It has been a while since my last rant and having Iraqi elections this past weekend it seems timely to discuss the requirements of us as humans and as citizens of a democracy. We must be active in order for it to work and work for us. Because in reality it is our democracy, 'our' meaning every person that declares them self a part of it. By declaring (legally, naturalization, etc.) you are a citizen of the US you are in affect saying "I want to be a part of this system." If you do not want to be a part of it, you are welcome to leave.
Being a part of a democratic system is not without its hardships and struggles. There are responsibilities for each of us, these responsibilities go much further than voting every two or four years. We each have responsibilities as consumers, humans, and as stated above citizens.
First, as consumers we are responsible for essentially the who, what, when, where and why of our purchases.
Who and Where: We must know where our goods and services come from. Are your socks made using exploited labor in the terminally ill 3rd world? The people, corporations and nations we buy from is perhaps one of the most important factors we deal with today. Globalism has taken hold and has sunk its teeth in since the collapse of the Brenton-Woods System and there is no end in sight. Free markets and neoclassical liberalism are driving corporations and the policies they support at the government level. Making not only governments but also the people that participate in them less powerful. Remember in most cases corporations are not held accountable for the well being of the consumer, governments are!
What: The items we buy are also important. Are the items organic, tested on animals, toxic for plants and animals or child safe? Additionally, being able to afford the things we buy is a big part of being responsible. Which leads into my next topic, when.
When: At a global level we are all affected by the choices others make. For instance, credit cards, a great tool for some and a bane for others. By not paying your bill every month and massing large amounts of debt, going into bankruptcy and leaving debt for your children to pay is putting a strain on all of us. Making it more expensive to support ourselves and communally supporting you. So when you have the money buy the goods, otherwise do not.
Why: This may seem strange but why do you buy the items you do? Is there a reason or though process behind your purchases other than the monetary costs? Do you check labels? Also, do you really need what you are buying?
Next, we all have responsibilities as human beings. We should be considerate of the well being of others and the environment. Social justice, civil rights, animal rights and pollution controls are large pieces of this puzzle. We should all be aware of what is happening around the world. Labor conditions in Indonesia, the AIDS crisis in Africa and the nuclear programs in North Korea are all things we must be aware of. For example A large problem in the US is the distribution of wealth. When 10% of the population has 90% of the wealth we all have an issue to deal with. This discrepancy has its roots in the furthering of globalism and the mismanagement of money (credit card example).
Globalism furthers this because much of the blue collar labor that once made our economy thrive is now going overseas to China and elsewhere in an effort to cut costs. This leaves the machinist, assemblers and general laborers jobless and in many cases uneducated. With all the manufacturing jobs gone our economy is becoming more service based and white collar dominate. Thus the gap between white and blue collar workers widens. What prolongs this trend is the fact that once the blue collar work force is laid off their children then have a harder time getting a college education and the cycle continues.
But, it is not only the system causing this. It is also the mismanagement of the wealth by the middle class that is a source of the problem. 90% of all bankruptcies are committed by the middle class. Debt is a huge problem, student loans, credit cards and over spending are the largest strains. I see the problem here being the fact that the middle class has never been taught fiscal responsibility. I do not believe that everyone should suffer for the mistakes of others but something does need to be done about these issues. I think a mix of education and social welfare and/or policy change are the key to addressing these issues.
Additionally, we must devote ourselves to the enviroment. If we do not respect the earth and its creatures there will be nothing left for future generations. Regardless of ones religion or beliefs, I think we can all agree that we have been bestowed this planet and must make it the best place it can be for ourselves, others and those we will be leaving it to.
Lastly, we must also be good citizens. Much of what decides how the outcome of all the items above hinge on whether we are active in the political process. This goes beyond voting. This means writing letters, starting petitions and generally promoting the things you believe in. Playing an active role in democracy will allow you to have the power to make this world a better place and to right the wrongs that we all deal with. The fact of the matter is that we can make the policies and laws change. We control the goverment. So take back the power that corporations and corrupt politicians have taken from us. Get out, be active and make it happen.