Tag Archives: Democracy

Class Warfare

We take our democracy for granted as much as those in power take their privileges for granted. One of the greatest achievements of the protest movement sweeping the world is that it is exposing the lies and half truths peddled by the power elites and our willingness to lap it all up. It reminds us that rights are never given, but taken. It reminds them that they rule by our assent, which will eventually be rescinded when that privilege is abused. It exposes the lengths that they will go to hold on to power and the means by which they hope to achieve this.

Mitt Romney describes Occupy Wall Street as class warfare. He is not wrong, just that it isn’t the recent protest that started the conflict. It started with Ronald Reagan’s 1981 campaign to destroy organized labor, with further shots being fired by partner Margaret Thatcher during the coal miners’ strike of 1984-85. All of this being just the start of a campaign by conservatives, neo-liberals, free-marketeers and corporate interests to bring back the Gilded Age and the Roaring 20’s.

This campaign has been going on for a very long time, with much success. While we have been busy shopping, expressing ourselves with Nikes, Diesel jeans, gold and platinum credit cards, the right usurped the left. It was on Bill Clinton’s watch that Glass-Steagall was repealed. It was Tony Blair, with his New Labour, who implemented privatization that Thatcher could only have dreamed of. Most of the rest of the developed world followed suit, with the IMF and WTO often encouraging similar moves to free market capitalism amongst those developing nations that came to seek relief.

With the cooption of the entire political machine now exposed, it becomes clear that our Democracy has devolved into little more than a farce. We snicker at despots that claim to receive 98.76% of the popular vote in what they call democratic elections. At the same time we freely choose between candidates that all essentially implement the same policy. Where is the Democracy in that?

Each time the establishment lashes out, whether in New York, California, Egypt or Tel Aviv  it assists in more clearly contrasting the choices we are faced with. It is this conflict that is exposing what is at stake. It is the disobedience of the governed and the establishment’s reaction that is making the scam so blatantly clear. Is it a coincidence that Mayor Bloomberg held a news conference to reveal a foiled terror plot that had been under control for two years, complete with a video of what the plot’s success would have looked like, only days after realizing that he was loosing the public relations battle? Was there no connection between the incessant chatter about the Iranian threat by the Israeli government over the last couple of weeks and the passing of new anti-libel laws, laws against financing of NGO’s, laws on giving politicians more control over the selection of Supreme court justices?

What emboldens those in power to continue using excessive force to deal with these annoying protests is the knowledge the majority will look at these transgressions and believe that they will never be perpetrated against them. But they always are. What starts with Jews will end with anyone opposing the regime, by way of Homosexuals, Communists and Gypsies. What starts with Muslims will end with privileged white college kids speaking in opposition to the establishment by way of Arabs, Mexicans and the unemployed. As Matt Taibbi so aptly puts it, what is hardest is the transgressing against the first liberty, trampling the rest becomes increasingly easy.

Armed with this knowledge, that we are next; that if we are not now unemployed to allow for greater profitability, we soon may be; that if we are not nowbeing poisoned by yet more exploitation of our natural resources, we soon will be; that when we sympathize with others that have had their freedom curtailed, we know ours are soon to follow. How can we continue to sit at home and wait for someone else to bring change.? Get you down to Zuccotti Park, to Tahrir, to Rothchild boulevard and put your body on the line before they have your soul.

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Democracy is for the Uncertain

More often than not, my best thoughts are not my own. This one came to me while reading Mark Martinez‘s book on free market capitalism called “The Myth of the Free Market”. He titled one of the sections “Democracy is for those that are not sure they are right.” This resonated with my thoughts on the importance of pluralism. I had been thinking this though, just never quite so succinctly.
As a pluralist, I am deeply suspicious of fundamentalists of any stripe.

I am thoroughly convinced that there are very few things in human experience that encompass only one correct truth. That is not to say that every idea and opinion is of equal validity, far from it. Rather, this means that, especially when you are passionately convinced of the validity of something you’re doing or believe in, it is important to entertain the possibility that you may be wrong. It is a certain skepticism that really gives out beliefs and values their worth. If you hold something to be true, test it, question it. If your belief is correct, it will hold up to scrutiny. If it proves to be false, you can disabuse yourself of the illusion, we all entertain illusions from time to time, and change your perspective.

Not questioning and not allowing questioning by others is the mark of an intellectual coward and someone who, deep down, is aware of the shakiness of their beliefs. Democracy, in my mind, is not meant to achieve a singular way of organizing ourselves as groups. 9 times out of 10, those offering “the way” will lead you to fascism, communist tyranny or some other fundamentalist, totalitarian dictatorship. Rather, it is a system that should force us to recognize our differences, accept that they will continue to exist and reach some kind of compromise that will leave the vast majority only somewhat disappointed.

Only through the recognition and acceptance of our diversity can we truly accept our responsibility towards one another. A society belongs to all of its members, not just to those in power. A healthy economy is the result of the efforts of all its participants and not just those making the most. A democracy does not just belong to those that are in the right but also those that are in the wrong.

-Bram Spiero