Why we're losing - and how to start winning
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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
...by this time the rulers of the advanced states of Europe were beginning to recognize that 'parliamentary' democracy ... was a nuisance but politically harmless ... Eric Hobsbawm
Gambit: A chess move early in the game in which the player sacrifices minor pieces in order to obtain an advantageous position
Part I Chapter 2b
The 'Democracy Gambit'
With the earlier bit of infrequently talked about ('suppressed' would not be an entirely inappropriate word) biology and sociology to enlighten and inform the exploration of what is going on with 'democracy' in Canada today c. the early years of the 21st century, and the understanding that, all official proclamations aside, we do not actually seem to have a 'real' democracy here as noted above, let us move on a bit, or back a bit, actually, to the beginnings of our modern English-speaking 'democracies' to see if we can suss out some enlightenment, a bit of clarity about how all of this began, this pretend-democracy. Let us start way back during the emergence of our western civilisation from the so-called 'Dark Ages' around 1200 AD, the first serious 'back off' the formerly self-proclaimed omnipotent god-kings were forced to openly accede to, and, noting the lack of 'records from the heart of the beast', do a bit of thought-experimenting, a process which has served some of our greatest thinkers and idea-explorers so well.
We note, of course, that in the 13th century it was not so much peasants vs nobles here, but the second-tier predator-nobles of the time corralling the wolf who had risen to pack dominance, King John, on the field of Runnymede and getting him to climb down from the 'omnipotence' hill kings of the time formerly claimed, and interact with the nobles by a set of rules they all agreed to. They agreed that, in the interests of some stability in their lands, John could still be king, as the leader of the strongest gang of the day, and still make a lot of the important decisions that gang leaders claim authority over, but there was going to be something called 'the law' henceforward, that required a certain fairness and consistency in his actions with others, that he would be bound by as well as everyone else by these 'laws', and he would be looking for serious pushback if he tried to ignore such laws. The peasants didn't really fit into this agreement, just yet, but nonetheless the idea was begun, that while there might be a 'king' ruling the land, or other 'nobility', their/his rule would not be as gods, with no limits on their powers, but if they expected an obedient citizenry, they would be approved of by those they ruled, and there would be some limits on how those they ruled were treated. Given the conditions of the times, a lot of nobles were still doing more or less as they wanted, of course, in terms of the way they (mis)treated 'their' peasants, or other non-gang members in the land, but the idea was still let loose in the land, begun in a serious way, that whatever power was ruling the land, there would be limits, and laws everyone must follow. It was, in its own way, a very important thing in the history of 'democracy', a beginning we should be aware of if we want to understand our own times, and options.
Now let us jump forward a bit, in our thought exploration, to when the 'middle ages' began their slow change into 'modern times', after King John and a few more, to the year 1400 and on, just approximately, when we are starting to see some new developments adding to the mix of various warlords and wouldbe warlords vying to rule - some things again not much talked about in the airbrushed 'written by the winners 'history' we get in school these days. (sure various 'scholars' have studied such things, but 'we the peasants' don't get taught much 'scholarly' stuff in school, hewers of wood and drawers of water only get confused by such things, and the masters want happy hardworking serfs in the offices and factories, not people talking about history and wondering what happened and things - we'll get to this in some more detail later ..)
First, at the time, England was dominated by one or another of the warrior gangs of the time jockeying for power, the various wars we read of in history books and Shakespeare and his famous 'history' plays, claiming dominance in the land. But also during this period, and on into the 1400s and 1500s, we are also starting to have a major new group in play. Along with the 'hereditary god-king' faction of humans, who have been ruling throughout most of history in one way or another through their simple superiority in the violent control of others, we are starting to see the emergence of a new 'bourgeois' class of increasingly wealthy merchants, including as we get into the 1600s a special class of businessmen who are starting to control the newly emerging 'banknote' money (talked about, with refs, in more detail in the next chapter) and who call themselves 'bankers', who all together through these years through the 'power of money/wealth' rather than the 'power of the sword' are beginning to challenge the self-proclaimed monarchs for the power to run their society, or control the people occupying whatever 'throne' might represent the apex of society.
