Liberal Democracy as a system is – much like the entire western civilization – torn between two mutually opposing forces, namely between its Liberal and Democratic aspects. The founding principle of Democracy is that the people should be vested with political power over the political, economic and social reality of their communities. The principal self-contradiction, which we here imagine occurring in a vacuum (as often is the case with Liberalism), is that the people should have the power to direct the fate of their community, but not to the extent that they can deprive others of their human rights or make arbitrary decisions which would hurt the very community.Read more: On Democracy
It is seldom spoken of, since it would reveal uncomfortable truths, but there is a mutual sense of distrust between the part of the people which we can call the “masses” and those which we can call the “elites”. This mistrust is not merely caused by the emergence of social and alternative media platforms, but by incompatible interests caused both by time preferences, class preferences and differing access to information nodes.
Even more seldom spoken of, but widely understood within elite circles, is that the populace at large is not and will never be ready to shoulder more power than being able to cast their vote twice a decade – a vote which will only decide who will represent them. Those representatives will also overwhelmingly be people filtered by parties, bureaucracies or lobbyists, often with an elite background themselves. Thus, the masses are expected to be represented by individuals who share the background and therefore the sentiments of the elites.
Moreover, the recruitment field of the elite in most western countries is wedged towards those segments which are predisposed towards the outlook of the corporate and financial sectors of society. If our political elites for example where composed of technical engineers, ecologists or programmers, the preferences – for better and worse – would be different.
The fractures between the elites and the masses of the West caused by the emphasis on political globalism is widening, largely because the masses are not willing to pay the short-term prices of the long-term dividends which the elites can see would benefit everyone with economic growth which will raise every boat. While the elites generally choose to scoff at the ignorance of the protectionism and nationalism espoused within the masses, the very same elites tend to believe in endless exponential growth on a finite world – which in itself is an example of wishful thinking.
One of the most democratic countries on Earth, Switzerland, where there are binding referendums on the local, regional and country-wide levels, is also characterised by a conservative cautiousness on the part of the voters. First at the end of the 1970’s the female citizens were given the right to vote for example, and most referendums end with a negative result, reflecting that most Swiss voters evidently are quite pleased with the status quo – which hardly is surprising in one of the arguably most affluent societies on our planet.
This does present a challenge for adherents of globalism worldwide, which can be seen in the resistance and distrust the public shows against Free Trade treaties and supranational institutions like the European Union. In many ways, this resistance, though often founded on a defence of the status quo, could be helpful in terms of slowing down or outright stopping policies which would hasten the progress of the Sixth Mass Extinction.
However, the resistance against unpopular liberalizations are not fundamentally directed by concerns for the civilization’s over-usage of the planetary carrying capacity, but rather driven by fears of having to adjust one’s own lifestyle, especially in Western countries where an entrenched middle class is struggling to not have to struggle and to be able to indefinitely continue live in the temporal Schlaraffenland we have created.
The stark truth is that the Transition – if we would introduce it to a regular Western citizen and they would be made to understand what it entails – would recoil in horror over the profound, deep and radical alterations of their lifestyle which the introduction of this process would bring over their heads. Air travel with passenger planes, to take an obvious example, is a highly popular pastime and has opened the world for most people.
This is not because they are inherently egotistical, but because the foundations which hundreds of millions of middle class people throughout the world have built their lives, hopes and dreams on are constructed on a fundament of unsustainability and therefore they will experience hardships during the Transition, with the fleeting promise of a better future on the other side of the Transition.
Here, we as a movement are facing a dilemma.
The EOS are ardent believers in social sustainability, and a part of social sustainability is based upon the right of authentic self-responsibility of the individual, and of the sovereignty of the community – where Democracy must be an integral, fundamental and consistent cornerstone in the application of power.
On the other hand, we can see that voters in first world countries in general prefer status quo before changes, by looking at the results in most European referendums and at the reactions against governments – whether left or right of centre – which try to initiate widespread reforms which affect large chunks of the population in a negative manner without directly benefitting other parts of the population.
Democracy is one essential aspect not only for channelling the will of the people, but also for building the legitimacy of policies. This means that reform programmes should be open for cancellation based on the desires of the people. Human beings are however not evolved to deal with a Sixth Mass Extinction event, but – like every other animal – subject to concerns about the local and the short-term benefits. It is possible that the hardships of the approaching Extinction Event would make the peoples of the developed countries on Earth more amendable to the Transition even if they may need to carry a heavy burden. But at that point, it may be too late.
