The State of Discord

Do you often wonder what you would do if the world was yours to govern?

The world is yours to govern. If you feel powerless, it is because you have done an uncreative uncommons license deal with your neighbours and signed away not only your obligation but your birth right at self-governance. It’s you and they. They! The damned they are running the world! You let them. 

I have read Betty Medsger’s The Burglary in one fell swoop. Here is an NPR report on it. I just couldn’t put it down. I arrived in the US in 1973. I went to college with Vietnam veterans. One cousin left his life in Vietnam. Did I ever debate the Vietnam war? No. To me there was nothing to debate. For me, the war was wrong. I did not feel the need to debate something about which I had no doubt. After all, I was sixteen, and all the wars I had ever heard of made little sense to me. I avoided politics and thinking about politics until I was living in Germany and well into my thirties. 

The Burglary got my attention, not only because it is a story well told, but because it is a very contemporary story. What the FBI was doing then is not very different from what the NSA is doing now. The technologies have changed, the methods are basically the same. The purpose is still power. Come to think of it, I have no clue how things work in DC, but then Hoover had the goods on about anybody, thus keeping it all secret, was easy. One thing has changed, the man in the White House is no longer white, but he is still a man. Not that women are not capable of playing the same dirty games.

Now I am in Swiss politics, and I have no doubt that the local power game is not different from that played in other parts of the world. Really, I have absolute no doubts. However if you are endowed with ambition about reelection and staying in politics, playing by the rules, and playing fair, may not have much appeal. People who play by the rules, like to play fair, and are pacifists are often called activists. There are a few other typologies of so called non-govermental bodies who will not shy aggression or violence, however aggression and violence are criminal activities. We should distinguish between breaking the law, and criminal activities undertaken by any individual, grouping, entity, private institution or governmental agency. There is a big difference. 

One thing that I discovered in reading this book is that I make a strong distinction between what is the rule of law and what is ethical behaviour. There is much ‘legal’ behaviour under the rule of law that is far from being ethical. In fact, there is much that is possible under the rule of law that is unethical. 

In your eyes Google has gone from doing no evil to being evil, and I wonder who allowed that to happen. Has Google changed? How? Who took those decisions? One day, some bright creature will report on the saga of Google (or any other tech multinational) and how they have interacted with government. I may or may not by then either read the book or be alive. Still, we should not forget that the world is ours to govern.

Self-governance is a concept that we need to think about within our very pluralistic understanding of democratic utopia. While I can see where Russell Brand is coming from, his presupposed admission that he has never voted, points to disenfranchisement. It is not just in the so-called developing countries that people feel disenfranchised, the successful public figures in some of the more affluent parts of the planet, are literally in the same boat. There are two sides to this: the ugly and the beautiful. It is plain ugly to think that so many of us have resigned our fate to those who have no interest in our well-being, and it is so plain beautiful that somehow both the very poor and the very rich do share in lacking a sense disenfranchisement. 

In this light, it is indeed an elixir to read The Burglary and be reminded that there are people capable of taking matters into their own hands and remain true to higher ethical values.