Mayday USA and Lawrence Lessing
Lawrence Lessig is out there living his passion and communicating his truth. In that, he is commendable. He makes a compelling argument for everyone to give up their defeatist attitudes - "What can I do about it?" and stand up and help solve the issues that our collective apathy have brought about. He has started the movement Mayday US and you can check out his website if you are interested.
As i said in "A Movement of Ones", we can all do something. I have up to this point no argument with his statements, nor can I (or would I) refute his claim that it is the 1% that is driving the U.S. (and I would add most Western democracies') political and governmental decisions while people stand idly by, consoling themselves with "Well, what can I do about it anyway?". Small consolation that.
I do object to Lawrence's scope and the fact that he is using the weapon of hope. Weapon of hope? Yes, I will explain that below.
Hope as a Weapon
Hope - a weapon? But haven't we all been taught that hope is a good thing? Well it certainly can be. Anything can be either helpful, hurtful or neutral. In the instance of fixing a completely corrupt systemic institution - hope is not only not useful. I believe it is a dangerous, even a weapon which will backfire on the one's wielding it. Let me explain.
It would be like wishing that the food in your fridge, that better comes under the title of "failed science experiment" could be salvaged as viable nutrition. Rather than just wishing, suppose you began to hope and then moved into actually working towards salvaging it and making it edible once moreI Even if it were possible, would it be the best we could do? Is this somewhere hope should be employed? I think not.
It would be regrettable that we had forgotten about the food and not managed it better. But having discovered that it is wholly corrupted and no longer good to use, the best thing would be to throw it out and get something new in there. Hope in this instance would be ridiculous.
Yet let us suppose that one of us (or more) feels an attachment to this particular piece of ex-food and wants to salvage it at all costs. We might try to clean it up, rehabilitate it, perhaps try to deodorize, remove the mold and the bacteria growing on it in the hopes that we would find it palatable again. But would it ever be safe to eat? No. And that hope would drive you to waste your time and energy investing in something which will never return either to you in any meaningful way. A blind hope, like a blind love is not helpful and may be harmful. It is a weapon. It can leave one feeling depressed, resentful, or destructively angry. Ultimately wielding hope in a hopless situation will shut down the will to act. This is using hope as a weapon.
Now some of you will feel this to be unfair as an example but I think you understand better what I mean by the weapon of hope. I believe that in presenting hope of systemic reform of government to the people and getting them to believe, as he obviously does,
that it is possible, Mr. Lessing is using that hope as a weapon. I do not however, believe that it is his intention to do so.
Is systemic reform of governmental institutions possible?
Where I disagree with Mr. Lessing is that systemic reform is possible. The Romans went down trying to reform a corrupt system, a system which was broken. Mr. Lessing uses the example of the first Pentium chip and its repair - which came at great cost - to assure us that such reform of the governmental system is possible. But before you sign up and start marching, ask yourself one question. Is he right? Other forms of government have been taken out before, "fixed", and re-instated yet they ended up as corrupt as ever. The monarchy in France after the Revolution is a case in point. True, they eventually got themselves free again but is their current government doing the will of the people? Or is the Emperor simply wearing a different mask?
Is Democracy viable?
"We the people..." is a compelling phrase. We the people have wanted to believe in democracy since Greece, if not before. Yet what we have is not a true democracy. I don't believe that democracy, the representative kind which we have, where we send someone else as a proxy to do what we want and pay them to do it because we can't be bothered, can ever end up as anything but a totalitarian dictatorship. I believe that what we need is a realization that you can't send someone to do your job. You need to voice your own opinion. In the past that hadn't been possible. Are things different? Is there something that might make democracy, real democracy, possible?
Democracy and Social Media
In this age of facebook, skype, instagram, twitter, and other forms of social media,we could have a real, not a representative, democracy. I think that is at the very least where the mark should be set. 1 voice, 1 vote, period. The corporations as entities should not be able to sneak in behind our backs (actually they don't even really try to hide what they are doing anymore) and buy the politicians we have elected. If we were to remove the politicians, or susbstantially downgrade their roles, we would not only slow down corruption , we would save ourselves a lot of money. We only need a few taskers to do the grunt work of small items - approving infrastructure maintenace and other small things. For the large ticket items - pipeline or other potentially ecologically hazardous items, major changes in policy, approval of the budget, and so on - we all vote. It can be done.
But what Mr. Lessing is suggesting is not enough. Like all university type thinkers, he has an idea but it is an unconnected idea.
So let's say that he does accomplish the fact that they have a more honest government. It is still perpetuating the monster that government has become from the standpoint of all of the inefficiencies in the system The system itself is what needs reform, not just one tiny part of it.
Another way - the Inclusive Local Circle
Now, personally, I believe that the flaw in democracy is not fixable. It is a system, which we have explored over generations and frankly it hasn't really held up well. Like Monarchy, Oligarchy, Communism, Democracy is not a particularly humane system. I think that we need to go to a locally driven Circle type of government, which would link with other local governments in a network. You might need a few co-ordinators but you would not in any way need the huge (and expensive) governmental system we currently support with our taxes. It would be less expensive and more efficient.
Local Governments and Responsiveness
Local governments can not help but be more responsive to their
citizens concerns because they live in the same communities. They are impacted by any issues the community faces, such as:
- Land use
- Medical attention
- Quality of Life
Old habits die hard. I'm not saying this would be a welcome change. I'm not saying that people who are privileged under the current corrupt system will not fight to keep what they have. The more the system is (or you believe it is) serving your needs the less you want change. But if we choose not to become extinct within the next few hundred years we need to start the process of change now.
What will it take?
Most people know the problems we face. They might hide their head in the sand about it but they know. Lessing claims he has given people hope. Maybe he is right. My contention is that hope will not be enough.
There are some qualities that we need to cultivate in order to forge a new way:
- Awareness - We need to wake up and look around us and actually see things the way they are, not the way we were told they are.
- Honesty - It is important to be honest about what we are facing and the fact that we can find a solution.
- Courage - It is important to confront our fears and forge on toward a solution.
- Vision - We need a new vision of the future. Without a new vision, we will continually recreate the same mess.
- Ceativity- We need a creative way to solve our issues.
- Solidarity - We need to put aside our personal differences and stand together to get to a new future.
- Understanding and Compassion - We will not necessarily "get it right" right away. That does not mean we are not on the right track.
What Lessing Missed
What Lessing missed is this - the Pentium chip, he used in his example was new. It was not an old chip which had become corrupt. It was a brand new item, which needed tweaking. That is possible. What he is suggesting is not.
A Vision and A Voice
We have the false idea that only a democracy can give us a voice. There are other ways to have a voice. Let's look at that and really start something that will serve humanity - all of us. And let's do it now. It doesn't need hope. It needs clarity and the qualities listed above. But most of all it needs a way forward. It needs a vision of a better future, not just the reruns of our past failings and hopes. That is a vision, which is emerging. I will leave that for a future installment.
In conclusion, I wish Mr. Lessing safe travels on his hero's journey. I don't believe he is wrong necessarily but I maintain that he is walking with his eyes closed in the dark over rough terrain. That is a dangerous journey.