What’s wrong with politics? Everything, Americans seem to be saying lately. They have been staying away from elections, griping to pollsters, and expressing nothing short of disgust about a system they believe to be corrupt and unresponsive to their real concerns.
Americans are certainly not unique in their distrust of politics and politicians. But while other nations wrestle with different sets of problems, ranging from life under tyranny to the chaos of new-found freedom, all of us on planet Earth face some of the most urgent collective decisions in human history. The pace of environmental, social, and economic decay is increasing. Solutions to many of our problems exist, but they are diffusing into culture at a rate that often seems agonizingly slow. They need an accelerator.
Politics – public life, collective discourse and decision-making – is one such accelerator, and it must be reclaimed from the desert of ten-second sound-bites and cynical manipulation. We need to talk about our problems, debate the solutions, persuade opponents to become allies, organize campaigns both electoral and moral, and ultimately vote people of wisdom and good conscience into elective office – women and men who will act on behalf of the Earth and future generations. And we need to start now.
In this issue, we explore what is involved in reinvigorating our participation in public life. For example:
- Bill Moyers reports on the impact his television broadcasts are having on people from all walks of life, including a group of plumbers who now talk Constitutional philosophy over lunch.
- Frances Moore Lappé and Paul DuBois describe their own path to the creation of the Institute for the Arts of Democracy – and the creative political actions being taken by groups all over the country who are rediscovering their ability to make a difference.
- Gustavo Esteva tells the story of Tepito, a Mexico City barrio where the people have taken government into their own hands – and creatively stymied every official attempt to take it back.
We also look at the topics of political leadership, ethical campaigning, and how to confront difficult issues constructively. We hear about changing political roles for men and women, as well as a call for "green rights" by South Africa’s Nelson Mandela. And we explore how to participate in public life in ways that promote transformation while acknowledging the status quo.
We hope you’ll find this issue especially inspirational, for in the final analysis, reclaiming politics is reclaiming a vital part of what it means to be human.