Building Education for the Commons
All precious things in life, friendships, loved ones etc. are always the most fragile things in life.
Too often our lives quickly become disordered. We find ourselves concerned about things that are insignificant and ignore those things that are most endearing and precious to what gives our lives meaning and joy. The requirements to just survive in our materialist world assist us greatly in forgetting the most precious things by focusing on just staying above water. This is why the most precious things in life are the most fragile.
This dangerous effect of mis-prioritizing our lives has become something of a disease. Our ability to rationally situate and order our lives according to WHAT REALLY MATTERS is perhaps our biggest challenge individually and collectively. One crucial priority is democracy.
Democracy to most of us in the affluent west is just assumed. And that’s where the problem starts.
In The Austere Academy, Lemony Snicket nicely puts into words the problem with assumptions: “Assumptions are dangerous things to make, and like all dangerous things to make — bombs, for instance, or strawberry shortcake — if you make even the tiniest mistake you can find yourself in terrible trouble. Making assumptions simply means believing things are a certain way with little or no evidence that shows you are correct, and you can see at once how this can lead to terrible trouble. For instance, one morning you might wake up and make the assumption that your bed was in the same place that it always was, even though you would have no real evidence that this was so. But when you got out of your bed, you might discover that it had floated out to sea, and now you would be in terrible trouble all because of the incorrect assumption that you’d made. You can see that it is better not to make too many assumptions, particularly in the morning.”
When we assume democracy is all well and good, this is when a most fragile institute is at its most dangerous point of existence because it’s in danger of being turned into something radically different.
Democracy is like a baby that needs to be constantly nurtured, tended to, and even micro-managed. The reason for this is that too often our democracies have been hi-jacked and used as a way to appease the masses whilst all the while (behind the curtain) very dangerous tactics are being used in the name of “democracy” that fundamentally undermine it.
One of these dangerous tactics is Neoliberalism. The two main tenets of Neoliberalism are “free enterprise” and “limited government”. We can summarize these two tenets to actually mean, government is bad and should be neutralized so the 1% can enslave all humanity under their financial regime.
Let’s admit it: Government is clunky, overly bureaucratic and the bigger it gets the less effective it seems to be able to function. And we don’t need an Ivy League university to tell us that Democracy is a farce. As it turns out, the more the conservatives control the United States (i.e. Republican control) the MORE bureaucratic the state has become while also deregulating business control measures on the greedy willing to do anything to destabilize our economic (i.e., material protections). Let’s call it like it is. In other words, a “small state” for the 1% means a big state for the rest of us.
The point of government is to protect citizens, to promote a general welfare of all people (including minorities). So given that government’s general mission is meritorious, but there are issues with its effectiveness, the answer shouldn’t be what the Neoliberals want. Giving the rich what they want has never been a good strategy for the majority of the people throughout history. To allow the wealthy to be free of any regulation is straightforwardly foolish and dangerous. All you need to know here is the truth of the financial meltdown in 2008 that sent civilization to the brink of complete collapse. Can we really trust these greedy maniacs? But there are countless other examples one could easily give (the Great Depression etc.).
The problem with the solution of reforming the government is that the politicians have nearly all been bought out by corporate and financial interests based on all reasonable measurements. And the political system by which we elect our representatives is owned by the media-political-corporate bloc. Think of the recent Supreme Court decision to not put a cap on political campaign donations. Is that fair and representative of the people or does it bluntly favor the wealthy to determine the outcome of elections? I think the answer is obvious. Half of congressional representatives are millionaires. A fairytale seems more real than the possibility of getting politicians in government that actually are normal citizens dealing with the problems we all deal with daily, food, shelter, raising our children in good schools and so forth.
So it seems we have arrived in a deadlock whereby we are unable to reform the existing government and, at the same time, unable to establish a democratic government that actually represents the will of the people. The upshot here is that more than anytime in history there is a need to create spaces in which we are able to begin to organize ways of protecting ourselves democratically and materially. It is crucial that this space be independent and open to all differences and lives from all over the world.
It is not too late to form spaces of serious dialogue. We are committed to creating these spaces with the goal of democratic strategizing so that life’s most precious and fragile things can flourish.
Creston Davis, Founder & Director of The Global Center for Advanced Studies