Tag Archives: Disenfranchisement

A Statement of Intent

I am a recent graduate of the University of Washington history and philosophy departments and I am currently preparing to enter into a PhD program. My passion and my goal in life is the improvement of the systems and the institutions that govern our lives and societies. However, knowledge by itself without the experience of practical application is often not very valuable. Conversely, when experience guides decisions and actions the knowledge created is vastly more relevant and pertinent. Therefore, I decided to take a year or two away from my academic studies to gain experience and to put what I have learned into practice.

Ultimately, what I would like to do with my time is to work in the community with a non-profit or governmental agency on an issue related to justice. Disenfranchisement and the ability of people to express their agency are two phenomena that nestle at the heart of most issues concerning justice. Much of this I believe exists because of the constriction of lines communication by policies and practices, and because of the fear of interacting with a system that people who are impoverished or who feel disenfranchised find difficult to trust.

I think part of the work that is necessary to overcome these obstacles to justice is assisting people to become knowledgeable about how the current system functions and how they can participate without retribution. Voting is one of the important strategies of participating in the system and expressing agency. Yet, there is often latency between the emergence of an issue, bringing the matter to a vote, and beneficial solutions coming to fruition. Whereas, participating in public meetings both at the government and community levels can often have immediate effects. Yet, there are often issues of accessibility about when the meetings are held and the competing obligations of people who are impoverished, such as, meals and childcare. However, I believe we can easily remedy these kinds of barriers to participation by working with community organizations and elected officials.

Another very important component of an issue of justice is the accurate reporting of facts, trends, conditions, and projections. The first factor is acquiring and consolidating accurate information, which we can then utilize to inform our projections. One aspect of this is historical research and data analysis, and another component is hearing from the members of the communities most impacted. Most situations are complex and have multiple motivating factors or causes. The object of this information gathering should be to identify the real motivations and causes of injustice. The next factor is ensuring that we accurately present this information to those who are responsible for making decisions. As a result of our improving the participation of the people who are often not engaged in governmental activities and who are often the most impacted by injustice, the likelihood that more accurate and complex reports will make it into the record dramatically increases.

I believe the work I have outlined above to be the next steps to the improvement of the systems and the institutions that govern our lives and societies. It is possible that by decreasing the prevalence of disenfranchisement and increasing the ability of people to express their agency that the outcomes of our large bureaucratic system will more accurately represent the disparate and varying lives of the people in our society, thereby increasing the amount of justice experienced. We can only accomplish this work in and with the community and that is why I want to work with a non-profit organization or a governmental agency focused on issues of justice.

What is Really Going On

Street crime, drug addiction, and delinquency have been asserted to be the result of the immorality of the impoverished. Therefore, poverty, which is a human creation, that is, it is an institution which is being blamed for the depravity of the people in our society. The extension of this is that those who are most disenfranchised and without the power to influence and shape society are being blamed for the creation of the institution of poverty. Yet, there cannot be poverty if there is not the massive consolidation of wealth. Thus, if the object of the “Tough on Crime” and “War on Drugs” campaigns that lead to the development and expansion of the Prison Industrial Complex were really to heal the immorality of our society, then the most obvious solution given the underlying assumptions would have been to eliminate poverty and diminish the pervasive disparities of this country. This would mean that the best method and strategy to limit the harms that occur in our society is to redistribute the control of wealth merely beyond the threshold of their being people who are impoverished. It is not the case that people do not want to work yet, it is the case that many cannot afford to work because the minimum wage in most states does not even begin to permit a family to escape poverty. When a person has a forty hour work week and still has to rely on welfare to eat and maintain a place to live, and at the end of the month are still in poverty is the quintessential example of the creation and maintenance of a system of impoverishment. But, this solution has been rejected because it is believed to present too much of a short-term burden in exchange for a long-term peace and moral maturity. Those who claim to be the most concerned with the immorality and depravity of our society, and who are also the most responsible for their existence, are also least interested in doing what is necessary to solve the problems they themselves have created. Instead, to retain their comforts and privilege they blame the people least responsible and most disenfranchised, while expanding the penal code and criminalizing even the smallest infractions, that are then arbitrarily enforced by the police institution, to put these people behind bars to further fatten the pockets of those most responsible by increasing the prison labor pool.