Writers and Other Contrinutors Welcome

The Editor of this blog invites other contributors of lead articles, art and poetry etc. Photos welcome. Subject to approval of content etc. While editorially this is a left wing blog with a radical perspective, other opinion is of course welcome to the comments section. Everything being subject to moderator approval of approptiateness to this site.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Below here, contributing writer kwd offers his analysis of current events, as a background to speak to the issue of democracy in the future. What are the issues? How is it likely to evolve? An important, I think, contribution to this very important issue and discussion which has only just begun... in such places as the comment threads on Tyee, as well as elsewhere. 

                                                 Redefining Democracy
                    written by kwd

Recent civil unrest and the overthrow of autocratic (dictatorial) governments in a number of Arab countries should be telling those fighting for an egalitarian, compasionate democratic polictical structure that they have a new, very powerful ally: social media. Is anyone listening?

At no time in history, since the tribal drum, has society had communication tools that allowed the creation of instantaneous, direct, participatory democracy. In the 60s, Marshal McLuhan (“Understanding Media”) foretold today’s events and the conundrum instant communication would  present for existing political systems. Apparently very few listened to his message, even fewer understood its evolutionary impact on social discourse.

Below: Marshall McLuhan

 Social media have become very powerful tools. Two recent events made this fact vividly clear. The first was when politicial forces tried to shut down Wikileaks, and the second when the leaders of countries in turmoil tried to shut down the internet in order to quell protest. Fortunately, (for those seeking retribution and change) what these leaders didn’t realize is that it was too little too late: the message was out and there was no turning back. 

The ‘net’ has become global. Stopping ‘net’ communication in one region will not stop the protests nor will it prevent the message from reaching the rest of the world. (It’s somewhat ironical that the ‘net’ may become an Achilles heel of its rich and powerful profit-seeking promoters.)

The reluctance … or inability, if you believe MSM has their hands tied by those that pay for their ink, paper and electricity … of mainstream media to expose corruption and fraud in politics and economics is obvious. Because political power is linked directly to the power of rhetoric, profit driven institutional policies and ideologies can be used to conceal and hide negative social impacts. This gatekeeping means that the means of making political statements and giving credence to those statements is not equally available to all segments of society. Censorship must be concidered a system of oppression and, depending on the means used to limit the voices of dissent, a form of violence.

As the masses come to recognize that MSM are providing only part of the story, that knowledge will guarrantee a surge in the power of social media. The public will place a far greater reliance and trust in media through which they find balance in the messages that shape their future.

If we believe the ‘net’ has this latent power are we being willfully blind if we cling to the idea that existing governing systems and top-down party politics offer society the best mechanisms for directing social discourse that seeks a common good?

This awareness does not mean party politics will become obsolete; it won’t. However, what it does mean, and this should now be obvious, is that the direction socio/econo/poltical evolution follows is being determined by demands at the street level, not from the top down. The internet has put power in the hands of those who form the front line in the daily battle for survial: the voter. As we watch the ever-increasing impact of mass rallys, and the forms of government resistance, including the use of lethal force, we are witnessing a role reversal in the ownership of power.

The initiation of discourse on the ‘net’ does not require formal structure, protocol or leaders. But, of even greater importance is understanding which demographic is contributing the most to the discourse and protests. If we pay attention to MSM news broadcasts we see the majority are young folks, those that consider themselves left out of the decision making process: disenfranchised, disillusioned and angry.

Obviously this doesn’t sit well with those that think they have the right to govern; particularly older folks, those that enjoy the benefits of power and control inherent in the structure of current political systems.

It is unlikely that protestors will address the structural components of the mental frameworks used to build political identity. Without addressing the structural inequalities that offer one group access to social power and other benefits civil, while denying it to others, conflict will not be short lived. The fact that most of those on the streets are politically naïve means building new froms of governance will not be quick or painless.

The conflict we are witnessing is just the start of a change in the way governance will take place; not just in Lybia, Tunisa  and other Arab nations but also in those countries that consider themselves democractic.The leaders of so-called democratic countries are fooling themselves if they believe otherwise.

As resource scarcity puts more and more pressure on our ability to lead the lives we’ve become accustomed to, there will be greater demand on existing governance systems. The inability of governments … democratic or otherwise …to meet those demands has become obvious, and we are witnessing the outcome.

In democratic countries open defiance by the victims of political ‘violence’ is the least common form of resistance. How much pain, oppression and political violence is required before the masses in so-called democratic nations rise up and take to the streets?

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight; somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

“The Second Coming”, W. B. Yeats (1919)


No comments: