Inciting Democracy: A Practical Proposal for Creating a Good Society
Questions and Concerns
F: Will This Strategy Take Too Long?
1. Why Does This Strategy Take So Long?
Most revolutions take only weeks or months to succeed — a few years at most. Why does this strategy take eighty years?
Most revolutions make only superficial changes in society: usually just substituting one ruling group for another. The Vernal Education Project seeks democratic transformation of all of society down to its roots. This requires the vast majority of people to change significantly. They must learn a large amount of new information and develop a vast array of new skills. They must change their perspectives about most aspects of society, and they must understand and overcome a large portion of their dysfunctional and destructive cultural and emotional conditioning. All these changes take time, especially since — for many decades — the power elite and the dominant culture would continue to bombard them with misleading propaganda and advertising.
To reform a man, you must begin with his grandmother. — Victor Hugo
Moreover, many institutional and structural changes take decades to implement. For example, our society’s severe income stratification and reliance on automobiles have led to widespread suburban sprawl, ghettoized central cities, and a car-oriented society. Reconfiguring the layout of cities to reflect the principles of sustainability, equity, and human-ori-entation would take many decades.
The social transformation outlined here would actually entail rapid change. I assume that social change movements are relatively quiet when the Vernal Project begins. Yet, after only a few decades of development and growth (by Vernal Year 25 or so), progressive social change movements would be at least as large and strong as even the most powerful previous social change movements in this country’s history — maybe much stronger. Just fifteen years after that, a majority of people all across the country would be significantly affected by these movements in all realms of their lives — political, economic, cultural, and personal. This would be an unprecedented feat — comparable to other massive socioeconomic transformations such as the industrial revolution or the computer revolution. Most historical shifts of this magnitude take many decades or even centuries to evolve.
2. Couldn’t Technology Speed Transformation?
The Internet and other technologies make it possible for activists to communicate rapidly around the world and to reach billions of people. Won’t these technologies make it possible to speed the transformation process?
Communication technologies have the potential to accelerate the process greatly. However, the power elite would likely continue to control most communication channels throughout most of the transformation process. Progressive communications would probably continue to be buried in an avalanche of banalities and advertising. Most people would not hear about (or even think of searching for) alternative ideas for many years. Only when the power to control society shifted (around Vernal Year 60 in my projections), would progressives be able to regularly promote their ideas to the majority of people.
Moreover, I believe that deep, personal change in people’s perspectives and psyches take many years. These changes usually come as the result of direct and personal change experiences. Most people do not change their fundamental beliefs after merely reading an enlightening article on the Internet, hearing an alternative radio program, or receiving an email from a progressive activist. They must hear alternative perspectives many times from many sources, especially from sources they trust.
Developing new skills takes even longer. Most people must practice for weeks, months, or years before they are proficient at counseling friends, cooperating with co-workers, facilitating cooperative meetings, mediating conflicts, struggling nonviolently with opponents, and building alternative institutions. Technology can help people learn these skills, but it probably cannot accelerate the process much.
3. But We Don’t Have Eighty Years…
The natural environment is rapidly deteriorating. Species are going extinct at a dizzying pace. Elite interests are consolidating their power globally and undermining democratic governments. Weapons of war are becoming ever more deadly and increasingly available to combatants and terrorists throughout the world. We do not have much time. We can’t wait eighty years. We must act now.
Just because there is a need for faster change does not mean that it is possible. Positive change can only come as fast as it can come.
There may be faster ways to bring about change, but many of those ways would probably be more negative than positive. I believe the Vernal Project is the best and fastest way to bring about positive, enduring change and to create a truly good society. I hope we can do it before the natural environment is irrevocably destroyed and before a fascist or militaristic regime engulfs and enslaves us all.
The only time you do not fail is the last time you try anything — and it works. — William Strong
4. And We’ll All Be Dead in Eighty Years…
Eighty years seems like a long time. Most adults now living will be dead by then. Why should people work on a project that would not produce a result until long after they were gone?
The Vernal Education Project focuses on a long-term goal, but this goal is quite similar to the goals that many people already have: making life better for their children or making a difference for posterity. In striving toward these goals, people know they will never see the fruits of their work, but they still work to enable future generations to have a good life.
Moreover, if the Vernal Project proceeds as I envision, there would be a great deal to see and experience after only a few years. The growth and development of the Vernal Project would be exciting in itself. Graduates of the Vernal Project would help generate social change movements comparable to those in the 1930s or 1960s within twenty to thirty years. I believe most activists could be motivated by these more short-term events along the way to the larger, more distant goal.
Give the gift that keeps on giving: a good society. Your grandchildren will be glad you did.
Part of the reason I wrote this book was to lay out a realistic transformation scenario so people would understand it, believe it, and want to work toward making it happen even though they would probably not see it completed. If the Project developed in the early years as I describe it here, readers of this book would have reason to believe that it would proceed to the conclusion described.