INFORMED CITIZEN DISORDER

ABSTRACT: I would guess that many of you are like me: it’s been drilled into your conscience that it’s your responsibility as a citizen of a democracy and as a voter to be informed about what’s going on so you can make educated decisions. In a democracy, it’s part of being patriotic.

But boy, it can be depressing and infuriating because so many things are headed in the wrong direction. And changing direction is so difficult if not seemingly impossible. Marty Kaplan calls this “Informed Citizen Disorder (ICD).” Kaplan goes on to say, “We have to be optimists. … The only responsible thing that you can do is say that individuals can make a difference and I will try, we will try.”

There are encouraging signs, but the mainstream media (given they are mostly giant corporations) are not attuned to look for – and have some predisposition and incentive to ignore – citizen activism. Furthermore, our democracy is so controlled by money that it can feel unredeemable; our political system can leave us feeling helpless and jaded rather than empowered to make a difference.

However, our nation was built by ordinary people rising up and forging grassroots movements that achieved the extraordinary. “An American patriot is one who supports the egalitarian ideals of our country, and who is willing to challenge authority.” (Jim Hightower, see footnote)

This blog is part of my therapy for ICD. I hope it helps you.

FULL POST: I would guess that many of you are like me: it’s been drilled into your conscience that it’s your responsibility as a citizen of a democracy and as a voter to be informed about what’s going on so you can make educated decisions. Being informed about what’s going on in the world is supposed to be a virtue, the civic equivalent of exercise. In a democracy, it’s part of being patriotic.

But boy, it can be depressing and infuriating because so many things are headed in the wrong direction. And changing direction is so difficult if not seemingly impossible. You do your best to stay informed, and what you get in return is what Marty Kaplan calls “Informed Citizen Disorder (ICD).” As he puts it, “the more informed I am, the more despondent I am, because day after day, there is news which drives me crazy and I want to see the public rise up in outrage and say, no, you can’t do that, banks. You can’t do that, corporations. You can’t do that polluters, you have to stop and pay attention to the laws, or we’re going to change the laws.” But time and again, the public doesn’t rise up, and even when it does (at least somewhat as in the post-Newtown efforts to reduce gun violence), nothing changes. [1]

So Moyers asks him, “Are you an optimist or a pessimist about what’s happening to us?” And Kaplan says, “I have children. I have to be an optimist. The globe has children. We have to be optimists. There is no choice. … The only responsible thing that you can do is say that individuals can make a difference and I will try, we will try.” [2]

There are encouraging signs, although one often has to look hard to find them. Part of the problem is that the mainstream media (given they are mostly giant corporations) are not attuned to look for – and have some predisposition and incentive to ignore – citizen activism. Due to mergers and acquisitions over the last 35 years, there are now fewer than 10 giant media corporations that control over 90% of the news and information we receive.

Remember Occupy Wall Street? It was going on for weeks before it got any mention in the mainstream media. The Moral Monday’s demonstrations that are happening in North Carolina weekly are a great example. What happened in Wisconsin when the Governor and Legislature were attacking public employees and unions was another great example. What hasn’t happened yet is for this citizen activism to spark major, nationwide protest or to build to a critical mass.

Moyers and Kaplan also discuss how the mainstream media today actually undermine our efforts to be good citizens of a democracy by distracting us with infotainment and by failing to provide the depth of information necessary to be informed citizens. Furthermore, our democracy is so controlled by money that it can feel unredeemable; our political system can leave us feeling helpless and jaded rather than empowered to make a difference.

However, our nation was built by ordinary people rising up and forging grassroots movements that achieved the extraordinary. Think of the original Patriots who started and carried out the American Revolution. Think of the suffrage, Civil Rights and Gay Rights movements. Think of the New Deal. “An American patriot is one who supports the egalitarian ideals of our country, and who is willing to challenge authority” every time it strays from the ideals of our democracy and from government of, by, and for the people. [3]

This blog is part of my therapy for ICD. I hope it helps you. I try to concisely present information on issues that we need to tackle to reclaim our democracy and relieve ICD. Ultimately, I hope this supports the grassroots movement of informed citizens that is needed to return to government of, by, and for the people.

NOTE: I encourage you to listen to or watch Bill Moyers’ shows. I download the podcasts and listen to them when I’m traveling, waiting, or doing mindless things. They are incredibly informative and thought provoking. He frequently asks his activist guests, as he did Kaplan, what keeps them going and why they remain optimistic. Their answers are always inspiring. I also encourage you to take a look at Jim Hightower’s Lowdown. It’s feisty, entertaining, easy to read, and informative.


[1]       Kaplan, M., 5/27/13, “Diagnosis: Informed Citizen Disorder,” The Huffington Post

[2]       Moyers, B., 7/12/13, “Distracted from Democracy,” Bill Moyers & Company with Marty Kaplan, http://billmoyers.com/segment/marty-kaplan-on-the-weapons-of-mass-distraction/

[3]       Hightower, J., July 2013, “America’s true history is not about ‘Great Men,’ but about grassroots rebels and movements,” The Hightower Lowdown, http://www.hightowerlowdown.org/

2 comments

  1. Michael Burrows · · Reply

    Hi John,

    First, I’m confirming our next tennis meeting is 9/11. So look out for low-flying planes.

    Second, I enjoyed your latest posting. I have to ask, though, why is it that all Americans take for granted that something glorious was achieved in 1776. Like so many wars, that one was unnecessary. A little negotiating, backed up by a little threatening, would have kept the American colonies and Britain together. Would that have been so bad? Britain is certainly not a failed state. Staying together could well have had some very positive outcomes. It would have given Hitler more pause.

    (I have a feeling that I’ve inflicted this spiel on you before.)

    Mike

      Home: 781-674-0317; Cell: 508-423-2948; Work: 781-981-2928

    >________________________________ > From: Lippitt’s Policy and Politics Blog >To: michaelleonardburrows@yahoo.com >Sent: Saturday, August 24, 2013 8:15 AM >Subject: [New post] INFORMED CITIZEN DISORDER > > > > WordPress.com >John A. Lippitt posted: “ABSTRACT: I would guess that many of you are like me: it’s been drilled into your conscience that it’s your responsibility as a citizen of a democracy and as a voter to be informed about what’s going on so you can make educated decisions. In a democracy, ” >

    1. Mike,

      Thanks for the comment. You raise an interesting question. All the history we get taught in the US says that the colonists made numerous attempts to redress grievances with King George but were rebuffed. Eventually, the tea was dumped in Boston harbor, the Redcoats were imposed on the residents of Boston, and then they were on their way to Lexington and Concord to confiscate arms and ammunition. And the battle and war ensued. At least that’s how I remember it being taught. Not being much of a history buff, I’m sure there’s more to the story that I don’t remember or was never taught. I don’t think we have ever discussed this, so maybe in between sets we can discuss this further.

      Anyway, see you on 9/11.

      John

Comments and discussion are encouraged

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 62 other followers

%d bloggers like this: