Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Hope from Despair?

Republican lies and crimes are by now so monumental it seems impossible to find our way home. When I heard of Bush's stage-managed alternative-reality photo-op at the scene of Katrina's devastation it was simply so flabbergasting, so impossible to believe and yet so typical as to seem inevitable once you've heard about it, it's honestly a bit deranging. When Eric read about that he almost punched his fist through a door. We just, you know, stumble through the house rubbing our faces with our hands as the news reports preventable horror after preventable horror.

And to think that the obscene Republican chorus cheerleading Bush at a time like this were all pretending a few years ago in an era of rising prosperity, rising hopes, rising expectations, rising standards to be incensed over a lie about a blowjob... It really is getting difficult to understand how to even find some minimally shared language with which to reason at all with these people. (Not that I'm even a fan of Clintonian neoliberalism -- I haven't much liked any president since Carter -- but, come on, the differences here are just stark and undeniable.)

We have handed over the power of our democratic civilization to precisely the people and forces democracy was implemented to protect us against.

Where can all this lead? The Republicans will certainly never impeach Bush and they control everything. Will the '06 Election even happen for true? If the Democrats gain much in the House and Senate the President is likely to face at any rate the prospect of impeachment. Can anyone really imagine this crew of Republican thugs would let that happen? They stole 2000, and they unspeakaby slimed 2004 (I'm being generous) -- so, what makes anybody think they'll stop now? How could they at this point? Prison sentences likely await some of these killer clowns if standards are reimplemented, don't they?

I fear what this savaging of standards and institutions is doing to the Republicans almost as much as I fear what their crimes and misconduct will cost us all. The Republicans are unleashing their own worst natures into the world. Criminals, zealots, catastrophe opportunists, gangsters, war-profiteers, warlords are abroad in the land. I'm terrified, frankly, enraged, nearly despairing.

The North Atlantic and South American democracies need to sanction and sequester the United States. We have to lose the capacity to insulate the powerful from the devastating consequences of their actions and policies. Even now Americans are pampered into complacency -- even as the institutional and normative forms on which they depend utterly for their survival let alone progress are looted and devastated before their eyes.

The world cannot tolerate a unipolar power that is not democratically beholden to all over whom it exercises its influence. A united world needs to discipline America, and we need to be nudged in our humiliated recognition of our limits into partnership with the rest of the world in establishing a global federal system (national sovereignty can remain intact but should be limited by pragmatic subsidiarity).

We need to democratize the UN General Assembly and Secretariat (there are many decent proposals for doing this), democratize the WTO and possibly conjoin it to the ILO (to establish and implement global fair trade standards and eventually implement a global basic income to encourage civic participation, encourage collaboration in sousveillance, medical and scientific research, policy deliberation and criticism, and ameliorate the impacts of automation and digitally enabled global labor market liquidity), recognize the ICC (and empower it to implement sustainable environmental standards), empower IAEA, CTBTO, OPCW and other global inspection regimes (expanded to accommodate bioengineered pathogens, weaponized nanoscale devices, and pathological software), expedite the Millenium Goals through a spectrum of support and intervention from a Marshall Plan-like implementation of Jeffrey Sachs' proposals through to culturally/socially sensitive flexible microfinance initiatives and leapfrogging.

Every person in the world suffers the technoconstituted forces unleashed by every other. Development needs to shore up every life in the global web so that citizens have resources to back up their demands and give flesh and spirit to the paper-promises universal declarations of rights cannot materialize on their own.

Every nation has a Bush regime either in power or waiting in the wings, just as every person has within them the hurt fearful mammalian child who might either participate in the crimes of such a regime or otherwise enable them.

We are losing our democracy. If we recognize our peril and our ineradicable need for each other perhaps we can step back from this cliff and build something stronger and better. Only by deepening democracy can we survive the technological forces released into the world by our ingenuity. Only democracy can save us from ourselves.


Tom FitzGerald said...

While I agree that the world's democracies need to sanction the US, there must be a role for US progressives to play, too, besides just working ourselves to the bone to win fixed Senate and House races in 2006 (not that we shouldn't do that too!).

My thought: people of the left need to reclaim the apparatuses of local and state govenment. The urban archipelago has to declare its independence from the rightists at the federal center. Whether this is couched in the radical language of secession, or the mainstream language of a renewal of federalism, it needs to happen.

I think the example of subnationalisms in the EU is instructive here for analysis of US federalism in a world federalist context. To wit: It's easier for the Scotlands and Catalonias, or the Vermonts and Austins, to achieve autonomy within their nations when those nations are part of a stronger EU or UN. Nation states are the locus of militarism, corporate welfare, and petro-addiction in our time. So they should be attacked from above and below. From above by robust demands for mulitlateralist institutions like the ICC and ILO, and from below by populist, rowdy localisms that refuse to let the turkeys in DC take our laws away. Or at least, that's how it looks from Portland, OR.

I could go on all day about how the EU and South America (led by Lula's Brazil) need to trade around the US, and how Canada ought to join the EU, etc, but I fear I'd bore you to tears.

Doctor Logic said...

I grow increasingly convinced that leadership is the key.

My pride in America was demolished in 2004 because Bush did win the election. He used opposition to gay rights as a wedge, and absurdly smeared Kerry during the campaign, but Americans fell for it. As Janeane Garofolo once said, "being Republican is a character flaw," and 50+% of Americans suffer from it.

So, while I'm politically active, and I work to strengthen democracy in the country, I'm forced to wonder what the average American would do with the vote if they exercised it. Probably not a lot of good. Americans are too lazy to pay attention to what's going on in the world, and half of those who do pay attention get it wrong.

As with a financial market, you need the right constraints and oversight to keep a democracy healthy. I think this concept is well beyond the comprehension of the average voter, let alone the average citizen.

Elect the right Democrat, and you'll build a strong public education system, create effective government institutions, and once again make government a trustworthy ally for consumers. This won't happen just by getting more people to vote, or by fixing tax systems or anything else. We simply have to elect great leaders.

I'm not really saying anything deep here. It's just that I always used to think of our democratic institutions as being self-correcting. Now, I'm not so sure. It seems as though our country depends on its leadership for its health and safety, and that no amount of bureaucracy or paper pushing is a substitute for a good chief executive.