“We” are not the Government.

When I was younger, I once asked my father if we were going to mow the yard that day. He look at me and said “what, you got a mouse in your pocket?”, indicating that I was mowing the yard, and that he had no intention of involving himself whatsoever. I have noticed other areas where the use of the words “we” or “us” are problematic other ways.

Take for example at the work place. At a time when I worked at large company, I would notice myself referring to things the company was doing as things that “we” were doing. My coworkers also did this and no one thought much of it, even when were talking about actions the company was taking that no one present was involved in or supported. For example, imagine you are at work and a coworker, with no more decision making power that you says “we are laying off another 20 people”. I think the appropriate response to this would be to say “no I’m not, I had nothing to do with it and neither did you” presuming you had nothing to do with this decision of upper management. It gives me the creeps that so many American workers have adopted the sort of hive mind mentality, that the word “we” implies, when it comes to actions that the individuals in question had no say in.

I find that the same thing happens when talking about the US government, especially in matters of foreign policy. When speaking to my American friends I have said, recently said things like “are we going to war with Syria?” or “we continuing this atrocious drone program?”. Of course nobody present was going to war with anyone or using drones to attack anyone. In fact everyone present opposed both things and would have happily prevented them if they could. The truth of the matter, is that our government often does things, that we the people disapprove of and have little to no say in (though we the people are usually expected to fund it). As such we should stop thinking of the government as an extension of ourselves. For all practical purpose, the only direct decision making power we ordinary Americans, have in it involves, picking between a couple of establishment approved candidates at various levels government every few years. This hardly makes it’s actions a reflection of our will. Even good candidates will become completely corrupted and have compromised all their values in their accent to the top. We can of course organize and agitate, for the government to stop doing things that we individually do not approve of. I support this, and it often works, but all to often we will be competing with powerful interests, that have their own preferences and much more influence on the government than we do. That is why I am consciously trying to stop using the words “we” and “us” when talking about government action.

Maybe this is just an argument about semantics. Perhaps it really does not matter, what words are used, so long as the people we speak to understand what we are saying. On the other hand, I do think it is more than this and that it really is a reflection on some of the underlying assumptions that are prevalent in this society.

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