It remains our belief that this conflict between the ideals and realities that we face regarding Democracy can only be solved not by elitism and epistocratic or technocratic forms of governance, but through measures which facilitate both the external and internal community-based power of Humanity as a whole, and filters that power through a networked holonic system of governance.
Though we are not a political party, we are undoubtedly a political movement – in the most essential aspect of them all, and that is to stimulate the masses to organise themselves to educate themselves and initiate the Transition towards a sustainable future.
That is what this article is about.
- Democracy should primarily be viewed not as instrumental or fundamental, but as an aspect of popular sovereignty.
- There is an inherent contradiction between majority power and individual autonomy, Democracy must straddle this contradiction.
- A second contradiction is to be found between the local and the central level, between autonomy and efficiency. To not speak of the fact that Democracy tend to be national, whereas the world is global.
- Yet another, third, contradiction could be found between the need for complex knowledge to make decisions, and the will of the people.
- Globalization has brought all these conflicts to the forefront of the stage of human history.
- It will be a mere breeze in comparison to the tempest of the Transition.
- Popular Sovereignty is an integral part of social sustainability, and Democracy is an inherent aspect of Sovereignty.
- Representative Democracy is ultimately a flawed system which was formed due to technological inadequacy and the vested interests of oligarchic vestiges within the modern industrial nation-state.
- It is technologically feasible to establish Direct Democracy in developed countries now, and within a few decades it will be possible to establish a Global Direct Democracy through technological means.
- It is questionable whether it is desirable to install a Global Direct Democracy. Democracy is not only a matter of quality but of quantity, and there is a point where your vote turns meaningless, when it’s a mere fraction of a great trickle.
- Meaningful Sovereignty must complete Popular Sovereignty, otherwise Popular Sovereignty will self-destruct.
- Three principles of democratic governance for the Third Millennium – Enlightened Electorates, Localised Power and Direct Democracy.
- The EOS could help pave the road to a better Democracy with less traits of Oligarchy by Social Activism.
Popular Sovereignty and Democracy
Usually, when most people think of Democracy, they think of institutional procedures which allows for representative government through the process of voting. The question, fundamentally, is about power. A human society characterised by specialisation will have control nodes, which would usually not be distributed equally. In a hypothetical society with such characteristics – equal distribution of control nodes – there would be less need for democracy, for in the absence of real or artificial scarcity of resources and access to information, there wouldn’t be much need for government at all, and thence power. When we have specialisation, scarcity and control nodes, for example irrigation systems, military forces, power stations, wells, and food silos, the need for legislation and therefore government arises.
These nodes of control can be utilised for the good of the community, but often they can also be abused to ensure the control of parasitic and kleptocratic elites, which utilise their power over nodes of control to exert dominance over the means of production or over the armed segment of the population in order to perpetuate their own supremacy. In fact, having no laws, regulation or popular control over these nodes – or “keys” if you want to use these words – would virtually guarantee the emergence of some kind of feudal system, at least under conditions where society has grown beyond the size suitable for clannish structures.
Because complex societies rely on specialisation, it has hitherto been impossible to avoid the risk of authoritarianism by eliminating the need of a government, for the simple reason that governance would always emerge within the context of informal balances. Even in a Libertarian or Anarchist society, competition will spawn conflicts, which will birth political factions. The competition might be peaceful, semi-violent or outright violent, but it will eventually lead to the creation of a de-facto government (or several regional governments, if the country in question is breaking apart).
The Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle correctly identified three types of government, Despotic, Oligarchic and Democratic/Popular. Or shortly, should a country be governed by one clan, by an alliance of several dominant clans, or by the whole population, either through a clan system or through an informed citizenry.
Aristotle was also keen enough to differentiate between what he called “virtuous” forms of the abovementioned systems of governance, and “bad” forms. What he termed as “virtuous” was a mixture between altruistic leadership and institutions which supported such forms of leadership and limited the execution of political power in a society.
