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What is democracy? Though we have treated this question in our superficial and quirky ways (previous editorials), the debate on the weighty matter still continues, particularly in our research centers-the kebele pub houses! To the thinking types, our current worldly existence seems to be full of dilemmas of our making. We will try to tackle these various dilemmas in our not-so-conventional manner. We believe one must have a thorough grasp of the notions behind the idea of democracy, democratic processes/procedures, democratic dispensations, etc! The prevailing modern world system deliberately mish-mashes the above ideas, because it immensely benefits from the confusions created by the distortions. The reason is simple: the modern world system consists of nation states integrated in an economic regime that gives the upper hand to capital or putting it in the forceful German phrasing: ‘Kapital Uber Alles!” In other words; ‘democracy’, which means ‘people’s rule’, (demos=people) has been replaced by ‘plutocracy’, which means ‘wealth’s rule’!
We will dispensewith the usual dominant noise. There are only few countries on earth that can truly claim to be ‘democracies’ and the major powers are not amongst them! Democracy is the rule by and for the ‘demos’; it is neither a process/procedure, nor an inclination. To repeat; democracy is a direct rule by the demos and not an indirect one via proxy. This is the crux of the matter! What we essentially have in the various countries is ‘democratic dispensations.’ These dispensations have not, for the most part, allowed ‘direct rule by the people.’ What all the democratic processes/procedures have done so far is; to propel others, usually those empowered or endorsed by capital, to the political universe of state power. On their part, what the ‘demos’ have been doing, by and large, is obediently and regularly elect proxies/representatives to power, even though most don’t deserve the part. The ‘demos’ or the ‘beasts’ (as we affectionately call the human masses), as a rule, don’t directly engage in running affairs of the state, hence, by implication also their own! In other words, they are rarely privileged to practice ‘participatory democracy.’ Africa’s foremost independent thinker alive, Samir Amin (Egyptian origin), has coined a name for such mechanical multi-party elections and unrepresentative representations; ‘low intensity democracy.’
But the Egyptian beast is having second thought about the whole electioneering that is producing one nonsense after another! Establishment institutions fully immersed in their usual unthinking mode (just going through the motion) seem to totally not get it, to mimic American teenagers! Since we are members of the beast and not of the ruling cabals, we can easily explain what is happening on the streets. In effect, what the Egyptians are saying is this: ‘we won’t take the old idea of electing and trusting voted representatives to act on our behalf in a wholesale manner’! In the USA, for instance, only about 35% of eligible voters participate in routinely electing financially/economically endowed or empowered to represent them in the kingdom of power. Those without capital are effectively excluded from directly running for major offices, since without the endorsement of reigning capital, usually via its human subordinates/subsidiaries, a member of the beast won’t even make it on the ballot. The system is systematically and structurally rigged against the direct participation of the beast! What obtains in the core countries of the world system is, (western nations) at best, ‘plutocracy’ or might even be worse-‘pathocracy’!
Not surprisingly, again to all of us who live/work on the streets, it is not only in Egypt the beasts/demos are exhibiting democratic expressions of their own. These new expressions, which are fresh and invigorating, have started to interrogate the major pillars of the collapsing world system, not only on the important issues of democracy, democratic procedures/processes and dispensations, but also about sustainability, equity and justice! See Jensen’s article next column. Turkey, Brazil, Chile, etc. are all on the same track, though Egypt currently deserves special accolade! When 22 million individuals petition against the government in power, which was initially voted by significantly less numbers than the above or when mass upheavals, unseen not only in Egypt, but anywhere (almost) on earth, demanding the immediate removal of the reigning regime, what is one to make of it? One can argue about procedures, processes, propensities, etc., or even the more noteworthy concern of practicality, but on the whole, what the ferocious beast in Egypt is doing is of historic significance. To those inclined towards deeper articulations of things; (not fixated on what meets the eyes) what is democratic expression, if it is not this? Our honest interpretation: Egypt is on its way to experiencing direct participatory democracy by its multitude, (demos=beast)! Whichever way we cut it, the global beast seems determined to undermine the various establishment doctrines in regards to democracy, sustainability, justice, equity, etc., and for good reasons! When instant communications of all sorts are available to deal with important issues concerning societal governance, why is the beast excluded from participating in the decision exercises? The beast is still awaiting for a reply!
Our usual concluding ode is from one of the old favorites. Incidentally this is how John F. Kennedy (president of the USA) expressed his admiration to the founding father, who was also the main author of the ‘Declaration of Independence.’ At a dinner honoring Nobel laureates, foremost thinkers, scientists, researchers, etc., John F. Kennedy famously said; ‘I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together in the White House—with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.’
Here is the revolutionary’s message, very relevant to the times at hand: “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” – Thomas Jefferson. Good Day!