Our nation, in its current social and political climate, now more than perhaps at any other time during the last century, needs the Ethical Humanist movement to mobilize as a strong presence for democracy.
The rights of minority groups of a large array — African Americans, women, the LGBTQ community, the sick, the poor, the displaced and those of the Muslim faith — have all come under attack. The pervasiveness of corruption in our government, and its requisite denial of the people’s voice, was largely unanticipated.
We have been left shocked and reeling with the dawning of our collective vulnerability to the whims of an oligarchy drunk on wealth and power.
Nothing is sacred to those for whom greed has no bounds. Economic exploitation, militarization and systemic racism, the “trio of evils” according to Dr. Martin Luther King, have poisoned our world-community even as the corporate cabal makes plans to poison our earth in pursuit of ever greater profits.
What is the role of our movement and how far do we go in the struggle to restore an egalitarian society, with a commitment to ever improving the lives of every individual?
Where do we even start, as the magnitude of the work ahead threatens to overwhelm and defeat us with the dull ache of hopelessness?
A purely deliberative democracy would urge us all to come together in representative proportions to construct fair, viable, mutually agreeable solutions, while applying principles of reason and charity. This, of course, is the utopian ideal.
Socioeconomic, cultural and educational differences — along with unequal access to the process of democracy — while always having had a tenacious presence, have effectively hobbled us under an increasingly contracted balance of power.
The principles of deliberative democracy will no longer be enough to protect our minority populations.
“Political circumstances where ordinary force, and not just the force of the better argument, prevails create tension between persuasive methods and more forceful strategies”, wrote Iris M. Young in her article, “Activist Challenges to Deliberative Democracy.” When reasoning does not provide results, coercive methods may need to be taken.
In the middle ground, consultants offer professional “facilitation” services for arbitration of policy.
However, we seem to have surpassed any expectations of successful outcomes using this modality. We have seen no attitude of reciprocity on the part of our congressional representatives for a number of years, and current affairs tell us that we are on the brink of being taken over by an authoritarian administration.
Some of the most successful social movements in American history have been brought about by the mobilization of large groups of persistent citizens orchestrating, sit-ins, marches and other coercive methods to disrupt and expose to the press the injustices perpetrated by bureaucratic autocracy. This is the place in which we now reside.
Ethical Humanists should expect to participate in, even lead many such protests in the months ahead and quite possibly to resort to civil disobedience measures if necessary.
This is not advocating chaotic lawlessness, but as Human Ethicists, we should always set an example by protesting with a sincere will to bring deliberative solutions back to the table and to ensure the people’s full and unhindered participation in policymaking.
The most vulnerable members of our human family and the preservation of a viable planet are contingent upon our ability to change the tides of authoritarianism and restore our democracy.
K.P. Eaton of Middleburg, is a Susquehanna Valley Ethical Society board member and chair of the Ethical Action Committee.