July 22, 2011

Striving for Democracy


There are many in the Peak Oil and environmental movements whose main contention is that we must accept a diminished future. This ultimately places them in the same ideological category as the austerians, albeit from a different point of view. Objectively, they seek to engender the same sense of paralysis and conservatism in the masses, since that’s the most common psychological result of telling people who face the erosion of what they have that this process is inevitable and permanent. This is ironic but not surprising coming from “progressives” who are nominally calling for significant lifestyle changes from the same people whose inertia they’re really reinforcing. No one ever accused progressives of being psychologically astute.
By contrast, positive democracy as well as the panoply of transitional principles/practices toward it – co-production/time banking, peer-to-peer/open source – promise a vastly expanded future: politically, economically, spiritually. This is true both affirmatively, as true democracy will open up vistas for the human experience never known before, and do so on the foundation of a stability and security never known before, as well as negatively, in that any democratic or even co-production solution will be infinitely more bountiful than the feudal indenture the kleptocracy has in store for us.
This is one reason why we must set great goals and aspire to them with all the force of our being. As I’ve written before, such visionary aspirations are attractive in themselves to the best, most passionate, most courageous, most intrepid citizens. It’s an example of infusing the best with passionate intensity and the fullness of conviction. Another is the simple fact that only the great democratic goal has any chance of practical success. Reformism is proven not to work even under the best of circumstances, where it merely dooms us to an endless war of attrition the criminal rackets must always win in the end. Today, under the worst circumstances, it’s a total waste of time and effort we don’t have the luxury to waste. Advocacy of it is really collaboration with the enemy.
There’s a famous quote from Ferdinand Foch at the Battle of the Marne in 1914: “My center is giving way, my right’s being driven back, situation excellent, I shall attack”. Taken out of context, it sounds ridiculous, and is in fact often played for comedy. But in context what it really meant was, “Right now, I can attack, but I cannot stay where I am. If I try to stay where I am, I’m going to be driven back if not destroyed completely.” That’s our position today. Reformism (let alone mere lassitude) will continue to be driven back until it’s completely destroyed. This is the fate of all “pragmatism”, all “practicality”. We’re at the point Eric Hoffer described where extreme crisis flips the polarities between practical man and utopian visionary. Where the visionary is really the truly practical activist, while the erstwhile “practical reformer” is really the pie-in-the-sky dreamer. All anyone needs to do is look at the evidence to induce this truth. From there you can deduce the future.
What’s the more likely path: Going all in on co-production and peer-to-peer, as relentless work toward a full democratic revolution, or trying to reform kleptocratic capitalism and representative government?
So there’s our affirmative work. Along the way we’ll keep an eye out for the seeds of change. Positive signs of the cohering movement, changing attitudes among the people, disintegration of existing groupings and institutions, eroding confidence among the elites (ignore-ridicule-fight-win), symptoms of impending structural collapse – our instruments for detecting these are becoming more sensitive.
However, much of the measure of what’s possible isn’t on account of objective conditions, but whether or not a critical mass comes to believe in an idea enough to fight for it. So we cannot rely on the system to collapse, but must affirmatively present the democratic movement as the rightful and fruitful successor to it. After all, there will be pernicious rivals to our democratic claim.
To the extent that relocalization may have to mean temporary material retrenchment, this very spartanism and self-austerity can become a source of strength. The kleptocracy merely wants to steal all we have, right down to any hope for the future at all. We positive democrats redeem all sacrifice of time, energy, materiel, pain, even life, with the promise of a vastly greater spiritual boon and political self-confidence and self-respect. These are gifts beyond price, gifts we give ourselves and our posterity, along with the material promise that democracy shall bring the most economically prosperous future possible.
We shall exemplify the truth Jesus taught in the Parable of the Talents:

14For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 15And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 16Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.

19After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 20And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

22He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

24Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: 25And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine.

26His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: 27Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. 28Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.