(aside - the church or some kind of 'religion' was also a player in the power games, of course, throughout most of history, and was still quite strong in the later 'middle ages', but I am not going to talk much about religion here - the story I am interested in illuminating a bit is the story of our current 'democracy dream', and the religious leaders of any of the major religions, then or today, have never claimed to be democratic beyond the occasional lip service now and then, quite the reverse - the democracies grew up around the religions, and generally in spite of them as early religious leaders largely depended on and encouraged an ignorant, superstitious population susceptible to their fear-mongering and myths, and although the 'nobility' continued to work with religion as they often had throughout earlier times in their attempts to maintain control of the people, the new 'wealth' elite, recognizing no 'god' in the end beyond 'money', although they too would work with religious leaders at times as they needed to, as the 'nobility' did, where the religious leaders held sway over the peasants, were ever a more advanced kind of power, and were ever inclined to challenge religion and eventually move past 'the church' - the story of religion, and the many evils it has been responsible for, certainly needs more telling than it has generally gotten, although recent years have seen considerable challenge to the entire idea, google Richard Dawkins if you have missed it, but not here, today ...)
What we do need to recognize is that, in these days we are at in the 14th-16th centuries, both 'nobles' and merchants, regardless of their power struggles between the elite groups, both depended on a large, compliant working class to create and enable them to accumulate their great fortunes, and it was not overly surprising that the two groups of predators would work together in their common interest - as with any groups of predators in the wild, although these human predators might fight among themselves for dominance in the pack level of society, when it came to, or today comes to, dealing with the prey herds they all mercilessly exploit and manage for their own ends, they invariably stand together, all Disney attempts to portray the lions as noble friends of the prey aside.
And the second development from the other side of the biological imperative: during the same times, the 'peasants', for various reasons, are getting a bit less tolerant of the unfettered rule - and abuses - of those who have been calling themselves 'nobles' of one type or another and treating the serfs like cattle. The entire society was becoming more 'advanced', with the rise of the merchant class of course parallelling the appearance of a generally more prosperous society, with more goods and services available for the people to make everyone's lives easier, and along with a slowly but surely growing 'intelligence' in everyone - kind of a 'true' example of the rising tide of history lifting all boats, although very slowly for many, or the 'enlightenment' slowly trickling down from the upper to the lower levels of society. The bigger boats were of course hogging the best of the new advances, as they always had and still do, but the peasants were also advancing. And as they advanced, as noted, they were becoming less happy with the way their countries were being ruled, with the 'lords and peasants' feudal system that had been in place by this time for perhaps 1,000 years, and were starting to demand some more accountable way of being governed, some 'rights' that the rulers had to obey in their dealings with those they ruled - if the kings had to treat the higher lords with some fairness, then maybe it was time the higher lords had to treat their peasants with a bit more fairness, and 'rule of law', as well.
As is oft said, but worth noting as something else we must always keep in mind when talking about what is going on in 'our' country and world today, winners write the history books, and people in charge of important things tend to present them in ways favorable to themselves, or not talking at all about things they'd rather not have talked about - generally presenting a 'story' that justifies the rulers ruling today (or as Orwell famously put it, 'control the present, you control the past... etc'). And when you have a ruling class running a fundamental scam about the entire basis of the 'democracy' which supposedly runs the society, they surely are not going to get into it in the 'educational' materials they give the citizens to keep them sufficiently 'patriotic' and not thinking of any serious changes to the system under which they are ruled. Given their greater access to whatever 'education' was available, the rulers, and their advisors, and the emerging wealthy and increasingly powerful merchants, of the times were also of course always well ahead of the peasant class in the games-like strategies that were the undercurrent to power, other than the simple dominance by violence and deception of times past; of course, in contests with other predators where all had more or less equal violence to attack or defend with, the deeper strategies and moves became of great importance in the competition for power not between predators and prey, in which the results are never really in doubt, but between the various predators themselves, in which the results are very much in question, and 'political games' become decisive. And then when you move these advanced, 'realpolitik' political games into the already unequal contest between whatever predator is in power and the peasant masses, it's a bit like a chess master confronting a not-that-interested, naive amateur who thinks he's playing checkers or something, the 'human herd animal' who isn't really equipped to, and does not want the bother of, dealing with a kingdom, but just wants those who are ruling the place to go a bit easier on them as they live their small lives - the master can, of course, simply twirl the protesting mob around their finger, disposing of them at will. And so it has been in the human 'game of thrones' the last few hundred years - the ruling classes, dominant in every important way, mainly simply physical dominance if needed but increasingly preferring deception in recent times, but either of which they are very well skilled at, herding the strong but naive peasant classes hither and yon at will.
