Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What Will Democracy Look Like?

To the Founding Fathers,

We come with no easy blueprint for tomorrow's constitution. We mistrust those who think they already have the answers when we are still trying to formulate the questions. But the time has come for us to imagine completely novel alternatives, to discuss, dissent, debate, and design from the ground up the democratic architecture of tomorrow.

Not in a spirit of anger or dogmatism, not in a sudden impulsive spasm, but through the widest consultation and peaceful public participation, we need to join together to reconstitute America.

Alvin and Heidi Toffler - from the book "Creating a New Civilization"

In the Open Forum at MfD, the failure of our current two-party political system was brought up and the question of "how do we fix it" emerged from the discussion. A contributor stated that the dilema we face today, in our current political arena, isn't really about "right" and "left" anymore. We now find ourselves evolving beyond taking political sides and find ourselves searching more for what is "right" and "wrong" outside of our current polarizing political structure. They go on to say, "This is about understanding that true democracy lies in the dignity of people and not in the rhetoric of politics." In my opinion, what is missing in our current form of democracy is, "The People"! Our democratic structure has moved way beyond any form of participatory system into a highly repressive, representative system which by it's nature, excludes the input of the people in the decision making process. We get the scraps off the table after our masters have gorged themselves on the fruits of our labor.

There was mention of the need for a third party and the possibility of massive numbers of people falling in line in support of a party which would be based on issues pertinent to workers. A party without the now existing conservative/liberal labels. I agree, a third party seems like it would help balance the structure out, but a part of me thinks this is like an attempt to oil the existing machine in order to make it perform better. This is a complicated issue for me and something in my brain's recesses keeps telling me the existing machine just can't be fixed due to the amount of capital which the two parties have accumulated and their willingness to use it to their benefit. I'm thinking the machine is worn out, and is no longer economical in the emerging economical/political climate. A new part here, an oil change there, and we still have the same 20th century motor which still belches out noxious consumerist fumes. This machine is fueled by labor, and as such, the owners of the current machine will always strive for cheaper fuel prices. The engine we have is not efficient and it burns labor like a 1968 Chevy 427 burns petrol. "We" are the fuel for the current machine and even though we do take an active role in the operation of it, I'm not particularly fond of the part the people play in the running of this machine. So by propping up the current system, and attempting to add on new parts, doesn't have any effect as far as I'm concerned and the machine just keeps on chugging, coughing, sputtering, and kicking out poison into the enviroment and making it an unfit and inequal place for the inhabitants of the world. I just believe we will have to design a new, more efficient model which utilizes balance of all the parts and doesn't have any loose screws, nuts, or bolts laying around after it's assembled.

I appreciate the futurists energy and their contributions. I have learned a great deal from these guys. While it's true they base a great deal of their predictions on current trends and rightly so, I believe making predictions based on current trends has a tendency of keeping one on the fence. I think our time would be better spent if we moved away from predicting our future and moved on to creating one. Reason tells us where we are going on the current path, now we have to turn into creationists in order to make the transition as humane as possible for not just the people within our nations, but the entire global population. Injustice doesn't discriminate and it's effect reaches all corners of our globe. It's not a unique problem and it's cancerous blite has done great harm to all people of our planet. People across the globe are communicating and discussing issues outside the walls and fences constructed by the political nationalists whose double speak has kept our collective minds locked away for so long. It's my opinion the people and their power of reason will one day be fully realized and the barriers, both mental and physical, which have been constructed by an elite few, in an attempt to hold on to power, will tumble and dissolve. This probably sounds like a nightmare to some, especially the isolationist paleoconservatives such as Pat Buchanan. But I have to give credit to Buchanan, as he is against the Patriot Act and he doesn't agree with the war and the "new empire's" agendas. He's the so-called "true conservative" it's been said. But unlike him, I believe the connections of communities around the world is what will save us and isolation will only make the shift into the new paradigm that much more difficult and help create more pooling of power in the hands of an elite few. Yeah, I'm a dreamer, but our realities are built on such dreams!

