Why we're losing - and how to start winning
The View from Green Island
GI Central - my 'net home' for the last few years, and the foreseeable future, this seems where it's going to be - lots of venting, lots of good writing, lots of 'out-of-the-box' ideas you aren't EVER going to hear on the CBC
The Democratic Revolution Handbook - Home
And a book for younger readers too, Dave's an eclectic sort of person - Aquila
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From Hastings to Green Island
- the (very) short form story of Dave's own journey..
Knowledge is like a candle. When you light your candle from mine, my light is not diminished. It is enhanced and a larger room is enlightened as a consequence. - Thomas Jefferson
I cannot too often repeat that Democracy is a word the real gist of which still sleeps, quite unawakened, notwithstanding the resonance and the many angry tempests out of which its syllables have come, from pen or tongue. It is a great word, whose history, I suppose, remains unwritten because that history has yet to be enacted. - Walt Whitman
III The Democracy Discussions Chapter 5
What is Democracy?
Preliminary: The focus of these discussions
The democracy discussions must begin from one premise and one premise **only** - that all of these problems and issues, some of course which are very important, some media-created mountains-from-molehills for simple divide-and-conquer purposes for simple people, are nonetheless secondary problems in the most important sense - that **none** of these issues are going to be adequately addressed until we have a true, we-the-people, Democracy in our country with the awareness and intention to address them.
And thus to deal with all of these problems, we need to first clearly understand that our country is currently very much *not* a democracy, and we need to figure out how to make it a true democracy - once we have an actual true democracy with all decisions of importance made by an engaged and informed citizenry rather than a more-or-less all-powerful elite arranging things for *their* best benefit, all of the other issues will be dealt with far more effectively than they are now - but we cannot start building our own democratic 'shining city on the hill Brave New World' until we have constructed the ship of Democracy that will make anything we want to do possible.
The elite rulers who currently rule our country understand this idea very well - they have taken over our country, our government, and are using that 'legitimate' government to pursue the policies they want to pursue - which includes a lot of very 'proactive' things to keep us all in the box shuffling deck chairs and keeping away from anything that would actually challenge their power. And if we want to seriously fight them and stop them doing things most of us do not want, and start getting things done most of us want done, then the sole primary objective of our 'democracy discussions' must be taking back that government, from which legitimate democratic power will flow.
Nothing else will get us where we want to go, and we have to be very, very clear about that, and not let either well-meaning but short-sighted progressive types, or 5th-columnist infiltraitors turn us from this work.
This is not, of course, to say we never talk about other problems, and help to inform people about them - understanding our country and its problems is clearly necessary for informed and democratic discussions about many issues which must be dealt with at some point, but we talk about other things in other meetings, and hopefully have come to many agreements on many things in the run-up 'get out of the box' meetings as talked about earlier which will help people become unaddicted to the corporate media propaganda and indoctrination, thinking for themselves about what is going on in the world from a non-CBC perspective. But still, most of us are aware of the major problems, and there are many good ideas out there about how to fix them - and the single focus, and goal, of these first 'democracy discussion' meetings must be directed at one question and problem only - how do we take control of our government, democratically, and start to manage our country democratically, so that we have the 'legitimate democratic power' to make the changes we know must be made to make our society much better?
Only after we do that can we start to effectively deal with all of the other problems.
The Democracy Discussions, to begin
Again a reminder - we are not trying to be all things to all people here, and many things will get addressed *after* we get the democracy, so let's not go running off in all directions - we *must* keep focused here on how to build the ship, and not start dreaming about all the wonderful places we can go after we have the ship. Democracy does not mean clean air, or free tuition for students, or justice for First Nations - Democracy is *only* talking about the process of how we govern ourselves, not what we decide as a government to do, so let's not go running off into tangents about all the wonderful things we will have, or hope to have, as a true democracy - let's just focus on the actual democratic process, so we get to a position where we actually have the democratic power to make those decisions, and do those things.
Democracy is a verb, as some smart guy said awhile ago, not a noun.