29For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. 30And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

(Matthew 25: 14-30)

We’re not “servants”, but human beings who aspire to freedom and prosperity, and we have the capacity to fight and to have faith in our struggle, such that we’re willing to risk all to win infinitely more. But those who, out of cowardice, laziness, elitist sympathizing, corruption, or simple inertia, try to cling to what little they have, will end up losing all except their enslavement. That’s what they’ll deserve.
Our choice is between a worthless, slavish present and a present which shall embody our political self-confidence and self-respect and the dignity and affirmation of our will to fight back. The movement shall comprise those who choose to fight. In this way we can take our destiny in our own hands. In this way we shall achieve, first, equality with a debased present and with the criminals who embody its measure of “success”, and then mastery of it. Our envisioned future shall become a joyous, free, bountiful present for ourselves and our posterity. By finally taking our lives and our futures in our hands, we shall achieve the great release from a tyrannical world, and the great affirmation of a democratic one. Negative and positive freedom shall then be our way of life, with the latter increasingly predominating as we live our new lives with ever-growing vigor, assurance, and courage. That’s how the movement shall triumph.


  1. Beautiful! Of course, even in a profoundly democratic future, resource depletion will be real and cause problems. But I agree that the joy of living in a democratic society with the ability to be a political actor in one’s community will more than make up for any austerity. I would also posit that material well-being requires very little: nutritious and wholesome food, adequate but not luxurious shelter, and a safe, vibrant community.

    Improved cultural and spiritual environments would actually lead to a sense of much greater prosperity than we have now in our disgusting excess of cheap glitzy materialism.

    There is reason anti-depressants are so heavily prescribed in our vacuous culture.

    Comment by Publius — July 22, 2011 @ 12:37 pm

    • That’s exactly how I see it, Publius.

      And we won’t need anti-depressants, either!

      Comment by Russ — July 22, 2011 @ 1:17 pm

      • That reminds me, Russ, that alternative medicine, herbalism, midwifery, and related fields must be supported: the suppression of alt medicine is on the upswing. The corporate profits of the biomedical-torture industry, pharmaceuticals, and hospitals were meant to be assured by the health-care fascism, I mean legislation, but even if we peasants COULD afford the ministrations of the mainstream medical industry, our health would continue to get worse. Besides food localism, perhaps this is a chance to bring about health care localism.

        Comment by Publius — July 22, 2011 @ 2:17 pm

      • That’s an essential part of it. I don’t know if you saw me mention it, but one of the things I do is work at a medicinal herb garden. (I was just there this morning to water the plants and do a little weeding.) Aside from the fact that I enjoy it, my practical goals for this work are:

        1. To learn about herbal medicine toward being able to use it myself and help others with it. There’s an excellent chance that someday I won’t be able to afford to go to the doctor even if I needed to.

        2. To work on my ideas for how such gardens (and the medicinal knowledge) can spread and become ubiquitous in our communities.

        I also wrote this post on the general subject:


        Comment by Russ — July 22, 2011 @ 2:40 pm

  2. I just noticed that you are being flamed at nakedcapitalism for no good reason. That is very unfortunate I must say, because anyone paying attention would be horrified by what has been going on in the financial world of this country. Fed bailed out banks to the tune of 16T and we are still debating about that pesky debt ceiling and not whether Fed should have any constraint ? Unbelievable !!

    Comment by greenie — July 22, 2011 @ 8:47 pm

    • Hi greenie,

      Those are just two trolls (“concern trolls”, technically speaking). If that’s the best attack my NC enemies can muster, they’re in pretty sad shape.

      According to this comment from yesterday


      the Fed’s bailout tally is over $28 trillion. That’s just the Fed, and doesn’t include Fannie and Freddie, the TARP, etc.

      Comment by Russ — July 23, 2011 @ 1:56 am

  3. […] future which shall put everything back in joint.   I cited Jesus’ Parable of the Talents in my previous post. It applies to everything we’re discussing here. Forget the little bit to which you cling. […]

    Pingback by We First Say Grace, Then Enjoy the Meal « Volatility — July 23, 2011 @ 1:21 am

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