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Government is Corrupt. What Would you Have People Do?

That’s what Tom said and asked last night. He’s right: government is corrupt. So would I have people do?

I would have people strain and stretch and TRY, and not just through voting, but through organized social movement activity. Politics is no more and no less than people deciding what is to be done. Sometimes the definition of which people are included in “people deciding” is smaller, and sometimes it’s larger.

Let’s put the idea that everything’s getting worse into some perspective.

Before the 1990s, an average citizen couldn’t look up campaign contributions (or check on bills, for that matter) except by walking into an office. The stories of corruption just weren’t told as often because only professionals could uncover them.

Before the 1970s, no campaign contributions had to be reported at all. Period.

Before the 1900s, there weren’t any presidential primaries. The parties just picked the presidential candidates, period.
My grandmother and grandfather were born at a time when women were utterly disenfranchised.

Before the 1860s nominally and before the 1960s practically, the vast majority of black people could not vote in this country. In my great-grandparents’ youth, they were owned.

You want to talk corruption and the little people being excluded? These historical levels of corruption and exclusion make today’s levels of corruption look trivial… and IT GOT BETTER. It got better not primarily because people just voted, but because when they learned what was going on and thought about it and talked about it they got angry enough to organize and push for change. I know that for many people Barack Obama has spoiled the taste of change and hope by capitalizing them, adhering them to his personality and then forgetting about the words after taking office. But look at those words again and consider them. I have hope that change for the better is possible because I know it’s gotten better after worse conditions before. In history, change for the better has come when people aren’t just angry about things, but when they have hope that things can get better, and…

… and the last bit that’s needed is organization. It’s no good if one person is hopey and changey all by themselves. People have to learn about what’s going on, not just to get angry, but to coordinate. We write here to help people learn about what’s going on, and we open comments to learn from others about what’s going on, too. The desire to spread the word in our little way is why we post notices of protests, and why we go protest, too.

What we’re doing here at Irregular Times is not even close to enough to change things. I know that. What people are doing as individuals and small groups across the country isn’t enough. It really frustrates me to see that people are too apathetic right now for change to come; now appears not to be the time. But it’s comforting to me to remember that through history there’s never been a flag waved with big red letters declaring, “THIS IS WHEN THINGS START TO CHANGE” — all those watershed moments are recognized after the fact. The moment when people begin to accumulate momentum for a big wave of positive change in this country could come at any time, and that moment will not come when a fairy waves her magic wand. That moment will come when enough people are pushing for change that things begin to move in the right direction. Nothing will make the moment come but people pushing.

So come on: get out and push.

6 thoughts on “Government is Corrupt. What Would you Have People Do?”

  1. Tom says:

    OK! Here’s one aspect of the amorphous blob we’re trying to combat as people:

    here’s more:

    Okay, everyone, i’ll stop there (but could go on for quite a while – just picking a few of the things we have to attend to via Jim, since “our” elected representatives aren’t doing the jobs we thought we were electing them to do). So get out there and influence!
    Especially if you have no job (’cause then you’d have all the time in the world, right?). The rest of you, after your 10 – 16 hr days you’re putting in, just “buck up” and get out there and PUSH for change! Don’t forget to vote (so we can keep the charade going)!

    See, Jim – it’s easy to sit here and prod people to action, but where and how is left up to the tired, broke and disenfranchised to figure out (and try and fail many times over – sometimes for generations) while the problems intertwine and compound. The people in power aren’t going to allow any interruption of their corrupt party that we fund via our tax dollars (extortion at this point, since we have absolutely no say in how it’s spent). The mass media is out there 24/7 pumping out disinformation, propaganda and distraction to further thwart any effort (though i appreciate your anti-contribution and effort to get it to wise-up).