Just as an example of how boundaries are disappearing, let me share this with you. Right before Christmas, Cindy Sheehan began a European tour meeting not only with the foreign ministers, presidents, and other elite, but she has been visiting with the families of other children who have lost their lives in the War on Terror. Language barriers are being overcome in what Sheehan calls, "A Language of the Heart".
No matter if we all speak differently accented English, Spanish, or the heavy Glaswegian accent of my Scottish sister in sorrow, Rose Gentle - whose gentle-giant son, Gordon, was killed by Blair and Bush in Iraq in July of 2004 - our hearts all speak the same idiom of pain, and we sing the same lament of futile loss.

Yes, pain and suffering are common grounds on which the people can meet. Not the ideal of meeting places for sure, but out of this shared grief and suffering, fertile ground is emerging and new life is sprouting. A language of the heart is not hard to imagine at all. It's the place where we see things for what they really are. It's something we all share. Read this e-mail Sheehan received from a mother of an Iraqi insurgent who was killed in the same battle Sheehan's son was killed.
In conclusion, this is an excerpt of an email I received from a mother in Iraq whose son Zaydoun Mamoun Fadhil Al-Samarai, a Shi'a insurgent, was involved in the same battle in which Casey was killed. Zaydoun was later killed.

We, my friend, in the march of pain could work together, each from where she is, toward putting an end to the blood shed and toward peace and love to prevail, instead of war.

We could, my lady, work together toward peace and toward putting an end to the blood shed and give all mothers a hope for happiness because we experience pain when we lost our sons. Because, he who did not experience pain cannot understand happiness.

I will be very happy when the war ends so we can celebrate in my town, Samara, which witnessed the birth of my oldest son, Zaydoun, who I thought would mourn me when I die, but, unfortunately, I mourned him one month before his wedding.

I am conveying his fiancée's greeting, who is still mourning him.

At the end, please accept my deepest sympathies, from a mother who lost her son to another mother who lost her son.

I hope to be able to meet with you on the march for peace and love.

Yes, I believe dreamers will help design a better place, but what can be done, or what is being done here in our little world to make the transition from one world into the next? I've always heard you need to clean up your own yard before you criticize what your neighbors yard looks like! So where do we start?

There have been many groups which have grown out of the availability of the internet and the flow of information which ensued. Some lean towards existing parties, others are bipartisn, and some have their base in the believe of an entirely new design. But the important thing is these people have seen the shift and through communication are attempting to make the innevitable much better, easier, and more participatory. I believe we can gain usable knowledge from any and perhaps all of these groups. Perhaps there is a need for new terminology? Instead of "politics", maybe we could call it "citizenology" or something of the sort? The word citizenship, according to wikipedia, often also implies working towards the betterment of one's community through participation, volunteer work, and efforts to improve life for all citizens. So I suppose citizenology would be the study of how people, through participation, can work to improve life for all people. People deal with their differences by creating alliances, discussing, negotiating, and engaging people on issues which involve the self-interest of like-minded people. We need less stratification due to vertically structured parties, and more accordance through horizontal citizen engagement. The ICHECRD offers extensive links of online resource groups and partnerships pertaining to civic education and democracy within communities.

Take this quote from America Speaks website which is part of the conservative based Pew Charitable Trust. The quote portrays the growing bipartisn concern of our current structures.
Most Americans today would agree that there is something deeply wrong with how our democracy is working: citizens have largely lost their rightful role in public decision making. The American public deserves more than the vote, they deserve a voice in what happens – an impact on decisions that impact their lives, and a government responsive to their needs. However, the dramatic growth and power of special interest groups have both constrained leaders and squeezed ordinary citizens out of the process. As a result, many citizens feel alienated, and decision makers have lost touch with their constituents’ true concerns.

The vote has evolved into merely a control of the masses through illusionary democratic principles and our voices have been silenced by the representative form of democracy and a participatory democracy is the only way to allow the people's voice to once again be heard. Let's look at another example of people communicating in an effort to build a people oriented form of democracy. On the Civic Practices Network website, the following parargraph states who they are and what they see as their goals in the design of a new democratic structure.
We are community organizers, civic journalists, and youth activists. We are grassroots environmentalists, business people and civil servants working collaboratively to create safe and sustainable local economies. We are union and business innovators, dispute resolution practitioners, participatory urban planners. We are teachers and librarians working to develop civic skills at every level of our educational system. We are community health and social welfare professionals working to empower families and develop community capacities for solving problems in a diverse and complex society undergoing rapid change.

