In a follow-up to last week’s version of this column, I’d like to point out that there are two sides to the issue of “consent of the governed.”

To recap, the centuries-old phrase has been used in political, religious and journalistic writings and can be found near the beginning of the United States Declaration of Independence in reference to how people in government have a duty to do their governing according to the consent of the people being governed.

And as I mentioned, there’s not nearly enough consent sought by federal office holders these days, and it’s quite popular to simply force an agenda or implement a policy without regard to the will of the majority.

But I’d say it’s easily arguable that the blame for the situation is shared. I believe that while too many federal politicians have lost sight of their obligation to truly serve their constituents, they’re not necessarily simply going rogue in the face of open disagreement and dissent.

No, I think it’s apparent they’re “getting away” with a lot of stuff because they’re being allowed to.

Wait, what?

Yep, the people must share the blame for their collective will not receiving constant and unwavering consideration by the folks calling the shots in government. Too many people are content to sit back and let things happen as they may, and just say or think, “well there’s another sign of the times.”

Whether that’s a result of apathy, fear or ignorance is debatable, but it’s most likely a combination of the three.

I also think many people are too caught up in the unbridled present-day realm of electronic devices, entertainment and frivolous activities, and aren’t motivated to be educated with regard to things that negatively affect their lives. And since that negativity typically manifests more like a slow drip than a waterfall, it’s not noticeable enough to get their attention.

There’s actually a scientific element at the core of this issue called “cognitive dissonance.” By definition, that means “the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.”

In practice, cognitive dissonance causes stress or anxiety, and people often try to gain relief by “explaining things away” or rejecting new information that conflicts with their existing beliefs. In other words, if someone has been programmed to think a certain way or believe a certain set of things, they’re quick to dismiss anything they see or hear to the contrary.

In still other words, if they’ve come to accept lies as truth, they’re far less likely to recognize actual truth.

Let’s be clear here: It’s not about being a 24-7 “conspiracy theorist,” it’s about using discernment and having eyes to see and ears to hear what’s real versus what’s conjured up as a distraction or diversion. It’s about not taking everything the mainstream media presents as correct and legitimate, but rather to be attentive to information, statistics and other clues (that are pretty much always there) that raise red flags.

Sure, sorting through the chaff to find the grain can take a bit of effort, but no more than people put forth to fill their lives with stuff that’s both pointless and foolish. And I believe it’s worth my time to be cognizant of what’s real rather than simply accept what I’m told without verification.

So what’s the solution?

I’m not sure there’s a singular action people can take, but in our society we have so many avenues available. In this case, it might be letters to politicians, peaceful demonstrations or good old conversation with fellow humans – or once again, a combination of such methods.

But the bottom line is, genuine consent of the governed isn’t going to be acquired by inaction. We should know that by now by simply taking a look around.

There’s a quote most often attributed to Edmund Burke, an Irish statesman, economist and philosopher in the 1700s: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Burke also said, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent,” and “The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse.”

I think what Burke was getting at is that if the people really want what’s good for them, it’s up to them to go after it and then protect it. In today’s terms in the U.S., that means if there’s to be consent of the governed, then the governing can’t be allowed to go against what’s consensual and must be held accountable when they do.

Doug Davison

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald. Contact him by phone at 417-967-2000 or by email at ddavison@houstonherald.com.

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