To me, a 'democracy' means that 'we the citizens' basically decide all of the things that go on in 'our' country - through informed, engaged discussions, we agree on every major thing that our country is going to do, if not 100% agreement, at least a strong consensus, *after* full and informed discussion. Period. If 'we the people' do not approve, beforehand, with full engaged and informed discussion, of very important things like whether we're going to go on bombing missions in other countries along with the great warmonger hegemon south of us, whether we are going to engage in so-called trade treaties that are going to increase the power of Money in our society and put downward pressure on the wages and living standards and what little remaining democratic power they have of working people, if we do not even understand where money comes from, let alone have any say in the actual 'monetary policy' that is so influential on what happens in our country, if we do not talk in an informed way about how we want our economy managed, whether for the benefit of those already very wealthy or for the benefit of average people, whether to continue prioritizing things that are destroying our environment of whether we want to transit to a more sustainable, if less profitable for our rulers, economy - if we do not have full control over those we employ to manage the various bureaucracies that must be in place to keep our large modern society running smoothly, and the way we want it run, and any number of other very fundamental aspects of the way the country is managed - I don't see how you can call it a 'democracy'.
The 'quasi-democratic somewhat informed benevolent dictatorship' There is an argument to be made, given the almost complete acceptance of most citizens of the role of dependents in 'our' society, content with the notion that casting a vote for candidate A or B every few years qualifies as 'democracy', and thereafter completely and willingly subservient to the orders of our masters and their enforcement by those they call 'police' and the 'justice' system, and most of us completely without any idea of how the country is really managed at the upper levels, and showing no interest as teens in their rooms playing games show no interest in looking after the home they live in, that most average citizens are just too simple, or unsophisticated, to be trusted with the running of a great modern country like Canada, and they really should leave it to their betters if we want to avoid returning to less good times than the great modern country the management of our wise and intrepid leaders the last 100 years and more has given us - thus the system we have, in which we at least get to sort of choose who we want to run the country every few years, is as close to 'democracy' as we can, in reality, get, or should want, and being allowed to at least choose between the minimally different versions of our country (big brother 'you little people are on your own, we're looking after the rich people' laissez-faire capitalism vs big momma 'look after rich people sure, but look after the children a little bit too as long as they do as they're told!' 'benevolent dictator' capitalism-light) presented by competing groups of elites is, really, about as democratic as it is possible to be and maintain our great country and lives the beneficent capitalists so generously work so hard to give us.
Personally, I think, given the current state of the world, with its financial chaos and fraudulent debt and corruption ruling virtually every government, environmental destruction, international insecurity and violence, and increasing problems and poverty in our own country and around the world, the idea that 'elites know best' is utter demonstrable nonsense beyond they certainly know what is best for them, which is NOT what is best for us, and won't bother getting into it here - the entire underlying thesis of the whole book here, not to mention everything I've written the last 30 years (and of course many, many others), is that 'we the people' can do a better job, a far better job, of running our country for our benefit than the rulers have been doing. But the idea that a Platonic kind of 'elite managed' sortof-democracy managed by 'superior people' who are, of course, working only for our best benefit, is the ultimate level of 'democratic government' we simple folk can ever aspire too needs to be understood, and openly put on the table for people to choose if they like, but knowingly so rather than passively accepting, openly acknowledging the very limited definition of 'democracy' they are supporting. As I said, the idea does have merits and arguments to be made for it, as we all certainly know a lot of people who couldn't run a dishwasher safely let alone a country, but I do think we can do better, far better, with an informed and engaged citizenry - the ignorance of many has been, as noted earlier, deliberately cultivated for the very purpose of letting the rulers continue ruling, and I think it is very possible to raise the average level of intelligence here considerably.
A new Magna Carta for We the People vs They the Elite And there are other ideas of 'democracy' out there which some might wish to bring into the discussion - but a discussion we do need, so that we all understand what we mean by the term, what the various processes are through which the 'will of the people' becomes national policy, if indeed that is what we decide we want. Another possibility might be a new updated Magna Carta of some kind - ok, you guys can be the rulers, as you're there and obviously want to stay there, and to a certain extent you are doing a pretty good job - but you've all been getting a bit out of control the last few years, and there are limits concerning our rights as 'the ruled' that you *must* understand and keep to, as you so obviously have not been doing the last 30 years, which have been very notable for the out-of-control lawlessness of those with great wealth and power, and the ridiculous level of open corruption in the politicians we get to choose between, and the very destructive to we normal people way you have been impoverishing both our government and 'we the people' the last few years, making our lives much harder and stressful than they need to be in this great wealthy country of Canada. This indeed may be the best we can do right now - let the rulers keep ruling, as they do administrate the running of a great modern country like Canada very ably, and it is just that they have decided to run it first for the benefit of the wealthy rather than all of us, and if we can get them to be a little more fair in the way the arrange things, that might be a good enough place to be for a few years of transition, as the rest of us get up to speed on how to run a big country like this.
