Saturday, October 29, 2011

Twenty Questions

Or, How Free Are You?

The forms of freedom, of democracy, of a republic, do not necessarily indicate the reality. Even China calls itself “The People’s Republic of China,” and even the Soviet Union had elections. There are elections in Iraq, too, but hardly anyone is na├»ve enough to suppose any government there is not going to answer to the United States.

So how can you tell how free and independent you really are? Here’s a quiz I hope will help.

1.) You are allowed to vote for Candidates A, B, or C. But are you allowed to select which candidates will run in the primaries? Whoever gives the go-ahead to would-be candidates are the real power brokers. Can anybody run, or are there party bosses whose behinds must be kissed first?

2.) Do your newspapers and television networks give equal coverage to third-party or obscure candidates, and are these allowed to participate in televised debates? Or is that much power is being denied to third parties?

3.) Is there any limit on how much an individual can donate to a candidate for public office? If so, does this limit, by being high, discriminate too much in favor of the rich?

4.) Are corporate entities (companies, banks, unions, etc.) barred from contributing to a candidate for public office? Or is there a limit to how much they can give? Or can they contribute a couple of million or so for every thousand you donate?

5.) Must candidates for public office disclose all contributions; instead of there being so-called “soft money” that does not need to be disclosed?

6.) You are allowed to debate the issues of the day, but who determines what those issues are? Whoever does that is exercising power.

7.) Is there any legal limit to how much of your money your government can take from you (taxes, fees, etc., etc., etc.)?

8.) Can labor in your country organize itself into unions if it desires, so they hae some leverage with management, or has that become a useless idea since most of those kinds of jobs are have been exported to other countries?

9.) Can a laborer in your society work without joining a union if he so desires, and without undue pressure to join one?

10.) Newspapers and television networks wield enormous influence, meaning power, and can also become powerful propaganda tools, especially when concentrated in the hands of a few. Do only a handful of corporations own most of the news outlets in your country? If you don’t know, find out!

11.) Are there companies in your country “too big to fail’, thus requiring the people (you!) to bail them out as often as their executives ruin them (for their own personal enrichment)?

12.) Does your government, without a court order, listen in to your phone calls or intercept your e-mails?

13.) Does your local library spy on you, report to your government, upon request, what books you have checked out?

14.) Is your doctor required to supply your medical information to your government upon request?

15.) Is it legal, in your country, for you to disappear in the middle of some night, without access to a lawyer, without your family knowing where you are, and to be held indefinitely without trial?

16.) Does your government use torture, even if they call it something else? Or does your government hand over suspects to be tortured by other governments, to maintain appearances? (You can be sure any government that crosses this line will be equally willing to torture you, should it ever deem this necessary.)

17.) Is your country free of any significant dependence upon foreign aid and/or loans from other countries or big banks or the International Monetary Fund? My husband once had coffee and doughnuts with a banker who remarked, “I’d love to give you a mortgage, the bigger the better!’ And when asked why, the banker said, “Because then for the next thirty years, you’ll be working for me!”

18.) Does your country have separation of “church and state” (the word “church” to include mosque, synagogue, or temple)? Can your country tax religious institutions or otherwise regulate them, or does your country officially support one or two religions only?

19.) Are members of certain religions treated as second-class citizens by your government or in your society?

20.) If you vote out (or force out, as in Egypt) one government in favor of another, do any of these things actually change? In other words, ignoring the lip service, which is often just theater, is there in practice a dime’s worth of difference? Or do your political leaders all behave as if they were all in the pay of the same elite clique?


Anam Cara said...

good questions. And it is easy to see how freedoms have been impinged even in the good ol' USA.