We have a crisis in the US right now. Our Congress, the only institution that makes and repeals laws, is completely non-functional. The current session of Congress, the 113th, is one of the least active in history. We are at the tail end of one of the worst financial disasters in a century. Unemployment is high, and many of the unemployed aren’t even counted any longer. Many people have no medical insurance and getting sick is the leading cause of bankruptcy. The cost of college is enormous and graduates are saddled with huge debts when they start their job search. Income inequality is out of control—wealth has been shifted to the top 1%, the ranks of the poor are swelling and the middle class is shrinking. We have many problems that need to be solved, but our politicians are not solving them.
The debate in this country has been co-opted by selfish and self-interested politicians who want to redirect your energy into areas which are safe for them. Abortion. Flag burning. Gay marriage. Terrorism. The debate about these issues generates lots of heat but little light. The choice of these subjects is designed to make you apathetic and distract you from the real issues. When the real issues are discussed, our politicians use lies to obscure the solutions and discourage voters from caring. We get frustrated by the lack of progress and give up. Politicians don’t want an informed and educated public. You are easier to govern when you are uninformed and uninterested.
Our news is filled with trivialities that deflect our attention from the real issues. Twitter pics of a Congressmen in his underwear? Why should we care about that? Real journalism isn’t profitable any more because people don’t want to watch news programs which go in depth into complex subjects. How many of us watch Frontline, literally the best news program made today?
The focus on “left” vs”right” keeps us away from focusing on real problems and solutions. When was the last time you saw a debate about how to decrease unemployment? Or, one that didn’t include the usual left vs. right arguments and talking heads yelling at each other? Why is it two comedy shows (The Daily Show and The Colbert Report) are where most young people get their news? Should it depress us that viewers of these shows are better informed than viewers of polarizing news shows? Politicians love it that we are consumed by left vs right hatred. Refused to get caught up in it. Refused to focus on a symptom and start focusing on our problems.
Your voice is being diluted by lobbyists who have a disproportionate influence with our lawmakers. Money has corrupted politics to the point that it doesn’t really matter what you think. You can tell your representatives in Congress, but it is more likely the lobbyists they talk with will have more sway with them.
Some quotes from Tony Benn:
An educated, healthy and confident nation is harder to govern.
I think there are two ways in which people are controlled. First of all frighten people and secondly, demoralize them.
People in debt become hopeless and hopeless people don’t vote. They always say that that everyone should vote but I think that if the poor in Britain or the United States turned out and voted for people that represented their interests there would be a real democratic revolution.
I think democracy is the most revolutionary thing in the world, because if you have power you use it to meet the needs of you and your community.
If we can find the money to kill people, we can find the money to help people.
There is much wisdom in those words. (Watch the interview which contains these quotes .) I’ll leave you with this:
Be informed and vote for people that truly represent your interests. Do you care about health care for your family? Do you care about being able to make a living wage? Do you care about your children being able to find a good job? Do you care about having clean air to breath and clean water to drink? Vote for people and parties that have a track record for these things.
So, why did I say “apathy is killing us?” Because our collective apathy has allowed our politicians to do horrible things to us, from weakening environmental laws, to allowing financial institutions the freedom to cause global financial ruin, which has led a huge number of Americans fighting for a smaller and smaller piece of the American dream. If it isn’t killing us physically, it is killing our spirit. It’s time to fight back. Don’t just vote, vote your interests.