Originally published in the Jacksonville Observer
It seems to me that things are terribly wrong and that my fellow citizens are slipping back into the abyss of subjection and slavery. This is a non-partisan observation. I am not laying the blame at the door of any party, but rather I make the claim that all are culpable, and negligent in their duty.
Many others have recognized our seeming inability to affect the type of change that will stop the political and economic juggernaut that is going to destroy us all. “Change” has been the clarion call of late. “A return to the government of the founders” the cry of others. But I say to you that the single mechanism for individuals to make real change happen has all but been abandoned. It is simply the deliberative meeting where people speak, debate, vote and commit to actually do something. Congress pretends to do this, but it is for the most part just a show. It was to overcome the scourge of tyranny that the founders of this country developed a government based on the common sense rules for conducting a meeting that have their beginnings in ancient Greece and in the tribal councils of the fifth century Anglo-Saxons. Courtesy and justice for all is the goal. Let me describe how it works.
You come to a meeting dedicated to some important subject, for example a meeting about whether to support or oppose an increase in taxes. The person, who has called the meeting, may have a strong opinion about what needs to be done, but if her solution is to be introduced, it will be by someone else; perhaps a friend. Because the meeting is so important, she has volunteered to remain impartial, to ensure that every other voice is heard. This is the first rule.
People do not just talk about their feelings at this meeting. Neither is it devoted to giving out information. The first rule of this meeting is that only action will be discussed, and only one action at a time, so as not to become confusing. There are no enlightened leaders, no big shots, and no party bosses. Everyone is a leader, from poorest to the richest, from the dullest to the brightest, and the person who gets to speak first is the person who stands first and calls out, “Madame Chairman!” Every one is equal, and that is the second rule.
So it happens that the poorest and dullest fellow in the group stands first and addresses the lady who has agreed to be the chairman. “Madame Chairman!” he says, “My name is Louis Rose and I move that we should do this”, and tells her in a few words what he thinks should be done. Someone seconds the motion proving that at least one other person thinks his idea is worth talking about. Then everyone who wishes may speak for a brief time as to whether they think the proposed action is a good idea. They may support or oppose, they may suggest changes. They may speak passionately but they must always speak politely. This is the third rule.
After all those who wish have spoken, the chair calls for a vote. Now everyone understands what everyone else thinks, and they know for a fact precisely on which points they are unified and on what they must continue to learn about so that they may be unified. They vote. This is the exciting part, for here in these small assemblies money means nothing, power means nothing, lying and backstabbing have been swept away in the bright light of reason and debate and they vote! Now they are unified and energized and best of all now they know what they must do, and have committed to do it. This and only this process can bring change for the good. Meetings that do not follow this process are not worth attending. Groups that do not follow this process are at best nothing more than a social club or at worse a bunch of pawns manipulated to believe that those above them really care what they think.
There are no really smart men. Obama, Bush, Clinton, Reagan, Truman, Lincoln, and the drunkard in the gutter have much more in common than that which sets them apart. Aesop tells us that “the tyrant will always find a pretext for his tyranny” if only for the fact that it is easier, and safer for the tyrant to do it that way. The inspired leader has the courage to let the will of the people prevail and more than that, to equip, and encourage even the weakest member to rise up and take the lead. No one is smarter than you and a group of your friends and neighbors and no one more able to effect change, if you will only follow a few simple rules. Some time ago a group of men met to decide what to do about another man who was taxing them unfairly. When they finally decided what to do they mutually pledged to each other their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor. I am unconcerned which party you are a member of. I am confident that as a group of citizens you are as good and as competent as those men were. Join together and make decisions to act effectively, and fairly. Act. Together we can fix what is wrong.
This article also appeared in the Jacksonville Observer on July 11, 2009