    Look, i AGREE with you 100% that standing around and bitching about things without some action is hypocracy and i want you to know that i’ve voted in all local, state and national elections (in the hope that i’m wrong and it actually DOES have some influence). i worked in a local (Ardmore, PA) temp office for the Obama campaign (because i really thought he could be JFK II for us). i grow my own veggies in quantities large enough to donate some of the gifts from the earth to those who don’t have anything (homeless shelter in town) while also donating unneeded items like furniture and clothes to habitat for humanity store down the road from here. i recycle and reuse, limit my use of fossil fuel and keep up with events of the day and time of our lives in order to be informed and see where i can fit to try to help on a local level (when i can get the all important time do actually do anything meaningful with my erratic schedule).

    So all i’m doing here is documenting how hard it is for a typical person with a regular life to influence the continuing destruction of our environment, government and all the other entangled problems there are (and how they seem to be light-years ahead of any effort to stop it all). i’m NOT saying don’t do anything. i’m saying that the typical avenues like voting aren’t working (AT ALL) and that the problems are so complex as to be almost intractable. So yeah, i’m not gonna quit or give up trying, but i no longer have any faith that it’s going to change for the better in my lifetime, let alone ever.

    1. Jim says:

      Some people have no time to spare. Most people have the time to watch Glee and Dancing With the Stars.

  2. Ross says:

    I disagree that things are necessarily better now than they ever were before. There is vast, vast, vast corruption. There are spheres of corporate influence so large that they dwarf the power of nations. But that doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. People HAVE come out of much worse times than today – slavery, for instance, or absolutism in Europe or many other things. It wasn’t easy. And no one really knows what path we should take to get out of our current predicament.

    Unfortunately, it does seem like we’re a much more passive country than we were at most points (if not all points) in our history, and we’re much more passive than other countries. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to fix our problems in the best way we as individuals see fit.

    What I mean is that we just can’t give up. To think that we’re at some sort of end point in history where positive change stops for good just seems narcissistic. Organizing is important. Rebuilding (and building) communities. Creating political alternatives. And so on. Now, those are broad terms, and it’s impossible for anyone to know how to best do those things. But we must try, and we must try to create a new culture in which political participation is just a normal everyday thing for most people.

    It’s not easy. But we’re in a hell of a mess. It’s going to be hard to get out of it.

    And all of us who are politically aware need to be willing to sacrifice – our time, our clean arrest records, perhaps even our lives. That’s dramatic language, but that is what it takes for change to happen.

    1. Jim says:

      I agree with both Ross and Tom that the old modes of protest don’t seem to be working any more: the marches on Washington don’t have the impact they used to. Some new tactic is called for, and I’ll be frank — I don’t know what it is. We need as much creativity as we need commitment.

      1. Ross says:

        I don’t agree with that. Sorry if I seemed to say that. The problems aren’t the tactics, I believe, but that they’re not being carried out or they’re being carried out lethargically or half-heartedly. There isn’t the same consistency and size as when they were successful, and I think that’s why they’re not successful. I agree with Howard Zinn – we don’t need new tactics, just perseverance:

        “The responses are never adequate, until they build and build and something changes. People very often think that there must be some magical tactic, beyond the traditional ones–protests, demonstrations, vigils, civil disobedience–but there is no magical panacea, only persistence in continuing and escalating the usual tactics of protest and resistance. The end of the Vietnam War did not come because the Left suddenly did something new and dramatic, but because all of the actions built up over time. ”

  3. Ralph says:

    The United States has made large changes for the better. We helped defeat fascism in World War II. That was very big, and arguably worse. Though I hate to say it but if we let our present environmental crisis go too much longer we’re going to end up with a pile of bodies that dwarfs Hitler’s. But I can’t say I can point to a time when the U.S. has done great things with its elite, its propaganda machine, and a significant number of its discontented masses so resolutely against it.

    That’s our challenge now, and I don’t really know how to move on it very well. How do you make the kind of change we need with the elite and press squarely against you, and a serious plurality of people who sense something is wrong but think Sarah Palin and the tea party are speaking to it in a productive way?

    The challenge: change the world fundamentally while the elite, the press, and the disgruntled people clamoring for change are all against it.

    Any ideas?

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