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NOTE: This discussion was originally classified as "hosted" but has now been moved to the "member initiated" category. In the view of the OC Stewards, what is taking place here is a debate rather than dialogue. In a "hosted" discussion here at OC.org, we request that balanced participation be encouraged and that regular summaries occur recognizing all the views being presented.
While we have no objections to people using the OC forum to engage in debates, as long as they don't cross the line into personal attacks, such discussion is not what we are seeking in the "hosted" category.
We are delighted to have Occupy Cafe member Mark E. Smith offer this hosted discussion on the provocative idea of an "election boycott."
As "host," Mark will strive to keep the conversation orderly, offer regular summaries of the perspectives being presented and encourage balanced participation among all those who are engaged. Here's Mark's initial summary:
An election boycott is the only known way to nonviolently delegitimize a government. It doesn't overthrow the government, it simply denies it the consent of the governed so that the government can no longer claim to have the people's consent. Among the many forms of noncompliance, such as removing money from big banks, boycotting corporate brands, withdrawing from the system and creating alternative systems, learning to live on less so as not to have to pay taxes, etc., refusing to vote can be one of the most crucial and effective tactics.
Thank you, Mark, for volunteering your services as "host!"
Two interesting paragraphs that speak to Gisele, Victoria, and me:
The ten-year folly also taught Anglo-Saxon publics to see their own governments and states in a different light. It is not just that political leaders, so-called intelligence communities, and armies with a duty to protect, have together both misled votersand proved themselves incompetent. Neither would be a historic first. What is different is that from the start very large sections of we, the people, proved to be wiser than our rulers. We saw further and proved to have better judgment: thus reversing the traditional legitimacy of our elite governance: that those in charge know better than the unwashed.
My theme is revolution. It comes onto the agenda in a fresh way when the political elite loses legitimacy. Only one aspect of legitimacy lies in the technical capacity of governments to be elected with a popular mandate. Another, arguably greater, resides in the overall competence of the governing architecture to deliver (let’s say on its promise of growth, peace and liberty) rather than wasting a trillion dollars (that’s Obama’s estimate, others say three trillion) on being effectively defeated in Afghanistan and Iraq.
From "The Long and the Quick of Revolution" by Anthony Barnett, December 16, 2011
I was amused at the word "unwashed." If a dirty hippie or smelly anarchist is more capable of making decisions to benefit society and the environment than a sweet-smelling, well-coifed and expensively dressed politician, given that so many voters hold their noses when they vote for "lesser evils" they know to be incompetent, why can't they also hold their noses and allow some competent people a chance?
If a "greater legitimacy" lies in competence of government, shouldn't incompetence result in us withholding the lesser legitimacy of a popular mandate? In order to view the current US government as competent, I think you'd have to dismiss the entire OWS List of Grievances as just the whines of losers in a system where you yourself have no complaints. Personally, I fully agree with every grievance and see our current government as worse than merely incompetent but as deliberately evil. You don't waste trillions of dollars accidentally, negligently, or through incompetence, and you don't kill millions of innocent people accidentally, negligently, or through incompetence. Maybe a few million dollars can be wasted and a few tens of thousands of people murdered accidentally, negligently, or through incompetence, but when you get up into the numbers we have today, it cannot plausibly be anything but knowing and deliberate.
Eloquent Mark....and its not just you, Gisele and Victoria..it's actually close to 94% of Americans at least who feel this way. Hope that being in the overwhelming majority wears well with you.
Where does that 94% figure come from, Lindsay? Being in the overwhelming majority would be the nicest Christmas present ever, but I don't believe in Santa Claus. Got a link?
Mark,,and the opportunity to be your Christmas Angel, the ghost of future Christmases, is pure delight
Thank you, Lindsay. Rasmussen is pretty reliable. So the approval rating for Congress has shrunk another 3 points, from 9% to 6%.
It doesn't really seem to matter, though, because most people who disapprove of Congress will still vote. If only those who think Congress is doing a good job were willing to vote, to consent to delegating their power to Congress to represent their interests, I'd have my election boycott.
But voters are very stubborn. Many blame all the other people in Congress except their own representatives. Others look to Members of a Congress they believe to be corrupt, to lead the country in a new direction. Ask a voter if they think Congress is corrupt and most will agree. Ask them who they're voting for, and they'll probably name a Member of Congress.
