Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Corrupt Government:

Is there any other kind?

In light of the current blatant bullshit going on here locally, a thoughtful discussion of how to deal with the local politics issue--or whether to deal with it at all-- is timely. I in no way want to offer my thoughts as any kind of "official" view of the forum or anyone else--but I think it's really worth considering whether or not it's even possible to work for meaningful change for a better future within the "approved" mechanisms of the system. I think it's important to ask this question in a very deliberate manner. My answer? no, it's not. As I see it, politics as a completely rigged game that favors money and power, and money and power is required to play. Some well meaning people don't really look at themselves as privileged power brokers, but at the very least one must be of significant enough privilege that one has the free time to fiddle around with political sorts of stuff, and have ample enough time to sit through endless procedural processes. Face facts: most honest working people don't have this kind of time. Also, important, but not to go too Howard Zinn on anyone, these processes have largely proven to be utterly pointless. It's worth looking at the historical record to see if one can find a single damn instance where meaningful change has come from within the "approved" system. I don't ask this rhetorically. In every significant case I can think of, business as usual dominated and until the population finally got agitated enough to take to the streets with axe-handles very little happened. Otherwise, the policy of government in general is to placate, divert, or ignore the will of the people. In general, the range of the "permissible" debate is very narrow, whether right/left wing or progressive or not the whole is controlled to be palatable within the "approved" system. This guarantees again--business as usual. But that is the point of goverment as it exists: Protect the status quo. If you think that a system designed from the start to protect the status quo will allow the existence of effective mechanisms to challenge that which it's designed to protect--it's probably worth thinking that over again. And maybe once more. It's useful, no doubt, to offer mechanisms that look like they offer avenues for discourse or progress or change--as long as at long last the status quo and its interests are still protected.

"Sustainability" will become a huge human rights issue within the next decade. You will see people in the streets here as well as around the world as vested government interests protect the priviledged while steering humanity on a suicide course. Eventually, people will freak out about that, and once it gets started, look out. I've no idea what form that sort of thing will take, or whether such events will be at all constructive, but such a path seems all but inevitable. The status quo has no interest in sustainability, as that would get in the way of personal profits. It may be useful, no doubt, to offer mechanisms that look like they offer avenues for discourse or progress or change for the better-- as long as those profits are still insured. Eventually, however, people do wise up to what is going on. It can take a long time, and we're not there yet. Still that day is coming fast. Faster than many think. There will be a shooting war over these issues at some point. I'm not looking forward to any of this.

But I'm not dogmatic about all this. I can be persuaded and am in fact eager to get behind any positive cause that has real intelligent focus and inherent integrity. I'm not, however, interested in jumping out of one sinking boat into another one that has the holes arranged a bit more cosmetically. Neither am I interested in recreational legislation or meddling in other people's lives to satisfy some perverse and narcissistic need to feel like "I'm doing something for the future." Most importantly, and pointedly-- I sure as hell have no interest in getting roped into some campaign against pro-growth development interests to then replace these with other pro-growth development interests. . . This being said, I do however, see a real need for real solutions. Real solutions. Real solutions. They involve real questions: I don't see these questions being asked in any meaningful way, except by persons and individuals, who are also answering those questions in personal and individual ways. There's a lot of urgency in those people, often, because they look around and like myself, see others not asking those questions--and it's all in all getting to be more than a little terrifying.

Real questions:

1) How is Hawaii going to survive the current ongoing collapse and restructuring of the world economy?

2) How is Hawaii effectively going to survive the steeping prices and increasing scarcity of food, energy, and raw materials?

3) How is Hawaii going to preserve as much as possible of the island's ecosystem as we face a 1 degree temperature rise per decade over the next 100 years?

Everything else is trivial. Some may find my attitude contemptuous and selfish. Or needlessly combative. That's hardly the case. Personally, it comes down to one thing to get me involved--I need some convincing that there's good reasons that I should take time and energy away from planting trees or building water tanks--stuff that matters and contributes in a measurable way to a better future--to quibble about greenspace, or roads, or fast food restaurants or or shit that doesn't. God, let's get a little perspective, perhaps! Anyway, that's my take.

