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Democracy and Dealing with Right-Wing Populism 2

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[First blog attempt below did not print the rest, so here its is]

Some brief suggestions about how to deal with core feelings and ideas motivating right-wing populism without helping push them towards outright fascism:

1.Feelings: grievance, resentment, fear

Show how and where these are legitimate (global neoliberalism, imperialism-terrorism vicious  circle) and validate them.

Show where and how they are illegitimate and criticise them (xenophobia, scapegoating, sexism, conspiracy delusions).

As in psychotherapy, clear the way for rational dialogue by actively listening to and validating stuck emotions like resentment and fear.

Use personal stories (e.g. of refugees), culture, art to help shift stuck emotions.

Avoid the attack-defensiveness vicious circle where possible since this just cements aggressive and self-reinforcing polarisations.

2.Ideas: ‘Drain the Swamp/Hole at the Heart of Politics’

Show how the political class and economic elites are part of one, now increasingly transnational, elite (lobbying, musical chairs etc).

Show how widespread political disaffection with liberal representative democracy is thus legitimate as real democracy is impossible in that context of radical inequality of power and wealth.

Ask how both economic and political decision-making could now be radically democratised without endangering liberal ideals or partial achievements like civil liberties and the rule of law.

Could, for example, democracy function more like a world-wide web of extended networks of citizen’s juries, chosen by lot for limited periods and advised by experts in special fields?

Ask whether such a participatory democracy and economy could be enabled by more automation and a basic guaranteed income for all by freeing up time and energy for everyone.

Ask whether such a ‘citizen jury’ democracy should first prioritise extended debate and decision-making on the four current fields of crisis and prime concern:

(a) political self-governance

(b) the economy and technology

(c) energy, ecology, and climate

(d) global issues of peace, security, migration and development.


Discussion 15 Comments

  • Bat Chainpuller 26th Dec 2016

    You'll need a mega mega megaphone and a fairly high soapbox. Perhaps not too high or everyone may think that you think you are better than everyone down below. You know what people are like.

    And as far as a couple of the offered solutions in #2 go, you'd have to be ready for a critical assault, woudn't you? Maybe you could start a petition and send it out to all the media outlets, but you'd have to be prepared for some general ignoring, or snoring, as well as critical assault (like again, whether it is explicatorialsed in a far too very much more than digestible complexified, complificational methodoligical liberatorialisational way). You'd probably need the services of some pretty knowledgable people and good talkers too. As long as they didn't think they were better than everyone else and they spoke in like proper easy words and stuff.

    Maybe we couod elicit the help of Annabel Crabb? Back page spread in The Age. The Age has a pretty massive readership in Melb and they're all "lefties", those Age readers. New Matilda? Joe Toscano has had one hour a week anarchist radio show here in Melb for nearly thirty years on 3CR, perhaps I could elicit his help? Nah, don't think he likes me much and he'd demand, as all good prinipled anarchists do, ground forces. The question is how many do ya need? And will they stick together for long? And do they think they are better than everyone else and talk in like short words and stuff? Always a problem.

    If ya get all that together, plus all the folk who signed the petition that stands for justice and peace, the 1600 so far, which by 2037 looks like it could be up to around 15,000 (whoa!), and add them to this place, 5-10 people, which by 2037 could he around 5-10, some of the left parties or groups pushing for a basic income wherever they are and no matter what their differences or political allegiances, mixed with OFS and all other such groups, if you can find them, and the deep ecology movement, the not so deep ecology movement, the voluntary simplicity movement, maybe some of the good primmies, Kevin Tucker, because he plays metal, all the anarchist groups going around, platformist or whatever, the p2p folk, the NSP folk, all the independent union folk, all the good Marxists out there (you don't want those pesky bad ones), and the left political parties that grew out of more radical movements, the Standing Rock folk, the 350.org folk, all the well known and still alive left writers and intellectuals, regardless of age (don't want to be sexist), including Paul Street, but preferably not Tim Morton (is he "left"? He'd probablty dispute its meaning and existence in the way we think it does but assert its dependent origination, in a western philosophical and fun way of course), he'd just distract everyone (like I just did in parenthesis, and again), all those visionaries out there, although they will most certainly cause all kinds of division, get it, diVision, even those who consider social democracy a vision, and even further, those who think the maxim from each to each is actually a vision, then all the Inclusive Democracy folk too, don't forget them (I did, that's why I'm mentioning them now), maybe even all those who just care for the children and have good hearts doing all the necessary great charitable and voluntary work around the world...if you can do that, and get them all to nod in a way that at least approaches unison, you might have a chance...a slim one.

