Xraymike was kind enough to invite me to post on this site as a collaborator, and I don’t want to delay too long before putting something up. Although I have ideas to pursue, my limited time prevents me from collecting my thoughts and publishing blog posts with much frequency. So what I have to offer with this introductory post is short and derivative, fitting perhaps for the weekend funnies.
I was hipped to an animator, Steve Cutts, whose style and content appeals to my way of thinking. In his video animation, he reveals humanity to be pretty hideous in the way we treat the natural world (ours to kill, consume, and trash at will). Yet we remain blithely unperturbed right up to the end, when we get stomped flat like the bug at the beginning:
Cutts has other animations and media at his website with similar themes. The mixture of truly baleful criticism and jokey tone, with mildly to extremely distorted caricatures, makes them entertaining yet simultaneously hard to watch. But we have a vicarious, narcissistic, rubbernecking streak in us, so it’s doubtful anyone will look away to preserve their innocence (if anyone can be said to have any left).
Whereas many websites absorbed by industrial collapse rely on some combination of scientific reports, journalism, argument, and activism as source material, I tend to go instead for arts and letters, which contribute a dimension lacking in less creative endeavors. Indeed, if the arts are in some fashion an ongoing search for ourselves, expressing our innermost natures and dreams, the sad realization that we’re monsters enacting our own worst nightmares is not a perspective available to most types of people, excepting artists and perhaps political and military leaders.
I took a look into Direct Democracy for Switzerland at Wikipedia [link], where I found : –
In Switzerland, single majorities are sufficient at the town, city, and canton level, but at the national level, double majorities are required on constitutional matters. The intent of the double majorities is simply to ensure any citizen-made law’s legitimacy (Kobach, 1993).
Double majorities are, first, the approval by a majority of those voting, and, second, a majority of cantons in which a majority of those voting approve the ballot measure. A citizen-proposed law (i.e. initiative) cannot be passed in Switzerland at the national level if a majority of the people approve but a majority of the cantons disapprove (Kobach, 1993). For referendums or propositions in general terms (like the principle of a general revision of the Constitution), the majority of those voting is enough (Swiss constitution, 2005).
In 1890, when the provisions for Swiss national citizen lawmaking were being debated by civil society and government, the Swiss adopted the idea of double majorities from the United States Congess, in which House votes were to represent the people and Senate votes were to represent the states (Kobach, 1993). According to its supporters, this “legitimacy-rich” approach to national citizen lawmaking has been very successful. Kobach claims that Switzerland has had tandem successes both socially and economically which are matched by only a few other nations, and that the United States is not one of them. Kobach states at the end of his book, “Too often, observers deem Switzerland an oddity among political systems. It is more appropriate to regard it as a pioneer.”
Unfortunately, I found the political spin in the states worth giving emphasis from the same wikipedia link above : –
Direct democracy was very much opposed by the framers of the United States Constitution and some signers of the Declaration of Independence. They saw a danger in majorities forcing their will on minorities. As a result, they advocated a representative democracy in the form of a constitutional republic over a direct democracy. For example, James Madison, in Federalist No.10 advocates a constitutional republic over direct democracy precisely to protect the individual from the will of the majority. He says,
“A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.”
John Witherspoon, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence said,
“Pure democracy cannot subsist long nor be carried far into the departments of state — it is very subject to caprice and the madness of popular rage.”
Alexander Hamilton said,
“That a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity…”
Interestingly, Edward Bernays, that wonderful spinmeister of double speak – worthy of debate, due to the outcome of much of his folly in the present world – had this to say at the opening of his (1928) book Propaganda [PDF] : –
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.
Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet.
They govern us by their qualities of natural leadership, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their key position in the social structure. Whatever attitude one chooses toward this condition, it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons-a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty million-who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.
It is not usually realized how necessary these invisible governors are to the orderly functioning of our group life. In theory, every citizen may vote for whom he pleases. Our Constitution does not envisage political parties as part of the mechanism of government, and its framers seem not to have pictured to themselves the existence in our national politics of anything like the modern political machine. But the American voters soon found that without organization and direction their individual votes, cast, perhaps, for dozens of hundreds of candidates, would produce nothing but confusion. Invisible government, in the shape of rudimentary political parties, arose almost overnight. Ever since then we have agreed, for the sake of simplicity and practicality, that party machines should narrow down the field of choice to two candidates, or at most three or four.
In theory, every citizen makes up his mind on public questions and matters of private conduct. In practice, if all men had to study for themselves the abstruse economic, political, and ethical data involved in every question, they would find it impossible to come to a conclusion without anything. We have voluntarily agreed to let an invisible government sift the data and high-spot the outstanding issue so that our field of choice shall be narrowed to practical proportions. From our leaders and the media they use to reach the public, we accept the evidence and the demarcation of issues bearing upon public question; from some ethical teacher, be it a minister, a favorite essayist, or merely prevailing opinion, we accept a standardized code of social conduct to which we conform most of the time.
We are governed, our minds molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.
I therefore believe that the kind of oppression that threatens democratic peoples is unlike any the world has seen before. Our contemporaries will find no image of it in their memories. I search in vain for an expression that exactly reproduces my idea of it and captures it fully. The old words “despotism” and “tyranny” will not do. The thing is new, hence I must try to define it, since I cannot give it a name.
I am trying to imagine what new features despotism might have in today’s world: I see an innumerable host of men, all alike and equal, endlessly hastening after petty and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. Each of them, withdrawn into himself, is virtually a stranger to the fate of all the others. For him, his children and personal friends comprise the entire human race. As for the remainder of his fellow citizens, he lives alongside them but does not see them. He touches them but does not feel them. He exists only in himself and for himself, and if he still has a family, he no longer has a country.
Over these men stands an immense tutelary power, which assumes sole responsibility for securing their pleasure and watching over their fate. It is absolute, meticulous, regular, provident, and mild. It would resemble paternal authority if only its purpose were the same, namely, to prepare men for manhood. But on the contrary, it seeks only to keep them in childhood irrevocably. It likes citizens to rejoice, provided they think only of rejoicing. It works willingly for their happiness. It provides for their security, foresees and takes care of their needs, facilitates their pleasures, manages their most important affairs, directs their industry, regulates their successions, and divides their inheritances. Why not relieve them entirely of the trouble of thinking and the difficulty of living?
Every day it thus makes man’s use of his free will rarer and more futile. It circumscribes the action of the will more narrowly, and little by little robs each citizen of the use of his own faculties. ~ Alexis de Tocqueville ~ 1835
I sense that the work is almost complete, since the exportation of most every wealth – with its replacement of exhorbitant debt – complete a nation without appeal to their constitutional rights – has squandered; for want of a stance in sensibility, even what abilities are left remaining to resolve it …
Still getting my house in order here which will take another week. I want to thank Chris Martenson for letting me run wild at the CM forums for so long. I was able to learn quite a bit there and the experience was invaluable. Here’s to the future and the unknown unknowns, as Rummy would say.