by Mike Meyer
We are still hearing people with good intentions who are lost in the our fast changing world. In the worst case these people are assumed to have bad intentions and that risks insulting and alienating them.
At the same time these same people, in their efforts to rebuild the American political system, assume that that the nation is still based on two different political groups dedicated to the common good. This is also mistaken. This creates the continual heightening anxiety and increasing desperation as their efforts fail.
This is the basic reality that has been accepted by many people as they have studied and discussed what is happening. And that has also exacerbated the problem as there is a large gap between the casual political observers and those more committed to analysis of the unique situation that we are all facing now. Things have changed drastically and the social and political reality in America is, in many ways, no longer recognizable.
The reasons for this later gap are several and include the normal weakness in American civic education that means most people do not understand the actual goals and structure of the federal system. They also, another broad educational failure at the national level, have little knowledge of the history of the nation and the world. The absence of this general historical knowledge has been replaced by various political and ideological myths that allow manipulation of the population by political operatives. This dates to the beginning of the nation and before.
In day to day reality this has created two sets of people in America. Those that are now questioning the fundamental concepts of the nation because of a growing display of failures and obvious contradictions between what is being said and what is being done.
This is tragic and is a long term cause of the current political collapse. The fact that things worked, more or less, for the majority of the population for over two hundred years complicates things. We have been kept ignorant of broader historical patterns initially by accident but then by political policy to facilitate political manipulation in a pseudo representative system.
Why am I saying this? Because the broad understanding of a complex political failure is the missing component to begin to make sense of the current situation. I see this continuously as people attempt to recreate the conversation between the national parties as if this were possible. They are encouraged to do this by other well meaning people who either are also unable to understand the actual situation or do understand it but don’t know what else to do and are hoping to feel better by being positive. This is neither helpful nor productive, however good their intent.
A better perspective is to cut through old ideas and preset assumptions and attempt to ask what the newest generations of citizens see as possible, what do they want, and what do they need? Is that a return to something from the past or a need for something not previously provided?
The failure to change the national perspective sets up folks struggling to understand why things have fallen apart to be continuously knocked down by reality. That just adds to their depression either because they try to talk to the “other side” and discover there is no communication at all or any discussion breaks down into accusations and statements that are based on lies.
We need everyone to become aware , woke, if you will, and willing to work at gaining better understanding of the situation we are in and how it relates to the system of government that we need distinct from whatever it is that people say we should want.
This is an effort to state an accurate but broad view that would help the non-specialist people who want to understand and help but have been shutdown by failure or simply confusion. It needs to be kept simple and as short as possible because that is reality in our world now.
I don’t think there is anything to be gained by rehashing the respective talking points of the old system. It is important to understand the intentions and the forces at play that are driving those intentions. Then it is important to understand the processes of change that makes what most people in America assume they want to be wrong.
The traditional points of competition in modern Western political history have been on the nature of the nation state and the source of political authority. To cut to the chase this came to be “the people” as the source of political authority. This replaced classical forms of monarchy, or elite families as the source, or a theocratic source, tied to some traditional mythological system normally tied to both specific geographic area and special families. It became obvious that “the people” is the most logical source of authority. That is not really an issue of debate and has not been for a century or so.
In this I won’t really deal with fringe groups of various kinds as they may be annoying and even, potentially dangerous, but are not rational. But now almost anything is possible due to the failure to understand what is happening, e.g. BREXIT and Trump are examples of fringe, irrational groups stumbling into a vacuum created by the three way divergence of what people understand, what they want, and what they need.
Historically there are two ways to ways to take authority of and by “the people”. Classical Athenian democracy is the most extreme and, since it’s inception, has not been a practical way to rule except in very small city-states and that didn’t even work our for very long with the Greeks even there.
While this failure was used to justify the American system set up by the founding fathers that was far from a democracy the term and the concept were kept and idealized. The New England Town Hall is that American ideal with all major decisions worked through in general citizen meetings. Obviously this bears no similarity to the very limited representative system based on race and strongly oligarchical rule that was the reality.
The opposite end of taking authority from the people is to have a knowledgeable group that rules on behalf of the people and for their best interests. On one side this is the elected representatives of the people who become a professional ruling elite for some period of time and decide things on behalf of the people and on the other a select group who represent “the people” as a professional administrators.
These are the two general ways to do this if the source of authority is “the people” and that has been agreed as correct by most everyone on this planet in the 20th century. This became centered in America on the limited representative side and for the 20th century on Russia as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the other. By the 21st century China had become the center of the professional rule in the interests of the people.
On both sides you have elections, parliaments, executives with great power, and professional bureaucracies that actually keep the nation state running. The greatest difference is the length of the term of rule.
The American pseudo republic has a very short set of terms at all federal levels and the Marxist based pseudo socialist systems have longer terms or indefinite ones for the executive. The other parliamentarian systems fall somewhere in between with different ways to declare the need for a change in the representatives and/or a changer in policy direction.
That’s pretty much it for difference in formal structure and stated this way that should be obvious. The discomfort resulting from stating it this bluntly is decades or a century or more of internal propaganda and intense political effort to exaggerate differences that are mostly nonexistent. Yes, I could go into a great deal of history and detail about superficial differences but that is not the point here. We are looking at the broad and most important characteristics that we currently are struggling to maintain.
A big part of the current problems are the realization, specifically by the newest generations of citizens, that the whole “democratic” thing doesn’t work very well at all for growing and increasingly diverse populations. At the same time what are the interests of the people? If the government is obviously ignoring large groups of the population those citizens who realize that the authority of the nation state requires equitable rule, and more importantly, an equitable economy for the full population then things need to change.
The issues that matter to people who are no longer easily manipulated by advertising, or propaganda in its political form, are that equity of opportunity and a reasonable opportunity to have a growing share of the assets of the nation are not the goals of the groups who are ruling in the name of “the people”.
If well being, peace and an opportunity for an equitable share of the planet’s resources are not the goals of a regional ruling group then what are they doing?
On the planetary scale now that is what is driving a very broad rethink by the newest generations. Did their parents get a fair opportunity and reasonable growth of their share of the assets? Can they expect it? If not then who can provide those conditions?
Decades of failure in these areas in America have brought the version of rule by and for “the people” into question. In fact it is obvious that one of the two American political parties has collapsed into a non-representative group at the command of the very small elite who gained control of almost all the assets of the nation.
How do we fix this? The old way created a disaster, including what appears to be, a totally corrupt and invalid executive administration. All of this is locked in so there does not appear to be any way to correct the problems.
The People’s Republic of China now argues, based on their rapid economic success and vast expenditures for city upgrades, technology, space exploration, etc. using a much more stable and longer term while less important legislative body, with primary commitment in long term management that they are a better example of rule in “the people’s” interests.
The future will be how the current generations answer this question. Frankly it seems to be well worth looking at the Chinese model. When you get into the detail there are a lot of problems. But the Chinese message to the world is that they are more successful and more efficient at giving people the well being and a larger piece of the regional assets than the so called democratic states.
In America much of the current disaster is the result of the loss of any concept of policy other than predatory capitalism and the protection of the tiny elite who owns most of the assets. If money talks then the people who control most of the money are “the people” and no one else matters or is represented. What about everyone else? That certainly doesn’t seem to represent the people in any broad sense. Is this systemic failure or simply rampant corruption?
In China there are vast and harsh programs to root out the corrupt from positions of power. How successful are these programs? That is not always clear but there are no such efforts in America. In fact “the people” who are actually represented are not interested in changing anything.