I remember reading several years ago that a note pinned to the bulletin board of a Woman’s University (Barnard?) read: “Tomorrow is canceled due to lack of interest.” I don’t know exactly what the author had in mind but I thought it was clever. It occurs to me that a similar attitude might well apply to the governing of the United States. I say this not because of the terrible gridlock of the past few years, not because of any specific problem left unsolved, not even because of the Republican decision to refuse to participate in governance, but because of the fact that virtually no one seems to be terribly interested in the fact that our government has ceased to function. It is my contention that no group of sentient human beings who profess to desire a democratic Republic would put up with what has been happening in our (non) government of late.
When a government that is supposed to be of the people, for the people, and by the people has been allowed to gradually morph into an extreme plutocracy and hardly any serious attempt has been made to prevent this, I suggest there has been a pronounced lack of interest in having a serious government. For example, what group of people would allow their available resources to be gobbled up and exploited by a mere one or two percent of the population while the vast majority are essentially denied goods and services they need? What organized community be it county, state, or federal government would force its children to go deeply in debt to have an education, when the very future and existence of the group depends upon having educated citizens? What presumably “civilized” society would not want its citizens to have decent and affordable health care, especially women and children? What presumably sensible nation would not want to keep its infrastructure in good working order?
When you have a system of three separate but equal branches of government, and one of those branches suddenly decides they will not participate, how can that be allowed to happen? When the highest office in the land (even in the world) is no longer respected and its occupant savagely and irrationally attacked and this is allowed to continue, what must you think? That all of the above has been happening and has been allowed to happen for years, I can only conclude that those who allow it to continue, resulting in a dangerously nonfunctional government, have no serious interest in their government or in being governed. When substantial numbers of people swallow the fantastic idea that government is intrinsically “bad,” that it can do nothing right, that they can live without regulations, that everything should be privatized, and they continue to believe these things in spite of all experience to the contrary, I assume they must have simply lost interest in governing. When elected officials are allowed (even forced) to spend most of their time fund raising, and when they place party and corporate interests before the welfare of citizens, and they are allowed to continue doing so year after year, I conclude the public is not paying attention, has lost interest.
Having lost interest for years, citizens have lost control of their government. This lack of interest can be seen in the fact that fully 50% or more of the public doesn’t even bother to vote, and those that do are woefully misinformed and often irrational. It is tempting to say their loss of control is their own fault. This, I believe, only partially true, as once there attention begins to flag, powerful vested interests move in and take over the media, the Congress, the courts, and even the Executive Branch, thus insuring the process of citizen decay will continue while the Plutocracy becomes increasingly more powerful.
The result of this unfortunate history is that the public that is in principle supposed to be in control of government, has now become impotent, simply standing by to watch as corporations and the wealthy exploit them and the environment as they wish. And so it is that deep-water oil drilling is safe, global warming doesn’t exist, nuclear energy is safe, genetically modified foods are safe, pharmaceutical products are safe, as is anything and everything that can generate a profit. Even science is now being discredited if it stands in the way of that holy of holiest goals. Even those individuals who are aware of what is happening, and also aware of what must be the inevitable and unpleasant outcome of the process, can do little but complain, their complaints falling on deaf ears. Perhaps, for peace of mind, it is better to have lost interest. Ignorance is bliss.
More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.