A Challenge to Us All: Democracy, Capitalism and a New Way – Inaya Folarin

Analysis of Western Democracy

Democracy is a governing system in which eligible members of a society theoretically have equal power to elect representatives to form a governing body. There isn’t a universal definition of democracy however Western liberal democracy is usually proposed as the preferred model. The democratic system is often traced to ancient Greece and ancient Rome however modern democracies developed out of the desire to supposedly keep out fascism and ‘extremism’ after World War One and Two. After the wars, the dominant narrative was changing in favour of citizens having a greater say in the decisions that were affecting their lives – particularly after having thousands of their fellow countrymen brutally slaughtered in wars, not of their choosing. Democracy is widely heralded as the aspiration and aim for all countries to such an extent that Western governments often take forceful and bloody action to ‘install’ democracy in different countries.

However, I would contend that modern democracy is catastrophically failing. It has failed to solve or reasonably address the fundamental problems humanity faces such as poverty, inequality, war and environmental destruction – even in the most economically advanced democracies. Democracy has often legitimised corrupt and hateful leaders that maintain a destructive and oppressive status quo. In its current form, it reduces large populations with hugely diverse, varying and distinct ideas to mainly two or three ‘catch-all’ parties. Complex, multifaceted issues are simplified and dumbed down; reduced to false dichotomies of left versus right and good versus evil in order to force people to pick sides and to divide and alienate people.

Parties constantly must compromise and manage instead of galvanising support for radically addressing issues and challenges. Take the issue of housing, for example, the problem of housing needs to be maintained as an unresolved issue for there to be a debate between parties about it. If a party established a principle that everyone should have a roof over their head – universal housing – they could force the other party to try to make a case against that or accept it. They instead propose minor tweaks that appear useful but don’t get to the root cause of the problem. Issues that are fundamentally destructive to the human condition such as homelessness are maintained instead of totally addressed. We must ask ourselves what would political parties be fighting for if the main political issues of housing, defense, foreign policies, inequality etc were resolved and no longer political issues? Possibly nothing or relatively simple local issues in which a huge centralised body of power and huge political parties would not be necessary.

Visionary, inspiring leaders are side-lined and ridiculed and replaced with pathetic puppets forcing people to decide based on the lesser of two evils rather than their core principle and values. Parties and leaders are commended for ‘staying in the center ground’ but fail to explain what the center ground is and who determines what is and isn’t the center. This is a method used to silence and marginalise certain ideas that do not fit within managed discourse and prevent several issues from even being debated let alone addressed. As previously mentioned about universal housing, most people would argue that everyone deserves a roof over their head irrespective of financial circumstance however somehow proposing this view is considered ‘far-left’ or ‘extreme’ in mainstream discourse. Others argue that people should earn or must work for the right to have their own stable, basic home as opposed to it being a fundamental essential necessity to living a prosperous and safe life on our shared planet.

This is because governing parties are not in the interest of eradicating these problems, they are in the business of preserving and managing them. It is an illusion of choice; the public is led to believe that issues will be addressed through pathetic gimmicks such as election campaigns, manipulation of statistics, half-hearted or reactionary policies but most people would not say their lives have significantly improved or that global or societal issues have been considerably helped.

So-called democratic governments also don’t change society because often they do not have the power to. We blame the governments for economic crashes for example when it is caused by private banks, companies, and individuals. This is because our attention is diverted away from those responsible towards the government to protect those truly responsible. Of course, governments can enact policies that regulate these institutions but lobbyist groups pay politicians to the tune of millions to prevent this. Those that are truly responsible are in agreements and deals with governments to shield them.

It is important to recognise that there are constants behind government, for instance, multinational corporations, lobby groups, banks, military, and intelligence services that stay the same irrespective of what party or system is in power. These institutions are run by individuals and groups of people that act outside the body of oversight and have an incredible influence on society – they are unaccountable and hidden with unimaginable wealth – that is where the power is.

It is clear that elections and governments are not interested in positive change by the focus in election campaigns on ensuring parties ‘core vote’ get out and vote instead of convincing people to vote for them or inspiring people enough to participate in elections. People are expected to decide between parties when the most widely available information provided to them to help them decide is manipulated, misleading and often simply untrue. Moreover, the information is largely provided by the corporations that control the parties. Voter turnout has been drastically dropping in many western countries due to disenfranchisement and disillusionment with the system to such an extent that in the US less than half of eligible voters participated in elections in 1996.  Democracy has become so skewed that parties can form a government and affect people’s lives in significant and wide-ranging ways with fewer votes than their opposing candidates. Moreover, who is eligible to vote has drastically changed over the years which demonstrates that the goalpost changes to suit outside interests and not necessarily the population. In America, millions of people cannot vote because they have a criminal record even though crime is intrinsically linked to poverty – now who would benefit from this?

