When language has been mutilated and drained of meaning how are we to understand democracy? Its mere invocation by politicians and their media echoers generates a chorus of hosannas. The reality is different. Democracy has been reduced to elections, awash in money, where there are marginal choices. Sometimes the candidates are so bad one can say: Pick your poison: cyanide or arsenic. The Great Recession has shaken things up. From the cradle of democracy: Greece, to the self-proclaimed beacon of it today: the U.S., people are asking fundamental questions. Democracy has been off-stage and in the wings for decades as corporations, enabled by political elites, have amassed unprecedented power. During elections democracy is trotted out to center stage and then disappears behind the curtains again. That could be changing. The Occupy movement is rocking the comfort zone of the 1%.
Cornel West is Professor of the Practice of Public Philosophy at Harvard. He has been called “the preeminent African American intellectual of his generation.” With his preacher-like cadences and passionate delivery, he is much in demand as a speaker. Among his many books are Race Matters, The Rich and the Rest of Us and Black Prophetic Fire.