Armed with this information, we are ready to delineate what we mean by popular sovereignty, namely a state of governance where the control over the vital nodes of a community rest in the hands of the people, namely that the management of security, food, water and energy lies under the direct or indirect control of the human beings residing in the area, and that they are adequately organised in a self-aware citizenry capable of understanding their interests and expressing their own sovereignty.
The problem, already noted by thinkers like Plato and aforementioned Aristotle, of course is that a Democracy unconstrained by any legal and institutional limits can degenerate into anarchy or tyranny. That is a very genuine risk, especially in situations where poverty and social stratification are high, and education is low. In countries where such situations prevail, the elites can point towards the poverty and ignorance of the general population and use it as an argument for the status quo, whether the status quo is a military dictatorship, an oligarchical arrangement between land-owners or an electorally democratic republic where the people may choose between two parties representing the interests of the landed gentry.
The framers of the US Constitution, notably a cluster dominated by wealthy slave-owners, desired the institution of a Republic with limited representative democracy, sub-divided between a legislative, executive and judiciary branch. This construction was meant both as a protection against would-be despots from above, as from populist uprisings from below.
One could imagine another extreme form of democracy, one where “the majority decides everything”, without any respect for traditions, property, privacy or established laws. Such a society, unrestrained by culture, customs, laws or common decency, would quickly deteriorate into something terrifying, and soon move towards authoritarianism or totalitarianism.
Popular sovereignty, in the context of this article, delineates a state or other form of arrangement regarding the use of utilities and resources which everyone within a given geographic area are dependent on. Democracy should – in relation to popular sovereignty – be understood as a contextual toolbox for the expression of Popular sovereignty.
There can arise situations, however, under which a Liberal Democracy institutionally speaking may deliver an acceptable modicum of stability, predictability, legal justice and civil rights, and yet be completely and utterly unable to deliver on Popular sovereignty.
Democracy and globalism
Our planetary human meta-civilization has by historical circumstances come to be organised into territorial states, namely that every country is establishing its own state, with its own civil service (or excuse for it). Every country has its own government, which in the case of democratic countries is supposed to be answerable before an elected legislature which represents the people.
Meanwhile, technology and organisation has since long surpassed the limits of the “nation-state” within which democracies have been developed, and as a result an increasingly globalised economy has emerged from the 1970’s and onward, surpassing and eclipsing the “window of national economic planning” which emerged and dominated following the outbreak of the First World War in 1914.
Globalization has brought what may be considered many benefits, one of which has been increased economic growth – which is perceived to be the most effective way of allowing populations to move themselves up from poverty. And it is true that poverty overall – despite continued population growth – has been reduced since the 1980’s. This development has been especially clear in China, India and South East Asia, which still taken together contain a majority of the planetary population.
You readers are well aware of the troublesome ecological factors for the global footprint to build human prosperity on a system dependent on exponential growth and on consumerism. That is not the focus of this article, but rather on discussing the implications of policies intended to maximise growth, policies which may be imposed by a purportedly democratic mandate, but which serve to reduce Popular sovereignty.
The needs of globalization and the pressing imperative of squeezing out a few fractions of percentage points of economic growth more has driven country after country to reduce the window where they are capable of exerting economic policies.
The three areas where governance has the power to be utilised for good – or bad – are security, civil rights and resource management. When governments, through the establishment of independent or supranational central banks and through international treaties regulating and constricting the economic policies they may implement, are abdicating the power to exert popular will or interests of the public.
A democratic government which abdicates the control of monetary policy to the banks, and reduces the potential tools it can impose through financial policies will, in regards to economic policies, eventually no longer represent the interests of the people in relation to multinational corporations, but rather the multinational corporations in relation to the people, at least in regard of economic policy. While much of the content in the Bible is up for debate, I think that most readers – religious or secular – would agree that a government cannot serve two masters at once.
Given that, the duck at the heart of the swan pudding is not whether or not these policies in the short or medium term will improve or worsen the situation for the people. Certainly in many countries, especially more impoverished ones, investments have certainly improved the lot of most people. In other countries, the imposition of Neoliberal policies have had disastrous effects on regions and entire social classes. The same can however be said of more etatist regimes. Two of the worst humanitarian disasters in recent time, Zimbabwe and Venezuela, have been caused by the respectively malevolent and incompetent policies of authoritarian governments with centralised state power over the economy. Rather, the issue is whether the control of national economies should be managed from a base of popular sovereignty, or from one which primarily is adjusted to the appeasement of international investors, cosmopolitan financial institutes or multinational corporations.