Still, it's not my intent to unduly bust or criticize anyone's efforts. This is simply how I see it. I also feel a strong sense of inevitability about all of this and have no doubt whatsoever that sooner or later a critical mass will wake up to what matters. If others feel that there may be some good use to participation in those processes, go for it. Please, however, be duly considerate of the fact that much of the time the only real effect of these activities is more and more complication, which has the sole result of making life more difficult for the average joe. While it's seldom the intent, too often it is the result. At this point in history, life is complicated enough with all sorts of other pointless hindrances to effective living.

So for myself, I'll just keep focusing on demonstrating effective living, the kind of living we need to adopt to squarely face our future, and do so to the best of my ability. I see no other effectual option. At the very least if the political process fails humanity like it looks like it will, somebody out there had better have done some homework. . .


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Amen Brother. I was living on the Big Isle up until two months ago. I saw the same problems there as I did on the mainland, although I felt it was somehow concentrated on the BI. I decided to leave when I saw the Burger King being built in Pahoa and heard how much people there were enjoying the notion of being tied more tightly to an unsustainable infrastructure. I decided that was a place I would not like to be when the SHTF.

I favor anarchism because I noticed that change was started by people. And I also think it will be realized in a natural way.

But I have to say I have no hope that the coming collapse can be averted. People are too adapted to the current system and like any addict you have to hit rock bottom.

David Veale said...

Well said -- I've come to the same conclusion -- encouraging change through leading by example has a much better chance than coercion or working through the political system, especially when most people have no idea what lies ahead.

jack tar magazine said...

You want real solutions yet you don't want to get involved with government, because even though you are not a hired nor elected member of your local government, you have decided that change is not possible by being in it. How can you speak with any authority on the subject if you haven't actually tried it?

I'm so tired of hearing "progressive" folks sit there and complain about what isn't possible. If enough of us came out from behind the monitor we might actually be able to DO SOMETHING.

Anonymous said...

Your assumption is that we need government to do something.

jaywfitz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jack tar magazine said...

My assumption is that someone is speaking as an authority about experiences that they do not have (that I know of- Jay correct me if you have worked in the government and attempted change from within America's chosen system).

For those who favor anarchy, you should probably talk to folks who were in New Orleans right after Katrina. Anarchy is only romanticized by the spoiled children of surburbia who long to feel something "real."

I think it's kind of messed up that you favor change by the people and anarchy, yet you left the BI when you could have stayed and promoted anarchy, and you even admit that you don't want to be around with the the shit hits the fan.

Anonymous said...

HA! You equate Anarchy with anarchy! Please, Anarchy and chaos have nothing to do with each other. Please read this and get back to me when you are done:

jaywfitz said...

Hi Kim,

Actually I have. I've worked in the public school system in Special Ed programs, as well as a about a year in the Ada county Juvenile Justice system. The the school system was dominated by incompetence, and the justice system by corruption. I got out of the later and left the state. A pretty bad experience, but nothing I'd talk about online. No doubt, however, the experiences years ago greatly influence how I look at the world and how I live my life.

Let's be very sure that "involvement" in such causes isn't simply a sugar coated surrogate for "doing something"--when that "something" we all really need to do isn't legislate, or sit on various boards, but rather personally demonstrate new and constructive ways of relating to each other and the world. I believe civic involvement is very often a cop out. Work on a board for public transit, or car pool and pick up hitchhikers? Work for programs that provide food for low income families, or plant extra food and give it away to your neighbors? If the latter sorts of actions were followed by more, we'd have no need for the former. Direct personal action and personal involvement is the only thing that has ever made positive progress for a better future. Even a glance at history bears that out.

What exactly "is" that thing we need to do to work for a better future? Well, in a nutshell, less of everything. . .the problem isn't so much that stuff isn't getting done, it's that way way too many people are running around doing way way too much. Including writing new laws, or whatever.

I'd suggest--it's time to get busy doing a awful lot less. In a deliberate and constructive manner. Personally.

jack tar magazine said...

Thanks for the correction, Jay. I apologize if you have mentioned your experience earlier in your blog and I have missed it.

