Democracy Actualized

Posted by on June 6, 2016

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Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs posits five stages of psychological health. The first essential level concerns the things we need for survival, such as food, clothing, and shelter. You can’t be happy if you’re hungry. The next is stage is achieving a feeling of safety and health. The next three, in ascending order, are love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.

Perhaps there’s a similar scheme for living in a democracy.

What does it take to live in a healthy society?

The first stage, I believe, is voting. Voting provides the oxygen for civil society. You’ve got to do it. (And tomorrow is the primary election in California. In case you don’t know where to go, you can find your polling place here.)

The next stage is encouraging others to vote. (Especially that lazy cousin of yours.) Besides pestering your relatives, you can volunteer for a campaign. Do phone-banking. Walk precincts. Drive people to the polls.

Moving up the pyramid, the next stage of civic engagement is personally getting involved, like writing a letter-to-the-editor or communicating with a public official. Does this describe you? Hope so — as Climate Resolve will continue to provide you with these opportunities to get involved.

Next level up is volunteering for, or giving money to an institution. You amplify your voice when you join a choir. It could be an electoral group like the League of Women Voters or the California League of Conservation Voters. Or you could volunteer with another civil society group like Climate Resolve or Wilderness Society or LAANE . . . there’s a bunch to choose from.

By getting involved with a group, you have the opportunity to make a difference at all levels of government.

Gandhi said: “politics is like a snake that wraps itself around your body; ignore it at your peril.” I don’t quite understand the pessimism about civil society . . . by getting involved, you can make it better.