I think we live in times where both governments and citizens of western democracies are searching for a new role in their relationship. My point today is only this: the court systems are still working to some degree, and they seem to me a valuable battling field in this search. Citizens should actually pay attention and support causes fought in their name.
First, what do I mean with this "search" for new roles? It is not as easy as some pundits had described, who after 1990 simply awaited the state to take a step back. After some years of perceived openness, where capitalism had supposedly "won" and everyone could relax and enjoy, I think we now rather see the state taking a stronger stand. One reason might be that governments feel threatened by globalization and the internet, creating too much openness and feedback loops for them to feel in control. Another might be rising tension due to the resource front, as energy supply gets tight and climate change restricts what we might want to do with resources we still can get our hands on. Or, more general, this is just the usual dance between governers and governed, a step forth and a step back, and we will only see what it all meant after this song ends.
Anyhow, we are beginning to discuss what "freedom" should mean, again. And when I say discuss, I mostly mean "battling out". Emotions are running high and claims are bold and strong. Governments simply create new facts of what is legally possible, while the Chinese lean back and rub their hands.
Some citizens are being taken to court, others decide to let their quarrel with the government escalate to court. In most of these government vs. someone trials, important definitions are being made, and, as far as the court is still functioning, the outcome of these battles are important for (re)defining freedom, more important than, say, a general opinion piece in The New York Times.
What is also new today is that it is dead simple to support the legal funds of people whose cases you find interesting, via the internet. I believe if you are interested in funding societal change, investing in the legal defense of someone is (to use the lingo of our time) a sound investment. The amounts I gave are by no means to brag about, but I have begun to give to such individuals, and I think I should increase this activity. Here is a short list of who I remember supporting:
There are heroes out there fighting for you right now and it is easy to help them.
* Actually, I only gave some monetary support to Wikileaks as an organisation, after the Collateral Damage video. Criminal investigations into Assange started afterwards and only then it became clear that most of the financial funds of Wikileaks seem to have gone towards his legal defense.