Influential Prose

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Archive for the ‘democracy’ Category

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:

Vote.

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.

Vote.

Written by Influential Prose

October 19, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Power and Empathy

Winston Churchill once said that people who aren’t liberals in their youth lack a heart, and people who aren’t conservatives as adults lack a head.

His keen observation wasn’t about political outlook so much as it was an understanding of our relationship with power. In youth, people see a world where progress is impeded by conflict, and respond by promoting cooperation.

Adults who’ve been down that path have learned that access to power is essential for getting anything done.

Thus the paradox – the path to power is usually paved with conflict. And once attained, power is a slippery beast. It will twist and struggle on its own, while others try to wrest it away.

Taming it and deploying it effectively requires a unique mix of skills. Possession of both power and empathy, a knowing head and a good heart, is an uncommon combination. Despite Churchill’s artificial duality, the combination does exist and is worth striving for. Teach children both. We’re not doing them any favors by keeping them “innocent”.

Written by Influential Prose

October 10, 2014 at 3:47 am

Posted in advocacy, democracy

Hong Kong

After spending much of the past week very focused on the conflict in Hong Kong, I feel compelled to share why, even knowing I don’t need to.

Hong Kong was aligned with the West for 155 years (with a brief interruption during the WWII) albeit as a colony. It inevitably absorbed some Western values from that experience – the education system was modeled on England’s – so it has diverged from the mainland Chinese culture, specifically regarding how leaders are chosen.

So now comes the cultural clash of values, with critical questions – where does the world go from here? The planet’s human population continues to expand while wildlife populations shrink. Are authoritarian governments a necessary evil to manage so many people? Or can we have a cooperative, open society that strives to balance individual freedom of choice and responsibility?

Are we as a species mature enough to enjoy that?

The outcome in Hong Kong will tell us much.

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/oct/05/hong-kong-protests-betrayed-by-china-abandoned-by-britain

Written by Influential Prose

October 5, 2014 at 7:49 am

Posted in advocacy, democracy