disobedia : editorial
do you really live in a democracy?
[true democracy demands thoughtful participation]

issue 7.1 | summer fall 2003

It is crucial that you remain as distracted as possible. Keep getting drunk, watching television, going to ball games and rock concerts, shopping at the mall, or doing whatever it is that helps you avoid thinking. Things are fine. Just peachy. Whatever you do, you must not wake up, you must not wake up and see.

While you sleep, things will continue as they are. Sadly, things are not really fine. You are part of a system, a food chain, a pyramid scheme. As long as you sleep, you are strapped in. You will continue to be exploited by those above you, and you will continue to exploit those who are below you. There will be no truth, no compassion, and no justice.

In this sleep, you will dream. You dream that you live in the land of the free and the brave. You dream that you live in a democracy. If only you were awake, then you would see that you live no where near such a place.

In a democracy, everyone participates, truly participates. A democracy doesn't mean that you get to vote if you feel like it. A democracy means everyone feels like voting and everyone is enabled to make an informed decision. To be a true democracy, all citizens must not only be empowered and energized, but also be informed and educated enough to cast a wise vote.

In our society, the government feebly offers the opportunity to vote (and in some cases, fails miserably even at that) -- but does nothing to encourage voting, or more importantly, to enable informed decisions.

The disappointing truth is that the wealthy elite are counting on you not to exercise your vote. They love that you believe, 'my vote doesn't count, so why bother?' Furthermore, they have deliberately fashioned a system in which everyone is too overworked, too tired and too stressed out to engage in the dialog necessary to make an informed decision on any issue. Those that do vote are casting their ballot choices without full information. Often, they in fact vote based on misinformation, half-truths or misleading propaganda by those with deep pockets.

Citizens should be casting their vote based on thoughtful contemplation, having read detailed and provocative essays from all sides, or having listened to extended probative debate. Instead, most people will not even bother to vote, because their difficult lives were running them so ragged, they were simply too exhausted to gloss over the issues or to show up to the polls. Worse yet, those who show up to the polls typically vote based on a TV commercial sound-bite or a catchy poster slogan. Few people seem to be listening, and even fewer seem to be questioning the veracity of the information we are fed.

It's no longer governance for the people by the people; it's actually governance of the people by those who can afford to buy the power. Yet, Americans continue to cling to this illusion of democracy. Does everyone think they are safe and free just because they are furiously waving a bunch of little flags? Well, let's contemplate a hypothetical...

Tomorrow, let's have an election. On the ballot, let's put an initiative, Proposition 603. The fine print of Proposition 603 will permit certain corporations to slowly poison us through our drinking water, but by doing so, a hundred new minimum-wage jobs will inadvertently created. The corporations (who stand to make a million-dollar profit annually if permitted to do this) will spend thousands on TV commercials and signs that promote "Prop 603 creates new jobs." All the voters (that's you and me) will be so exhausted every night that when we come home, we will not have the energy to read and discuss all the pages of legalese behind Proposition 603. Between work, school, the stress, the overtime, the commute, our bills, our personal errands, and our family problems, there just won't be any time left. Those who make it to the polling stations (and that's usually less than 30% of the overall population) will end up voting in favor of Proposition 603, thinking that it's good because it creates jobs. Ten years later, our children will be dying of cancer from the poison, and we won't make the connection (probably because we will still be overworked and tired). And, if we ever do figure out what happened, it will be our hard-earned money in the form of taxes, which will pay to clean up the mess. Is that democracy? Is that freedom?

So, why are we so overworked, tired and stressed out? Are we slaves in a third world factory, forced to work under such conditions because there is no other means of support? Or, is it that those same forces (the corporations and the wealthy elite who own them) have brainwashed us into a pattern of consumption that necessitates us to work and spend, work and spend, work and spend -- and above all, to never question why we must work or why we must spend. They are rich because they pay everyone less than what they are worth and because they overcharge everyone when it comes time to buy. And why do we play along? Why are we willing to work so hard for a lousy paycheck that we then waste on nothing but frivolous garbage? Good question! Let's examine just how we all got where we are...

Every organism on this planet is in the business of reproducing. Whether you are aware of it or not, all your instincts, thoughts and behaviors are intended to keep you alive long enough to facilitate your successful reproduction and then to secure the safety of your progeny before you perish. Humans may live in a fantastically elaborate society, but the intricacy merely diffuses the appearance of this singular motivation. Make no mistake, the motive continues to persist at the root of everything.

Now, in order to secure the future of your precious offspring, you need resources. For your average primate in the jungle, this would be a patch of land with enough trees to provide food and a safe place to sleep and groom. Of course for humans, as intellectual capacity has evolved, technology has advanced, and social interaction has become more and more complex, matters relating to resources have also become complex.

Enter the elite. Their desire to reproduce is the same as yours, but they don't intend to play fair. They want to drastically tip the scales in their own favor. To them, you're not a person, you're not an equal entitled to a fair shake. Instead, you are a dumb animal like an ox or a cow -- and they want to exploit you. By doing so, they are in a better position to hoard resources, thereby improving the quality of their lives and ensuring the success of their offspring.