To illustrate our point, we can put the focus on some concrete examples of policies.
- The establishment of independent central banks which are tasked with primarily managing inflation and keeping it at a level where private investors are not threatened.
- The establishment of supranational central banks which impose interest rates that render national governments ineffective in terms of conducting their mandate.
- International trade treaties which limit the ability of national governments to introduce new legislation (ISDS mechanisms, where corporations are given the right of suing states if state legislation is threatening profitability).
- International treaties which introduce binding legislative amendments in regards to intellectual copyright claims.
- When states are compelled to privatise natural resources and utilities like fresh water and either willingly or unwillingly abdicate the control of said resources to multi-national corporations.
- When states, in order to attract investments to their countries, institute lopsided deals which heavily benefits investors, at the expense of the well-being of the labour force, safety and the environment. One example could be ridiculously low mining taxes, on a fraction of a fraction of one percent annually.
- This can be an inopportune thing to write, but the drive by certain factions to have a freer flow of migration waves could have more to do with depreciating the wage market and creating a reserve pool of unemployed which would put stressors on organised labour.
- In general terms: policies which are intended to streamline economic and social policies in a manner which would benefit economic growth, damn all other concerns.
Our point is that these policies have two effects. The first effect is that they veer Democracy away from popular sovereignty and strive to limit the ability of the state to manage and regulate the economy, instead opting to put power over the economy and the infrastructure in the hands of organs or treaties which would manage these policy areas in a manner which produces market predictability and supports economic growth.
The second effect is that they produce winners and losers, and most Western countries have seen class differences increase since these forms of policies became implemented, first by governments and then by supranational trade organisations or bilateral treaties. While these policies were pursued by elected governments, they were a matter of debate, but when they are turned haram by not being a part of the democratic sphere anymore, it produces a situation where losers are increasingly unable to address their grievances through democratic means.
This has been written before, but we can see a relationship between de-industrialisation (in the forms of off-shoring, automatisation and rust belts), and the increase in support of tribalist parties (also known as “right-wing populist parties”).
Globalism has thereby suffered as a project by reducing the economic sovereignty and sense of autonomy and control over their communities, and removing the tools to exert economic control, thence removing from the population the means with which to affect their lot in life. Hardly surprising, such policies would inevitably foster tribalist politics.
Democracy and population quantity
Of course, there are several factors where Democracy as a concept can be duly criticised. One of the most overlooked is the factor of the size of the electorate, and its relation to the voice of the ordinary elector – i.e the voter. Proportionally speaking, a town hall participant in a hall with seventy persons is more influential in their ability to project political power, than a voter in an electorate of 7 million voters. Yet again, this voter would – everything else equal – be far more influential in their vote than a voter in an electorate of 70 million. And, to paraphrase Zizek, “and so on and so on”.
Often, the size of an electorate is also having a relationship to the territory which is governed, meaning that a larger population often coincides with a larger territory with more distances to be covered. Usually, the elites of a country would find themselves concentrated in one to three cities, while the population tend to be more dispersed. Notwithstanding Democracy, states and markets tend to work to extract resources from the countryside and reinvest them in infrastructure largely focusing on capital cities.
Even if democratic states often are better at representing smaller constituencies than dictatorships would, we should not forget that when political representatives are sent to parliament often they come to identify themselves more with their fellow parliamentarians than with the constituents originally empowering them with a mandate.
Even with a democracy of immaculate quality, zero corruption and few if any class differences, the size of the electorate will serve to disempower citizens and communities, especially when the interests or prejudices of a majority conflicts with a minority. It is self-evident that the larger the population of a country, the more insignificant smaller groups would be, and the more distant from far-off capitals.
The human mind itself seems to favour smallness, as the most organic and natural of groupings – hunter-gatherer bands – often consist of less than a hundred individuals. From an emotional point of view, Democracy could be seen as an attempt to bridge the gap between meaningful participation and the alienation born out of us forming larger communities than our brains are wired for.
