Saturday, September 15, 2007

Can we fix it? Part II

Last night I wrote about a nagging thought that hangs out in the back of my head these days. Today, I think I'll bring another one out from the dank recesses and let it see the light of day. I was actually spurred to do so by this bit from a diary at Who Is IOZ:

In any event, the notion that Bush isn't a moron is a form of national self-flattery. At its root is the belief that he can't be a moron because if he were, that would mean that the American people, our government and institutions, allowed ourselves to be conquered by a moron. It would mean that the whole edifice of Western Democracy, centuries in the making, is cheaper than a backlot set. It would mean that the fruits of the political Enlightenment were finally plucked and chucked onto the compost heap with no more effort than it takes to nickname some reporters, shamble around, talk with an aw-shucks accent, and produce some decent war pornography. It would mean that the founders were right to fear democracy and their descendents wrong to give it to us.

emphasis mine

The thought that roams around in the back of my head is to wonder whether or not a democratic republic can actually work. To my view, we have already proven that it is not working in this particular time and place. The question for me is if it can ever work - or at least whether or not it can work on the scale of a country the size of the US.

Sometimes I go round and round with blame for why its not working. Is it the public who doesn't care, is it the media that feeds us dribble, is it the military/industrial complex that just has all the power and we might as well just lay down and accept it? Or maybe its all those things? Or maybe we just have a system whose time has come and gone. And we need to start from scratch and create something new.

I don't have answers to these questions. But it does make me think of a few lines from the book The Culture of Make Believe by Derrick Jensen where he is having a conversation with a friend about the similarities between corporations and hate groups:

He said, "They're cousins."
I just listened.
"Nobody talks about this," he said, "but they're branches from the same tree, different forms of the same cultural imperative..."
"Which is?"
"To rob the world of its subjectivity."
"Wait - " I said.
"Or to put this another way," he continued, " to turn everyone and everything into objects."

As long as our government is so removed from us, we will remain objects. We might think we know those who are representing us - the same way we think we know Brittany or Paris - but its all just an illusion created for us by the media.

I think that in order for any form of government "of the people" to work, we need to re-create the subjectivity that is represented by REAL connections with REAL people. In this case, our "bigger is better" mentality would have to bite the dust.

One thing that I've learned professionally over the last 15 years as the director of a small non-profit is that any success we've had in meeting our mission has been the result of us staying small enough so that we, as a group, are all connected to one another. I witness those large non-profits where the people and mission become objectified and know that I could never be a part of that. Perhaps that's just my style, but I have a hunch that its more than that.

Right now this sense of subjectivity seems mysterious and spiritual to me. Perhaps what we have never studied scientifically always seems mysterious and spiritual. But there is clearly a power that comes in KNOWING one another that is lost once we are objectified.

Right now in my line of work we talk alot about children who have "attachment disorder." This is usually the result of serious neglect and trauma children experience early in their lives that breaks the bonds of trust with caregivers and leads to mental health issues for them as they grow up. As I meld that with our current cultural and political landscape, I often wonder if we aren't all a bit "attachment disordered" as a result of embracing this kind of objectification. And it is only our real connections with each other and the natural world that will save us.

I'm not sure where that leaves me in wondering about effective political structures. But I do think it might point the way to some basics we need to work on in order to begin the healing that would lead to the answers.


  1. Excellent, Nancy. I just discovered that you have a blog! And what a good one it is, too.

    I really like this post and its companion, but don't have enough brain to comment on it. There is lots to think about, though!

    Well, actually, I rarely comment at the best of times, but even if I don't, I'll be reading.

  2. Thanks for stopping in nanette!! I am truly honored. No pressure, but I sure miss your "neighborhood roundups." But I can only imagine how much work they were.