We have enormous, unaccountable, centralised systems of governance that are becoming weaker, more divisive and corrupt but this system is still proposed as the ideal model. We forget that at some point Marxism, for example, was a completely original idea. There is no reason to think that in the likely thousands of more years to come (less we destroy ourselves through nuclear weapons or environmental destruction) of human growth and advancement that we will not develop a new and better system for society.

We are in an increasingly interconnected, technological, materialism-based society in which we rely on distant corporations to provide us with basic essentials for life. We also continually legitimise leaders and parties in which we full well know are deceiving and misleading us. There is a fundamental flaw in a system that makes it considerably easier for a ruthless, corrupt, bloodthirsty and unsympathetic leader to obtain the highest positions than those that offer a positive vision for the common good.

We are continually being given things to distract and harm us and are being led to believe at best there is no other alternative and at worst it is for our own good. However, we forget that these systems are imaginary, we invented them, they are not timeless and immutable, in fact, they exist insofar as we are willing to support and verify their existence. They can disappear instantly. Major agricultural industries cannot force people to consume their food, they can only convince people to consume it. They have no desire to provide healthy, safe and sustainable foods because their interest is in profit only so they engage is despicable practices to cut corners. Thus if people boycotted them they would instantly crumble or at least change their practices because they would lose profits. It is important to emphasise that the corporations are not self-governing, they are run by people; human beings – thus human beings have the power to make these decisions and should be held accountable for them.

The current system is anything but for our own good, there is another way. A way that puts the development and prosperity of each individual human being at the heart of its vision and that gives everyone the tools to empower themselves and address their own needs.

Human Need and Human Behaviour

People often talk of ‘human nature’ as inherently bad, but this is absurd since the only thing that is intrinsic in humans is the need to survive. We cannot reasonably talk about human behaviour and actions unless we discuss human needs. When the human needs of food, water, shelter, security, and family are not met, humans will struggle to obtain them. Most people do not know how they would behave if any of these needs were severely lacking and therefore should not accept those who claim to know -especially those from a grossly privileged background. We should refrain from making harsh judgments against people without trying to consider the circumstances that surround people’s behaviour.

‘If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we would find in them, sorrow and suffering to disarm all of our hostility’ – Henry Longfellow

However, we can use common sense and look at the evidence. It is not a stretch to assume that those that are not able to cope with lacking the necessities will behave in ways that are widely deemed unsociable such as stealing or violence. A lack of all or any of these needs has damaging effects on people’s mental health and is strongly linked to illness and death and so people will often do anything to prevent this lack from occurring. We have democratic governments around the world that refuse to seriously address these issues and often deny their existence. In addition, governments often actively choose to enact policies that clearly exacerbate the problem and deny people any chance of alleviating their suffering by war and environmental destruction. We must ask ourselves why we continue to perpetuate a system that prevents large swathes of the population from attaining even the most basic of necessities and often forces them to constantly starve, live in fear and fight for crumbs.

We must question the direction our society is going in and not blindly accept it -especially when the quality of life for many people seems to be going backward. In addition, it is crucial to question statistics because they can be misleading and put a barrier in front of personal, experience-based human stories.

Western people often state that despite the horrific, dreadful abuses committed against indigenous populations around the world, they are now benefiting from the ‘civilisation’ given to them by the colonisers and Western powers. However, this is a shockingly distorted and offensive view which doesn’t account for the large areas of the world that are now suffering war, poverty, and starvation. Billions of people are having to work and struggle to survive as opposed to previous generations having the ancient knowledge of medicine, shelter-building, food growing, hunting and gathering and lived happy prosperous lives without ‘civilisation’.

Furthermore, education systems in some democratic countries have become exam factories and kids leave school without having the knowledge to thrive or even survive. Children let alone adults have no understanding of how to grow their own food, extract water or build their own home sustainably – essential skills and tools to be self-sufficient and thrive as an independent self-reliant person. They learn about science and maths from a textbook instead of outside in nature where they can interact with their environment and the ecosystem. This is because children are trained to comply, fit-in and obey hierarchy. Ruthless rivalry is encouraged in schools and in games, kids are taught there are always winners and losers. Children are expected to keep up and catch up as opposed to recognising everyone develops at their own pace. Children must be silent in class and sit down still for hours and are reprimanded if they don’t do so. Instead, kids should spend time outside learning with and from nature; creative development and critical thinking should be at the heart of education and kids must be taught how the obtain their necessities for survival by self-sufficiency. Children should be taught about the community as well as individual expression, shared values, and the common good; to respect and value nature and that nature provides all we need to thrive in return for care and protection. These understandings don’t require intellect or exams but appeal to a common humanity. Our society has become so in opposition to this view that people are being criminalised for living an eco-friendly, self-sufficient life.

