Saturday, January 29, 2011

Democracy or Bust - Staring Down the Tanks

Tanks and armed personnel vehicles are rolling into Egypt and I am struck with renewed wonder of how intrinsic friends and family are to the process of Democracy. Nervously watching the faces of soldiers waiting to be given the order to fire upon their own people, I cry with joy when I see their reluctance and quietly cheer as young men, with weapons of destruction at their disposal, stand-down and accept the hugs and kisses of their fellow countrymen.

I hope it stands. This loyalty. This knowledge that to destroy your own people is the end of humanity.

My hope is that all parents, everywhere, realize you don't let your children grow up to be soldiers without first teaching them that when democracy "hits the fan" and you have a choice between serving a corrupted political body and an oppressed people - you side with the people.

Because, yes, in theory, democracy is a government by and for the people. (rueful smile).  But when that government becomes deaf to the will of the people how do concerned, angry, disheartened citizens make themselves heard?

We can write letters. We can make phone calls. We can sign petitions :) But the real measure of a government's ability to hear, to listen and to respond is measured in the streets. Demarcations of sons and daughters, of parents and guardians, of the elderly and the yet to be born.

Only then are grievances addressed. Only then do politicians stop politicizing and start negotiating.

Democracy isn't hiring the guy with the deepest pockets and the best sounding promises. True democracy is paying attention to the state of the union, being aware of what needs to come next and acting in unison to hold powerful people, and the institutions they embody, in check.

Only now, with a camera in every corner of the globe, can we see that this is a global crisis. The Restless Many becoming Fed-up with the Prosperous Few - to paraphrase the title of Noam Chomsky's book "The Prosperous Few and the Restless Many".

Whole countries and populations are at risk of starvation while massive amounts of money are being siphoned from the bottom of the pyramid (the masses) and redistributed to the top of the pyramid (the prosperous few) through various means of business and investment shenanigans, all the while, justified by very intelligent people in very expensive suits.

The Will To Power. It is our job, as voters, as world-citizens, to be a stop-gap to that impulse. The impulse to take land, labor or mineral resource without regard to consequence for those who fall beneath a certain median on the ladder of status and influence.

It won't be easy but we can see that it has already started.

I believe this is only the beginning. I believe this movement, this moment, crosses all cultural and religious boundaries. I believe that each government is going to have to reconcile the needs of its struggling people and the avarice of its richest citizens and institutions.

Or, at least, that's the way it seems to me,