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Democracy, Coronavirus, and the Pachamama Vision

Updated: May 25, 2020

Joyce Herman April, 2020

Pachamama Alliance’s three-fold focus – on sustainability, social justice, and spiritual fulfillment – depends on a functioning democracy with access to clear and factual information and an underlying commitment to the shared well-being of all citizens. The increasingly frayed fabric of our democracy continues to undermine our power to bring about the “world our hearts know is possible” (from the book of the same title by Charles Eisenstein). All of the clarity and passion we bring to the environment and to social justice issues can help us become more effective active watch-dogs of our democracy.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed everyone’s lives, and it reveals in countless ways, more clearly than ever, the insidious failures and hypocrisies of our vaunted democracy. This is especially clear as the pandemic interfaces with racism (including environmental racism) and with a health care system that is inequitable and in many places dysfunctional. Budget priorities that privilege the most affluent and increase the pain of those already suffering reflect the already distorted values of our economic system. Meanwhile, focus on the pandemic obscures ongoing attacks on voting rights, freedom of the press, judicial independence, and separation of church and state, all of which are tearing away the foundations of our democracy.

Daily governmental acts contradict what should be a commitment to serve all citizens. Constant reversals of policies, blatant words of hate, and dog whistles that subtly reinforce prejudice – all these raise anxiety, create instability, and divide groups that could be allies to one another against oppression. To witness our government leaders and agencies eliminate bulwarks of freedom and align with autocratic leaders world-wide is more cause for concern. Removal and shaming of anyone who contradicts or criticizes the President is further evidence of a growing autocracy.

This is not a partisan matter, but one that all’s* can align to resist and reverse.

The first step is to move past anxiety, become informed, and rediscover the power of people – ourselves – working together to bring about change. Pachamama Alliance Rochester has collaborated with other organizations, such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Citizens United for the Separation of Church and State, to hold programs shedding light on the rise of tyranny and autocracy in our country.

Most recently, in October, 2019, in collaboration with Temple Sinai Social Action Committee, Pachamama Alliance Rochester offered “Unmasking What’s Happening to Our Democracy — and What We Can Do About It”, a program that drew 95 people. The goals were ambitious: to see the bigger picture and underlying dynamics, gain a sense of historical perspective, acknowledge the emotional effects on us, and to acknowledge the need for — and experience the value of — connection.

The event began with a panel discussion among two historians, a political scientist, and a mental health counselor, who provided provocative and inspiring perspectives regarding the many threats to our democracy. The discussion alluded to specific tactics that erode democracy:

  • “Divide and conquer” techniques (white nationalism, racism, anti-semitism, Islamophobia, anti-immigrant, anti-LGBTQ). Demagoguery.

  • Attacking the freedom of the press

  • Voter suppression

  • Distortion of the separation of church and state

  • Overstepping the Constitution - usurpation of power

  • The Patriot Act

  • Anti-intellectualism, anti-facts, anti-science

  • Propaganda, “gaslighting” (manipulate someone by psychological means into questioning their own sanity), and accusing enemies of actions one is taking

  • Oligarchy - small number of actors manipulating information and using distraction, to secure wealth and power for the few (see for instance Merchants of Doubt,

The Democracy Project continues with a commitment to keeping our community growing in insight, awareness, and activism, inspired by the many brilliant individuals and organizations dedicated to supporting and protecting democratic freedom and values. As we develop our collective sense of empowerment, we can identify specific actions to “resist and reverse” the undermining of democracy - even, perhaps especially, in the time of the coronavirus pandemic.

* “’s” is used rather than “Americans” to underscore the reality that the U.S. is just one country of the Americas.

© 2020 Joyce Herman

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