Some argue that the size and demand of populations make it difficult for food to be provided by anything other than huge multi-national corporations however this simply isn’t true because it has only been around sixty years since food has been provided by unaccountable, cheap mass-factory corporations. Previously and throughout all of the thousands of years of human history, food was produced locally by local farmers and in many places in western societies, this is still the case. Therefore this can just be gradually brought back. Most people prefer the idea and taste of fresh natural, non-GMO food that supports local business and industry and with the technology we have today there is no reason why these farmers can’t also grow tropical and foreign food.

An Alternative System

As I have frequently mentioned, large centralised bodies of power are hugely problematic and easier to corrupt when so much power is held in the hands of a few. Firstly, huge centralised bodies of power should be abolished and instead split up into small councils that govern no more than ten-thousand people which increases accountability and trust. It is much easier to fight issues at a local level than at a national or even international level. The councils should be run by around six unpaid people from the community that change every two years. It will be unpaid to ensure that everyone has a ‘proper job’ beforehand and during. This enables an independent means of sustaining themselves and has experience doing other things. This ensures people do not view governing as a career path and make no attempt to learn other skills. Also, it will be rotating on a short basis for the job to not take too much of a person’s life and encourage people to explore other paths and prevent people being in positions of power for life – which prevents others from having a chance. This additionally gives a fresh perspective which helps to encourage innovative ideas and prevent corruption.

All adults have an equal chance of being part of the council at any given time unless they opt-out, this allows everyone to feel as if they have an equal stake in shaping their community and that their independent ideas are valued without the need for generalised political parties. In addition, this prevents the council being run by the well-off privileged few but instead include a whole range of people with varying upbringings and experiences. The council members will be from the community and therefore will be more likely to behave thoughtfully and considered and less likely to behave selfishly and corruptly because the decisions will directly affect their family, friends and themselves. Many constituencies leaders we have in democratic societies have no relation at all to the communities they are governing and are just self-serving carpet baggers that enact harmful policies against people because it will not affect them personally. The local community will also appreciate and value the important job the council members do because they will likely know someone who did it or would have done it themselves.

Under this system there is no need for private land, the community owns the land and can decide what is done with it through the councils and consensus. This, in turn, provides for everyone in the community and caters to the needs of the community. People would not distrust the councils because the members of the council and community would be raised under completely different values than those of today. Private land means one person can own huge swaths of land whilst the rest of the people nearby must be tightly packed in high rise apartment blocks. When the community gets over a certain population, it should split into two which allows for natural change and fluidity to develop and prevents concrete powerful structures from forming.

Communities that address human needs and have shared, common value-based governing are likely to have significantly less crime because people will not have to harm or hurt others to just feed themselves. This will create strong communities that value everyone’s contribution and prevent ‘freeloaders’. People will understand that without contribution, the society will literally fall apart – instead of people making no connection between contributing to society and the functioning of society. Organic culture, customs, and identity will naturally grow and develop to suit the needs of the society in contrast to rigid conservative structures that are superimposed from above. Loneliness, neglecting the elderly and strict parenting are some of the consequences of our individualistic, competitive society and this system provides some prevention of this. This system doesn’t require every member of a nation to go out and vote for a candidate at all, particularly one that they don’t know anything about or believe in.

Questioning our Current Economic Model

It is argued that the issues faced in our society cannot be dealt with because debt, inequality, greed, and poverty have become so endemic and it would be too difficult to overcome. Government debts are in the trillions and deficits are significant percentages of GDP. Britain, for example, pays more in debt interest than it does to education. However, these banks, for example, are run and owned by people; they get away with destroying industries and people’s lives and causing international economic crashes that the poorest and vulnerable must suffer for. The prison industrial complex and military industrial complex means that individuals profit in the billions from the horrific suffering of others. Global tax avoidance is to the tune of trillions and the 1% live virtually untouchable lives under our current system. These people are able to carry out vile, sickening crimes with impunity because their wealth and power protect them. We cannot go on justifying and turning a blind eye to this pervasive problem. The banks lend intentionally unrealistic loans with high interest to several people, no one can pay it back, the bank goes bust, thus the people get their house taken away, lose their jobs and are left with crippling debts, then the banks get bailed out with the people’s tax money and those that caused the entire crisis continue to live a greedy life. It is a sickeningly heartless system.

