Saturday, June 3, 2006

Living Democracy

I'm almost done reading a wonderful book I'd like to share with all you Brainiacs out there.I was reading it and just thinking"wow,now THIS is some good stuff,and just crazy enough that it might work".

It's called Democracy's Edge:Choosing to Save Our Country by Bringing Democracy to Life by Frances Moore Lappe'. If that name sounds familiar,Lappe' is the author of an old classic,Diet for a Small Planet.Her son Anthony,is one of the creators of the Guerrilla News Network website.Her daughter Anna is also a writer,writing about our food supply,ways to make it healthier,and how the people can wrestle back their food supply from large companies who control most of what we eat and drink.Anna and her mom team up to write quite often.

What I like most about this book(and it's earlier companion piece,Hope's Edge)is Lappe' offers up not just a laundry list of problems facing Our country and telling us how we got into this mess,she gives examples of citizens,just regular folks like you and me,who are actively doing something about these problems. Her basic philosophy is "Democracy is not something we have,it's something we DO". Simple,but true.It's the concept of creating a Living Democracy.And this,dear readers,is something I believe that is missing from how we go about things as the fight to save ourselves heats up.

For way too long,most of America has been convinced that they hold no power in changing"the way things are".We've been convinced,by media,by politicians and their operatives,by CEOs and corporate monopolies,that we have no say.And after all,this is America,we're lucky to live here in freedom and all that,right?It can't be THAT bad,can it?And besides we've limped and leaped along this far,why change how we do things? Well,for one thing,if we don't change how we view ourselves and others,and we aren't willing to try something different once something breaks,Democracy Will Die.It will be lost.Only we can save it.Democracy is a living and breathing entity,it's supposed to change and adapt to suit our needs(wants is another matter entirely,and today those lines are very blurred.Most of America is spoiled rotten,and we behave accordingly too much of the time)not remain stagnant.Our core principles are unmovable,as they should be,but the way we implement and use those principles is key.

Yes it can die,it is dying,we all know it,even if we can't admit it to ourselves.And even if we can admit it,very few solutions are offered up,other than winning elections or running for office. Yes,those things matter too,but to forget that politics and elections are only two tools available is to get in our own way.

As things stand today,it's clear the leaders of our nation do not believe or trust in us.They lie,manipulate us,steal from us,and make damned sure we keep fighting among ourselves so we don't watch what they're doing in secret. They've dumbed us down,peddled and pandered to hatred,fear,shame,and humiliation,forcing us to accept their will,making us irrelevant.

We tend to look at the big picture,and overlook our own backyard.

The ideas and programs highlighted in this book cross party lines,lines of religion,color,and culture.Because really,if you think about it what do we all have in common? Think of it:

1)Basic needs being met.Food,clothing,shelter,healthcare and education are not only for the well off,they are essential to Life,Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

2)A means for each and every one among us to work to provide those basic needs,a Living Wage.This preserves the Dignity of All,nothing is more humiliating than being unable to provide for the needs of yourself and those you love.It's demeaning.A hand up,not a handout.You cannot pull yourself up by a damned bootstrap if you have no boots and no where to get a pair.

3)Education. This is HUGE. Public schools are in trouble,but most of the trouble lies in a series of policies made from a distance that get in the way of children leaving their school years with usable skills.Community involvement is a key to stopping these destructive policies and directing funding TO the classrooms.Things can change on a local level. I know from personal experience,with my intervention and giving dedicated teachers information they could use,our county now has Autism classes in their Special Ed curriculum.I can't take credit for this,it was all the teachers' doing.I just brought them the info and spoke to administrators and board members as an assist. If I had remained silent,many boys(and it is almost exclusively boys who find their way to these classes.In seven yrs I think I've seen two girls in my son's classrooms)wouldn't be getting the help they need.Good ideas are catchy. Our program is based on some excellent work being done in Seattle for autistic children in public schools.One of our teachers went to Seattle on her summer vacation,talked to the teachers there and came back with an excellent Power Point presentation that sold everyone on the idea. We have our problems in this school system(attack of the killer fundies anyone?),but we do have an excellent Special Education program.

4)A safe community.Today we live in fear and mistrust of one another.We've been manipulated to be afraid of some "other"that lurks in the shadows of every street. If we can shed that fear and work together,neighborhoods by extension become safer.Democracy is not a passive exercise.

There's just so much good stuff in this book,it's impossible to condense it all into one post.I got my copy of Democracy's Edge for under 15 bucks at Amazon,a small price to pay to be inspired.

In the coming weeks,I'm going to try to dig up some info on various Living Democracy Projects taking place in various places around the country.And maybe I'll share some of my own ideas.Because really,in the end,the only way to stop feeling helpless is to help.

[Link to purchase book added by yours truly. - Fixer]

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