I read a recent article on the United Press International website regarding a Princeton/Northwestern study that concluded that the US structure is that of an oligarchy rather than a democracy, with the US government representing not the interests of the majority of citizens, but those of the rich and powerful. The comments regarding the article were interesting – from the most academic (defining oligarchy/plutocracy and highlighting the symptoms that have been present from America’s birth and documented in this analytical study), to the more casual opinion, of “duh.”
A blog response from The New Yorker questioned the validity and methods of the study. Among the 75 comments for that post, there were still some hang-ups on definitions, regarding a republic versus a democracy.
A BBC news article suggested potential responses to this study, which primarily included resignation to the fate of not living in an equal world. Sounds about right for a media outlet that depends on structure to survive – maintain readers who somewhat believe the content of what is displayed and supply the preferred controlled solution of ‘no action, just kick back and maybe discuss, but ultimately just accept.’
MSNBC.com released an article as well. Just in case the reader did not have a direction for processing the information in the article, the media outlet provided a means of directing any blank thought or irrational emotion by providing a poll with just one question (which, I guess is supposed to be the most important), “Do you think the wealthy have too much political power?” The pollster had three options when responding. There was a “Yes…” a “No….” and a “It isn’t perfect but the system is still sound.” Really? That’s it? Where’s the choice for “I am not privy to enough unbiased information to answer”, or “I have no idea how things really work in government, except for what I have seen on TV or ‘made for TV’ news” or “I don’t care, where’s my iPhone” or even the answering-a-question-with-a-question choice of “Do ‘the wealthy’ actually have the power, or are they simply responding to their role in a controlled structure, handing their ‘power’ off to engrained fears about security, money and social judgement?”
Are the conclusions on how the US government makes decisions now valid since academic institutions have deemed them to be true? Should society or an individual have to wait for recognized studies conducted by intellectuals or academic institutions to verify what may have been already thought or felt?
And how does a ‘validated’ label change alter our attitudes about living within this system? Do we care much? Is there even an action to take? Do we drop out of school, quit our jobs, stop going to the grocery store, pay attention to the companies we support with our consumer purchases, ride bikes, pay attention to what’s in our food? I suppose no matter what the label, if someone is comfortable, there would be little motivation to change the day to day routine. Unless, maybe there was a movement that gathered steam, delivered ideas as guidance and solutions, and provided a leader who could communicate all of it effectively – oh, like an election campaign, I suppose. But, even then, is that still waiting for an “authority” to validate ideas, thoughts, feelings that were already known?
Is it a method of thinking for people to look for a leader (or ‘authority’) who believes (or says they believe) the same, then give energy, time and power over to them, as an investment perhaps? On a personal level, do we think we need a leader or group to validate our opinions or beliefs and to give us the security to make a choice or decision? Maybe we do as a society; maybe the process is too much responsibility otherwise; maybe this has been learned.
From another perspective, what if people simply did their own thing? Without violence, without gathering, without groups, without anything except personal choice and power.
Perhaps there is no actual vision for the “right” path or way to go, but maybe there is the feeling that the current path is not quite right. What if no other authority was needed to verify or validate and an individual simply ‘left’ the current path and strictness of the structure? Not for a spotlight, not for recognition, not for vengeance, not for saving fellow humans. What if the leader for you was you? So the challenge for finding a leader would ultimately be finding yourself.
Would this create change? Would it even matter? A friend reminded me of the ripple effect concept. The power of role model and example. What if someone simply stopped participating in the expected flow of life – stopped buying groceries and planted a garden – stopped eating at fast food restaurants and ate only locally sourced – stopped identifying themselves as a consumer, or even for that matter stopped identifying the system as a democracy. What happened to the practical? Identifying something for what it really is, based on how it functions and impacts…. then going from there. Can you live physically in a system that you have detached from ideologically, or have detached from the symbolic meanings? Is it even possible? Is there space outside the structure? Without a overarching authority, how far would the ripples go?
© M.R.Collier, A Way of Your Own, 2014