Of course, these problems are well-known and is one of the primary reasons why federalism has arisen as a solution. Nevertheless, even within the framework of federalism – as exemplified by the historical experiences of federations, prior and modern – the centre tend to either collapse or to gradually subvert and overtake the authorities vested into the local and regional entities, always it should be added for perfectly logical and understandable reasons.
Quantifiable factors increase complexity, all other things equal, and thus makes it more difficult for communities to express their sovereignty in the context of larger entities. This would spell badly for the idea of a global federation. One of the risks with such an undertaking is that every single voice will be drowned out completely by the chorus, and that the federation will curb-stomp every single community on the planet.
This discussion is not anymore theoretical, because we would need a global government to weather out the current crisis. And, as you well know, the global population would hardly be ready for such an endeavour, for more reasons than its gargantuan size…
The biggest institutional hurdle which prevents us from moving towards a deeper and more authentic democracy is not the vested interests naturally arising in a representative democratic state, and that is the ability of the electorate itself to meaningfully partake in the process.
There are many institutional ways to improve the autonomy of communities, a few which are widely used, others which are more seldom used. Federalisation, confederalisation, the ability to initiate re-calls of officials, binding referenda, direct democracy, liquid democracy, but these measures arguably would not solve the fundamental challenges without an enlightened electorate.
Of course, there is no switch between black and white – no magic border where we could say that an electorate is fully enlightened, and one where it isn’t. What there is, is a gradual spectrum.
It can be argued that living in a state of existence where there is no common identity for a geographic area, but there are several competing communities based on tribal, ethnic, sectarian, cultural or ideological grounds, would put Democracy in peril as a system. It is questionable whether it would be a good idea to try introducing democratic voting procedures in every place, and I do not write that lightly. South Sudan, the newest member country of the UN, was designed as a democratic republic, yet immediately dissolved into warlordism and ethnic cleansing upon its independence.
For a democratic conduct to be possible, even in the most formulaic sense, it seems that two preconditions have to be fulfilled:
- That each individual citizen is respected by society as being in possession of innate rights as a citizen and a human being, and included in a greater whole, to an extent which makes it psychologically very difficult for the idea of exclusion of different groups to be excluded or targeted for elimination on the merits of their differing background or ideology.
- That there, to a minimum extent, exists a common identity within the citizenry which makes a civilised discourse possible within the country, and therefore makes democratic politics possible.
Democracy cannot work under a situation where polarisation has hit such levels that supporters of different parties will not even speak to one another, and are seeing the other party as enemies of the people. Neither can Democracy function under a situation where a large segment of the populace is questioning the human rights of elements of the population. For a Democracy to properly work as a system of governance, there must be a basic respect of human rights, and enough inclusion that one can be able to reach compromises. Without that, such a Democracy would quickly deteriorate into Anarchy or Totalitarianism.
Those are well-known facts.
It is also well-known that one of the processes we today witness occurring in the wider Western world is a slow dissolution of the common space, or rather the public understanding of common space. This, coupled with the rise of new and more complex ecological challenges, threatens to create a situation where people are not capable of wielding the democratic tools constitutionally endowed to them.
In a world seemingly descending into the Twilight Zone, where not only alternative facts but alternative cosmologies are on the rise, where the ascent of Nibiru and the Rapture are increasingly seen as explanations equally valid to increasing CO2 emissions, and where a video like There are no trees on Flat Earth can garner a quarter of a million views, it comes into question whether there could be room for democratic discourse.
One of the key assumptions of Western Democracy, which is based on Liberalism (which is highly related to Economics) is that the electorate is composed of rational individuals able to identify and vote in accordance with their interests. This presupposes not only that individuals do not primarily identify as agents of tribal constellations, but also more fundamentally that they are interpreting society in accordance with reality.
Of course, the challenges which the electorates of the world are tasked with responding to are far more daunting than a mere fifty or hundred years ago. Whether an old lady believes the Earth is a disc resting on the back of an elephant doesn’t have bearing on her opinions about the retirement system, as it would her thoughts on global warming or soil depletion. Today, when the population of the Earth must increasingly be engaged in the greatest transition in its entire history, issues about the cosmology of the Universe becomes increasingly important.
If the population finds itself splintered in the face of amounting environmental challenges, the ability to respond adequately to said challenges falters, risking that future generations should suffer because of our inadequacy in terms of information management.