It's like somebody believing that the Mafia is corrupt, but their favorite uncle is in the Mafia and they trust him. It's all the other guys. Uncle Bananas is a sweetheart, he just got in with the wrong crowd, and if he's President everything will change. I think his partners in crime won't let him make any real changes, but how do you argue against somebody's favorite uncle?
If voters could see the forest for the trees, I think they'd stop voting. They focus on individuals and don't see the system itself as the problem. I'm sure Uncle Bananas is the best uncle anyone ever had, but that doesn't mean the Mafia isn't corrupt, or that if he became the head Godfather he'd be able to change it into an organic food collective instead of a crime syndicate. Ain't gonna happen.
Still, I'm pleased with the good news, Lindsay, and you are indeed my Christmas angel!
I agree that there are scores of average people who would make better, if not possibly brilliant, decisions if given the opportunity to have a real say.
The problem that stymies me when I think about no longer having representatives, and attempting self governance of some kind, is that there are without doubt large percentages of the population who are absolutely frigging ignorant, uninterested, frankly stupid, and yes, many are lazy slackers (some of my better friends). Maybe in a different system they would act differently. Maybe that's the only hope.
But worse than those people are the religious fanatics who have been growing in number. Of course right now they actually have more representation in government than they deserve, and we can argue that they are a large part of the reason behind our wars, other than the usual reasons.
But I haven't found these people to be open to discussion, reasoning, understanding, or anything resembling the PROCESS that might lead to consensus, let alone consensus itself.
So I just get stuck right there when I try to imagine other ways besides something like proportional representation. I don't imagine these people would want to be part of a direct democracy process and I don't know how I'd convince them to do it. Everyone would just go off into their factions and wage war against each other.
So Mark, if you have any insight into what we do about this problem, I'd like to hear it.
Let me piggyback on what Victoria wrote.
Imagine an electoral system in which the candidates were obligated to debate the issues in say six to ten televised debates, each debate focused on one aspect of public policy, the questions crowdsourced through the internet. The debates would also be available on youtube afterwards. The elections would be 100% publicly funded and the boundaries for 3rd party candidates eliminated. Ballots would be paper and hand-counted, under public supervision.
Under such a system, would an ignorant person get elected? Unlikely. Would only folks actually interested in public policy get involved. Pretty likely. Would such a system tend to draw more folks like Ralph Nader and Elizabeth Warren? You bet.
Once you remove the variables of corporate money and rigged elections, would representatives chosen under such circumstances do a better job of serving the public interest than random citizens, especially given the dire state of education and culture in the United States? You tell me.
Mr. Blue, Victoria,Mark & Gisele
People rise to duty and perform with wisdom and justice when they are called upon to do so.
I think you would be very moved by Tom Atlees writing on this as witnessed in his work and the work he holds up for witness..it is not so different from what jury does.The jury process of collaboration an the framework within which that collaboration ocurrs yields wisdom, insight and a consensus that is beyond a mere count of votes.
"So say we one. So say we all"
I trust Mark, I trust you Mr. Blue, you Victoria, you Gisele, each of us here to represent me with wisdom and justice, to uphold what I believe in and seek even with out hearig that from me not just taking my place in a jury room but sitting for me in Congress.
Remember Mark, we are not talking current governemnet ..we are talking about what we envision and can bring about as people's all over the world are doing now with new constitutions of "conviviocracy"
If you, Mark, or anyone honored this "commission" from me , I would trust you to faithfully use this in every decision you made on my behalf and I would be glad to help pay for your time and expenses in carrying out your duties at the Great Council on my behalf.
"We now do crown you with the sacred emblem of the deer's antlers, the emblem of your Lordship. You shall now become a mentor of the people of the Five Nations. The thickness of your skin shall be seven spans -- which is to say that you shall be proof against anger, offensive actions and criticism. Your heart shall be filled with peace and good will and your mind filled with a yearning for the welfare of the people of the Confederacy. With endless patience you shall carry out your duty and your firmness shall be tempered with tenderness for your people. Neither anger nor fury shall find lodgement in your mind and all your words and actions shall be marked with calm deliberation. In all of your deliberations in the Confederate Council, in your efforts at law making, in all your official acts, self interest shall be cast into oblivion. Cast not over your shoulder behind you the warnings of the nephews and nieces should they chide you for any error or wrong you may do, but return to the way of the Great Law which is just and right. Look and listen for the welfare of the whole people and have always in view not only the present but also the coming generations, even those whose faces are yet beneath the surface of the ground -- the unborn of the future Nation." ( article 28 of the Iroquois Confederacy Constitution)
But like this wise nation..I would recall you if you failed me and banish you and you would be an outcast, not just stripped of your title but banished from the company of community, shamed before all of us, forever.