    Oops, forgot Noam.

    • Peter Lach-Newinsky 27th Dec 2016

      Nice riff, 'rage rage against the dying of the light...'

      there's ridicule ...and 'deep sarcasm in the classroom...'

      But don't think you're really listening to what I'm trying to say, for whatever little it's worth, Jimmy Batzappapuller. Off on your own flyin thingo, be my guest. Up up and away. Anyway have a good New Year too.

    • Bat Chainpuller 27th Dec 2016

      Yeah, apologise Peter. I just blew off a dude for being overly sarcastic to me, and he even warned me of it coming...Perhaps I just felt what you were saying was bleeding obvious in a way and already being done...or attempted...but what would I know...I'm not sure I even understand what you're saying...not really a matter of not listening, more just not understanding...your language perhaps...plus me just off on my own flying thingo....I really should just leave this fucking place altogether. It really is too much. Hasn't fucking helped me in anyway whatsoever. I get dragged in...not emotionally set up for all this...takes time to find out but becoming clearer...mouthy, strange, off on my flying thingo, much and much too much bullshit ranting nothingness...leave it to the more together folk...some seem to be coming out of the virtual woodwork....rational good listening folk.


    • Peter Lach-Newinsky 28th Dec 2016

      No worries, cobber, all good. Tend to fly off the handle and/or planet myself now and again, then apologize. Might come with the creative spontaneity territory, or whatever. No one's together BTW, just different styles of baggage, I reckon. Just a big part maybe of what we have to deal with in our quest for a better society, i.e. simply more grassroots dialogue on matters public. Also why I get a bit worried people might be put off from trying a blog out here at IOPS if they get negative reactions like ridicule, sarcasm instead of listening and engagement. Gotta be pleasant to be here, or why else bother, and we all need the odd stroke now and again, right? And of course 'this fucking place' needs its Zappabats, goes without saying...

      Forward to the glorious future of the international precariat of total automation and free frisbees for all!

  • Dave Jones 27th Dec 2016

    Batman, you have the "pessimism of the intellect" part down...and it is absolutely reasonable to ask whether any of these debates/ conversations/ dialogues/discussions are actually happening and to what, if any, effect. In my personal experience the "stages of grief" analysis seems to be playing out in our (USA) post-election moment.So far I'm seeing tons of denial around the viability of "democratic" capitalism; "if I shut my eyes, maybe it isn't really there!" Maybe disavowal is a better clinical term.

    But I think Peter is correct that this is the contradiction that will work its way to the front of the line and inspire rebellion in some form or another. The reality of climate change will puncture the Spectacle sooner rather than later and folks will have no control over their lives.
    I see Bernie and Our Revolution trying to rally progressives. To reform the Democratic Party. Friggin masochist.

    • Lambert Meertens 30th Dec 2016

      Will the reality of climate change puncture the Spectacle? Underestimate the resilience of capitalism we must not. There is a pact between Capital and State that is at the heart of neoliberalism: Capital can screw all of us up as much as it is wont to do; State will come to the rescue before everything implodes.

      Hardcore paleocons have been steadily chipping on the base of the pact, but nevertheless I can easily imagine state intervention that is sufficiently forceful to mitigate the worst of the disasters in the nick of time while leaving the exploitative nature of capitalism intact. And then they can put a spin on it that it was all the fault of sentimental tree huggers who would not allow a rational solution of the problem.

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 27th Dec 2016

    Hi Dave, thanks for the comment. Interested in your 'stages of grief' feeling now in the US. Re 'denial around the viability of 'democratic' capitalism', yeah but maybe we could also see the present stage as a mounting threat to the important elements of liberal democracy we still have and which actually need vigorous DEFENDING against the increasing move towards post-liberal police states or 'friendly fascisms' (Gross) both from above and from below?

    Thus alliances with liberals very necessary and no throwing out babies with bathwaters: a radical libertarian critique of liberal democracy does not mean its abolition (a la fascism) but its radical extension into economic and all other decision-making (which is where liberals normally get off the boat).

