Friday, June 11, 2010

We Are the Government; So if Government Sucks...

I've read several posts in the past few weeks about the BP disaster and inevitably, they address the issue of blame. The catchall statement is that we are all guilty for BP's swath of environmental destruction because of our dependency on oil.

I understand the rejection of the mantle of guilt by those who have favored environmental policies and who have never supported deregulation of the oil drilling industry, but I have been disturbed by the trend to disavow any responsibility and blame it all on the failings of government. The litany goes something like this: the government has failed to promote the development of economically priced electric cars, or other environmentally sound vehicles; I would buy such a car if it were available at a reasonable price.

I have been intrigued for decades by this tendency to speak of government as if it were some autonomous beast, making decisions to control our existence. We are the government. We may not always get the people that we choose into office but nonetheless we are responsible for government. We decide how much we want to be involved and overall, we do a pretty sorry job of it. Voting is a precious right that more of us choose not to exercise in any given election than those of us who do. Campaigning is hard work and takes a massive number of volunteers, but most of us have never worked on a local or national campaign for any candidate. Every citizen has a right to lobby elected officials but most of us have never lobbied state or federal elected officials on any issue. However, we are far too willing to insist that big bad government is the source of all societal ills. The right insists that it is too much government that is the problem, and the left expresses that the government fails to take the lead in promoting the common good.

Are all of us guilty for the oil spill? I don't think so but do we share the responsibility? Oh yes. We share a collective responsibility for the common good; it is our refusal to step up to the plate and accept this responsibility that leaves us constantly bemoaning the failures of government. We can't fix anything because it's not our fault; it's the government's fault, " I drive a small car that gets good mileage so I'm not responsible for our over dependence on oil." Poppycock!

Our biggest failure is our inability to accept individual responsibility to do all that we possibly can to promote the common good. Who is responsible for fixing all of these problems if we sit on our collective asses denying responsibility for the arc of ills that bedevil us because we personally didn't vote for GWB or some other incompetent leader? It's not about what you didn't do, the question to ask yourself is what have I done, and what am I willing to do to improve this world that I share with the rest of creation?
Merely sitting back and shaking your head in disgust and dismay is not a solution. Announcing which candidates you didn't support is not a solution. Declaring that you personally recycle and drive a small car is not a solution. If you aren't actively and consistently taking steps to effect change, then you're useless and all of your disgust with the status quo is self-indulgent.

Get involved! Join organizations that advocate for change and become an activist. Know who your federal and state legislators are. Call, write, email and let them know what you support and what you are against. Collect signatures and send petitions from voters who agree with you. Make certain to be informed on all issues in elections and vote! Volunteer to pass out information, drive people to the polls, get the word out about the issues. Effecting change is hard work but nothing has ever been changed by declaring your lack of personal responsibility and bemoaning the inadequacies of government.

Government is only as good as we make it. So what have you done lately to contribute to the common good?