Welcome to the new world where the individual is sacrificed for the institution.
Remember when we could call a government agency and a person would answer; and when we had a complaint, we got a response? Now, it seems we never can find a human voice to take our call or hear a complaint; we only get to press a multitude of buttons and leave a message. The business world is no different. All we hear is, “Your call is very important,” and never get an answer.
Is it any wonder citizens today feel more helpless, vulnerable and resentful of our government institutions and big business as well. We have become disillusioned and resigned ourselves to accepting things as part of life in what is becoming a more impersonal society. Our society was founded on the belief that the individual mattered, and institutions — especially government — were there to serve the individual. Now, the individual is sacrificed for the sake of the institution.
We live in a rapidly changing and more urban society that is complex, sophisticated, specialized, and with a dispersion of authority, where people are alienated from the political process. Most disturbing is the loss of a means where people can find redress for their grievances, “you can’t fight city hall.” People feel disenfranchised from the political process and crowded out by corporations that now are deemed to be people.
As far back as 1964, Robert F. Kennedy, said, “… we have to begin asserting rights which the poor have always had in theory — but … have never been able to assert on their own behalf. Unasserted, unknown, unavailable rights are no rights at all.” More than half a century later, his statement would apply to today’s average citizen.
We have become victims of our own success. We created a society that is more efficient, with more goods and services designed for the industrial revolution — mass production — yet more impersonal. The individual was sacrificed for the sake of the organization. Today, many people have a sense of futility about government being able to respond to the challenges we face in the era of globalization marked by disruption of the quality of life we have come to know. Many are worried and seek answers for the problems we face, while unscrupulous politicians are quick to exploit their worries. Rather than pulling people together and calling them to work in the public’s interest, they have created division between those who have access to power and those that do not.
Keeping our governmental institutions responsive to current needs is one of the most difficult challenges our complex and rapidly changing society must face. Compounding the problem is the tendency for institutions to quickly become crystallized and preoccupied with pursuing their own existence, rather than the purpose for which they were created. We are all keenly aware of the rapid growth of government and the constant struggle to slow it down, to eliminate outmoded programs and to keep our governmental institutions as problem-solving entities. At the same time, we must be concerned there are not the necessary avenues for redress of individual grievances and, as a consequence, people are being injured simply because of the complexity of our bureaucracies. Finally, as government expands, people become more disenfranchised and alienated from it. Today, it is not uncommon for people to feel resigned to the fact that “you can't fight city hall.”
This year, in June and November, citizens will be electing their leaders. Here is a golden opportunity to elect leaders who will renew our governmental institutions and breathe new life and vitality into them.
Utahn John Florez served on the U.S. Senate Labor Committee and as Utah industrial commissioner. His Bush 41 White House appointments included deputy assistant secretary of labor and Commission on Hispanic Education member. firstname.lastname@example.org