Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Impatient Democracy

One of the main drawbacks towards our system of Democratic governance and ideals is the speed with which crucial changes occur. Because Democracy is dependent on the will of the majority, moral and ethical development is restrained by the evolving sensibilities of the populace. Although these changes can often be slow and rumbling, we have to accept the system as it provides us with the same democratic principles that help protect our interests. We may not always be happy with the will of the majority, but that is the system in which we operate. To help usher in progressive thinking, we must emphasize education over retaliation and the overuse of the judicial system.

When we look at the last two centuries of history, we're shocked at the antiquated moral and ethical beliefs the majority of the population held. Slavery for example was widely accepted and quotes from the Bible were used to justify the need to treat certain people as non-human property. There were many moral progressives, ranging from Quakers to enlightened Northerners who continued arguing for emancipation, even with the majority of people supporting enslavement. As time wore on and our sensibilities evolved, the majority came to realize that slavery was unjust. It still took a civil war, and a hundred subsequent years before the laws were changed to allow for universal equality between the races. As we progressed towards greater racial tolerance, we rightfully pressured those who still maintained archaic beliefs. When the South African government mandated Apartheid, the West was vehemently opposed, and through decades of sanctions and diplomatic pressure, we succeeded in ushering democratic changes. Still, it took many years before the sentiment had changed for the majority of Americans to suspend their racial divisiveness and elect the first black president. Yet, moral victory for the majority cannot be overwhelmingly claimed unless the climate of fear, and racial intolerance becomes even further diluted. To this day, there are a large number of seemingly enlightened and progressive people who still believe in racial inferiority, often missing the underlying socioeconomic factors, among other things. They refuse do acknowledge the vast non-biological cultural differences among peoples of the worlds, and use their preconceived notions of superiority to render peoples of different races as inferior. Lately, with greater genetic tools at our disposal, we're able to probe into the various genetic differences among human beings, and ultimately uncover the inherent bias in our thoughts of race. As it turns out, genetically, there is no indicator of human race. In other words, by looking at one's DNA, there are no categories that are shared across the board by what we consider a race. Beyond just modern racial superiority, many still hold quiet reservations regarding potential presidential candidates. Would the outcome have been different if both of Barack Obama's parents were black? Would it have changed things if Barack Obama had attended a few Friday prayers at a mosque? These inherent fears are still open sores even among the majority who elected him.

Moving beyond racial intolerance, there are other civil rights issues that are similarly moving at an uncomfortable snail's pace. As the recent California gay marriage ban initiative indicated, there is still enough traditional marriage sentiment in California to override the progressive laws there were passed by the legislature. The anger, hatred, and injustise that the supporters of gay marriage felt in California boiled over to public demonstrations, lawsuits, and violent threats against those perceived as limiting the civil liberties of certain groups. The irony of course is that the majority of African-Americans chose to support the ban. With all this said, we have to come to terms with the system that we have. Regardless of the ethical and moral views that one takes on this issue, the fact is that the majority, no matter how small, chose to maintain traditional heterosexual marriage. One can argue the lack of moral decency, and ethical responsibilities, but because we rely on our system of government to maintain certain democratically held beliefs which protect us, we must also accept that it may cause discontent in other ways. Again, it must be emphasized that education is the only way to garner support for controversial progressive issues. Timing is key, and there will come a time and place (such as Conneticut at the moment), when society at large is ready to accept marriage regardless of sexual orientation.

The drawbacks to Democracy becomes most realized when the population's level of education drops. As voters become ignorant and less savvy about the world, their voices become harmful to the direction of national progress. Democracy works best when the majority are educated, and truly understand the issues at large. When George W. Bush was elected for a second term, the disbelief among the enlightened should have been unfounded. Many people, through fear, and a lack of global understanding, had let themselves become influenced by misinformation, outright lies, and, clever propaganda. Few could differentiate between Al-Qaida and Iraq, or Iraq and Iran, or the differences between these groups. Further, because the mass media, with its conflicting information had shaped the global opinions of so many spoon-fed people, the movement towards restrictions on inidividual liberties was extended. Congress, even under Democratic control was cowering in a corner, the president was stubborn as ever, and we watched as nations like China, and Brazil expnaded their research and development, surpassing us in many sectors. We allowed ourselves to become pariahs because of our lack of global understanding. We have led ourselves to become isolationists, and we are fed with filtered information without a moment's thought or reflection. If the government implies that we must protect Israel at all costs, well, then why think twice about it? If we're told that the Mulsim world hates America because of our freedom, then why question that? If the President states that we need to prostrate ourselves on the ground next to the soiled constitution and allow the government to trample us under foot, then it must be for our own good. Worst of all, when atheist "elitists" tell us to embrace rational thinking, strengthen the secular nature of our government, reduce religions role in politics, and ultimately accept that all human beings have inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, well execute them. The rights of a dying patient to die with dignity to not matter because religion says so. The rights of a woman who knows she can't afford a child, and doesn't want to burdon society doesn't matter because religion says a clump of cells inside her is a person. These are the moral and ethical failings of a poor educational system. With that in mind, how much progress can we expect out of society when there is so much fear of rational thinking? No wonder we have such an impatient Democracy.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Cautiously Optimistic Step in the Right (actually left) Direction

