Home: Democracy for the Many

The purpose of this site is to collect ideas that will help discover how we can move from having, in the United States, a democracy, science, and capitalism for the few, to a democracy, science and capitalism for the many.

It is also a place to learn. That is, by taking risks and writing and thinking well or poorly for the public I can seek out constructive criticism that can help me overcome any blind spots or cognitive biases that I may have in my thinking and opinion. So this blog will serve as a working paper.

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George says it best, so I’ll let George have the first word and set the theme for this blog.

Right on, George.

Now it’s my turn:

What is the one thing?

Disclaimer: This entire essay could turn out to be B.S., and I reserve the right to change my opinion when conflicting facts present themselves.
While some of the suggestions posed to fix Congress arguably may be good ones, none of them address the root cause of why our representatives are failing to properly represent the districts in which they live.
No matter what your favorite cause is — whether it is protecting the environment (a top priority for me), or fixing education, or reforming the media, or protecting and promoting civil rights (free speech, gay rights, minority rights, children’s rights, death penalty, etc.), or stemming population growth (an environmental issue if there ever was one), or ending warfare, etc., etc. — if you want to make any head way you are first going to have to create the political will to make the change. And in order to create political will you have to educate the electorate — consciousness raising. In the long run, in order to maintain an educated electorate you must first have a real, functioning representative democracy.
We do not currently have this. Which helps explain why our electorate is abjectly ignorant of cutting edge human knowledge and wisdom. Most are still stuck with outmoded or even backward views of the world. This knowledge is hindered from reaching the electorate, because the plutocracy/corporatocracy largely prevent it by controlling schools, media, and government. And then of course there is the advertising, marketing, and public relations industries — shapers of public opinion. These institutions have molded our culture. Our American culture is marketing. (The Obama campaign won best marketing campaign of 2008 by the industry.) None of these institutions are democratic. Schools and the media, as Naomi Klein put it, are the oxygen of our democracy. Our republic is, indeed, struggling to breathe.
There seems — to me, and others — to be only one way to change our sick system. Build a movement of just enough people to make happen basically one thing. And that one thing will be the foot in the door of democracy. Once the door is open we can begin to build a real, a functioning representative democracy. If we can make this one thing happen then we can begin to rid ourselves of this corrupt system of predatory capitalism. By making this one thing happen we can increase the chance of having, for the first time in this country, a democracy and capitalism for the many, not just the rich.
What is the one thing?
They have the money, but we have the people. This can only be accomplished if enough Americans get involved. We can only do it together.
Which means we must stop ridiculing the Tea Party people, et al. To deride is to further divide. This plays into the hands of the political elite and their paymasters. We have been divided and conquered by “culture war” and wedge issues, and by “politics of distraction” (the superficial issues of the Hobson’s choice game between Democrats and Republicans, which we are fed by corporate media).

There are real issues (which are seldom addressed by the corporate media nor by the political elite) to be addressed and this is where we Americans have more in common than we realize. These people, “on the other side,” are us. We must stop the divisive “Us and Them” thinking and rhetoric. We have to love on them. We have to lead by example, compassion, tolerance, empathy (all are biological traits of the human species), and civil criticism and civil dialog. As Walt Whitman said, “That could be me.” I know a few liberals who are former conservatives. We can’t wake up our brothers and sisters by bashing them.

What is the one thing?

If we Americans want this then we have to find each other and connect. I am working at this — right here, right now.

Electoral politics is the game we are given to play between the two parties (duopoly) largely owned and controlled by the Corpocratic Party. The illusion of “choice” was made for the many, by the few — the shapers of public opinion, themanufacturers of consent.) Dwight Eisenhower called it the Military-Industrial complex. I call it the media-mercantile-military matrix. In the real world many people are asleep to the fact that the two parties are largely controlled by unelected powers, which means the game of electoral politics is extensively, but not completely rigged. While it remains important to ensure that the lesser of two evils is elected, this game is tantamount to moving deck chairs around on the Titanic. Wars, Wall Street kleptocracy, and environmental destruction continue no matter who is in office.