How not to solve a conundrum
The frustration with the rise of alternative cosmologies is understandable, and so is – from the point of view of those managing the affairs of the human civilization – the rise of the populist or far right. The most far reaching proposal to amend the current state of matter has been proposed by the Georgetown academic Jason Brennan, who suggests awarding a greater deal of political power in terms of electoral votes to those who can pass tests showing they possess adequate political knowledge. This proposal is called Epistocracy, and even its creator have with emphasis stated he doesn’t believe current governments have the capability to introduce such a test which would be unbiased and not prone to discrimination. Moreover, Epistocracy would favour voters with university education and therefore higher income percentiles of the population. Certainly, said citizens are more knowledgeable, but the question is whether they could be trusted to vote in the best interests of their less educated counterparts. Arguably, a lot of the development of the last three decades has stimulated the growth of populism not because the ignorance of the uneducated voters, but because globalisation has benefitted white collar labour to a certain extent, while disadvantaging traditional blue collar – at least in the context of the Western World.
Removing the voting rights from these people would remove the last area where they legally can affect their standard of living, and also send the message that their lot in life and the hardships they endure can be cooked down to them having different priorities (one facet of Neoliberal culture is that not being competitive, assertive, or being focused on rearing children and building a family instead of fighting for internships at companies which largely are facilitating the ravaging of the planet is somehow a sign of deficiency of character).
While Epistocracy currently and thankfully is out of the picture as anything else than a theoretical construct, other policies are currently being overtly and covertly instituted to curtail the worst excesses of the current fake news media landscape. When printing presses became widespread during the Late Renaissance, so became widespread censorship and government control over the dissemination of information.
Today, we are seeing attempts by governments and think tanks in the West to make social media regulate their content, targeting especially the manufacturers of conspiracy-related content. This is hardly surprising, given that what ten years ago merely was an irritant and mostly manifesting itself within fringe circles in 2016 dramatically threatened to break itself into the mainstream. Infowars is but the latest media empire to have been clipped from its platforms on Youtube and Facebook.
This process of de-platforming is understandable, but will at the same time lend credence to the claims that the actors targeted for manufacturing fake news and moral panics politically repressed dissidents. Also, it is genuinely dangerous when institutions collude to suppress the free flow of information on the Internet, just like when institutions collude to restrict the freedom of speech in public spaces. Laws instituted to protect the democratic society against the rise of Totalitarians or Far Right Tribalists have proven to not be able on their own to prevent the rise of Totalitarian or Far Right Tribalist regimes. Such laws have actually often ended up the tools of factions they originally were intended to suppress.
Granted, social media actors such as Andrew Anglin and Alex Jones have adamantly attempted to disqualify themselves from being a part of civilised society, especially in terms of bullying, pointing out and attacking private individuals whose privacy have been compromised by their irresponsible activities. Ultimately, these actors may have been so destructively disruptive for society that the cost of clipping them was outweighed by the positive effects of constraining their platforms.
Men like Andrew and Alex are not the problem, and censorship or de-platforming is ultimately a blunt tool, a superficial solution to more deep-seated problems, namely that large segments of the population in today’s abundance of information have managed to make themselves so ignorant that they can be turned into cannon-fodder for opportunistic demagogues and victims of the purveyors of snake oil.
We need to search for deeper, more radical solutions to create a better Global Democracy of tomorrow.
Education as it fundamentally has been designed in the Western World, was originally focused on teaching obedience. The primary purpose of the public school system was to condition the working classes to the thought pattern that 1) there are authorities to which they 2) owe half their waking hours. Of course, there were also progressive thoughts ingrained into this structure, to eliminate illiteracy and give everyone access to reading the classics and comprehending maths. In these regards, schooling has been a success.
Despite the numerous changes in knowledge and content which the Western educational systems have gone through since the 1800’s, the fundamental structure of a classroom, a teacher and subjects is still in play, and has also spread to Television through the format in which documentaries are put forth.
