Detecting What Unravels Our Society – Bottom-up and Top-down

The unraveling of a society’s institutions, stability and reasonable order does not sound alarms  to forewarn the citizenry, apart from economic yardsticks measuring poverty, jobs, wages, health, savings, profits and  other matters economic.

However, we do have some signs that we should not allow ourselves to ignore. Maliciousness, profiteering and willful ignorance on the part of our political and corporate rulers undoubtedly contribute to worsening injustice. Let’s consider some ways that we as citizens, far too often, collectively allow this to happen.

1. Democracy is threatened when citizens refuse to participate in power, whether by not voting, not thinking critically about important issues, not showing up for civic activities or allowing emotional false appeals and flattery by candidates and parties to sway them on important issues. Without an informed and motivated citizenry, the society starts to splinter.

2. If people do not do their homework before Election Day and know what to expect of candidates and of themselves, the political TV ads and the plutocrats’ campaign cash will take control of what is on the table and what is off the table. This leads to the most important changes a majority of Americans want ending up on the floor.

3. Too often, you have a grievance as a consumer, worker, taxpayer or citizen and you hit the wall trying to reach someone who should be helping you. Robots, either nonhuman or human, on the telephone are of little help. Repeated failure to productively voice one’s grievances leads to alienation, anxiety and withdrawal, rather than resurgence to demand remedy.

4. When a majority of people think their government doesn’t work for them, but instead serves the rich and powerful, people begin to forget the good that government and honest civil servants at all levels do, or can do (see Jacob Hacker’s 2016 book, American Amnesia), thereby disregarding their crucial watchdog role as citizens. In the process, they passively surrender control of government to the plutocrats and oligarchs – leading to a corporate state defined by crony capitalism. The military industrial complex and the corporate welfarists know how to extract dollars for boondoggles from our government, which is all-too-willing to turn its back on taxpayers.

5. When people make up their minds about an ideology or politician without the facts and relinquish any willingness to hear alternative views, societies become polarized. People are stereotyped, the marketplace of ideas goes bankrupt and instances of incivility and dehumanization increase.

6. When people constantly consume media fueled by violence, political insults, crime and celebrity misbehavior, rather than giving voice to the good that people do every day in civil society or to important points of agreement between liberals and conservatives, the way we relate to news and each other becomes needlessly skewed. This problem has increased exponentially in recent years.

7. If people of all backgrounds feel powerless, they will be powerless. This self-perception stifles democracy and often results in people turning their blame against one another and ignoring the power structures at the root of the problem.

8. Readers think; thinkers read. That includes learning from the mistakes of societies throughout history that wrongly believed that they were impervious to crumbling from within. In our culture of virtual reality and Twitter-length propaganda, we all too often forget the valuable lessons of past mistakes.  History is a great teacher, as anyone who has studied how the bloody World War I was triggered by a teenager assassinating an archduke in Sarajevo or how a few rulers of autocratic nations, without institutional civic and political resistance, caused the deaths of 60 million people in World War II, can attest.

9. At this point, some readers may be wondering about the powerful people who comprise the Wall Street and Washington supremacists. Aren’t they heavily responsible for the disintegration of our society’s economic and political health? Of course. But we citizens, day after day, let them get away with actions that embolden them further through what they see as our habitual passivity.

10. Supporting good candidates who so often lose to silver-tongued bad candidates would be a start. Given what people think of Washington politicians, tens of millions of voters are choosing bad candidates. They may want to ask themselves whether the candidates and their rhetoric they bond with are hiding cruel records and votes against the voters’ own interests. The Washington Republicans’ current effort to take away or make less affordable health insurance, even of Trump voters, is a case in point.

For a top-down analysis, read Peter Wehner’s searing column, Declaration of Disruption in the July 4, 2017 issue of the New York Times, regarding how the rulers at the top are now leading our country “toward chaos, disarray and entropy.”

Half of democracy is showing up at community gatherings, marches, meetings and elections with your fellow citizens. No one can stop you from saying yes to your neighbors, near and far, when they send you their kind invitations to meet new people, hear new ideas, and be urged to pull together for a better community, state, nation and world.

Democracy and its blessings work, but only if we don’t drop out and recommit ourselves to securing these blessings for our posterity. It’s easier than we think!

More articles by:

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer and author of Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us! 

Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South