Not too long ago, those in power used force to subjugate people to those ends. Violence, deprivation and terror were the primary tools used to control people. Now, in modern societies, this is no longer necessary. With the advent of mass communication, people are controlled subtly. Today, people subjugate themselves to the elite voluntarily. Violence is not necessary to break the will of the people. Through propaganda and advertisements, the will of the people is molded so that they actually want to acquiesce. It's so simple that it's frightening.

They capitalize on your naiveté and your unchecked emotions. They put on an amazing show -- perhaps that is why you trust them. They cloud your judgement, and often, against reason, they appeal to your basest instincts. They tell you what to think, and even if it doesn't make sense, since they keep telling you over and over again, you actually begin to think it. The entire middle class in this country is controlled -- not by guns, bombs and tanks -- but by the idiot box in their living rooms.

Back during the industrial revolution, there barely was a middle class. The bourgeoisie was filthy rich and the proletariat (99% of the population) was starving on their knees. The need for a revolution seemed far more imminent then. But now? Well, the wealthy keep getting richer and the poor are just as hungry -- but the so-called middle class (which encompasses about 80% of the U.S. population) is so busy getting drunk, vegging out in front of the TV, and breaking their backs chasing the 'American Dream' (a house, an SUV and a two week vacation), they conveniently fail to notice how much their lives suck. The gap between the middle class and the wealthy is so huge that it staggers the imagination. The quality of life for those in the middle class is marginally better than the poor. In fact, the difference between the middle class and the poor boils down to one simple distinction: the middle class can easily afford to eat and to be distracted. Consequently, no one in the middle class wants to rock the boat -- or else they'll lose what little they've got. The elite have finally figured out how to keep you all quiet. They give you bread crumbs.

So the middle class trundles onward, and all the while, the wealthy use a mere fraction of their stockpiles to fill the airwaves, the magazines and newspapers, and pretty much every square foot of unclaimed blank space in the built environment with their message. And what is their message? Well, it has two parts... First, 'you want to buy this stuff.' And second, 'to buy more stuff, you have to work more.' The rest is smoke and mirrors to keep you distracted from the mechanics of the magic trick.

And what's most frightening of all? Those in power know so much about you. That is how they make you want to buy. They know how your emotions and instincts operate, and they pander to them with the express intention of coercing and controlling you. They know your hopes and fears. They know you are excitable and will forget to question the trustworthiness of the messenger. They short-circuit and bypass your capacity for reason and logic by feeding you mindless slogans and catch phrases. Depending on your demographic, they inundate you with just the right images and just the right sounds until you come around. They know exactly how to push your buttons. They bombard you until you can't help but make a subconscious connection between their product and your unarticulated desire, even if the connection and your desire are both questionable. This is how they make you want to buy.

But the desire to buy is only part of the equation. Now that they've got you believing you need to buy crap, they can manipulate you into working. They own all the companies so they get to make the rules. They decide the pay, the hours, the working conditions, the pace and the tone. And there are so many dumb saps wanting to buy crap and willing to suffer, if you refuse to do something on moral or ethical grounds, there are ten people who are less principled or more brainwashed than you just waiting in line to replace you.

It's a vicious cycle. Those in power keep telling you that you want to buy unnecessary things; you keep working so you can buy those things; and then, you keep producing more unnecessary things for others to buy. You're so caught up in the proverbial rat race, you never have time to ask, why?

And all the while, the work makes you tired and miserable. They can see that, so they say, "Here's something new. Buy this; you'll feel better." They never say, "Don't buy that, you don't need it. Instead, take a little break; you'll feel better." I believe they actually want you tired. It is important that you are always tired so you don't have the energy to think. They never want you to realize what will really make you feel better. You are only to sense and obey their authority; you are never to notice that they do not have your best interests in mind. They want you so tired that by the time you unwind each night, it's time for bed, and by the time you tend to the menial chores of living, there's no time left at the end of the weekend for you to question anything. If you question, you might realize that you want to be free.

Certainly there is no room to explore the truth behind any politics. The media pretends to be objective and balanced, but the only newscasters, journalists and pundits who are permitted to advance are the ones who promote the values of the corporations who own the stations and papers. The majority of politicians don't work for their constituents; they work for the corporations who bought them off. Meanwhile, you vote to keep them in power, so they can keep doing this to us. When you bother to vote, you actually vote against your own best interests -- and you are too tired to know it!

Snap out of it! We are all being exploited. And because we live in the richest nation on earth, our misdeeds result in the exploitation of the rest of the world. It's about time we break the cycle. It's time to revolt. It's time for truth, compassion and justice. It's time for democracy, true democracy. Get off your ass and start paying attention. Those talking heads are not telling you everything -- in fact, many of them are just plain lying to you. Participate, or you will wake up one day and that privilege will be gone. Make the time to become an informed, educated voter. You owe it to yourself and to those you love.

Wake up. It's time to wake up! Use your brain. Think. Question. Question everything they've been telling you -- or you are no better than the cattle and sheep that they think you are.

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Do You Really Live in a Democracy? copyright © 2003 eristikös multi.media
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