Reader Marc makes the point that even elected officials are told what to vote for just as the electorate follows the meaninglessness of campaign rhetoric. When you think about it, part of the decision for everyone is, in fact, mindless. The electorate is trapped in their cultural bias, subsumed in a lifetime of self identification within a cultural class and a financial perspective of reality – but honestly so. The elected officials, too, are trapped in a system that feeds on power, hierarchy, huge sums of money. Unlike the electorate, the officials are not bound by the reality of their constituency but by party leadership, the anxiety to be reelected, and to find coalitions of “friends” that give the official a sense of participation. Our dilemma is that no one can make genuinely moral or rational decisions for the greater good of self, class, nation, or the Earth.
How can society change in this bound environment? Not quickly for sure. How does one see the right decision in a sea of democratic prerogatives? Every decision is fraught with huge consequences: vote to not build a new jet fighter that the military doesn’t really need, and thousands of laborers lose their jobs; vote for better education and one’s taxes rise; vote in behalf of the environment and hundreds lose their jobs in the oil and coal industry. It goes on and on and often focuses on serious moral dilemmas – which are serious to some of us and indifferent to others.
The Tea Party tried. The conservative ideology did not win the fight but it certainly skewed the Congress toward some morally unfair policies in the name of less government. The Tea Party failed to understand the real issue: we are bound in a democratic society that has no one supreme issue. The Tea Party forgot that every stick has two ends that are on opposite sides and will never meet – it’s the stick between the ends that has value.
The gun atrocities garnered enough consciousness in the electorate that those elected officials who voted against gun registration went home to hostile constituencies and may not easily be reelected. But the gun lobby won the battle. The war continues.
One could turn to history to see how change occurred in the past. The mariner doesn’t intend to give a history lesson but think about changes only in the twentieth century: women’s right to vote; child labor laws; the right to vote; the right to form labor unions; the Civil Rights Act outlawing discrimination. Other citizen uprisings had the citizens burning draft cards and bras, overtaking public parks in mass numbers, and more quietly, those twenty and thirty year old folks who have turned their back on Government. Two things are apparent: the initial starts of these changes sometimes take hundreds of years (slavery) and all of them take decades, at least one or two generations.
There’s that word. Generations. A fast forward example is Caruso, Rudy Vallee, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Michael Jackson, nsync, and Justin Bieber. Don’t worry if your favorite is left out. What the list demonstrates is that every generation has a unique, almost stand-alone impact on society.
The mariner suspects that as each generation comes of age, it carries within it a few small seeds of change from earlier generations that are accepted and not an issue. Each generation has its important issues, and its unique perception of reality but each generation has moved a notch along the measure of cultural change. A good example is the attitude toward lesbians and gays. As legislation only now begins to emerge from Congress, the public, by and large, has already dealt with it.
In the current environment, where the elderly need social security – especially since businesses are bailing out of that responsibility, where profit-taking is at an outrageous high in the health industry, and the global economy is in a quagmire that no one nation can fix, and the Earth becomes a trashier and dirtier place to live, where the young are not educated, where banks and investors reap 90% of the GDP, a generation is not long enough. Not even two generations. Some may be born and die before meaningful change has taken place.
We are in a peck of trouble. But we have to move at the speed of generations. We are strapped to the generation cycle.