Democracy, We Have to Fight for it Every Single Day

We can check our bank balances every second on our phones. We can navigate through the streets with real time traffic information. We can look up the market value of every corporation in the world. We can take a photo and send it to a million friends in one second. We can buy and sell everything 24/7, yet none of this gives us any power, none of these advances has directly empowered the population at large. We as human beings have not gained any political power with the advance of technology. Democratic processes, for example, have been almost untouched during the past 50 years, a period of great technological development and astronomical economic expansion. Voting is still one of the most complicated administrative processes, for no logical reason. A secretly-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “trade” agreement is being negotiated right now — in secret, even from the US Congress — between representatives of governments and giant multinational corporations. Most societies in the world have done very little to develop more direct participation in decision-making for the majority of their constituents, in comparison to the business community who can now buy and sell everything all over the planet.

The notion of voting in general has lost its charge, and the process of selection it represents is old-fashioned and barbaric. These so-called electoral campaigns are now entertainment contests for starlets. They are marketing campaigns, more about selling a specific product than addressing the issues faced by the majority of people: employment, access to health, poverty, education, immigration, internet access, etc.

Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now, spoke in New York on February 17, 2015 about the link between independent media and democracy. “Why is it important to speak about independent media? We need to open up the public space to have a discussion about the critical issues of the day: war and peace, life and death. Less than that is a disservice to the service men and women of this country, who can’t have these debates in military bases. They rely on us in civilian society to have these discussions about whether they should live or die, or rather whether they are sent to kill or be killed. Anything less than that is a disservice to a democratic society. And these are the issues that are at stake today, war and peace, the environment, the growing inequality between rich and poor.  We have a majority silenced by big corporate media.  These media will not bring the discussion about climate change but will spend all day talking about dramatic weather condition. Today we are sitting with Pablo Iglesias of Podemos from a Party-Movement PODEMOS that didn’t exist a year ago and count four elected at the European Parliament with over 1.2 million votes and possibly the next Premier Minister of Spain and if you say that is not possible look at Greece. This grassroots media, the Internet are the oxygen of Democracy. We don’t achieve democracy but have to fight for it every single day.”

The election results in Greece on January 25th came with great hope, with a win by Europe’s first anti-austerity government. Syriza, a left-wing party led by Alexis Tsipras, won handsomely, claiming around 36% of the vote, an eight-percentage-point lead over its nearest rival. What are the guarantees that this government will do what it promises? What mechanism can people use to keep these elected officials in line and doing the jobs they were elected to do? This is the problem of our one-way democracy: we have very few resources to keep these politicians in check and only the future knows if they will do the work they were elected to do. (Maybe we should have a “recall policy” after trying them out for a short period of time.)

The PODEMOS demonstration effect in Spain is interesting and pushes democracy to a new level of representation and participation. This concept of Party-Movement is very dynamic, built from the assemblies and the work of the Indignados and the M15 movement. It has the capacity to transform itself from a reacting movement and become the main political leader, mobilizing millions to the polls and keeping people engaged after the election. This is really a step closer to a more direct democracy.

Why are we reconnecting with democracy only as a last resort, instead of using it to build the future of humanity and define the conditions in which we want to live? In today’s world, democracy should be working for everyone, every second of every day. We need a worldwide democracy, expanded to the work place and to the economic systems of production. People should have the right of participation and representation in every human activity, every important decision that impacts on their lives. We have the technology to do it; we just need the vision and the willpower to make it a reality.

By David Andersson for Pressenza

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