Thursday, September 21, 2006

Choice: The Core of Democracy

Every so often, we'll be putting up a list of currently topical action links for you to choose from, as we collect them (and as always we welcome suggestions from Commenters). I know it may not seem like much to send an email, sign a petition, or even participate in one of those letters-to-the-editor features that some sites have. But guess what—sometimes it works. Sites like Moveon and American Progress have made a kind of art form of them, and several have proven very effective in actually influencing decision-making on Capitol Hill and elsewhere.

An excellent example is Save the Internet's email and petition campaigns on net neutrality. The petition drive has generated over 1.1 million signatures, and more than 15,000 blogs have signed on to support the campaign (DR is among them). It went from a drop-kick corporate victory to a stalemate in the Senate, and the fur is still flying on Cap Hill. What these campaigns do more than anything is to keep the politicians nervous, and I personally like that. I do not want the fat cats to ever feel satiated and comfy; they all make six figure salaries and get about 8 weeks' paid vacation every year—let them squirm a little, the lying, self-serving, imperious, cloying, shifty, corrupt bastards.

Here's some recommended action links for this week:

Oxfam: Tell Josten's to repudiate the practice of mining "dirty gold". We all know about Josten's: they made a fortune selling those class rings that most of us got in high school and college. This campaign is about reminding them that fortunes can still be made while also ensuring that miners, their families, and the environment are treated with respect and dignity. So what if the fortune's a little smaller as a result? To me, success and prosperity are defined by my ability to go to sleep at night and look in the mirror in the morning. How about you, Josten's?

Consumers' Union: Tell the FCC to stop the evidence-tampering on corporate media mergers. The Bush FCC has destroyed evidence that contradicts their assumption that giving giant media corporations wiggle room on univocal news hegemony would be a benign tilting of the playing field. The fact is that when there's only one voice audible in the room, there is then only one truth (see my essay below for more on that problem, and an individually-oriented solution).

Progress: Time for a real minimum wage increase that's not tied to more tax breaks to support the lifestyles of the rich and infamous. And if you'd like to get a feel for how crucial this is, check out Ehrenreich's post at Huffington. You may also want to check out her books.

The Pen: Congress must uphold the War Crimes Act and firmly let the Bushies know that torture is no longer an element of foreign policy.

Progress: Genocide IS news. This goes to CNN, FOX, ABC, NBC, and CBS, and tells them that what's happening in Darfur deserves more attention than what's floating beside the space shuttle. While you're at it, you can also use FAIR's extensive media contact listings to get your voice heard both globally and locally.


Yesterday, we pointed to the vast potential of an open-source model in our technological and personal lives toward restoring some sense of what democracy feels like. After all, given what we have endured these past six years, it is understandable, if unacceptable, that many of us might have forgotten.

Democracy is what happens when individuals in a society are given the freedom and capacity of choice. Having the freedom to choose political parties, candidates, lifestyles, sexual orientation, family planning options, jobs, careers, schools, friends, partners, businesses, and associations is the essence of democracy; no sane person would disagree with that sort of a statement, no matter their political orientation.

This points to why America has become less democratic, more restrictive and oppressive, and less free over recent years. It's not that our traditions have been lost or our values weakened, or our institutions corrupted—it's that our choices, and our ability to choose, have been progressively, insidiously limited by a tyrannical government and a corporate hegemony in both politics and business. These toxic influences have been supported and smokescreened by a bought, prejudiced mainstream media, which is in turn ruled by the same corporate culture of competition, the insider trading of money and ideas, and a lockstep org-chart hierarchy of class. Think about your movements and actions during the course of a normal day, and see how many of them are pre-determined by the corruptions of our current culture. Think of the images and information that is made available to you in the media, and how much of it is the same old swill.

So the argument for social change should not be about which of two political parties; which group or institution can best protect or enrich us as a collective. No: the argument should properly point to how we might restore the vibrancy and variety of choice to our nation and the individuals that comprise its living body.

We need a third, fourth, and fifth political party that can easily gain media attention and a place at the table of the national debate (but Ralph, you don't start by running for President, damn it). We need alternatives to the corporate capitalist model of doing business—not replacements, but alternatives; one of which we have identified here as the "open source" approach to the sharing of material and intellectual capital. In our spiritual lives, we could use a more personal, less group-centric approach as well. We need a renewal of the kind of inner independence taught by Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman—in which, as one of them said (I think), "the only true church has a congregation of one." We need to break the leash of group affiliation and the arrogant chains of the moral perfection of priests, imams, rabbis, roshis, and popes. We have seen, only this week, the terrible cost of assuming omniscience in any of these or their demagoguery-clubs.