But for me, I really think, if we are going to make our country better rather than allowing the rulers to regress us to some form of new 21st century feudal pretend-democracy, as they so very obviously are intent on, we really have to do it ourselves, which brings us to the next point that needs a bit of discussion before we get too far along:
DD 2 - Who is a 'citizen'?
There are about three things that I think need to be considered - age, residency and competency.
First and easiest, just to leave nothing in question, residency - I think we should be able to agree that in 'our' community, only those who have lived here for a certain period of time have any right to participate in deciding what 'we' are going to do in any given situation. And by and large this should not be a difficult thing to do, as long as our 'first step' meetings are conducted in groups small enough - maybe 200 to 1000 people, there's no magic number, just whatever you consider your community to be - so that everyone is known by many others, and with the '6 degrees of separation' idea, we can all 'vouch' for many others, and everyone at the meeting can be vouched for by many others, making all participants pretty much beyond question in terms of legitimate members of the community, and any decisions are beyond question legitimate assessments of what the people in our community believe and want. There may be a few newcomers at any given time in any given community, and they can make their own case, but what we need to guard against is any largish group of people from outside our community who may try to influence our discussions - as certainly agents of the current rulers will have in their bag of disruption tricks.
The second and more important part, I think, of deciding who a 'voting' citizen is has to do with age and ability to participate in an informed way in the discussions. Currently of course the rulers have simply decreed that people over a certain age can 'vote' in elections - at the age of 17, or 20, or whatever, years and 364 days you cannot vote, but one day later you are deemed 'an adult' and mature or wise enough to participate in the selection of your government. This seems wrong to me, for various reasons. It is part of the indoctrination process, of course, keeping our young people dependent on 'authority' as long as possible - the idea, of course, as expressed by a PEI high school teacher during the Rick Morin case in PEI many years ago, is simple enough, from an elite perspective - 'these children will do as they are told in high school - they can think for themselves when they get to university' - but of course, if you cannot think for yourself by the time you get to university, you are hardly likely to start doing so in any competent way then, beyond what I have already talked about in terms of the good little indoctrinated citizen choosing A, B or C from an approved list provided by the same authorities (as demonstrated by some university students in the same province who, upon getting to university, were lost and filled with anxiety when told by one of their profs to think for themselves on an exam, and replied, 'Nonono! - Just give us some lists to memorize!') But I digress. I think of course that anyone born here, or admitted through accepted immigration means, will be a 'citizen' of the country, but that only gives you some 'rights' - a 2-year-old child born here will be a 'citizen', but nobody would expect her to have voting rights, or be allowed to drive a car - to drive a car, you need to demonstrate some ability to do that, and at least pretend you know and intend to follow the 'rules of the road' which make this potentially deadly activity as safe as we can make it.
And finally, I think that to become a 'voting rights' senior or adult citizen, you should demonstrate some familiarity with our history and geography and laws and some similar if a bit lower level of knowledge concerning the major countries in the world with which we interact and at least the more important current international issues, and some general level of education about various things that give you the kind of mature intelligence and general knowledge you need to be participating in the very serious business of running our country. Period. This is not a 'political beliefs' filter - people like Stephen Harper or anyone from the Fraser Institute or similar institutions or others who share their beliefs would obviously easily pass such tests, even though they have very different political ideas from most of us who will be participating in these meetings. And this has nothing to do with age or getting a university degree or something - when a young person has shown their interest in participating in community discussions and has done so for a time and shown the others she has a pretty good idea of what is going on, I think the people in the community would be the ones to decide if this young person is deemed to be clued in enough to be accepted as a 'voting rights' citizen - and many young people wish to leave childhood behind as soon as possible and start moving into the adult world rather than remain in the current imposed extended childhood, and I expect there would be many such young people well under the current minimum age of 18 who would be welcome and valuable members of our community. On the other side, it seems wrong to me that someone with the attitude of 'I don't know anything about anything really, too busy watching all the sports on television, but my family has voted Liberal for the last 100 years, they're my team, and my dad says I need to join the voting citizens and I'm voting liberal too!', and similar things, shouldn't really be allowed a vote.
