Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Machinery

So, I like to read science fiction. Last week I finished a book that had lots of great philosophical discussions in it from "what does it mean to be human", "how can you tell the difference between good and evil" and a great discussion on government. Since the elections are coming ever closer, I wanted to share a section with you because I think it applies to us today. A professor is teaching a group of teens about government and he is using the United States as an example of a group who designed the best government and then messed it up by forgetting their common purpose.

"Shut up," said Whitlaw, quietly. "You're doing the same thing. All of you. You're arguing among yourselves like a pack of excited chimpanzees. And you're forgetting your common purpose. That's what the Americans did--they forgot their partnership with one another. They forgot who they were. They forgot what they were committed to. They failed to uphold their own social contract. And they had a very good contract, one of the best.

"It was called the Constitution. And it was the written expression of a very simple, very radical idea--one that worked fairly well for [over 200 years]--that a government can only rule with the consent of the governed. Representative government is based on the idea that a well-educated, well-informed citizenry can exercise responsibility for its own destiny.

"The United States government was chartered by the people to act on their behalf. All rights belonged to the people and the government was specifically prohibited from infringing the rights of the people. Everybody was supposed to have equal rights--everybody, no exceptions. And everybody had a corresponding responsibility to protect everyone else's rights--because if anyone's rights were threatened, everyone's rights were threatened.

"So what happened to the United States? They forgot their own agreements. Some of the people decided that the government was the cure to everything and some of the people decided that the government was the enemy of everything--and both sides were wrong, because they were both thinking of the government as something else.

"Government is a machine, a device, a tool--its purpose is to provide services. You have to respect it as a valuable and important tool. Use it. Make it work for you. Monitor its operations. Clean it regularly. Maintain it. Service it. If something breaks, fix it or replace it--but just the part that's broken; and if it ain't broken, don't fix it. And most important, don't throw out the whole machine just because one part has failed.

"The mistake the Americans made--they started thinking of the machine as something that they had no relationship with, something they had no control over. They began to see the machine as something that didn't belong to them--either it was controlled by somebody else, or it was out of control altogether. But either way, they forgot who built the machine and why."

Whitlaw looked directly at me when he said the next part. "They started to think that control of the machine was more important than the results it was supposed to produce. And they forgot who was ultimately responsible for the results. Who are you?" he asked."That's what you have to decide. What do you want to build? What are you truly committed to?"
(David Gerrold, Leaping to the Stars, pg. 230. 3rd book in the series.)

So, my question for all of us it this--who are we and what do we want to build with our government. I challenge all of us to learn as much as we can about the candidates and then VOTE!! We are the ones who have to take responsibility.

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