28 July 2011

A Global Dream, not just an American Dream

Here's the beginning of a piece by George Lakoff and Glenn Smith about their view of the American Dream and how we are losing touch with it. In brackets I have substituted 'Global' for 'American' because this is the proper scope of the thinking we need to be doing. They are focused on American (U.S.) politics, so it makes sense for them, but I hope that the same dialogue can be brought into the global context, too.

Democracy... has been defined by a simple morality: We ... care about our fellow citizens, we act on that care and build trust, and we do our best not just for ourselves, our families, and our friends and neighbors, but for our country, for each other, for people we have never seen and never will see.

[Global] Democracy has, over our history, called upon citizens to share an equal responsibility to work together to secure a safe and prosperous future for their families and nation. This is the central work of our democracy and it is a public enterprise. This, the [Global] Dream, is the dream of a functioning democracy.

Public refers to people, acting together to provide what we all depend on: roads and bridges, public buildings and parks, a system of education, a strong economic system, a system of law and order with a fair and effective judiciary, dams, sewers, and a power grid, agencies to monitor disease, weather, food safety, clean air and water, and on and on. That is what we, as a people who care about each other, have given to each other.

Only a free people can take up the necessary tasks, and only a people who trust and care for one another can get the job done. The [Global] Dream is built upon mutual care and trust.

Our tradition has not just been to share the tasks, but to share the tools as well. We come together to provide a quality education for our children. We come together to protect each other’s health and safety. We come together to build a strong, open and honest financial system. We come together to protect the institutions of democracy to guarantee that all who share in these responsibilities have an equal voice in deciding how they will be met.

What this means is that there is no such thing as a “self-made” man or woman or business. No one makes it on their own. No matter how much wealth you amass, you depend on all the things the public has provided — roads, water, law enforcement, fire and disease protection, food safety, government research, and all the rest. The only question is whether you have paid your fair share for we all have given you.

We are now faced with a nontraditional, radical view of “democracy” coming from the Republican party. It says that “democracy” means that nobody should care about anybody else, that “democracy” means only personal responsibility, not responsibility for anyone else, and it means no trust. If [the world] accepts this radical view of “democracy,” then all that we have given each other in the past under traditional democracy will be lost: all that we have called public. Public roads and bridges: gone. Public schools: gone. Publicly funded police and firemen: gone. Safe food, air, and water: gone. Public health: gone. Everything that made [the civilized world the civilized world], the crucial things that you and your family and your friends have taken for granted: gone.

The democracy of care, shared responsibility, and trust is the democracy of the [Global] Dream. The “democracy” of no care, no shared responsibility, and no trust has produced the [Global] Nightmare that so many of our citizens are living through.

Read the rest of Why Democracy is Public by Lakoff & Smith.

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