Being too busy to help is not an option

“Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time …” — Winston Churchill to House of Commons, 1947.

So if democracy is the best form of government, why is it not working? Why are so many of us unhappy with the status quo?

More importantly, what must we do to make our government work better?

The answer, I believe, is individual citizens working collectively to take back their government.

Historically and at all levels, government decision makers both appointed and elected are predominantly influenced (some would say controlled) by big business.

Government leaders will profess to care about and some will endeavor to work in support of ordinary people, but big business is always there, knocking on the door of policy makers protecting their profits and expanding their opportunities.

But ordinary people united in purpose have the power to knock even louder, and to take back their government and protect and enhance their livelihood, their health and their environment-especially here in Hawaii.

We are blessed to live in a place small enough that local, citizen-based control of state and county government is in fact possible.

Regardless of the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizen’s United” decision allowing unlimited corporate spending to influence elections, in small communities like ours that advantage can be overcome.

In Hawaii, especially at the county and state levels, districts are small enough that voters can actually know personally the candidate they vote for.

But it takes work.

A healthy democracy requires active civic engagement which requires time, energy and commitment.

It is not enough to show up (or not) every two years on election day and vote.

Pounding out pithy messages of righteous indignation on Facebook or twitter in the wee hours of the morning won’t do it either.

To win, to truly take back and own your government takes real work. It means making civics a part of your daily life, following the issues, attending community meetings, submitting testimony and getting to know your government leaders on a personal level.

It means not being too busy. Yes, I know that’s what you are thinking.

Trust me, we are all too busy and that excuse does not cut it anymore.

The world is going to hell in a handbasket and being too busy to join together with others to help fix it is not an option.

So please, get involved and take ownership and responsibility for your government today. Search out and join an organization that has an active civic engagement component. Organize a meeting in your neighborhood with your local elected leaders about issues that are important to you.

The reality is we don’t have many other options. Our democracy is not healthy and it is up to us to make it well again.

•••

Gary Hooser formerly served in the state Senate, where he was a majority leader. He also served for eight years on the Kauai County Council and was the former director of the state Office of Environmental Quality Control during the administration of Gov. Neal Abercrombie. He serves presently in a volunteer capacity as board president of the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action (HAPA) and is the volunteer executive director of the Pono Hawaii Initiative.

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