It seems that now more than ever, America has become a society of people who believe their situation is immutable. It’s easy to see why people believe this; you see it every day on the news. Complacency has become the norm in America – a President who would’ve been impeached and jailed 50 years ago corrupts two elections and procedes to enact the worst presidency in American history. It will take decades to recover from the mistakes that this one adminstration has made. The newspapers and television news networks report daily on the public being taken advantage of, but nobody steps up to disagree.
People feel that since they cannot change the policies in place, and so they give up and don’t even try to change themselves. This exists even among those who are well-informed – they know what the problems are in America, but these very people who complain about the system just keep living in it; if you viewed them solely by their actions, they would be indistinguishable from everyone else. So here’s the thing that everyone here has forgotten about, and for all our sakes, they had better remember it:
The Wikipedia entry on direct action focuses on protest; that’s a part of the concept but it masks the overall ideology: what you do personally not only affects society, it is society. If you’re worried about global warming, don’t drive a car. If you think that consumerism has gone rampant in America, participate in Freecycle and don’t buy into the “more more more” culture that the stock-market-obsessed capitalists want you to. Change yourself and refuse to go along with what you disagree with.
Here’s an example: for years the US has been trying to change to the metric system, being one of the few first-world countries that doesn’t use it. It’s absurd that we don’t use units of measure based on tens instead of the arbitrary distinctions of ‘foot’ and ‘ounce’. People have tried over and over to debate the merits of one versus the other, but in the end nothing gets done.
So what can I do to make this change? Argue about it? Write my congressman? No. I only use metric measurements now. If others want the temperature in Fahrenheit, they’ll have to do the conversion themselves. And what would happen if enough people decided, “I’m not using imperial anymore”? The US would switch to the metric system, a change that decades of arguing can’t solve.