What do people want?

As a group, they are not such a demanding lot. They want a sense of security, a distance from the fear that something or someone isn’t going to come along and hurt them or take what’s theirs. They want food and water and shelter and to feel productive. They want to feel that they have a say in what goes on in their and their loved one’s lives. Beyond that, they want to have fun, to hang out with friends, read a book, or enjoy a coffee at their favorite cafĂ©.

What do people want? Well, if people are largely allowed to go about their business, they will tolerate any number of atrocities from oppressive governments to war to the perpetration of horrific human rights violations--as long as they are directed elsewhere.

Regarding what it is that people want, the teeming masses of the western world were told that their governments would provide these things for them. They would be equipped with a national security infrastructure, an economy that provided for their need to be productive and the means with which to feed, house, and clothe themselves and their families.

These democratic governments did provide these things for many generations, but as this unsustainable system has begun to collapse around us, governments no longer have the means to provide these things.

And where did they get the means to do so in the first place? The people. Governments, by themselves, do not have any money. They have no power. They have only promises and the mechanisms with which to collect and acquire money and power. Their new-found inability to provide their people with their small list of expectations using the people’s own resources is a result of gross misuse of those resources and a political system that has finally succumbed to the consequences of corruption.

As governmental, economic, and social institutions begin to fail, the people who have been administered by these institutions begin to feel that their small list of expectations is not being met. They worry that they will wake up one day and the bold moves of financiers in faraway cities will have devalued their money to the point of worthlessness. They will lose their jobs--no more sense of productivity and no more means to provide what is necessary to survive. They will lose their homes--no more shelter. They will struggle against an entrenched political system that, in truth, does not concern itself with the will of the people, dissolving any sense that they have a say in their own reality.

They will take to the streets, demanding what was promised to them. Governments, fearing that their grip on power may be compromised, will respond violently. But as things get worse, there is nothing that can be done to “handle” millions in the streets.

What’s next? Well, it’s up to the people. It will require a new way of thinking. Rather than demanding what they want from their government which, honestly, is nothing more than a projection of the people anyway, people will have to begin looking inwards and coming to some tough realizations.

First, we knew that our governments have been lying to us--and we let them. We knew that our elected officials were corrupt--and we allowed it. We knew that our political system was circling the drain, that the world was changing and we were not appropriately responding to it. We knew that our economic structures built fortunes for a few on the backs of the many. We knew we were being distracted, deflected, taken for fools. We watched this entire catastrophe unfold before our eyes, we listened as our elders pointed to times in history when similar, if not identical, events took place. And as we went about our business, ever struggling, we thought: “Someone else will handle it, it’s not our fault.” But it is.

We have manufactured every brick for every economic, social, and political structure that has been built around us. We allowed these things to come about and we encouraged their growth every step of the way, either consciously or as a result of inaction. Everything that is, we created.

This understanding must pave the way for a new world. We can no longer consider our position as “us” and “them.” Everything is “us”--our government, our economy, our interaction with others, everything.

We can wake up from this dream and build a new world if we are willing. We can create something that takes into account personal responsibility, accountability, and self-awareness, something that is reactive and flexible to our ever-changing, ever-evolving world.

It is no longer viable to consider the role of nation-states as separate from the rest of the world--as capitalism in competition with communism, as Christianity in competition with Islam, as the West in competition with the East. What’s good for one must be considered what’s good for all--and not in terms of some ideology like socialism or libertarianism or capitalism. These ideologies are espoused, but never fully adhered to and perverted so that their benefits are rarely--if ever--realized.

There will always be struggle and strife, pain and death, loss and sorrow. Governments will always be tempted to take for granted their citizen-derived powers. There will always be greed and heartlessness. But if people begin to take responsibility for themselves, their communities, their governments, and their world, there will always be a light to shine on their efforts.

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