We The People

There is this song called “We The People” by Chuck Brown & The Soul Searchers. This particular Go Go and Funk band released the song in the early seventies. In the sixties and seventies many artists addressed societal issues via their music. Think of Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye and Jimmy Hendrix to name a few. Yes I am skipping Country, Folk, Progressive Rock and electric Blues among other genres. Just know there is a lot of interesting music about societal issues.

“We the people”, what does it mean? Does it imply anything? Is it just another typical sound bite of rebellious generations and protesting people? “ We the people, the people or more recently Joe the plumber represent something that is essential to society, namely its people.

The second paragraph still is not clear though. Without some history and context it sounds as reasoning A equals A because A is A. There is more to this topic than just saying “we the people are us, everybody!” In the blog post Social Equality & Social Equivalence I already partly addressed this topic although not specifically.

First question, “we the people, what does it mean?” “We” refers to oneself as an individual and as a collective member of a given society. “The people” refers to the given society of citizens in a given country governed by the present state and representatives of the people.

Second question, “does it imply anything?” Well, based on the previous answer “we the people” implies that the people represent themselves and have some power in the decision-making process of their given country as citizens. When society is discontent the politicians in charge cannot afford to ignore their society for too long.

The last question, “is it just another typical sound bite of rebellious generations and protesting people?” This is a matter of personal perspective on the issues raised by rebellious generations and protesting people. Thing is, when a relatively large group of people says “we are not going to take … any more”, or something similar they cannot just be ignored.

More importantly, when enough people raise awareness for issues they find important enough to protest about the issues are already serious enough. Throughout history there have been plenty of issues that motivated people to protest. In the Netherlands the Israel-Gaza situation is still smouldering and as much as I am a pacifist, I am worried too.

A good example of protests regarding a serious issue is the Occupy movement. Occupying public space as a peaceful way of protesting is an effective tactic. The Occupy movement was very vocal about the 1 percent versus the 99 percent in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008.

I sympathised with the Occupy movement but I also detested their lack of ideology. Just naming and shaming is not always enough when protesting against systems of thought. Systems of thought are brought down by arguments, evidence and demanding those responsible to take their responsibilities.

At the time of the Occupy movement protests in Amsterdam I worked and I knew what it meant to scrape by on a low pay. I also knew that as long as governments support their national financial sectors, the financial sectors remains too big to fail. Too big to fail is a lie on its own; the V.O.C. went bankrupt and became the Nederlandsche Handelsmaatschappij under Dutch King Willem I. All enterprises can fail.

Back to “we the people”, when you read about past and current civilisations, revolutions, wars, shifting cultural beliefs and systems of government a few things become clear. First of all “the people” in the end always have the final say in political decisions. Second civil disobedience, especially peaceful and in large groups is too effective to be ignored. Third, the moment the politicians and government in power resort to violence, they endanger their own positions.

There is a delicate balance between the power of the people and the government and politicians. It is not necessarily a matter of system of government. It is a matter of who has the final say or veto with regards to law and politics.

In short, “we the people” have themselves to hold accountable and their government. That means that “the people” can create their own utopia or dystopia. It is that simple…


The links refer to Wikipedia entries. The article link refers to the blog post.