So I was trying to get my friend the other day to read a recent issue of Adbusters magazine.
"You've got to read this!" I said. "There's an article about how the media today is owned by only a handful of corporations, and corporate consolidation is leading to fewer voices getting on the air and stifling the range of debate, which is stifling the health of our democracy. And corporations themselves are legally bound by law to seek a profit over any other competing interest. And because of a judges ruling that unlawfully declared that corporations are to be deemed legal "persons" giving rights to corporations that were originally intended for recently freed black slaves these corporations (due to their vast wealth and influence) now have more rights than people. And these corporate rights are now the source of the power they use to destroy all of humanity!!" I said with a half-laugh, nearly out of breath.
"Yikes," she said.
"Yeah I know. It's crazy."
And then there was a pause. "Yeah, the thing is..." she said with a sigh. "I really don't have time to read that. I mean, look: I know things are bad. Everyone nowadays knows about all these problems at some level. It just seems kind of tiring to keep reading about things that at a basic level, you already know."
And I thought about what she said, and I understand what she's saying - at some level. But here's the problem: When problems are vague, so are the solutions.
When you think about all the world problems... Oh, well, don't think about all of them. But if you think about just a few. Take: climate change, deforestation, bought-and-paid-for elections, and the corporate exploitation of millions of people working in sweat-shop factories around the world. How are we even going to begin to solve these problems? Now if we tried to attack each of these issues individually, well, we'll be trying to plant corn in the deserts of the Midwest on a very hot planet before that happens. Climate change and peak oil alone give us a deadline of only five to ten years to do most of the significant work to solve these issues. We simply do not have the time to keep hacking at individual branches while new branches grow every day.
But what if there was one solution which got at the root of all these problems, and if you solved this one thing, it would quickly solve many of the others?
Now let's say I told you that the laws that give corporations their legal power were the source of all of the problems listed above. You change the laws that govern the corporation, and you change the landscape of our economy, environment, and society all at the same time. Now of course, appreciating the significance of this solution can only be grasped when you have a full understanding of the problem. And this means specifics, and this means reading that damn article!
It was at this particular exclamation point that I realized: getting informed on the issues is kind of the whole point. It's the solution that leads to every other solution.
Because clear knowledge leads to clear actions, and clear actions lead to results.
When you understand the problem, you know what needs fixing, and you feel empowered to support actions that can lead to fixing it. And when a whole bunch of people learn about an issue and know what needs to be done to get our country back on track, then the people can start organizing. And as you launch targeted campaigns to solve specific issues, you eventually see results, and your community is the better for it.
It's all about getting informed and taking action. It's the essence of democracy. Not to bust out some history books on your asses, but this goes back to the days our forefathers first drafted the constitution. The first amendment talks about the need for a Free Press. They knew that a democracy could not thrive without the full participation of its citizens, and that you need to be fully informed to truly participate. The two go hand in hand.
Originally, informing the public and arming them with the knowledge they need to act was the cardinal responsibility of the media. It was to foster a free and open "marketplace for ideas," so that all could have a voice within the commons, and the best ideas could rise to the top regardless of the economic or political power of the people who voiced them.
Today, these ideas seem quaint in comparison to the profit-driven, consolidated, and corrupt media we have now. We all know how bad the mainstream media has gotten, and you can almost visibly watch our republic crumble with every Paris Hilton story that takes the lead over a critical assessment of the Afghanistan war. Between the Fair and Balanced "news" offered by FOX, and the infotainment predominant even on channels like CNN, ABC, and NBC, there is clearly a gap in quality news, and this gap represents the bottleneck that impedes the progress of nearly every social cause we care about.