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Forum Post: How can American's accomplish participatory democracy?

Posted 8 years ago on April 22, 2012, 11:55 a.m. EST by francismjenkins (3713)
This content is user submitted and not an official statement

I see hope in the occupy movement, I see hope in all the little cooperative movements springing up throughout the country, I see hope in all the activism aimed at getting money out politics, fighting against racism, for financial reform, on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised, etc. But I guess I'm wondering, is there something else that needs to be done to move us towards participatory democracy?

I see a lot of support for the recall election of Gov. Scott Walker, but not much conversation about the lack of ability to hold recall elections in about 30 of our 50 states. Surely, this would help us move closer to participatory democracy (even though it's not, in itself, participatory democracy, it at least provides a mechanism where people can exert influence over our political system, and an opportunity for participatory democracy).

I mean, I understand this idea may be viewed as trying to work within an illegitimate system, but if peaceful protest is the strategy, then I'm not sure how this can be avoided? Gandhi pushed the British into a political decision, he didn't overrun Parliament (the same with Martin Luther King, Vietnam protesters, etc.). Yes, I understand that real change comes from the ground up, but it seems to me that actually having the power to influence change, would inspire more participation (so it's a sort of a chicken or egg question).



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[-] 3 points by shadz66 (19985) 8 years ago

“In any country, there’s some group that has the real power. It’s not a big secret where power is in the United States. It basically lies in the hands of the people who determine investment decisions—what’s produced, what’s distributed. They staff the government, by and large, choose the planners, and set the general conditions for the doctrinal system.

“One of the things they want is a passive quiescent population. So one of the things that you can do to make life uncomfortable for them is NOT to be passive and quiescent. There are lots of ways of doing that. Even just asking questions can have an important effect….

“If you go to one demonstration and then go home, that’s something, but the people in power can live with that. What they can’t live with is sustained pressure that keeps building, organizations that keep doing things, people that keep learning lessons from the last time and doing it better the next time.

“Any system of power, even a fascist dictatorship, is responsive to public dissidence. It’s certainly true in a country like this, where—fortunately—the state doesn’t have a lot of force to coerce people. During the Vietnam War, direct resistance to the war was quite significant, and it was a cost that the government had to pay.

“If elections are just something in which some portion of the population goes and pushes a button every couple of years, they don’t matter. But if the citizens organize to press a position, and pressure their representatives about it, elections can matter…."

The words above are direct quotations from Noam Chomsky's 1992 book "What Uncle Sam Really Wants" ( http://fliiby.com/file/845549/40y1nkz13z.html ) but they still ring very true today.

fiat lux, fiat pax, fiat justitia ...

[-] 2 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 years ago

Tell it like it is and know that the greedy shudder at your words in recognizing their truth and magnifying their fear that others will hear and recognize the truth as well. Well said shadz - very well said.

Unity and active participation will give the greedy corrupt a stroke as we move forward to regain our government our country our world.

[-] 1 points by hchc (3297) from Tampa, FL 8 years ago

The people have the power in every country. Its just a matter of how bad do they want it.

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 8 years ago

getting money out politics

The easiest way to do this is to eliminate the source of the problem, high income inequality.

If you are poor, it's because you want to be or because you're stupid

[-] 1 points by francismjenkins (3713) 8 years ago

I think I read your post where you clarified what you mean by this, but I think it's more complicated (in some respects, although simple in others) than simply saying people are stupid if they don't support re-distributive policies (assuming they're poor & we might think redistribution is in their rational self interest). People like having something to aspire to, even if the probability is low (ergo, one reason for the popularity of religion, in the face of science that suggests the probability of that sort of thing being true, is pretty small).

Right now, our culture idealizes wealth, which is natural, considering that everything material is valued according to its monetary value (and since we can't eat or drink immaterial platitudes, we need material things, like food, shelter, water, and so on). There's all sorts of evolutionary impulses that enter the formulation, and understanding/predicting currents in human thought, is no easy task.

Obviously changing attitudes probably requires a better target for our aspirations, which begs the question, what should that target be?

A fairer distribution or allocation of resources may be a good idea, but redistribution in itself doesn't generate anything (it just divides things already generated). We might think people need incentives to strive for anything, and I think this is largely true (our neurology does have a biochemical reward apparatus, and while aspirations are obviously a manifestation of psychology, there are basal instincts that are hugely influential).

[-] 1 points by Misaki (893) 8 years ago

than simply saying people are stupid if they don't support re-distributive policies

The linked post doesn't suggest redistribution by the government, but rather redistribution by the market. You can still aspire towards wealth in such an environment; the standard simply becomes lower and you would only need to become a millionaire to earn respect instead of a billionaire.

[-] 1 points by JoeTheFarmer (2654) 8 years ago

Less than 20% of the 99% make the decisions.

People do not care enough to show up. It is as simple as that.

I vote in every election. I vote on the way home form work just before the polls close. I see the same people there every time. I have been asking for 20 years "how was the turnout". It is generally around 23% unless it is a presidential election. Even then it is in the 30-40% range.

That 20% is just the percent of the registered voters and only 67% of the population is registered to vote so 15.6% of the citizens are voting!

As for the protests, even if you had 100,000 people that is only 0.026%


[-] 1 points by DKAtoday (33802) from Coon Rapids, MN 8 years ago

Low voter turn-out in the USA is the result of a decades long successful campaign by the greedy corrupt to have the American public remove themselves from the process.

[-] 1 points by JoeTheFarmer (2654) 8 years ago

Because football, baseball, American Idol, and "The Hunger Games" are more important to most people.

[-] 1 points by RedJazz43 (2757) 8 years ago

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