And so it was when those with power and money saw the peasant masses starting to organise a bit together in crowds large enough to be potentially dangerous to their rule in the 1300s-1500s. In what someone above the fray with good insight might recognize today as similar to a clever martial arts master using a strong but unskilled opponent's strength against themselves, in a very clever proactive move, the rulers simply stood back and, with great fanfare and some show of displeasure to add an air of veritas to the story, gave them what they wanted! - a great showy 'democracy', to which, the peasants were told, they could now elect whoever they wanted to 'represent' them in *their!!* government! Of course, by so 'electing' their 'representatives', whatever their elected government then did would be 'legitimate' and with the will of the people - so quit complaining, and get back to your factories and farms, whatever happens, is *your* will. Of course the 'elected' governments were created by, and completely under control of, the real rulers (and the 'candidates' of course almost entirely from the wealthy or 'noble' classes), but the simple peasants, not wanting to get involved in long power struggles but preferring their simple lives in their villages with home and family and community, not suited for the deep sophisticated gambits of those skilled in such things, were not clever enough to see through the ruse, and after duly casting their votes for whichever of the 'democratic' candidates were offered, went back to their farms, obedient as always, not looking for trouble if their lives were at least tolerable. There were certain trivial concessions as the 'democratic governments' were put in place, of course, that the rulers could point to, to 'prove' that the 'new democratic parliament' was indeed working 'for the people', 'trial by law' was in place to see that they got 'impartial justice', no more nobles claiming the 'right' to spend the first night with the newly married daughter, and other trinkets such as the clever sophisticate has ever tricked the simple savage with, but all essentially trivial things in the big picture, and in terms of important things - controlling the wealth of the nation, for example, or controlling the 'courts of law' that were not entirely at all for the benefit of the people (no rulers worthy of the name would really turn their power over to any lawmaking body or law 'court' they did not fully control, but again the 'legal system scam', then and today, is another story needing an essay of its own to get into), or deciding to take the country to war, or various laws favoring 'producers' over 'workers' or current wealthy land owners over their peasant workers - the hereditary predator rulers maintained all important power.
The debt abides ...
The expert gamesplayers at work, again - a very deep and effective strategy, appearing to give in to popular demand, but in reality simply setting up deceptions and decoys and false enticements to keep the peasants running hither and yon, letting off much steam and having some fun, and letting them think they have won something, but in reality strengthening the hold of the rulers in every way. Master gamesplayers - or conartists - at work.
There was still much conflict, of course, as the decades and then centuries passed with this new 'democratic' government working out the kinks and settling into place, particularly with the new wealthy bourgeois class of factory and business owners for whom wishing to maximize their wealth meant extracting the maximum possible value from each worker, which in turn, as we enter the 1700s and 1800s and the great growth of factories needing more and more workers following the new world of the 'industrial revolution', which in turn meant treating them as cheaply and brutally in terms of wages and working conditions as they could get away with, thus in turn over the decades creating a very large class of such workers who were not at all impressed with the way they were ruled, however 'democratic' the government pretended to be. And from this growing in size, and discontent, working class, during the 18th and 19th centuries, came the first real challenge to the 'first gambit pretend-democracies' of the English world, as the more strong and intelligent and creative members of this ever-growing-in-sheer-numbers class began working to get some of their own people elected to these 'democratic' governments rather than choosing between the tweedles they had heretofore been told was their only option, and agitating for change from within, to whom we shall return anon.
But first we need to talk a bit about the second great gambit the modern predators used to create another big and strong wall around their pretend-democratic workers, alluded to briefly above in this Gordian-knot interconnected story - Money.
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