I agree that "doing something" isn't just involvement. I'm sure most of your readers, even if they aren't doing something are interested and intelligent enough to think of the term as more than simply being part of a campaign or pushing papers. I wholeheartedly agree that making food for your neighbors is the way to go, and if everyone would get on that bandwagon, we'd be that much closer to the ideal anarchist society (not the lawless one that on a large scale, man is more inclined to adopt without rulers, unfortunately). Maybe I'm just as idealistic by believing in good leaders and their potential for getting us there quicker by working with the system rather than against it. Or maybe it's my seafaring ways that allow me to believe that hierarchy works. With the right leaders, of course. Leaders like Andrew Millison:

But yeah, not all politicians are good leaders, for sure.

It's easy to appeal to the folks who already feel the same way we do - online or whomever we meet at the places we already go. It's reaching the folks who need to change the most that is the hard part. A good leader is required for that. Show me an example of functional anarchy on a wide scale in an area where crime and lack of education is persistent and I promise I'll be impressed. Staying on the BI and creating a grassroots uprising against BK would have been impressive.

shannon said...

" the very least one must be of significant enough privilege that one has the free time to fiddle around with political sorts of stuff, and have ample enough time to sit through endless procedural processes. Face facts: most honest working people don't have this kind of time... these processes have largely proven to be utterly pointless..."

We all play our part. For instance, I live in an apartment, have no land, and am disabled. I can still contribute by trying to affect change from within by sitting at endless meetings.. not that I particularly enjoy them. In our small part of the world, the last county council WAS effecting the changes you are talking about but now we've slid back to the status quo because not enough citizens spoke up or really considered the importance of their vote.

"It's worth looking at the historical record to see if one can find a single damn instance where meaningful change has come from within the "approved" system."

1. abolition of slavery
2. women's rights
3. labor laws
4. social security
5. environmental laws

I could go on but you get the picture. As I said, we all do our part to make the world a better place; its called evolution. Man does not live by potatoes alone.

jaywfitz said...

Actually, those 5 cases you raise are fine examples that support my contention. They are examples of change caused by frustrated people working outside the system with agitation and direct personal action. It was only begrudgingly and late that the the "approved" system acknowledged the public will.

jaywfitz said...

So, in other words--certainly I'm not suggesting that people "shouldn't be involved," but rather they should look at the situation strategically and "be involved" in a manner that has proven to matter, as opposed to those that have proven to not.

mrostron said...

I have to agree with Jay here. A good example is prohibition. Only when millions of people defied the law did congress get around to changing it. The same for Viet Nam. We'd still be pissing away lives and money there if people hadn't resorted to civil disobedience to make their case. The Wobblies protests and extralegal activities are the only reason we have a (nominal) 40 hr work week, coffee breaks, and decent working conditions; and many of them died for their actions. You are misreading history if you think any of these changes would have been made without mass civil disobedience. I suggest you get a copy of Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States". What mostly is taught in school as "history" is mainly mythology, and the Zinn book helps to correct that.

mrostron said...

This is a good subject, as much energy is wasted by well-meaning folks who do not understand the forces arrayed against them. To give another timely example: At present about 1 in 31 people in the USA are either in prison, on parole, or probation, or in some way entangled in the legal system. A huge percentage of these folks have been convicted of consensual crimes, drug and alcohol violations, and other such acts. Even though a large percentage of Americans admit to smoking pot or using other drugs they remain illegal, giving rise to a massive underground economy, organized crime, and much violence. But don't expect this to change. Incarcerating people is a lucrative industry. I can certainly envision a time when at least 25% or more of our population is in some sort of prison, half way house, or other institution. The only way this could ever change would be if mass protests were to take place - say several millions of folks openly lighting up in front of courthouses or on the borders throughout the country. Remember - it took generations of protests and a civil war to get blacks nominal parity with whites in this country. How many women went to jail for suffrage? They have only been able to vote in the USA since 1913 - well after Australia and the Cook Islands, but a couple of years earlier than Estonia or England. Don't think we live in a progressive country. We might have elected a black president, but we'll never elect a professed agnostic or atheist, even though such men founded our republic!

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