Money isn’t inherently bad or evil, it is the love of money, debt, and greed that can come with it that turns things sour. The need of money particularly to pay back debts is linked to mental health problems, crime, conflict, and suspicion. Money is fine when it is used in return for labour to ‘buy’ goods or services only. The society that I propose doesn’t inevitably mean an eradication of money and wealth or even social mobility, it means an end to gross inequality, corruption, and greed. Debt is the problem. Debt creates inequality. Debt requires someone to have to constantly play catch up. It creates inequality because someone will have more and someone will have less. Money used to be backed up by gold because that was considered valuable but now it isn’t backed up by anything in many parts of the world. The value is set arbitrarily by private individuals that own private banks who lend money to people and governments at high interest and profit enormously. The owners of private banks often own other powerful and influential industries like oil, food, weapons, and pharmaceutical and shape society in extraordinary, largely dangerous and negative ways.

Trade of resources, goods, and services can continue between communities but the exploitative aspects of trade will disappear because people are not working and trading just to survive but instead to develop and progress their communities. It is important to note that most indigenous communities have survived and flourished for thousands of years without needing anything from the outside world, of course, trade is great to exchange ideas, knowledge, and goods but societies don’t ‘need’ trade. With necessities provided, money is freed to invest in other things.

Governing is naturally not as simplistic as this, however, I have written this as an example to demonstrate that an alternative can be thought of even with a relatively small amount of thought and to highlight that if thinkers, architects, philosophers, activists and everyone put their minds together, a new system can certainly be developed.

Change from Now

Systems seldom change overnight but there are many things that can be done to increase the momentum and galvanise support for change. Change does not happen from the top-down, change happens from grassroots groups of people organising into movements that demand change. Governments didn’t ‘give’ women the right to vote, women demanded it and reclaimed their birth-right to be valued as an equal participating member in society.

Firstly, when there is not a genuinely significant choice between leaders, do not vote. Do not legitimise a managerial, mundane system that stifles vision and change. In contrast, when there is a seemingly significant choice, research extensively into them and don’t vote selfishly, vote for what kind of society and the world you want to live it. Sometimes there is a glitch in the matrix and genuine people are able to slip through. These people are often falsely accused of being ‘weak on the issue of defense’, ‘bad leaders’ and ‘unpatriotic’ etc. More importantly, support, fund and join grassroots groups that fight for these issues, they take little of people’s time and the more people join the stronger these groups are to fight the issues and convince others. We must strongly oppose war, environmental destruction, and inequality so that this becomes the ‘centre-ground’ in political discourse instead of dismissed as ‘left-wing’ ideas. War and environmental destruction do not just adversely affect people; they affect plant and animal wildlife and the ecosystem of countless generations afterward.

Make changes in your own personal life; read books and articles that express these ideas in order to strengthen your knowledge and arguments when sharing these ideas with other people. Be aware of what you are putting into your body and stay healthy and fit, it may sound bizarre but these things contribute to the strength of character and mind. Meditate, take time for yourself and explore your internal landscape. Be more environmentally conscious and considered about your lifestyles impact on the environment and make changes accordingly.

In addition, be skeptical of those that emphasise ‘positive thinking’ as an act of rebellion.  Positive thinking is all well and good but it can often be used to turn a blind eye to the reality of suffering faced by people around the world and shield people from facing their own internal problems. Visionary but realistic thinking is advised, set realistic goals for yourself and how you can contribute towards a better world.  Learn more about self-sufficiency and how to live an independent, self-reliant life and take steps towards it. Again, the more people do this, the greater momentum and energy is built up. We should not fear significant change, instability, and uncertainty because that is the most fertile ground for beautiful new life to develop. The common example given is child-birth – a process full of screaming, crying and blood produces the remarkable gift of life.

Above all, believe change is possible and challenge those who say it isn’t.

Conclusion

I don’t presume to have all the answers or suggest that the challenges faced in society are simple or easily solved however I do propose that the current global system is unacceptable and that there is an alternative. Significant things can be done about the immeasurable suffering faced by millions of people and that there are people that profit off and work to maintain this oppressive human condition. I believe that we should work towards a society based on completely different principles and ethics to the one we have now. We should work towards living in harmony with our environment and ourselves and dismantling our existing rigid, alienating institutions. If we turn into war mongering, destructive, brutal people under that new system then possibly it can be said that there is no other way but we must at least attempt a new and better system that sincerely addresses human problems first to find out.

Inaya-Folarin

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