Wednesday, February 10, 2010
The Moral Obligations of Living in a Democratic Society – Cornel West
A Democracy of Lost Traditions
In contrast to Maxine Hong Kingston’s essay “No Name Women” where she speaks of strong Chinese traditional values, Cornel West writes about the decay of democratic tradition in America.
Our society is decaying as the working class struggles with wage stagnation, political lethargy and lost traditional values. The working class is viewed as part of “an undifferentiated blob, a monolithic block”; that all share one view. Consequently, this traditional democratic group of working people goes unrepresented, unheard and voiceless; the assumption is that the lives of the working class are “less complex and one-dimensional”, requiring little attention.
There is evidence that the middle class is evaporating; resulting in an economic decline and erosion of traditional values, threatening the balance of our democratic state. For instance, history too often is based on the stories of “elites, kings, queens, princes and prelates...etc.,” too often forgotten are the other social classes which traditionally have played a critical and more significant role in society. In fact, rampart capitalism and greed are center to our declining democratic traditions with the middle class so “…insecure that it is willing to accept any authoritarian option in order to provide some sense of normalcy and security in their lives”.
There are obvious signs of a decadent emerging civilization where citizens are concerned only with immediate gratification and compensation. Historically, the most vulnerable social classes become the scapegoats, while large corporations with their disproportionate wealth, power and influence evade their civic responsibilities and any social accountability. Subsequently, “nonmarket” values such as mercy, justice, caring, service, solidarity, fidelity, and respect that were once valued have eroded. However, for those living in a traditional democratic society we have a moral obligation that goes beyond empathy; we must have the courage to fight for it, hence "tradition is not something inherited – if you want it, you must sacrifice for it”.
In conclusion, we are quickly becoming a divided society a democracy of lost traditions and forgotten values that need to focus on moral obligations. We all need to become a “citizen amongst citizens”, if we are to survive as a nation must maintain hope, make an effort and keep on trying.