Do The Right Thing

Winston Churchill once famously said that Americans can be trusted to do the right thing…after they’ve tried everything else first.

We have had our ups and downs as a nation, but we still lead in many important ways, some good and some not so much. There are dire signals emanating from the budget deficit and a broad understanding that our current situation is somewhere between a deteriorating democracy and a strengthening oligarchy. Americans are not yet accustomed to being treated as peasants, but certain realities are making it so.

Citizens now live in a world where business has an augmented reality view. Business sees the world through datasets profiling potential customers. We’ve all been, are being, assessed, analyzed, tagged, sorted. Now that the tools are cheap, surveillance is good for business, and law enforcement is only one of the buyers.

For democracy to survive, it will have to change to deal with this new reality. The first danger is a world of glass walls becoming one-way mirrors. To some extent it already is that way and long has been, but there’s more awareness now, and resistance. You’ve already seen the friction, in Occupy and more recently in Hong Kong. Power is a restless beast. Retaining and restraining it requires a strong leash, which is the function of a democratic system of checks and balances.

Coordination between commercial interests and government paired with surveillance is corrosive to democracy. The perception of American decline is not an illusion. We are losing influence, exclusive and/or privleged access to resources, and perhaps worst of all, credibility.

What can we do? You already know the answer, and you know it so well you’re tired of hearing about it:


Battered as it is, American democracy still exists, but people who want change must vote – and vote for progressive change, vote for progressive candidates, people who don’t blindly follow an ideological or religious agenda.

There are many distractions and not a few hurdles, but voting is important enough that you should think of it as comparable to checking in with your doctor.

In this situation however, you are the doctor, and your vote is your prescription, your treatment plan, your best recommendation.

If you feel your vote doesn’t count or isn’t enough, then roll up your sleeves and get involved beyond voting. Talk to people. Differ without being disagreeable. Seek out progressives, engage them, encourage them to vote. We need every one of them.

Let’s not enable a society of one-way mirrors through apathy. Let’s use these tools to develop a more transparent, fairer society. Let’s ensure the leash is on power, and not on us. If we remain passive, we’ll all be on leashes soon enough.

It’s time to do the right thing.