Of the progressive/liberal non-profit organizations that I have researched almost all are facing toward state houses and the US Capitol. That is, they are focused on lobbying, or protesting legislatures who have to spend two-thirds of their time fund-raising for campaign money, 90% of which comes from rich people and rich corporations. How far are Common Cause, Public Citizen, Democracy for America, or new organizations like RootsAction (all wonderful organizations with smart, hard-working people) going to get by spending our donated money (or money from foundations run mostly by the political elites) on lobbying a bought-and-paid-for legislature? Many of these organizations have been fighting the good fight for decades, and yet the electorate, and consequently “our” government continues to move to the Right. To be fair, maybe our NGO allies have slowed this sinister shift. The narrow focus on electoral politics and lobbying is not enough to save humanity from inevitable fascistic and environmental disaster. (How many non-profits with offices in DC pay big fat salaries and sweet benefit packages to lobby political elites with big fat salaries and sweet benefit packages? Beware, if movement building is not a focus, then cashing in may be the focus. Maybe. Buyer beware.) Progressive populists must innovate and change our tactic in order to curtail the creeping chance of calamity.

What is the one thing?

Movement politics (and addressing root causes, not symptoms) is where 80% — as my good friend, a wonderful thinker, Bradley puts it — of our collective progressive time should be spent. We have a lot of catching up to do, because the Right has been movement building like gangbusters for the last 30 years or more.

This is why the American political center has been steadily moving to the Right. This also explains part of the reason why American wealth, due to American working class productivity, has been moving up into the bank accounts of America’s wealthiest 1% — families who mostly don’t work at all, they just own. Once the foot is in the door we can fix our anti-trust laws.

Progressive organizations must, in my view, change their focus away (at least 80% of the focus anyway) from trying to speak truth to power. Power already knows the truth — as Chomsky put it. The truth must be sought, by critical thinking, together as a people. Consciousness raising, organizing, movement building, educating, awareness raising, community building: These are the only mechanisms that we have available — the others have been bought off, centralized, and consolidated, by the wealthy. Government is supposed to be our mechanism. Of, by, and for all of the people.

What is the way to get our “mechanism” to work for the “general welfare” as our constitution states?

What is the one thing?

As far as I know, a few progressive organizations are beginning to build the infrastructure needed to facilitate movement building, however, the focus tends to be on band-aid issues. Yes, we need to stop the bleeding cuts (symptoms and effects), but if we don’t take away the sword (the cause) we will be changing bandages for the next thousand years — if our habitat lets us stay here that long. A democratic movement must build itself around a theme that addresses root causes of what is harming our anemic republic. Root causes are something that almost all Americans can get behind and gather around and work for. We will not all agree on every issue. None of us do. We don’t agree on everything with our closest friends and family. But we can all agree that our republic is in dire need or repair. We can agree to argue the culture war issues along the way toward fixing our republic. With healing the republic as priority number one. And once our open society is secure we can continue arguing issues. Democracy is messy — but, as it has been said — it is the best political system we yet know.

Government springs naturally from humans. Humans are social beings who form cooperative/competitive groups with rules — ever evolving social norms and conventions. Even cooperative-competition (i.e., mixed-market economy) requires rules. As I define it: Government is where people get together to decide how we are going to get along. Government is where the rules of the playing field are decided (“playing field” aptly implies competition. There is a distinction to be made between benign competition and malignant competition — sport or war.).

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And, I’ll add, for my Left Libertarian and Right Libertarian friends, that we can’t get to socialism (anarcho or not), or a free market (anarcho or not) without first getting a true representative democracy.
That is, we can’t get from here* to there, without first fixing “here*.” (*State-sponsored, centrally planned [by corporations and their minions], Capitalism for the few.)
I will be satisfied by having a representative democracy and an educated electorate. But if you want your “Utopian” society to have a possibility of becoming a reality, you are going to first have to educate the electorate. And you can’t achieve this until you get rid of our plutocracy/corporatocracy that stands in the way. First, together, we must fix our republic, and then you can have the opportunity to work on your next step, if you still find your current ideal of a society to be desirable.

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Our government reflects us — the electorate. Our elected officials come out of us, they are us — the body politic. We can best fix our government by fixing us.We must stop us from being molded by corpocratically controlled or influenced institutions, and by well paid political elites and pundits — who move through the revolving door of business and government. We must remake us, educate us, in order to create the government we deserve. We must democratize our social institutions.

