Gerald Staack: The need for citizen engagement

Opinion - santa clarita news

There’s a desperate need for citizens to speak out. “Democracy,” the freedom to act through one’s own will, has been hijacked by the wealthy few at the expense of the average citizen.

It’s good when government is obligated to the masses, operating in response to the will of the people, promoting their well-being. It’s bad when government is obligated to a corporate aristocracy that dominates it with money and thereby rules society.

Legislation now passing Congress mostly helps corporate bottom lines with little or no consideration given to its adverse effects on society.

Social impact reviews are passé. With a new flock of billionaires now circling Washington who can buy or destroy any legislator’s career, the urgency of being a citizen watchdog – to speak out and reclaim some semblance of our democracy – has become of utmost importance.

Society’s wellness, our country’s future, is at stake.

The nation keeps spiraling into decline as millions, still in pain from losing good jobs to foreign countries, struggle while the government ignores their plight.

Average lifespan is falling. Our planet is in a perilous warming stage. We are fighting unending wars. An unprecedented 11 billion people will be living on earth by 2100 who need to be fed, and this all while greed continues to rape the earth with little opposition, depleting resources and polluting water and air.

Our children must inherit a sustainable Earth, yet opposing forces, obstructionists, are placing their health and future at risk. But intelligent people are beginning to see the handwriting on the wall and are starting to become active, demanding sensible solutions.

It’s well known that things only change when people demand it. Many of us may feel too overwhelmed with tasks of daily living, especially if resources are slim, to become active or involved.

Or some may not know how to demand change unless they are inherently activists. But remember, in a democracy it just takes a united majority to change things. And we must!

Bernie Sanders stated, “We have the right to hold corporate America accountable for gaining the benefit of being an American corporation while at the same time turning their backs on the American working class and the consumers who helped create their profits and their wealth.”

Greed, the intrinsic craving that gains and preserves wealth for the few, is the enemy of change … changes that could improve the lives of many.

Concerned citizens are starting to speak up, doing the right thing whenever they see injustices; they send letters flooding the mailboxes of newspapers and congressional representatives.

You needn’t be a polished writer to have your voice heard. With volumes of letters hitting the media and Congress, they will react. Public activism gets things done. So does student activism, and it’s also something everyone can easily support.

College campuses throughout the world have been havens of activism for some of the biggest issues of the time, and they leave a lasting mark on many generations to come.

Civic engagement clubs like the one at Santa Clarita Valley’s College of the Canyons now get younger students involved in social issues they are passionate about.

They begin with civic involvement, which is an important first step in learning crisis management for our planet. They are devotedly focused on making a difference on such diverse issues as greater care of our veterans, the homeless, global warming or the promoting of equality and justice for all.

Historically, when ignored college students often hold protests that gain national attention. After the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was formed in 1960, many notable civil rights protests were held on campuses across the country that significantly improved the lives of black Americans.

Today the movement to divest college endowment funds and corporate portfolios from fossil fuel companies has reached gigantic proportions and may be instrumental in ending our dependence on fossil fuels and restoring the planet.

This new generation of students is taking on the challenges they’ll meet in their world.

By speaking out on what you do or don’t agree with, you are exercising your rights and reinforcing the position that democracy belongs to the people.

Activism provides a balance of power. It is democracy in action. It has a huge effect on the well-being of society. It enhances life, probably even yours.

So resolve in 2017 to pick a cause close to your heart; join in getting involved; and start writing. Every action is needed – and it counts!

Gerald Staack is a Korean War veteran who used his GI Bill to graduate with a BSEE degree from the University of Illinois in 1962 during the space race to the moon. Working on the Apollo program and then with the Marquardt Corporation in Van Nuys, he was a test engineer for NASA before retiring in 1996. He lives with his wife in Friendly Valley.

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