By Bruce Levine
Many Americans know that the United States is not a democracy but a "corporatocracy," in which we are ruled by a partnership of giant corporations, the extremely wealthy elite and corporate-collaborator government officials. However, the truth of such tyranny is not enough to set most of us free to take action. Too many of us have become pacified by corporatocracy-created institutions and culture.
Some activists insist that this political passivity problem is caused by Americans' ignorance due to corporate media propaganda, and others claim that political passivity is caused by the inability to organize due to a lack of money. However, polls show that on the important issues of our day - from senseless wars, to Wall Street bailouts, to corporate tax-dodging, to health insurance rip-offs - the majority of Americans are not ignorant to the reality that they are being screwed. And American history is replete with organizational examples - from the Underground Railroad, to the Great Populist Revolt, to the Flint sit-down strike, to large wildcat strikes a generation ago - of successful rebels who had little money but lots of guts and solidarity.
The elite spend their lives stockpiling money and have the financial clout to bribe, divide and conquer the rest of us. The only way to overcome the power of money is with the power of courage and solidarity. When we regain our guts and solidarity, we can then more wisely select from - and implement - time-honored strategies and tactics that oppressed peoples have long used to defeat the elite. So, how do we regain our guts and solidarity?
1. Create the Cultural and Psychological "Building Blocks" for Democratic Movements
Historian Lawrence Goodwyn has studied democratic movements such as Solidarity in Poland, and he has written extensively about the populist movement in the United States that occurred during the end of the 19th century (what he calls "the largest democratic mass movement in American history"). Goodwyn concludes that democratic movements are initiated by people who are neither resigned to the status quo nor intimidated by established powers. For Goodwyn, the cultural and psychological building blocks of democratic movements are individual self-respect and collective self-confidence. Without individual self-respect, we do not believe that we are worthy of power or capable of utilizing power wisely, and we accept as our role being a subject of power. Without collective self-confidence, we do not believe that we can succeed in wresting away power from our rulers.
Thus, it is the job of all of us - from parents, to students, to teachers, to journalists, to clergy, to psychologists, to artists and EVERYBODY who gives a damn about genuine democracy - to create individual self-respect and collective self-confidence.
2. Confront and Transform ALL Institutions that Have Destroyed Individual Self-Respect and Collective Self-Confidence
In "Get Up, Stand Up, " I detail 12 major institutional and cultural
areas that have broken people's sprit of resistance, and all are
"battlefields for democracy" in which we can fight to regain our
individual self-respect and collective self confidence:
• Isolation and bureaucratization
• "Fundamentalist consumerism" and advertising/propaganda
• Student loan debt and indentured servitude
• The decline of unions/solidarity among working people
• Greed and a "money-centric" culture
• Fear-based schools that teach obedience
• Psychopathologizing noncompliance
• Elitism via professional training
• The corporate media
• The US electoral system
As Ralph Waldo Emerson observed, "All our things are right and wrong
together. The wave of evil washes all our institutions alike."