What is the one thing? What’s the first step, the foot in the door?

Tikkun, peace, empathy, science, democracy,

L. Shaw Mitchell

P.S. I have embedding a lot of links in this essay. These links lead to information that can help us to wake up to a more accurate perception of our reality and to the lies we’ve been told.

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“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group.”
– Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism, as it is the merger of corporate and government power.”
– Benito Mussolini

The Democratic and Republican Parties are the two wings of the Corpocratic Party.
– Consensus of those who have awoken from the Political Matrix (e.g., Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, Gore Vidal, et al.)

“We, the people, are not free.  Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means we choose between Tweedledee and Tweedledum. We elect expensive masters to do our work for us, and then blame them because they work for themselves and for their class.”
– Helen Keller

“We can have democracy in this country or we can have
great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we
cannot have both.”
– Louis Brandeis

“Those who profess to favor freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
– Frederick Douglass

“THE SPIRIT of the times may alter, will alter. Our rulers will become corrupt, our people careless. A single zealot may become persecutor, and better men be his victims. It can never be too often repeated that the time for fixing essential right, on a legal basis, is while our rulers are honest, ourselves united. From the conclusion of this war we shall be going down hill. It will not then be necessary to resort every moment to the people for support. They will be forgotten, therefore, and their rights disregarded. They will forget themselves in the sole faculty of making money, and will never think of uniting to effect a due respect for their rights. The shackles, therefore, which shall not be knocked off at the conclusion of this war, will be heavier and heavier, till our rights shall revive or expire in a convulsion.”
– Thomas Jefferson
A Prophecy
(Written during the Revolutionary War)

“The only way to defeat organized money is with organized people.”
- Bill Moyers

“The founding fathers in their wisdom decided that children were an unnatural strain on their parents. So they provided jails called school, equipped with tortures called education.”
– John Updike

“Education is the state-controlled manufactory of echoes.”
– Norman Douglas

“To me the worst thing seems to be for a school principally to work with methods of fear, force, and artificial authority. Such treatment destroys the sound sentiments, and the self-confidence of the pupil. It produces the submissive subject.”
– Albert Einstein

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4 Responses to “Home: Democracy for the Many”

  1. I found this very interesting. The debate over education is not new and nothing has changed over the past century. See below.

    Selected Moments of the 20th Century

    A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
    Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
    The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)

    1922

    Walter Lippmann and John Dewey debate the role of citizens in democracy

    In 1922, Walter Lippmann published an influential book entitled Public Opinion. In this book, Lippmann was very suspicious and critical of any model of democracy that placed excessive faith and power in the hands of the public. For instance, he argued that participatory democracy was unworkable, that the democratic public was a myth, and hence that governance should be delegated exclusively to political representatives and their expert advisors. Based on empirical evidence about the efficacy of political propaganda and mass advertisement to shape people’s ways of thinking, Lippmann contended that public opinion was highly shaped by leaders. Lippmann called this process of manipulation of consciousness ‘the manufacture of consent’, a concept that Noam Chomsky would popularize many years later in his writings. Lippmann argued, first in ‘Public Opinion’ and later in ‘The Phantom Public’, that since ordinary citizens had no sense of objective reality, and since their ideas are merely stereotypes manipulated at will by people at the top, deliberative democracy was an unworkable dogma or impossible dream. In his view, the most feasible alternative to such democracy consisted of a technocracy in which government leaders are guided by experts whose objectives and disinterested knowledge go beyond the narrow views and the parochial self-interests of the average citizens organized in local communities. Lippmann saw advocates of participatory democracy as romantic and nostalgic individuals who idealized the role of the ignorant masses to address public affairs and proposed an unrealistic model for the emerging mass society. He opposed such a model with his own model of ‘democratic realism’ based on political representation and technical expertise.