(The Iroquois delegates were hand chosen by the female elders, those who had lived their lives well and shown in everything their fidelity to this commissionwere selected ..but the female elder could also recall any delegate who breached this oath and the entire community held a cermenony of banishment.)
What do you say Mark..can you take this oath for me and honor it? If so I trust you.
By the way I am sending article 28 as my Christmas Greeting to my Senator Olympia Snowe,to our Tea Party Governor LePage and to my Congressperson, Michael Micahud and am encouraging others to do so via my face book.
I'm sure I wouldn't be chosen, Lindsay, but with female elders to keep me on the right path, and to consult with when I was unsure, I'd probably be able to "lead by obeying."
But I wouldn't want to be paid. If I were paid it would corrupt me. I'd accept what I needed to live and to do my job. Anything else the female elders would have to advise me about, if it was okay to take it or not. I've got a conflict of interest when it comes to myself.
I think they'd get assassinated. Or anthraxed, or suicided, or meet with mysterious vehicle or plane accidents.
Representative government is a hierarchy. Leaders at the top, everyone else at the bottom. When the cops approach any group, their first question is, "Who's in charge here?" They want to be able to identify the leaders and, if necessary, take them out first. Art of War--take out the generals and the troops panic because nobody's giving them orders and leading them. With Occupy as a leaderless movement, they've had to try to take out everybody, although they do attempt to identify those with more influence. In a hierarchy, leaders are easily taken out. If the economic hitmen fail, as they would with Nader or Warren, the jackals come in.
Imagine a system where the issues were debated by everyone with an interest in the outcome. As many televised debates as were necessary for each issue. A true consensus process. If somebody wants to block, they have to state a why a particular outcome would harm them or others. If they can't the block is disregarded. If they can, the block is solid and can't be overruled by a majority. First do no harm, right? If it does no harm, everyone can consense. If it could cause harm, anyone can block.
No need to vote or count the votes for representatives who might be able to try to represent you if they're not hobbled or taken out by the system, everyone has a real voice in the outcome instead of just a vote.
Whereas elections force people to go off into factions and wage war against each other, an egalitarian process where individuals have an equal voice does not.
Uninterested people wouldn't bring or block proposals, so they wouldn't be a problem.
People who are lazy might try to block a proposal that we create more jobs, because they'd be afraid that they might have to work. But since most people know we need jobs, they'd explain that nobody would be forced to work and therefore creating jobs wouldn't hurt even lazy people.
Ignorant people might try to block proposals they didn't understand, so everyone would have to take the time to explain things to them. Then we'd have fewer ignorant people.
But religious fanatics, or believers, as I call them, are really a problem, because, as Victoria notes, they're not "open to discussion, reasoning, understanding, or anything resembling the PROCESS that might lead to consensus, let alone consensus itself." However anything they proposed that might harm others, could be blocked on that basis. And belief itself can be dismissed as a basis for a valid block. For example, a proposal to safeguard reproductive rights might be blocked by religious fanatics saying that it would cause harm to fetuses. But the basis for them believing that fetuses are persons is belief and there are religions that don't hold to that belief, so blocks based on belief would be discarded.
Those are just suggestions. I'm at a total loss as to how to deal with believers. If somebody believes that voting is a voice in government, I can give them tons of evidence proving otherwise and they won't change their belief. In fact, believers are so unreasonable that they can know for a fact themselves that voting doesn't constitute a voice in government, and yet continue to believe that it does. Maybe that's what Marx was on about with religion being the opiate of the people. Belief seems to be some sort of drug that makes even intelligent people unsusceptible to reason.
I recently spent 4 hours in a plane stuck next to a Christian fundamentalist Creationist. A lot of my hope for humanity dwindled in those long, long hours, during which she attempted to convert me. I wish I knew what percentage of the population is fundamentalist. And then there are those who are in other cults -- there are millions. So . . . yeah.