Frances Moore Lappe --
reflections on democracy

The author of "Diet for a Small Planet" (1971),
Lappe was interviewed by The Sun" in November 1999
in an article called, "The Broken Promise of Democracy." The observations are timeless.

[parts below are bolded by Pilgrim]

"To me, a democracy is alive to the degree that its members actively participate in making decisions about their future. Under that definition, I'm afraid you won't see many living democracies today.

A primary obstacle is our belief system. We've inherited the notion that democracy has to do only with the structure of government. But to create a society that serves the lives of all citizens, democracy must become a way of life, affecting every aspect of a culture.

Historically, for example, it's been assumed that economic life lies largely outside democracy -- a big mistake, because economics so determines our well-being. At the time of the nation's founding, for the majority of people, economic life consisted mainly of managing one's family farm or shop.

In that environment, it made sense that people thought of economics as private and politics as public. But what made sense then, is now standing in our way, preventing us from embracing economic life as part of democratic public life. Now "private" corporations have more public impact than governments.

The result is that, while economics exerts a powerful influence on political decisions about jobs, the environment, and so forth, we have almost no voice in the process. We have some minimal voice in politics, but virtually none in the economic system.

This voicelessness is not caused by some conspiracy among corporate CEOs and their pet politicians. Instead, it has to do with how we view the world.

Although we experience economics as having a real effect on our lives and communities, we continue to act as though it is part of the private realm, where the decisions are someone else's and one of our business. And because of the influence -- some would say control -- our economic life exerts over our political life, we experience the public, democratic government as not really answerable to us. It's all because wešve bought this myth that corporations are private.

We are now experiencing what I think of as a second round of feudalism, where the corporation has replaced the manor. Until we see this new economic structure for what it is -- a world-governing system that exists alongside governments but outside democratic accountability -- we cannot create life-serving societies. ...

... For the current system to continue, people must continue to believe that they have no power.

My hope is that, if people can make changes in their own communities and begin to perceive of themselves as effective actors in the public world, they will see through the myth of the private corporation. Until they experience their own effectiveness, people will continue to mystify the structure of governance and give away their power."

[spacing added for emphasis]

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