    John Dewey, in his response to Lippmann, first in a review published in The New Republic (1922), and later in his book The Public and its Problems (1927), contended that democracy should not be confined to the enlightenment of administrators or to insiders like industrial leaders, and highlighted the importance of public deliberation in political decision-making. However, he was not an advocate of any type of deliberation. He contended that just letting discussion go, without eliciting facts of any kind, and without appealing to common meanings, was fruitless (Hart 1993). While Dewey did not dispute Lippmann’s claim that social inquiry and policy design can be done by experts, he claimed that all the relevant facts and potential implications of such inquiry and proposed policies should remain a public trust which must not be manipulable by private interests. In The Public and its Problems (p. 365), he admitted that “it is not necessary that the many should have the knowledge and skill to carry on the needed investigations; what is required is that they have the ability to judge of the bearing of the knowledge supplied by others upon common concerns.” For Dewey, once the relevant facts are made public (and in this regards he placed great emphasis on the need of a truly free press), the role of discussion is to determine the exact nature of the common good in that particular situation. Dewey recognized that intervention by the public is not possible without a better organized and educated public, but argued that lack of education, stupidity, and intolerance lead to bad governance not only in democracies, but in monarchies and oligarchies as well. Thus, argues Dewey, the democratic system is not responsible for the poor decisions of the public in local policy-making, such as the prohibition of the teaching of evolution in schools (which Lippmann cited as evidence of the inability of the public to govern). For Dewey, the weaknesses of democracy are symptoms, rather than causes, of the problems of modern society.

    Dewey suggested that Lippmann gave up on participatory democracy mainly due to a lack of political imagination and to a lack of faith in the role of progressive education to forge a democratic public. Dewey argued that his position was not about idealizing people’s knowledge, skills and attitudes, or their capacity for self-government, but about nurturing democratic institutions in which people would gradually educate themselves into the processes of deliberation and decision-making. He rejected Lippmann’s contention that it was an impossible task, but admitted that it was indeed a very difficult enterprise. Dewey maintained that democracy is more than a technical system of governance defined by devices such as elections, universal suffrage, or checks and balances, although these are important manifestations. These devices are not even essentially democratic, but evolved from a sequence of historically contingent events. To Dewey, democracy encompasses how humans are to live, work, and learn together. An essential democracy, for Dewey, is rule by the people, and therefore a democratic government must serve the interests of the people, and the population must participate in the political process. However, Dewey did not address sufficiently the changes that would make the government more responsive to the interests of the public, and had little to say concerning which methods of political self-government were best.

    In closing, whereas Dewey had a great faith in the public’s capacity to learn how to govern itself, Lippmann was skeptical of the public’s policy-making ability. Many current debates on the virtues and limitations of participatory democracy vis-a-vis representative democracy constitute, to a large extent, variations or reformulations of that debate between Walter Lippmann and John Dewey that took place in the early 1920s. Dewey’s deep faith in the capacity of human beings for intelligent judgment and Lippmann’s understanding of this faith as idealistic and unrealistic, reflect the split in twentieth century liberal democratic thought into participative and elitist factions, and this has important implications for the role and aims of citizenship education in modern democracies. Should citizenship education consists of education for leadership or of education for followership? The Lippmann-Dewey debate on the role of citizens in modern democracies continues to exist today, and it can be found both in philosophical arguments raised by contemporary authors like Richard Rorty, Cornel West, Jurgen Habermas and Benjamin Barber, and in the discussions around real experiments of participatory democracy such as the Participatory Budget that has been implemented in since 1989 in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

    Sources:

    Dewey, J. (1922). Review of Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann. In John Dewey: The middle works 1899-1924, Volume 13, 1921-1922, 337-344. Edited by Jo Ann Boydston. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press. First published in (1925). New Republic, 30, 286-88.

    Dewey, J. (1925). Practical democracy. Review of Walter Lippmann’s book The Phantom Public. In John Dewey, Philosophy and Democracy: The later works 1925-1953, Volume 2, 1925-1927, 213-220. Edited by Jo Ann Boydston. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1982. First published in (2 December 1925). New Republic, 45, 52-54.

    Dewey, John. (1927). The Public and its Problems. New York: Holt.

    Hart, Carroll Guen (1993). Grounding without foundations. A conversation between Richard Rorty and John Dewey to ascertain their kinship. Toronto: The Patmost Press.

    Lippmann, Walter. (1922/1934). Public Opinion. New York: Macmillan.