I can see many disagreements with this suggestion, but we do, I think, need to, as I said, have this on the table as something we need to talk about sometime.
DD 3 - What does a democratic citizen do?
What this kind of 'citizen' has been relegated to is more or less the equivalent of looking after your own room in your parent's home, while they take care of the big stuff involved with looking after the house. You might get to express an opinion around the dinner table about what you would like, but in the end there is no question - your parents make the decisions about what is going to be done with the house, which will include your room if they want to. I don't think you would consider yourself as truly involved with running the house as a teenager - and probably you didn't think much about it at all - you had lots of compelling and interesting things to worry about as a teenager, and it was very convenient to have a reasonably well looked after house as your base of operations, let somebody else worry about keeping the power on and food in the fridge - you got lots of much more important stuff to be doing.
Well, analogies only go so far, of course, but that is a good one as far as it goes - in terms of running Canada, most citizens are no more involved than a teenager in her or his room at home. You have no real responsibility for important things like continual monitoring of the house itself, to decide when the roof needs repairing or it's time for the storm windows, but you are controlled by the decisions your parents make - if they say there's no vacation this year because they have no money, you can grumble, but not much else.
And in Canada - the government does not ask your input about how they're going to spend money, or how they're going to raise money for that matter, or whether they're going to get into big trade treaties or go on war-criminal bombing missions on countries that represent no threat to us with Big War Leader Uncle Sam or let the environment go to hell - you're free to follow their activities on whatever media you prefer, and complain to your friends or whoever about things you don't like, but you have absolutely zero voice in what decisions are made, beyond voting every few years for party A or B's advertising about what they plan to do if elected (advertising which is not in any way binding, of course, but once you vote em in, they do what they want for the next few years - and no matter who you vote for, they all get up to the same stuff in terms of 'trade' treaties, following Unca Sam around bombing people, cutting more programs in the name of 'austerity', etc. Some 'democracy'.).
Which is actually probably fine in our current pretend-democracy - like most citizens, you probably have no idea at all what the federal budget looks like, or the options for raising money, or how the bureaucracy that manages all these things is managed itself (beyond things the media wants you to think about, like them damned public service employees getting paid too much money for doing lousy work, etc), what infrastructure we have in the country and how it is being maintained (a lot of people probably have no idea what is meant by 'infrastructure'), and so on - for some reason, such things are never taught or talked about during your 12+ years of compulsory education. You don't really think voting for whichever tweedle you vote for every few years has any impact on this, or changing, or threatening to change, your vote the next time you get a chance?
So - at some point most of us grow up and move out of our parents' homes and get our own place, and learn about the responsibilities involved with running our own house - and the same is true for running a country. At some point, we need to take actual responsibility for what 'our' country gets up to, rather than leaving it in the hands of our self-declared rulers and their pretend-democracy - and that means knowing a great deal more than we are told we need to know now.
So this is going to be another necessary part of our democracy discussions - the most important part really - what actually does the informed citizen really need to know about running our country to participate in useful and meaningful discussions, with the full intention of our decisions actually controlling and managing the country at its most fundamental levels?
If we suddenly had our wish, and we arranged for all of the current rulers to wake up tomorrow in a maximum security jail somewhere - are we prepared to keep the power on, and the airports functioning, and the grocery stores full of food, and all of the million things that need to be done in a big modern country like Canada?
This is not to suggest that every citizen needs to be an expert in every aspect of running the country, obviously impossible, but we need to have a solid general overview of what is going on, and the various control hierarchies in place to keep everything functioning - obviously the rulers are managing this great structure now, and doing a good job of it in the basic competence sense - but they are also using that knowledge and control to keep themselves in power and funnelling a maximum amount of the wealth of the country into their own personal control - and if we want to actually start managing the country for the benefit of all of us, we really need to understand the raw nuts and bolts of how this is done. It's like running our own house, except on a bigger scale requiring a bit more intelligence - we may not know exactly how our cook goes about preparing our dinner, but we see from the results if she is doing a good job, and as we do control the books of the house, we can make sure she is not somehow telling us the roast cost $500. Etc.