A new day has dawned in the shared collective experience of us Americans. We have come a very long way since slavery and the subsequent institutionalized racism that existed up to the 1960's. It took decades of courageous and dedicated individuals to fight misconceptions and inhumane behavior by our government. The thought that certain individuals in our society were inherently inferior to others does unfortunately continue to even our proudest day in terms of civil rights. Yet, we shouldn't spend this time congratulating each other on a job well done, but should instead proceed to move our nation forward through reason, critical thinking, and especially progressive behavior. It must be understood that even the most conservative politician of today's standards would be a stark liberal in the 1930's. Our progressing sense of social justice and equality has yet to become universal, even within the boundaries of the United States, but the walls of injustice are continuing to erode and become relics of the past. The long road towards liberty and virtuous freedom is no where near over, and yet, we know for a fact that we're standing on the path that will take us on this monumental journey. We can no longer divide ourselves into races and other categories, but must work hard to educate the socioeconomically challenged. We must embrace the unknown and discard our archaic notions of religion providing us with morality and ethics. If we can learn to value a human's life as much as we value green paper, we will have succeeded in our collective mission. Until the arrival of that day, we'll have our proud moments, our successes and progressive steps, but we'll also know that there's a lot more to be done to achieve the goal of reducing human suffering, and expanding reason. President elect Barack Obama has given hope and optimism to a country that was reeling from oppression and near autocratic rule. The freedom and pride that many of us feel is still all but fleeting. When we awaken from our drunken celebration with a massive hangover that involves a near collapsed economy, anthropogenic climate change, seemingly endless wars for limited resources, and a policy of supporting tyrannical regimes while admonishing others of equal magnitude, we will have to maintain some degree of cautious optimism, but must work twice as hard to improve these global problems. Just pressing a few buttons or marking a few pieces of paper to prove that we voted requires the least amount of our effort. We must unite, not only nationally, but globally, and tackle impediments with clear insight and mature reasoning. The days of biased political agendas and unilateral support for perceived allies must be over. If we're going to hold Iran to certain nuclear standards, then we must do the same with Israel. If we're determined to develop alternative eneregies, then we must also entertain the thought of replacing our toxic coal burning reactors with the new generation of nuclear ones. We can't politicize issues that must be applied across the spectrum. It is time that we drop our political alliances and do what is best for our country as a whole. Working on accessible medical care for all, hybrid and alternative fueled vehicles, and especially engaging in research and development for scientific and technological progress. We must overturn the restrictions on Stem Cell research, government funded climate studies, and a whole host of other issues that have become politicized by the religious right. Although I am certain that many may not agree with my views on the reduced role of religion in the future of our society, the intimate entanglement of religion and national policy must end. We cannot continue to dictate national policy because some religious idiots believe that a few cells have more rights than the woman who's going to carry its development for nine months into a hopefully functioning member of society. Limiting one's civil rights because some religiously intolerant individuals read too much into their ancient, historically inaccurate, and misanthropic texts, should be a crime in a progressively minded society. Looking at the failure of the Republican party and the various excuses for it is groundless unless one realizes just how fiscally conservative individuals have remained silent as the religiously intolerant, and scientifically illiterate morons have dictated platform policies. If you were a single issue voter who was hoping McCain's tax break could provide more retained money in your pocket, did you not consider the implications on the global scale of his narrow minded views? His lack of diplomatic tact would not go well with the world, and our arrogant attitudes have only emboldened our enemies to act more brazenly. It's only through leading the world with example that we can hope to reach all corners of it. Yet, we have one party that has based its social agenda on the 19th century. Denying the truth of evolution, allowing the civil liberties of women, immigrants, gays, religious minorities, etc., all contribute to the loss of respect for the party that pretends to represent the individual. They care more for stagnation and not progression. Leave it to them to regress us back to a more comfortable existence like they must envision the Middle Ages to be. Now is the time to discard archaic religious notions, and maintain a dignified society. The paradox in this situation results from those impededing progress who must eventually face the future. As our society evolves and our sensibilities become more tolerant and enlightened, those who wish to maintain their racist hatred, extremist religious tendencies, and lack of education, will become extinct. Either we choose to move at a crawl and risk stagnating, or worse, regressing from more enlightened countries of the world, or we fully embrace the future. We can't fear the elite, and we must be equally willing to hold a flame to the feet of our current crop of elected individuals. They must uphold the standards to which we elected them, and regardless of the historical nature of these elections, their primary responsibility is the future, not the past. If anyone in the last 30 years is capable of moving us in the proper direction, it is President Elect Barack Obama. Let us hope that our support is well placed, and history will judge our actions as the turning point in America's global resurgance. We can once again lead the world in science, technology, medicine, economic policy, and the talent through which a well rounded and balanced education will provide.