Who is “We”?

We have to stop burning fossil fuels immediately in order to avoid a climate catastrophe.

We have to start making decisions based on ethics instead of profit.

We have to get money out of politics if we want our representatives to represent us instead of corporations.

We have to stop gerrymandering to make elections genuinely representative.

We have to stop believing nonsense and develop some rational critical capacity.

All these statements are true, in my not even remotely humble opinion, but they all leave out one essential component:  who is this “We“, exactly?

If I stop burning fossil fuels, make only ethical choices, stop contributing to campaign coffers and so on, I may feel better about my own role on this planet, but the effect of my behavior on the world at large is negligible except insofar as I inspire others to follow suit; and even if a lot of people do likewise, these sorts of “must-do” crises require the sort of concerted and organized action that only governments are generally capable of providing.  And a large fraction of “Our” problems reflect the fact that our governments are not, at present, Oursi.e. truly democratic.

So, when a whistleblower explains how people are being actively manipulated to their detriment by social media corporations, and says that We have to turn these powerful manipulative tools into forces for good rather than destructive generators of profit, who is the We that he is talking about?  Government oversight and regulation can make such changes, but our governments are currently decoupled from the people they govern.

In my most cynical frame of mind, I think people who speak righteously (and accurately) about what “We” absolutely have to do are usually just making themselves feel better and hoping that if enough other people agree with them, something might somehow magically change.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *