The Government works for me. I do not answer to them. They answer to me.
When we go over the principles in our meetings, this one is usually followed by some fist pumps and maybe a “______ Yeah!” where the blank is filled in with words of various emphatic intent, heck usually being the tamest of the lot.
At the risk of outing myself as a Constitutional fetishist, I’d take this sentiment all the way back to 1787, to a document that begins as follows – “We The People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” We The People created this government. It’s not the Declaration of Independence – which was the unanimous declaration of the STATES. This philosophy places the source of the authority squarely in the hands of you, me, our families, our neighbors. WE THE PEOPLE. We are the boss. The Big Cheese. The Grand Poobah. And our government acts as our agent. I think most people who are members of the 9-12 project understand this, and enthusiastically support this idea as far as I’ve explained it above. People get into it at some of these town halls. “You work for ME, Mr. Congressman, and as such, you need to LISTEN to me!” Those people understand this side of the coin. They Are In Charge.
Here’s where the fist pumping stops.
I’ve got a little online business that I started last year, and so I’ve been reading a lot of material from other people who have started successful businesses. This weekend, I came across a piece by Chris Brogan, talking about The Owner’s Mind. An owner, Chris says, is different from an employee. An owner has to worry about the details. She has to care about the quality of service, the quality of results. An owner has to worry the details. And “employees” can take the role of an owner by stepping up, taking responsibility, and taking the initiative to make things work.
The fact that the ultimate authority rests with the People is a two-edged sword. If we have the authority, we also have a measure of responsibility for the actions of that agent that acts in our name – the U.S. Government. In private enterprise, CEO’s are called on the carpet when their companies act irresponsibly. Not knowing what was going on is no defense. If you are in a position of authority, it is your duty to know what is going on, to address wrongdoing, to correct where correction is needed. And that duty – that responsibility – cannot be delegated if we are the ones who really have that authority. If we refuse to accept this responsibility, or if we fail to act when action is necessary, then we have not lived up to our obligations, our responsibilities, our duties as citizens of the United States of America. In legal terms, when an agent of yours commits a tort in your name – infringing on someone else’s rights either negligently or with intent, you bear some of the responsibility for that action, whether it was authorized by you or not.
How many times have you seen something in your community that needed fixing or correction and thought “Someone should do something about that”? How many times have you wished that Someone would take care of the homeless, or the elderly? Someone should.
Guess who that Someone is.
Someone needs to do something to reassert their control over their employee, over their organization – the US Gov’t. Guess who that Someone is.
Someone needs to begin exercising their Constitutional oversight.
Guess who that Someone is.
The next time Someone says “Someone should do something!” stop them, look them in the eye and say this. “Yes, Someone should. We are someone. What are We going to do?” Reasserting our authority over the government means taking responsibility – for the actions we’ve allowed our employees to take in our ignorance and our apathy, and for the actions we’ll need to step up and do in the future. It means taking ownership. And everything that comes with it.