‘Ensuring life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness requires persistent vigilance’
By Bob Berwyn
The last few years, I posted the text of the Declaration of Independence in the Summit Voice news feed on July 4th because it’s an important reminder of why we’re all celebrating on this day. As a writer, I marvel at the flowing cadence of the declarative phrases; as a human being and American, I take special pride in what the words represent.
The Declaration speaks to us through the ages as a timeless statement of basic human values that transcends the issues specific to the age in which it was written. Refocusing on those values could help us rid ourselves of new and particularly insidious forms of tyranny, including the quasi-totalitarian control that some corporations seek to exert over the public and private lives of Americans.
And there’s more. I don’t want to harsh your holiday hotdog buzz, but our own government is spying on us. Not so many years ago, it ordered the torture of prisoners in our name, and it should be pretty clear that Congress is pretty much for sale to the highest bidder — not at all what the founding fathers envisioned.
All this may not be quite as dramatic as a squad of red-coated British soldiers surrounding your house with bayonet-affixed muzzle-loaders. But add up the incremental cuts and bites taken from the fundamental liberties and rights spelled out by the Declaration if Independence and draw your own conclusions.
The list is pretty long, but I’ll just stick to a few examples from my neighborhood. Let’s start with the ski industry, dominated in these parts by Vail Resorts, which is trying to privatize water that by any common sense definition belongs to all the people of the United States because it flows off national forest lands. The industry’s recent efforts in that area reflect a global trend of water privatization— a scary thought, because corporations know that, when they control water, they control everything. It’s time to take back public control over public lands and resources.
The multinational fossil fuel companies of course have their tentacles deeply wrapped into almost every aspect of daily life, as do the giant petrochemical corporations and agribusinesses that don’t really want to give you much choice in what you eat — you can put 25 different types of colorful cereal packages on the shelf, but what does it matter if it’s all grown by the same three companies using the same three strains of genetically modified grain?
How about making a personal declaration of independence this year, finding a way to weaken corporate and government rule. Try buying less stuff, for starters. You could search out pre-owned and recycled items reduce the need for the exploitation of raw natural resources. For the same reasons, drive your old car one or two years longer, or better yet, ride your bike. Instead of just whining about how high gas prices spike on the 4th of July, don’t buy any gas. The fossil fuel companies may not hear your cries, but they’ll notice when your dollars are missing from their bottom line.
Energy independence overall is probably one of the most important areas. Imagine how much control a company could exert if it threatened to shut off energy supplies during a cold mountain winter. It sounds far-fetched, but Russia is doing just that with recalcitrant republics. The best answer is a fully distributed system of renewable energy production, combined with a drastic cut in usage — both achievable with current technology.
Let’s elect some politicians next year who understand the dangers of creeping corporate totalitarianism and who are willing to take a stand for personal liberty. It’s more important than ever for lawmakers to fulfill their true role as representatives of the people, with the judicial apparently willing to kowtow to corporations at every level and the executive bent on expanding centralized government control.
And finally, you can support independent media like Summit Voice. By know we all know that most the major remaining major media outlets are themselves part of huge corporations that are definitely not designed to serve the public interest. Far from it, the web of advertising that’s spun through what passes for news these days is mind- and soul-numbing, and saps your ability to recognize “the long train of abuses and usurpations” that are the signs of despotism.
Independent journalism will play a critical role in the years ahead, as evidenced by the chain of events around Edward Snowden. Without reporters willing to tell the story, Snowden’s revelations would have been like the proverbial tree falling in the forest, and we would still know very little about how our own government, elected to serve us, has callously abused the public trust.
We still enjoy an incredible amount of freedom in this country, but don’t take it for granted. Ensuring life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all requires persistent vigilance, an enlightened and educated electorate and the exercise of personal responsibility on a daily basis.