  • Joe McKay 28th Dec 2016

    Peter, I agree with your comments about engaging people on the personal level. I particularly agree with the need to identify areas where there can be agreement on shared feelings and seeking agreement on facts. I suggest we defend basic human rights and values by living them out. I do have some issue with people who "shout" slogans across ideological divides and expect others to implement or even listen to their agenda. Change comes from people willing to live (and die!) following their understanding of what it means to be "good" and empowering others to do the same. Solutions imposed by the "state" or "corporation" at some point ignore the personal. It is perhaps in smaller communities where their is a balance of personal/communal that we become more human. Hence I general support your vision that of extended network of citizen juries if they meet to address specific goals and are only temporary. The outcome perhaps should be less about "laws" but about providing the best considered advice & recommendations for action that can be interpreted and implemented at community of interest level.

  • Peter Lach-Newinsky 29th Dec 2016

    Hi Joe, nice to meet you (am intrigued and very interested in your bio, share an interest in ecospirituality and multiculturalism), and many thanks for the comment. Also share a strong aversion to mindless slogan shouting, and agree with the rest of your thoughts.

    Just like to say my thoughts re 'citizen jury democracy' were not intended as any definitive 'vision' but more to provoke further discussion (as was the rest of the piece). I think people find it hard to imagine what a different kind of democracy, a participatory democracy or economy, could look like in general terms, but everyone understands and usually supports legal juries made up of citizens/peers, and thus the proposed image of a 'citizen jury democracy' (which comes close to the original Athenian model, minus the slaves and women exclusion). Lotsa further collective thought in fleshing out that vision needed.

    • Dave Jones 1st Jan 2017

      operating at a very local level, the Zapatistas have Councils of Good Government which we might study in more detail. It is basically rotating citizens fulfilling a civic duty. It gets trickier at larger scales I think.

  • Lambert Meertens 30th Dec 2016

    One way in which disaffection with the deceit of the political elite might be turned into something positive could be a popular movement against political lies and corruption. Not accepting that you are being lied to all the time does not require a college education; I think such a movement can unite people with all kinds of backgrounds and from all walks of life.

  • Caragh - 30th Dec 2016

    On Trump and climate change - this interview at the end of the article just makes my head spin


  • Dave Jones 1st Jan 2017

    Lambert: Were the State able to rescue capitalism from climate chaos, would it not have intervened a decade ago? While I truly respect capital's creative resilience, I do not think Naomi Klein's title is hyperbolic: this actually changes everything. Fossil fuels are the long-awaited "gravedigger", though it may be indirect; for instance, through geoengineering or nuclear catastrophe. Elites in many sectors undoubtedly understand this (re-insurance, certainly!) but find their creation now beyond their control. Hence the crisis in global governance now playing out and the critical need to "defend democracy", as Peter points out.

    As I see it,the "lie" to be exposed is the one my first comment addressed: democratic capitalism. And while I respect Joe's notion of being the change you wish to see, what some call 'pre-figurative' politics, I believe democracy requires an openly adversarial political sphere. Maybe not "shouting slogans" but welcoming difference as necessary to the project.

    • Lambert Meertens 2nd Jan 2017

      If historical examples can be extrapolated, the intervention always comes after real damage has already been done. Like the Glass–Steagall Act came only after the deepest point of the Great Depression had already passed. But I don’t see such interventions as challenging the essence of capitalism. Much as I’d like to believe this time is different and this changes everything, I wouldn’t bank on it.

      I may be mistaken, but I have the impression that if you ask an arbitrary person in the street whether they believe democratic capitalism is possible and desirable, they wouldn’t know what the question means and give a random answer. If you ask if honesty in politics is possible and desirable, on the other hand, I think they would understand the question.

      I think at least part of why we are in such a big mess is that politicians can routinely lie to the public – not white lies but huge black lies – and get away with it.

    • Lambert Meertens 2nd Jan 2017

      The real lie is that the present system of government is democratic.

      In Leviathan, Hobbes (like Aristotle) distinguishes three kinds of government: monarchy (government by one person); aristocracy (government by some people); and democracy (government by the people). “Tyranny”, “oligarchy” and “anarchy” are each synonyms for oe of these kinds: Tyranny stands for a monarchy that is disliked; oligarchy for an aristocracy that is disliked; and anarchy for a democracy that is disliked.

      The people have no say whatsoever over the economy, even though it is the most important sector of society. So the forms of government we have today are obviously not anarchy. They are either tyranny or oligarchy (and sometimes a tyrannical oligarchy).

      What makes it hard to fight this lie is that the media not only call the prevailing system a democracy, but that they identify the term with one specific form (“representative democracy”), thereby presenting it as the only possible form of democracy.