An Extraordinary Episode

November 2, 2010 Leave a comment


Vote Today! It does matter.  But you probably already knew that.  I’m down on the state these days.  And I don’t mean Massachusetts.  I mean “the state,” the dominant organizing structure for human affairs.  But I still think we should vote – wield some of the influence we have.

When I was more into “the state,” I was really influenced by Roberto Mangabeira Unger, the Brazilian intellectual who authored “Democracy Realized.”  He is fond of saying that “democracy cannot be reduced to the extraordinary episode of the vote.”  If you are what campaign strategists call a “super voter,” like I am, then you vote twice a year every year.  You don’t miss an election at any level of government and you always participate on primaries – even if your vote is blank, you show up.

Still, twice a year every year is rather extraordinary – it doesn’t happen very often.  Democracy cannot be reduced to an event, the responsibility of governing ourselves, the work of making the tough choices that define how society evolves – this is a way of life, it is not something we can outsource.

When we look at it from this perspective, then it becomes easier to vote, check-in, give politicians a sense of what we want and don’t want.  But we are not for a second fooled into believing that a vote will set us free.  We begin to take responsibility for building our communities, defining and redefining our norms, having conversations that matter, connecting with one another and standing for justice with our very lives.

Vote!  By all means vote!  But know what you are doing and take a look at how we live.

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  • Jodie says:

    om nama shivaya.

  • Cynthia Parker says:

    Exactly! I think that the danger of reducing democracy to voting lies at the heart of failed US policy abroad. Commitment to things like protection against tyrany of the majority/protection of minorities, freedom of expression, assembly and association, freedom of conscience, non-establishment of religion, due process for all and orderly transitions of power are all essential to true democracy. In addition, I think a commitment to shared responsibiliy for the whole and for the wellbeing of vulnerable people are central. Without all of this, no amount of finger wagging or international election monitoring will bring real democracy anywhere.

  • Cynthia Parker says:

    Did I mention, no amount of hunting down or locking up the “bad guys” and putting the “good (at least better) guys” will do it either!

  • Cynthia Parker says:

    ..putting the good guys into power… is what I meant to say!

  • Curtis says:

    As someone once said, engagement is a process, not an event. Proud to have voted in the company of my four year old daughter this evening, and happy to explain to her that there is much more work to do. By the way, one funny moment happened when Annabel stopped and stared at the empty stage in the big room at Town Hall where I had filled out my ballot. I tapped her on the shoulder to say we needed to go and she pointed toward the curtain and said, “When does Obama get here?”

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