Each day as we listen to the news, it becomes almost overwhelming. There is so much that needs to be done and it all seems so urgent. That is the price that one pays for trying to stay informed. Feeling the need to do something about it is the price that one pays for preferring to live in a society that practices democracy. Promoting democracy is hard work, but somebody’s got to do it.
That is what conventional wisdom says, but there are alternatives. A former college professor used to jokingly say to his classes, “happy was mankind in the peaceful valley of ignorance.” Trying to remain oblivious, then, is one of the alternatives. In addition to living in the blissful valley of ignorance, there is the alternative of accepting authoritarianism, accepting a position of slavery to whoever is in power. Thirdly, there is the non-strategy of hoping that someone else will do what is necessary to promote democracy. Of course, if everybody waits on everybody else to do the work, it never gets done. Or, it could get done in a way that is disadvantageous or not to one’s liking.
The promotion of true democracy is hard work and must be accepted and undertaken if there is to be such a thing as democracy. Promoting democracy requires of its supporters, intelligence, courage, and dedication. They are needed at every level; failure or neglect at any one level can lead to problems at the next.
Are we preaching to the choir? Or, are there neophytes who do not really understand? Just to be on the safe side, here are a few examples of what we mean.
When it comes to the city of Jackson, there are terribly crumbling infrastructure problems, including roads and bridges, water, drainage, and sewage. There is a high and rising rate of crime, especially that which stems from gun violence. There is retarded economic development. There is a declining revenue base. We could include more issues, but the picture is perhaps already clear. We could also make the point that many other cities are in the same predicament as Jackson.
When it comes to the state of Mississippi, there is tremendously public underfunded education efforts – public schools, public colleges and universities, and faculty salaries. There are underfunded healthcare services. Things like the need for Medicaid expansion and the legalization of medical marijuana, lack of provision for mental health treatment, and the warehousing of inmates in prisons come to mind. Workers at state agencies are paid too little. There is too little money paid into the treasury by companies and individuals who can afford it. Again, we could say that there are other problems at the state level, but many are aware of the matters of which we speak.
At the federal level, we are faced with the challenge of protecting the right to vote. We are faced with the inability of the federal government to step-in and deal with crucial national issues, such as the guarantee of minimum wages, health and safety regulations, environmental protection guidelines, standards of police conduct, and more. These are all issues with which we are familiar.
We are, thus, back to the point above. There is so much to do and so much of it is urgent.
The question is, “What are we to do for democracy?” We could hope and pray that we elect a group of miracle-workers to office. We could hope and pray that they not only work together, but that they also work for the best interest of the greatest number of citizens. While the writer has nothing against hoping and praying, that is like waiting for somebody else to do what needs doing. Those bent on corruption or dictatorial rule know how to and do use time to their advantage, destroying democracy. It is also not enough to elect officials, even after careful evaluation, and then wait to see whether to re-elect them or turn them out at the end of their terms. In short, blind faith is not what’s needed to protect and promote democracy. Yet, that is the approach of many citizens.
The protection and promotion of democracy is serious business and hard work. Every individual must work at it, if it is to work. The tools are around, but they must be used and properly used. There are civil rights and civil liberties organizations. There are human rights groups. All of these should be devoted to protecting and promoting democracy. We should see that they do. There is the press, mainstream and alternative. It should be pressured to investigate and report all of the news.
Individual citizens should never take the position that there is nothing that they can do about a particular issue, but where there are numbers, there is strength. Join with like-minded citizens. That is the very backbone of a democracy. Individual citizens must utilize the tools around them whenever there is an issue that needs resolving, not waiting for someone else or for the right time. They should not worry about being criticized as a trouble-maker. Instead, they should find other groups and individuals and get to work solving the problems, making the officials become transparent and accountable problem-solvers or moving them out of the way.
Protecting and promoting democracy is hard work. We all need to be doing it with intelligence, courage, and dedication. If we believe in it, there is no real excuse for neglecting it.