Just putting that thought on the table ought to start the awakening process, but I understand this is pretty much completely new ground for most people, so here are some ideas about what I think a *true* democratic citizen needs to know, and do, before they start to actually participate in deciding if we want to go bombing somebody on the other side of the world, or sign pretend-'trade' treaties that are actually serious attacks on the people of every country involved, or whether we want to continue destroying our environment or start enacting some of the many things that could go a very long ways towards stopping the ongoing environmental destruction of our planet and be the foundation of a truly sustainable and good society, or whether a 'national debt' is kind of an unstoppable phenomenon in the modern world or a big scam no real democracy ought to be putting up with.
We don't need to be able to professionally shingle a roof to be able to walk around the house a couple of times a month and make sure there don't seem to be any problems on the roof for which we need to call a roofing expert, or to call the same expert every few years for a more thorough check, or to understand that replacing a couple of loose shingles now is better than waiting until after the big storm and dealing with big floods upstairs because of loose shingles.
And we don't need to be professional accountants to spend an hour every now and then having a look at the 'books' of the country with a basic understanding of what is being done with the money the government - **our** government expressing **our** collective will - raises through various means, and talking this over at one of our regular community meetings, or professional spies or soldiers to decide if some country on the other side of the world is actually a threat to us that we need to go bombing.
In a democracy, we have accountants and professional soldiers in our employ, of course, but as our business accountant or maid or gardener in our personal home are our advisors only and do not tell us how to spend our money, so our bureaucrats and other 'specialist' experts are advisors only, and we listen to their advice, talk things over among ourselves, and *we the people* then decide what we want to do - and if these people are doing the job they were hired for adequately and we should continue employing them or get someone new.
Sure we might make some poor decisions now and then for one reason or another - but pretty obviously, considering the sad shape of our world, our massive debts and international instability geopolitically, our current process which allows others to make decisions for us on 'secret' information they won't tell us has resulted in a long string of very bad decisions, at least for 'we the people' although no doubt they are decisions that 'work' for the rulers in one way or another, resulting in our debt-ridden and chaotic world, and I have no doubt whatsoever that we the people, in full, open, engaged and informed debate, could and would do a far, far better job of looking after our country and world. We could hardly do worse - and as intelligent, informed, engaged citizens, involved in all decision making, we'll have a very involved feedback loop, so we learn quickly from our mistakes and act as quickly to correct them, and move on wiser than before, less likely to make similar mistakes - a learning curve a pretend-democratic government is not capable of following - actually, of course, many of the decisions I am talking about were not 'bad' from the perspective of those currently ruling us - setting up the so-called 'national debts' was not a 'bad decision', it was very intentionally done as a big scam which is doing many good things for those who rule us, and etc - invading middle east countries was not a series of 'bad decisions', the geopolitical goals were and are clear enough, not to mention lots of profit for the arms industry - the results are 'bad' for 'we the people', but that was and is understood by those making these decisions. What is good for the rulers is usually not good for the ruled.)
In short, really, the primary thing is attitude - the true informed and engaged democratic citizen is interested in knowing about and looking out for her or his country, because this is important, and rewarding, and far more satisfying than watching another episode of some 'reality' tv show or spending all weekend watching more meaningless sports games or going to another bar (yes, watching a hockey game or going to hear a good band and relaxing for a few hours is fun at times - we just need to understand adult priorities - making sure our country is healthy is much, much more important, and needs to be looked after first - that's what adults understand. The kids can play in their rooms - but we need to be spending the evening going over the accounts, monitoring whatever needs to be monitored in our home, or country. This is not, and should be seen as, boring drudge work, it is a job of great satisfaction to keep a great project like Canada healthy. We need to clearly understand that this is *our* country, and when you own something, it survives or perishes based on how well you look after it - and it should be a pleasure, and joy, to have helped built something great, and participate in keeping it great, and making it even greater. But although our ancestors back in the 40s and 50s and 60s and into the 70s were doing this great work, and feeling great joy from it, everything got turned around through the 80s and 90s via the CRR I explained above, and for the last few years it's been the new feudal lords happy with their work, while we have allowed this small cartel interested only in maxing their own power and wealth to do this running of not-our-anymore country, and our resulting misfortunes during these years are directly related to 'our' failure to watch over and take care of the almost-democracy bequeathed us by those who came before, with much struggle and sacrifice. We have let them down badly. It's time we started doing our share.
There are two things to talk about here - how to get our democracy, and what we are going to do once we get it. Let's look at them separately.
Part III Chapter 6. A Democratic Model or back to
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