BY DAVID PERRYMAN
While earning my teaching degree from Oklahoma State, one class assignment studied theories of political systems and examined the practical application of those systems. One focus of our study was the old Soviet Union.
For a number of reasons, the inefficiency of the communist system in the USSR resulted in the production of inferior goods and mass shortages. The system lacked the ability to change to address the needs of the Soviet people.
I vividly recall the readings and lectures illustrating how the system affected citizens with hopelessness, widespread despair and rampant alcoholism among the Soviet people.
Vodka was referred to as the “opium of the masses.” Some commentaries related that excessive alcohol consumption was tolerated and even encouraged because of the revenue that it provided for the government. In the 1970s the sale of alcohol provided one-third of all revenues received by the Soviet government.
Alcohol consumption more than doubled between 1955 and 1979 to 15.2 liters per person and a 2000 article by freelance writer Patricia Critchlow stated that nearly one out of every seven Soviet citizens was alcoholic. By 2013, according to an Atlantic Magazine article, the World Health Organization released statistics showing that one of every five male deaths in the Russian Federation was due to alcohol-related causes.
Clearly, in that oppressive political system, opportunity for a better future was not readily apparent and succumbing to the temptation to self-medicate was safer than a revolution.
When I was in college, tuition was affordable, family and social safety nets existed and the risks associated with ventures seemed surmountable. Opportunities were plentiful and wrong choices did not rob us of our worth.
Today, our youth do not feel that fortunate. Today, fewer parents are financially or emotionally able to provide their children with the safety nets that we relied upon and a single bad choice often has lifelong devastating effects.
Today, many perceive that America is not responsive to the needs of its citizens. Because they fail to see opportunity, they believe our country is not responsive to their needs.
Partisan politics and gridlock are impediments to a government that is responsive to the people. Money in politics has mushroomed and special interest groups now control the dissemination of information.
Hatred and fear rob us of our common goal. People of all races are hurting.
Our nation is designed to use the ballot box as a means of revolution. Even when cynicism and despair hinders the ability of citizens to have faith in the rule of law and the virtue of a representative democracy, our system of government must prevail.
We are approaching a critical crossroad and disenfranchised citizens who fail to recognize opportunity or fail to see a future in the status quo are speaking loudly on many fronts.
Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
He also said, “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But … the Good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?”
Today, our country must ask, “If we do not stop to help, what will happen to us?”
– David Perryman, a Chickasha Democrat, represents District 56 in the Oklahoma House