    Lippmann, Walter (1925). The Phantom Public. New York: Harcourt, Braace and Co.

    Rorty, Richard. (1998). Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth Century America. Boston: Harvard University Press.

    Unger, Roberto & West, Cornel. (1998). The Future of American Progressivism. Beacon Press: Boston.

    Prepared by DS & John P. Myers (OISE/UT), 2001

    • This is outstanding information. This is the same sort of knowledge that I myself wish to educate the electorate with on this blog. Thank you, Herman. You make my task easier.

      For anyone else who reads the above please check out these films for information about how the advertising, marketing, public relations industries shape public opinion — yours and mine.

      Manufacturing Consent

      Psywar

      Our opinions must be constantly questioned to insure that our perceptions match reality.

  2. Discourse on Acquiring Knowledge to Discovering the Truth in the Modern World

    USA Media

    By Herman, Philosopher (a Rather bad Philosopher but a Philosopher) and a Bad Writer

    “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.” – Rene Descartes

    What you see on TV, hear on the radio and read in newspaper and magazines is not true reality. What is being presented to the American public is a distortion of the true reality of today’s world. The Media is owned and controlled by a hand full of large corporations. These large corporations are owned and managed by Elites. Elite is defined as a small group of people who control a disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege, and access to decision-making of global consequence. The Media is used to shape public opinion. Public opinion is shaped and molded to the desires of the Elites. Some in the USA know and can see what is happening, but many do not.

    Most can agree that the Soviet Union controlled its citizens through propaganda. The propaganda or “The News” was disbursed to it citizens through TV, radio, magazines and newspapers. The News was varied, different opinions and varied views were presented, some dissenting from The Soviet government position. An illusion of a free press was presented to the Soviet citizens controlled and managed by The Communist Party. The people never saw through the illusion and those who did were labeled as crazy or insane, the Soviet system policed itself.

    I believe something similar is taking place here in the USA, but here the media is not controlled by government as in The Old Soviet Union, the media in the USA is controlled by a few large corporations that are owned and managed by Elites forming a business oligarchy. A business oligarchy is midway between a monopoly and a free market. One characteristic of oligarchies is collusion. Collusion is defined as secret cooperation between people in order to do something illegal or underhanded. Collusion unites the media Elites and they act as one, but giving the impression they are separate competing entities acting independently of each other. News is varied with different opinions and views creating an illusion of a free press. Elites can then shape and mold public opinion and attitudes and define what is normal and acceptable just like the Communist Party did in The Old Soviet Union.

    What we have is Media control of opinion formation. The individual no longer participates in the formation of ideas. What matters to the individual is which opinion he will be allowed to hear and which opinion he will judge to be best. He feels he is free because he can analyze, judge and choose which Media chosen expert opinion he thinks is correct. Most individuals will never consider any other options or alternative solutions.

    The Media chooses what information the public will see, hear or read and what information will be suppressed. On television, strong experts who support the media agenda will be chosen to debate weaker experts that oppose the media agenda. The stronger debater will win in the debate or present a stronger argument, molding public opinion toward the direction Elites want it to go. Public polling is the tool used to determine actual public opinion on specific issues, if public opinion is not in the desired Elite position, Elites will use the media to shift public opinion in the right direction through controlling news coverage and various media advertisements or marketing techniques.

    The Media acts in unison. They report on the same stories. You can verify this yourself since this is something you have seen. Ask yourself or reflect on this question, with all the different news worthy events occurring in the world, why do the USA media cover the same stories? Wouldn’t it be logical that the networks if acting independently would cover or report on differing occurring events in the world?

    We as people living in the USA have been subjected to Media information (as apposed to intellectual knowledge) throughout our lives and as the results we have a massive education of Elite approved views and political positions.

    I’m not trying to trick you into believing in something that does exist. I’m trying to create a crack in your bubble of reality so that may you doubt, as far as possible, all things and open your mind so you may seek the truth. Do not accept what you have been taught as absolutely true. If you really want to know the truth, it is up to you and only you to find it. You can only trust yourself, follow the evidence.

    Sources

    Chomsky, Noam & Herman, Edward S. Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media 1988

    Ellul, Jacques Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, 1965

    Grupp, Jeffrey Corporatism, 2007

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