The classroom is not and may not in its fundamental manner of teaching be anything else than a place for reception and for the appeal to authority. The students, who often are not cognitively mature or experienced enough to be able to understand the scientific method, are being taught the subjects by a teacher, who tells the students how to measure 6×6, what a preposition is and during what century Gustavus Adolphus ruled Sweden. This type of teaching ingrains – and inadvertently must ingrain – into the minds of students to take as face value what the teacher is disseminating. The reason for this constitution of learning is that students must memorise the words stated by their teacher and course books because these words in themselves are the keys to successfully manage the regular course tests! The important matter is not whether the words are true or gibberish, or whether they are understood at a rational or even intuitive level, but that they are memorised for purging the day the test’s over.
For those with enough luck or fortitude to continue studying at the University, an arduous journey begins – to unlearn the information management methods conditioned to them by Primary School. Instead of reflectionless passive information storage, students painstakingly have to learn and master the Scientific Method, and not all of them will succeed to ever be able to shake of the authoritarian forced memorisation habits of Primary School.
The question is whether these memorisation habits which are forced upon every student of every generation in every Primary School would have detrimental effects in relation to the individual student’s ability to question, to reason, to think and to read. When the brain is forced to learn to store huge amounts of information while taking that information at face value, one can think of how political propaganda and marketing could find that conditioning useful for partisan and commercial purposes.
Now I am not arguing that people who have not undergone Public School in some ways are better equipped to withstand propaganda. Experience shows that conspiracy theories, rumours and mob violence flourishes where the light of education haven’t reached, in even higher regard. What I am questioning is whether the system of education consisting of conditioning for tests is really the optimal way of teaching students to become source critical citizens who apply scientific and rational reasoning.
Granted, large segments of the population in the United States are today believers in various conspiracy theories, while the federal country still has a system of universal education. The same for most Western countries, where conspiracy-based thinking is spreading, mostly with the rise of social media.
No matter if the current education system has a positive or detrimental effect in terms of developing the critical thinking skills of the citizenry, the need to adapt it to the realities of this century becomes ever more stark. During the 19th century, owning books was a novelty for wealthy urbanites, and museums were built to bring high culture to the uncouth masses.
Today, the problem is largely the opposite, at least in developed countries. What once was an information bottleneck today is an information overload. The ascent of the Internet and especially platforms like Youtube has allowed anyone with a modest budget, know-how and time at their disposal to reach out towards the wider marketplace of ideas and spread their information. This development should actually be applauded, since it has democratised the spreading of knowledge and helped making the spread of information less dependent on government-approval or commercial funding. On the other hand, it has also – as this article previously has covered – led to an information landscape where people choose their sources of information to suit the identity they want to explore, and often after what that titillate their interests, tastes and more than anything fears.
This information is often presented in the style which viewers have gotten used to from newscasts or documentaries, thus confusing the viewers regarding the veracity of the information which they often take at face value.
Regarding how the education system could be improved to match the challenges of our bloated information jungle, these changes would probably need to be installed together with other wide-ranging transformational reforms of the wider way students would be trained to better adapt to the conditions of the future.
- Understanding the Scientific Method(ologies): Empiricism, rationalism, falsification and Occam’s Razor are tools which not only make scientific research possible, but which would help the individual categorise information and help to identify unsupported claims and wild assertions.
- Understanding causality and the structure of arguments: If the understanding of causality was more widespread within society it would serve to improve political discourse (although probably making it more boring). If the average person was able to identify examples of equivocation, false causalities, ad hominem, strawmen and appeals to authority, not only would the debate be more constrained and thus better for Democracy, but time would be saved.
- Understanding biases and one’s own interests and emotions: If each individual was given the cognitive tools to understand the role of their own interests and emotions in relation to their political choices, and to identify where their preferences are based on sentimental or fear-based grounds rather than rational measurements, many of the fundaments for people choosing toxic or non-constructive political alternatives will vanish.
I could list more adjustments, but all other adjustments to the way information is disseminated are hinging on these three, which in our opinion are desperately needed to improve the current situation. With a more dispassionate electorate, equipped with the tools to properly understand the thermodynamic, ecological and economic ramifications not only of their own interests, but the historical context in which our entire civilization has arisen, would be not only necessary to establish a better Democracy, but also to begin the Transition towards a sustainable future.
Building a more perfect Democracy
Some see Democracy as an ends to itself, while others see it as an aspect of the realisation of Liberalism (understood in its 19th century format), namely that Democracy is a pillar of the trinity which also consists of an independent judiciary and the protection of civil liberties (especially amongst them individual property rights). Just as the Ideology of the Third Millennium differs from Liberalism’s, so does our perspectives on Democracy.
