Monday, June 16, 2008

Clap your hands--you're ahead of your own government

I've been amazed the past 4 years at how many people are crying out for a change in the way our government works. The people want good healthcare (it doesn't even matter if it's referred to as "socialist"), better public schools, a clean environment, and a government we can interact with--not the big, floating thing in the sky that we currently have, aloof and completely impenetrable. The people, most people, want overhaul, and the government, at least under the current administration (which is on it's way out, thankfully), has proven itself to be obsolete, archaic, medieval. George Bush opens his mouth and millions of people turn off their televisions (I can almost see the screens go dark). Congrats. You are more advanced than your own government.

But is this really a new thing? This past semester I wrote an essay in my French literature class about how the people are usually, if not always, ahead of their government. Napoleon's militaization of everything in the early 1800s essentially led to the romantic movement. The people were sick of the emotionless, precise manner in which Napoleon ruled everything, and so they created a new literary model--so full of emotion you have to take a Pepto Bismol before reading Chateaubriand. And lots of these writers were exiled for their ideas. So are we really surprised that we, as a nation, are leaps and bounds ahead of the government?

I read so many blogs where individuals, tired of government bullshit, have taken things into their own hands. Hell, I work for people who have taken things into their own hands. These are people who homeschool their children because they want to raise mindful, intelligent, diverse children in a world full of consumption and callousness. These are people who ride bicycles and keep chickens in their backyards and can vegetables in their kitchens and have gardens on their apartment rooftops. They have midwives and solar panels and they don't take hot showers every day (if at all). These people haven't quit trying to get the government on track, but they have stopped waiting for it to happen. They have decided that now is the time for action, and the truth is, we can only change ourselves. We can send letters to our politicians and sign petitions and attend rallies and protests, but don't we all know that these things are minimally helpful? They let the government know where we stand, and a more receptive government might respond with action and change, but this government has been spookily good at ignoring us.

So, the verdict? Good job, guys. Keep up the good work.

1 comment:

green with a gun said...

I don't know if people are ahead of their governments, but it's certainly true that governments - elected or not - tend to follow the people rather than lead them.

As I wrote about Cuba's experience,

"people are naturally conservative, that is reluctant to change, but will change when it's necessary to their survival. If given the chance, they'll try to go back to the old way of doing things, mixed in somewhat with the new ways.

"governments, insulated from the day-to-day reality of common life, are more conservative still, but like the people will change when it's necessary to their survival.

"Governments will at first get in the way,
later get out of the way,
and finally help and then claim it was their idea all along.

"If given the chance, they'll try to go back entirely to the old way of doing things as soon as possible."