"Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them." — Paul Valery
Recently I've been pondering a complete lack of leadership in America, Southern California in particular. The reason should be obvious. Once upon a time their were true visionaries such as John Muir, Martin Luther King, Judy Barrie and Harvey Milk. Hardly champions of the status quo, these leaders all stood for things bigger than themselves. But that was then, and this is now.
No longer home of the free and land of the brave, America has evolved into a nation of apathetic consumers. Searching for meaning in a corporate world, the majority now seeks only a comfortable oblivion with cable TV and a three car garage. To their detriment, Americans ask only of their leaders for less taxes and more of everything else. More roads, more schools, more shopping, more jails, more schools, more money, more people, and more people with money.
Judging by a constantly decreasing voter turn out, it is clear the American public believes leaders are not to be found in government and politics. George W. Bush isn't leading, he is a mouth piece for his father and his cronies. Al Gore could be a leader, but he's afraid to take a firm stand on anything, including his core issues. Following the money, Al and George are just the latest presidential contenders willing to sell democracy to the highest bidder. By endorsing "Free trade" diplomacy and the World Trade Organization, both of these leaders are willing to trade American sovereignty for short term gain.
Wishing to bring national attention to the continued rape of Southern California, last week in Leucadia, the Lagoon Greens hosted Medea Benjamin, the Green nominee for U.S. Senate. Medea Benjamin, founder and director of the human right organization Global Exchange, is best known for her anti-sweatshop campaigns. Believing national security begins with environmental stewardship, this grassroots activist was instrumental in bringing labor and environmental interests together to do battle in Seattle against the World Trade Organization.
At the Leucadia House party the Green candidate spent most of the two hours discussing Diane Feinstein's dismal environmental record and a progressive agenda that challenges the prison industrial complex while promoting a real living wage, universal health care, public financing of campaigns. No longer willing to settle for the lesser of two evils, it is quite clear to this voter environmental leadership will not be found with the republicrats because they are to busy courting the financial favor of the multi-national corporations.
On the local level, our choices are equally limited. No longer a contest of ideas, politics has digressed into a pander party complete with lawn signs and mud slinging. Here in coastal North County most of our "leaders" seem only interested in following a cultural imperative that defines environmental destruction as progress. I don't know of one elected official working towards ecological sustainability. If their is to be a revolution it will not be started here in the land of sprawl and crawl.
Civic debate is impossible because the system is biased against anyone who would oppose the capitalist jihad laying waste to Southern California. If you doubt this attend a city council meeting where concerned citizens are given three minutes to speak, and elected officials are allowed to ramble on for hours as they explain to residents why their opinions are less valid than those of city staff and the consultants hired to manipulate the numbers in favor of more development.
Change in San Diego County will not come from elected officials because the process is corrupting by it's very nature. Carlsbad mayor Bud Lewis first ran for office claiming to be an environmentalist, as did Sheila Cameron of Encinitas. Where that might of been true in the beginning of their political careers, now their environmental considerations are ignored in light of other pressing needs such as re-election.
To appease the greedy boys and girls who view the world as their personal Monopoly board, local politicos adapt their opinions to accommodate those willing to finance campaigns. This is far from news. A true leader is one not chained to the ballot box, and the fickle favor of public opinion. True leaders step forward not for personal gain or glory. But to lead the charge against oppression, injustice, and downright corruption.
Needed in San Diego County is someone who has the integrity to say no to development industry, someone to champion environmental alternatives to the feeding frenzy that allows for populations to increase while undeveloped space, water resources, and quality of life evaporates. Needed is someone who can lead us out of the ethical desert we now find ourselves in. Fastfood and freeways do not a future make.