Democracy is not a Religion
I’m sure you have heard this comment many times, “I’m not voting because I don’t believe that my vote is changing anything”. Even though I understand where this thinking| comes from, it doesn’t work like that. The democratic system has a particular way of working, just like any other system. This is not a question of belief and it is not about liking something either.
Do you see people coming to you and say, *”I don’t believe in the current economic system, so I’m not putting my money in the bank?”* Or, *“everyone knows this economic system is rotten, so I don’t plan on going to work anymore?”* People know that they are living in a capitalist society, and that is working in such and such a way. Even if they are unemployed, they are still part of the system. Look at the education system… Do you see people saying, *”I don’t believe in this education system, so I am not sending my kid to school from tomorrow?”* We even have people who go to the military, just to continue their education! People are coming to New York from all over the world to study. Education is a big deal.
Similarly, whether you like it or not, we – you, me and everyone around us – are in the same democratic system. Officials are elected, laws are passed, and budgets are voted. And it continues, whether you vote or not – with or without your participation or input. On June 29th, the New York City Council voted on a budget of over $66 billion dollars – a budget that will cut services and lay off employees. This is a fact and not a belief. This, my friends, is the face of what we at the Humanist Party like to call *“formal democracy.”*
Our democratic system comes from the 18th century, without many substantial modifications. The US Congress and Senate are paralyzed – they are too slow, the people there are too old, woman and minorities are not adequately represented. The elected officials are not challenged enough. Look at Anthony Weiner’s story, it illustrates the problem well. First, how could a guy like him, with such massive personal issues, manage to be a member of the US congress for not one, not five, but twelve years? And second, now that the deed’s done, who is going to replace him? Because this seat has no term limits, no one is ready to take his position. There’s going to be a special election, and with very few votes, the candidate who plays the Democratic Party machine most masterfully will get the seat. Most of the candidates are current or ex-NY council members with low levels of real political achievements, and are not strong supporters of low income families, who happen to constitute the majority of the population in the city.
This country is facing many urgent issues that have not been attended to properly either by the Congress or the Senate. Issues such as immigration, military reduction, new technology, human rights, energy alternatives, pollution, job security and minimum wage, research, health access, transportation, taxation and most of all, real democracy and social participation. The lives of millions of American residents are in jeopardy at many different levels.
Now, nothing will happen if we don’t work for it. No other *“divine power”* will change this situation. It is not like we can go to the church, the temple, or the mosque, and ask someone else to do the job for us. This is the great thing about democracy. We have what we are working for (or not). If we do little, if we have a small involvement, voting every few years, we will get little result. Now if we get really concerned and engaged, like we do in the economic or educational systems, we will get a different result. There have been moments in our history where people have engaged themselves and toiled for the construction of a different future for themselves and their families. And they got the right to vote and passed the emancipation act, they got a minimum wage and health benefits, they got time off and sick days, they got the right to organize at the work place, they got the right to free speech, they were able to build public schools which were open to all, and universities that were free… And they achieved these things with much less resources than we have at our disposal today!
As the Humanist Party, our call for a real democracy is loud and clear. We need to move the immovable, and awaken everyone’s best aspirations. This is not the end of history but the beginning of new times. We have the technological infrastructure to modify the form of participation, and help all American residents take responsibility for choosing their own futures. Don’t ask your elected officials to resolve your economic problems. Instead, tell them – even force them – to develop a democratic system that works for everyone. Tell them what needs to be done. They were elected, after all, to follow your commands!