(First published in Urban Times on 6th Sep 2011)
Whenever things are looking down and the world seems impossible to change, remember that we’re out of the cave because somebody dared to step out into the light, difficult as it may have been.
In the wake of a debate in Congress over the US debt ceiling that almost led to the country’s default, we’re left with a political situation as toxic as ever. Parties are divided as never before, battling over ideological high ground in an effort to seize the day and claim the change everyone sees a long time coming. Democracy’s freedom of speech has been turned on its head, used for personal ends rather than the country’s good, and the people of the land, as well as people around the world, are losing trust in their leaders. It seems that distemper has permeated the globe, whereby the need for change – real and substantial change that will clean the system of graft and transform the landscape – is trumped by vested interest, partisan politics, and big business’s stranglehold over key corporations, key government positions, and the media.
In short, real and substantial change seems like a dream for the naive and foolish. A lost cause.
In the wake of disillusionment, let us remember that the world we live in and the graft we’re perceiving, the dead ends we’re encountering and the pain we’re going through, are nothing new. The world has been there before, caught in a state of impasse, stuck against the wall and held hostage by ineptitude and corruption. But against all odds it moved on, broke through the walls and revved up again.
We tend to forget this and think that we’re uniquely challenged, that we’ve reached a state the world has never experienced before. It may be true to a matter of degree, this is an unprecedented time we live in. The world has been joined together under a massive communication network, through which we are free – or forced, directly or indirectly, depending on how one looks at it – to interact with each other in extraordinary ways. The world has become smaller, yet larger and more available as a result. Opportunities grow alongside the crunch of a streamlined way of life. We experience a variety of pros and cons in tandem, working our way into a brave new world.
In other words, we’re in a unique situation, but only to a degree. The core of the process is still the same, and so are the problems we face. The stranglehold of graft, corruption and vested interest, plus the loss of individuality to an individualism collectively understood and enforced top-down in the form of creed and dogma that have little to do with individual freedom and more to do with political agenda – all these things are nothing new. The lost cause we seem to be fighting for is the latest idea in a long string of ideas individuals have been standing up for since the beginning of civilization.
Many of these ideas were indeed defeated and never heard of again. But some made it through, making all the difference. Making up for the lost ones. Seizing the moment and setting the pace for a new world that was brave not on account of its totalitarian implications but by virtue of its proponents’ willingness to stand up against monsters, against all odds, and voice their beliefs in the wake of adversity.
Such individuals still exist, all around us, each one seeking a window of opportunity to say his or her piece and add their two bits to the new script. They’re drowned out every day by talking points on TV, by static noise, by graft and brinkmanship that steal their thunder.
As things stand, it’s difficult for the voices of substance and the initiatives of reason to surface above the din and make a difference. We’ve seen the debt ceiling debate, and how from an opportunity for parties to come together and create an initiative that would address the deep-rooted problems at their core and transform the globe, it degenerated to a political row reminiscent of a bitter married couple that has to live next to each other on account of its kids (us), while hating every minute of it. Another example of how democracy and freedom are hijacked and abused across the board, by all parties, in the name of a perverted sense of self-righteousness.
Even so, in the wake of disappointment, there’s much to hope for. The more impossible things seem, the better placed they are to defend, and the stronger impact they have when successful. Lost causes are, after all, truly worth fighting for.
SEE MR. SMITH’S FILIBUSTER BELOW: