Ugh. We get into the same bind every year. New Years is a time of resolutions and some of them inevitably deal with our hopes for a better society, cleaner environment, a functional equality between the genders, and our desire for meaningful work, to name just a few. And then we look back a few months later and realize we didn’t make it. Somehow the rigors of life got between us and our aspirations. If we’re not careful, 2018 could end up looking a lot like last year.
For democracy to truly work, it will take more than just wishing it to be so – we must become essential parts to its overall performance. But that’s just the problem: society seems to go on and on, regardless of whether we contribute or not. This is perception, not reality, but it does lull us into thinking that one individual can’t make a difference anyway. It’s the rich, the powerful, the elites, the politicians, the corporate barons that get to run the world, right?
Ironically, democracy evolved as a mechanism for limiting such forces, not empowering or enriching them. But in recent years, despite the fact that we are proud of our democratic traditions, a global economic agenda has left us more as bystanders, as frenetic consumers, than joint shareholders of a political system designed to benefit all citizens.
It’s true that the practicing of democracy has always been an imperfect exercise, yet there was the sense that, despite our foibles, things were getting better, our greatest problems were solvable, and those few who controlled most resources had found an ardent foe in democracy itself. There are now few who believe this to be the case. Democracy is floundering and the rest of us along with it.
We once believed in the rock-solid nature of democracy, regardless of what transpired between the political parties, but as I noted in an earlier post, living within a democracy doesn’t mean it will survive. For that to happen we must live it, manifest democracy – live out our aspirations and not just assent to them.
The problem we presently face is that so many remain unmoved by it all, falling into the state that Lebanese writer Kahlil Gibran worried about: “Desire is half of life; indifference is half of death.” It’s that last bit we need to be wary of, lest in our negligence we find ourselves collectively outside of our ability to change our fate.
To matter, we must engage, and in serious fashion, because it’s our own collective future we’re talking about.
Let’s not permit ourselves to become a one-issue people. Such personalities can become angrier over time as the world doesn’t revolve around their sole concern. The great leaders, the most expansive citizens, always knew the value of linking many important truths into an effective plan for action. Let’s be more like travellers when it comes to politics, not merely tourists. Issues matter: let’s learn them and expand our understanding of place. And let’s avoid extremes. They leave us on the edge of community, not at its core where most citizens dwell.
What happens if we remain aloof? Look at various regions of the globe that recently cast off their democratic possibilities and are now ruled by the iron fist of bigotry, hatred, even prejudice. This is what awaits us if democracy fails, or as Plato put it: “The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.” This will inevitably transpire unless we stand collectively for our shared democratic estate.