I feel your frustration and your fear, Ben.

Yes, once authoritarian practices outnumber and outpace democratic practices at the cultural level--that is when power-stealing rather than power-sharing becomes the norm--then it is difficult to change. It requires that each individual citizen who cares contribute power-sharing practices and reframe power-stealing practices. Every single day.

That's how you change norms: you do the hard work of recognizing them, their impact, then you start normally doing something better. It's up to us. No one is going to save this democracy but us citizens. We each have to embody power-sharing (democratic) practices every single day, while actively challenging and reframing power-stealing (authoritarian) practices.

Democracy is not in systems or processes or elections. Democracy is in the human commitment to share power in everyday practices. Even with the best democratic systems in place, if the humans using them don't normally share power, then the systems set up to do that on a state-level don't function properly.

And yes, of course we need change at the state level. Without electoral change, the cultural gets worse; and, without the cultural change, the electoral outcome is irrelevant. Both are necessary, and both will be hard. We will need to live in that difficulty and keep moving forward for a long time.

The key to doing moving forward toward health is to live in a story of humane possibilities rather than stories of inevitable global annihilation. Yes, the latter is as possible as the former, but living in annihilation narratives does nothing to change things; indeed, those stories reinforce the descent. Instead, living in stories of humane possibilities lifts us above the brutal givens so we can see and feel what's possible beyond them. When we see and feel the reality of what's possible, we embody and make actual those possibilities in time. That's not abstract academic bullshit: it is a claim based on years of professional experience in the field.

The urgency is real, and I share yours. I've devoted my life to work that promotes democratic practices that can outnumber and crowd out authoritarian practices and to sharing what I've learned about how authoritarianism works on an everyday level to demystify and calm the fear. I lived in the conditions that created the possibility for the 45th for 3.5 years, and my findings support the claim that everyday authoritarian practices-- cultural level norms--are devastating for human health.

I escaped from a violently authoritarian family culture. I understand what's happening in this country at a deep embodied level. The power relations in authoritarian family cultures are the same as those in the broader culture. The state-level practices are the same as the cultural level practices, just supercharged by state resources.

I won’t stop working to make these ideas accessible and useful. I refuse to live in a country that mirrors the family I escaped. Flat fucking refuse.

Don't give up, Ben.

Written by

A San Francisco independent researcher, creative, and cultural worker. Content developer for The Relational Democracy Project. (relationaldemocracy@gmail.com)

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