Of special interest to the designers of our future is the emergence of Electronic Democracy, and the possibility of a new participatory based Internet Democracy, which could open new positions of speech, empowering previously excluded groups and enabling new aspects of social life to become part of the political process. Actually, through online participation, is it too "far out" to believe this form of democracy could/will create a new meaning to the term "politics"? The political and social scientists are drawn to the implications of the internet in realtion to the opportunities it offers society. They continually attempt to identify whether this new technology will promote democracy and if so, how will our political landscape change? The problem is, technology along with the peoples willingness to explore and expand, is moving the issues so fast, by the time these experts put together a theory, the advancements of the people driven technology has deemed their work archaic.

Many believe however that the internet with all it's positive influence in building more democratic communities, still remains susceptible to totalitarian governments and their control by monitoring the people's thoughts, ideas, and activities. This definitely is worthy of discussion and there are ways of circumventing these controls electronically, but the best way to fight this type of undemocratic control is through cooperative community efforts to bring this totalitarianism into the public light and fight to maintain an open and uncensored flow of communication. It's still about cooperation and groups/communities of support. In order to hold on to our emerging power of knowledge, we must keep one eye focused on the Hidden State.

The internet has brought about a transparency which shows how our political system has failed it's citizens. We can now witness a small group in our nation's capitals who are attempting to overthrow the will of the people while ignoring the majority. The technology which we are immersed in shows us our political processes are nothing more than a narrow tool of the elite. From propaganda and infospin, we are constantly bombarded with tripe whose sole purpose is an attempt to save a dying structure rather than adapt to the shift and build a new democracy. One that actually is more democratic and participatory in nature. The hogs are going to scream and squeel and believe me, the current structures of power well intend to fight to the end. And I really don't know just how far the power mongers will go to hang on to their throne and it could get very ugly. So it probably is better for us if we just expect the worst. Let's just hope we can hold on to our flow of communication and keep our info-communities alive and growing.

There's no doubt the changes will be seismic in nature as we evolve into this uncharted world. The acceleration, which in no small part, is due to the introduction of the personal computer, will continue on an escalated scale. Unlike the shifts of the past, this one will happen within decades rather than generations and we will feel the world shift under our feet. The individuals and institutions who have a vested interest in the dying age will do everything in their power to resist the change. But despite all that these powerful few try, our political and economical systems must change as will the functions of our educational systems, labor, corporations, and the definition of capital. There is a great deal of speculation on what will take place and what our world will look like in the future. Consider these thoughts from around the web on what the information age will bring.

Minority Power as well as majority rule will become obsolete as various forms of public policy implementation such as proportional representation, community consensus, and systems of conflict resolution will replace it.

We could see the emergence of semi-direct democracy as (representative democracy) invented by the Founding Fathers which was appropriate for their time when 90% of the people were illiterate, no longer fits within our society of information. And since direct democracy carries the weight of "tyranny of the majority" which is obsolete, a moderate and reasonable middle ground is semi-direct democracy. People through community efforts will demand the right by petition to propose a bill, to modify a bill, to bind the vote of their legislator, to set up public hearings, to establish a legislative committee, or to make a formal expression of priorities to the legislature either for policy action or spending.

As the amount of information grows and as the pace of decision making necessarily accelerates, it becomes functionally impossible for decision making to be dominated by central control and power is spread through thousands of smaller activist groups and communities.

As the voting records, ratings, etc. will soon be readily available to everyone on the Internet, slanted coverage, spinning by political parties and management of the news will be overcome by the sheer volume of information available to everyone.

There are millions of ideas concerning what the information age will bring, from one end of the spectrum to the other, but the important thing to remember is that we actually are in the middle of the shift and the world as we know it is changing. This change is due to the amount of available information. What the world will evolve into is no doubt questionable and our future isn't set in stone, but it's how you and I use this available technology and information, and how we share it which will help build our world the way we know it should be. Yes, there are millions of people who refuse to see the old systems are decaying, but there are millions more who do share the idea that the people of the earth do have common goals and a connectivity that reaches far beyond the political and economical boundaries which have been thrust upon human beings to enforce the agendas of a select few.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thursday, 29 December, 2005  

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