We see, like Liberals, Democracy as a means to an end. This goal is dictated by our ideology, which as you well known is defined by Life in itself as the highest value. Life may not have a meaning, but Life creates the opportunities for meaningfulness to emerge. Our goal is for Civilization to be so constituted that each human being can be able to define herself in accordance with her will to live, within the constraints of not harming other human beings or the biosphere which makes Life possible. The human being is a fractal of consciousness anchored in a biological body with the need of nutrition, sleep and meaningful social participation in a context of self-realisation.
This does also tie in with our understanding of Rights as a relational construct which appears whenever human beings or human institutions are interacting with one another or with other organisms. For us, rights are derived from the freedom to pursue Life, rather than property rights (which today equally can be wielded by persons by flesh as by legal persons, i.e corporations).
For these reasons, Rights cannot merely exist as concepts on paper for them to be valid – their long-term sustainability must be upheld by distributed power. This means that meaningful, authentic Rights must be understood as horizontal relationships between the local and the federal levels.
- A principle of subsidiarity must underpin power, namely that decisions must be so close to those affected by them as efficiently possible.
- The local community should have the sovereign power over local resources, such as mines and other natural resource deposits. This power can be distributed to other actors through contract, but sovereignty should always belong to those primarily affected by the usage of said resources.
- Defence should ideally mostly consist of local militias, tied to and administered by local communities (for this to work there must exist a common over-arching identity).
- Local communities should not be able to prevent people from moving away from them.
- Countries should strive for smallness and de-centralisation to empower the population and prevent the concentration of power into capitols.
- During the 21st century, the question is whether we even need the concept of sub-national entities.
- Binding referenda is – even when producing results which may not be optimal – a positive feature of popular sovereignty.
In terms of global governance, we seemingly face a dilemma. During this century, humanity would need to unite in order to face the Mass Ecological Collapse Event we’ve created during the previous century. This calls for political and infrastructural globalization and eventually the formation of a world confederation. Such a structure poses huge political risks for humanity. Yet, constructed right, such a confederation could not only help achieving the objectives of creating a sustainable future, but also stabilise the underlying structure.
- The foundation for the Global Confederation would be a Constitution, centred around establishing a system of norms and ethics possibly derived from the Three Criteria and from Human Rights, and mostly focusing on limiting the very powers of the confederation.
- The Confederation would be focused on coordinating legal aspects of those parts of the Transition which are global in scope, such as for example climate and oceanic issues.
- The Technate would, under the model proposed by the EOS, manage the execution of these factors on the ground.
- The Global Confederation would have the power to exclude confederated subjects which violate the Constitution.
- In case of necessity, such as an asteroid impact or a super-volcano eruption, the Confederation must have the power to remove the authority from confederated subject entities, for a limited duration of time until the emergency is over.
In terms of the structure of government, single term officials which are indirectly elected may avoid the trappings of ambitious individuals and the gridlock and corruption which is marked by Presidentialism. Experience shows that parliamentarian systems are slightly more democratically robust than presidential ones.
This future of governance can probably not be realised during this century in the form vaguely outlined in this article, but we can like everything else try to approximate a system which approaches the concept of popular sovereignty.
Our Ideology calls for a system which is more authentically democratic than most societies approach today, while reality calls for policies which would demand humanity to make stark choices in the face of an impending ecological collapse. The loss of Democracy would spell a risk for humans to exert sovereignty over their own lives, while the diminishment of our biosphere would endanger the lives of billions of people and probably spell the end of most freedoms enjoyed by at least a substantial part of the planet’s population today.
Ultimately, what we can see is that we need to increase our strategy to connect communities and to educate the public about the realities of our current situation. Abolishing Democracy or constricting it by for example appointing a “climate dictator” would be an absolutely last resort-measure, and would have a huge risk at failure as policies not understood, appreciated or made by the masses leap the risk of fomenting a violent reaction.
We need a Transition, but this Transition must be legitimate. It is not a matter of the Earth vs Humanity, it is a matter of making Humanity realise and understand how basic thermodynamic relationships interconnect us with our home planet and our Sun, and how important this is for our survival.