for their promises and decisions. Politics isn’t about any outside ‘them’; it’s about ‘us’.
I hope this election has the makings of a peaceful revolution.