via The Global Growth of U.S. Special Operations Forces

Unless they end in disaster, most missions remain in the shadows, unknown to all but a few Americans. And yet last year alone, U.S. commandos deployed to 149 countries — about 75% of the nations on the planet.

As I’m reading Chalmers’ Johnson’s penultimate book, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic, a sobering read, I’ve become more aware of signs of the movement of the United States government towards a global empire, albeit a rapidly declining global empire, such as the cited article above.

The inevitable comparison to the decline and fall of the Roman Empire leaps immediately to mind, along with most every other empire that has existed on this benighted and abused planet we humans overinhabit. But that’s just a literary allusion. The US Empire is real, it originates in the government that professes to represent me and my interests, and I, whether I agree with it or not, bear a modicum of responsibility for its actions.

I don’t know what to do about this. After 40+ years of environmental and political activism, I’m pretty discouraged with the prospects of being able to influence the course of action of the United States government, let alone the government of any other country. Even at the local level, I see city and county government increasingly in thrall to development interests (aka money) at the expense of the constituent residents of these jurisdictions. There is a strong tendency for local government to meet with development interests (aka “stakeholders”) and formulate policies and projects behind closed doors, then turn to the Economic Development Department to lobby the citizenry to accept the governments foregone conclusions and plans.

The is democracy turned on its head. The only meaningful response is increased citizen participation in local decision making, demanding that government respond to residents needs and desires, before those of development and business interests.

The problem is that few citizens are willing to engage in local politics other than a periodic trip to the polling booth, or increasingly, a trip to the post office with a mailed-in ballot.

Voting for candidates in a representative government is not democracy. Voting is the failure of democracy, rule by the people. Our representative republican government was chosen specifically to rule out democracy, viewing the citizenry as the unwashed masses who are incapable of conducting the affairs of government, which should be reserved for property owners, aka the rich elite minority. Thus, our system of government has evolved from “one man, one vote, to “one dollar (or more), one vote.”

If we are to learn anything from the history of empire in human affairs, it is this: all empires have fallen to excessive militarism and imperialism, substituting democratic decision making with authoritarian, centralized military/industrial oligarchies, necessitating propaganda and information control to keep the rabble in line.

This is where we are today, in a global militaristic culture in which imperialism has replaced statecraft, and the governed, that’s us, are viewed as infinitely pliable puppets whose only role in government is to supply the manufactured consent required to maintain the illusion of democracy.

I haven’t yet decided which path I’ll follow in the few years I have left to roam this planet: either dig a hole and pull in the dirt over me, or dedicate the rest of my life to working locally to demand involvement in local decision-making and support popular assemblies as a legitimate form of local government.

So far, day to day, the latter continues to win out.

The Price of Democracy

“It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.” – John Philpot Curran: Speech upon the Right of Election for Lord Mayor of Dublin, 1790. (Speeches. Dublin, 1808.) as quoted in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations

This quotation is especially pertinent to local city and county government these days. I’ve noticed that more and more of our local government business is being planned and decided behind closed doors, to be trotted out before the public for us to rubber stamp their predetermined plans.

I’m thinking particularly of city and county plans for massive new developments in the so-called “Transportation Corridors” projects, and the Downtown Library cum parking garage fiasco here in Santa Cruz. These projects would drastically change the ambience of Santa Cruz City and County, and would, not coincidentally, benefit local contractors and developers.

I’ve also seen an increase in “Ad-Hoc” subcommittees in local government, the meetings of which are excluded from public attendance, except when citizens have loudly and publicly insisted that they be open to public observation.

The price of democracy is indeed eternal vigilance, whether Thomas Jefferson really said that or not.

 

Stepping back from the precipice

DSCN4407

Over recent years, Climate Change (aka Global Warming or Anthropogenic Climate Change) has taken over as the driving influence of local, regional, state, national and international governments and social organizations.

We are constantly bombarded by dire warnings of imminent doom resulting from our profligate CO2 emissions causing increasing climate change and all of its alarming effects on human civilization and the natural world.

And yet, strangely, nothing changes. The number of cars on the streets and highways continues to increase. Highways are jammed. Garages remained stuffed to the ceilings with stuff, purchased in shopping sprees of lemmingly dimensions. Two and three cars wait patiently in the driveway and parked on streets for the daily trip to the 7-11. Electricity consumption increases at the demand of proliferating electronic devices and their ubiquitous charging stations. TeeVees must be bigger and bigger, demanding more and more energy 24 hours a day.

If climate change is such a big deal, why aren’t we drastically changing our societies to do something about it? Why are we increasing our impacts on our planet instead of reducing them?

For that matter, what specifically can those who are concerned about the impacts of human consumption and development do to drastically reduce or even stop them? How can we change human civilization, cultures and societies, such that humans live in balance with natural geophysical cycles?

These are deep, big picture questions that I’ve never seen fully addressed in any forum or by any agency. George Monbiot, in his continuing series on restoring democracy has come the closest to examining the deep societal, governmental and economic factors that contribute to the increasing impacts of human societies on the natural world.

Judging by today’s headlines, no one is paying attention.

There are ways forward, backward or maybe sideways that could forestall the inevitable outcome of the present course of human growth and development.

In future posts, I’ll explore this vexing conundrum of our present unsustainable civilization, and the necessary reforms, and revolutionary changes required to step back from the precipice, turn around and take a step forward.