We need, above all, to make choices on behalf of the Earth that supports and nourishes our lives. It is time to put planet ahead of patriotism, so that both are served. Your country will benefit from the nurturing of a healthy, vibrant planet whose nations are all equally strong and free. But every nation will be ruined by the cult of planetary murder that is currently being perpetrated by the leaders of the so-called free world.

Make individual choice the daily touchstone of your life, and you will be doing more to promote and nurture democracy in your country than all the flagrant flag-waving patriots in Washington combined. Do this, and you will also be contributing toward the renewal of the planet you live on, and to its preservation for your children and the generations to come.

1 comment:

Jay McGinley said...


Darfur Vigil DAY 118 (now in NYC); 56 Days Hunger Strike since July 4, 2006

Young Rachel Corrie saw a bulldozer intentionally bearing down on the house of a family, a family she probably never knew. She got in front of that bulldozer, between the bulldozer and the house, between the threat, and the innocents. "This has to stop. I think it is a good idea for us all to drop everything and devote our lives to making this stop. I don’t think it’s an extremist thing to do anymore." DARFUR GENOCIDE. WE-CITIZENS SITTING IN COMFORT AND SAFETY IN THE FACE OF GENOCIDE, "THIS HAS TO STOP." (

We need to get between what is killing Darfur (Bashir's performance and the nonperformance by we-the-people, we world citizens) - and our children, sisters and brothers in Darfur. Now. And as of now we are not ( How do we do that? How do we make it happen? What would a sufficient "wake up" look like? IF SOMEONE HAS THIS ALREADY STARTED, LET ME KNOW. I'll join you, or even back out if that is best.

I am deciding what I will do next, what I expect to be my final attempt to spark the Rescue of Darfur by waking up sufficient numbers of we humans in time, converting us from spectators, critics and activists-of-convenience into antiviolent warriors (think Civil Rights struggle) of profound courage, wisdom, tenacity and effectiveness; utilizing to the max the few weeks, days and seconds that our Darfur family has left.

What would Rachel Corrie start THIS WEEK? This question strikes me as the way to approach the task of deciding. The way to focus the mind to come up with the appropriate, proportional response of greatest chance - THE BEST AIMED "HAIL MARY" PASS.

Rachel Corrie stood in front of a bulldozer about to destroy a house of people she did not know ( Would a different role model help you more? How about Steve Beko (South Africa, movie, Denzel), a young Gandhi, a young Nelson Mandella, an antivioloent Rambo, Deitrich Bonhoeffer, John Q (from the Denzel Washington movie)...? You get the idea. Think of your own role model APPROPRIATE to this situation.

LET’S JOIN TOGETHER IN THIS QUANDARY, before it is too late, please: Send me, or post, your ideas ( Now. I expect to embark on whatever best plan by early next week at the latest, with anyone that wants to join together.

A CONSTRAINT: Suggestions must centrally embrace this notion of the problem from Samantha Power's inspired, Pulitzer Prize-winning book, "Problem from Hell" (and I paraphrase AND take license): THE BATTLE TO STOP GENOCIDE HAS ALWAYS BEEN LOST ON THE FIELD OF PUBLIC OPINION. THE PEOPLE [WE THE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD]... HAVE NEVER STOOD UP SUFFICIENTLY TO STOP IT.

HUNCH: The plan should involve leveraging STAND's Oct 5th Fast to make it into the END OF THE GONOICIDE, the START of a WORLDWIDE FAST UNTIL DARFUR GENOCIDE IS ENDING. One-day only by all participants is too-little-too-late. A one day fast is NOT what the world's response to the Holocaust, the extermination of 6,000,000 Jews lacked. Not by many orders of magnitude. Death rates are climbing toward 25,000 per week in Darfur, NOW. We must be REALISTIC. Code Pink's "Troops Home Fast" could be a model ( Make STAND's October 5th the START? THAT COULD DO IT.

But, WE NEED EVEN BETTER, MUCH BETTER SUGGESTIONS and specific ideas for approach and execution than I am hinting at.

RESPOND. PLEASE. Now; because THERE IS NO MORE T-I-M-E. (For those of you that just want to watch, and have a good laugh at my frantic gyrations, enjoy.)

What would Rachel Corrie start THIS WEEK?

Jay McGinley ( 484-356-6243