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

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Democracy Isn't a Riot

The authoritarian right is wrong to denigrate democracy as mob rule but the anti-authoritarian left is just as wrong to celebrate democracy in mob insurrection. Every insurrection is a promise but no insurrection is the fulfillment of the promise. Venting grievance is just another form of suffering grievance -- it can be moralizing the way a dancefloor or a public hanging can be, but it isn't ethical, and politics that are moral (we-expressive) but not ethical (soliciting formal-universal assent) are nothing to be particularly happy about if your politics are supposed to be democratic. When the street educates grievance with shared and proffered narratives, when the street agitates for an end to grievances in voiced positions with constituencies, when the street organizes councils or other bodies out of which leaders they respect start making demands equal to these grievances, then, and only then, do I stop reserving judgment. Don't mistake what I am saying as the insistence we look only to political parties or professional politicians as these usually stifle and domesticate the promise in such outbreaks of history as this -- but to look for educational and organizational impulses arising from the street, to discern the real promise of legible voices and legitimate leaders emerging out of those movements.


travan7838 said...

I don't really have many sources on hand to back me up,but from what little I've been able to pick up the organizations and leadership you're talking about are already beginning to take shape.

Of course one doesn't hear much about this in the US, because everyone's freaking out over the possibility of Egyptians daring to vote the wrong way and electing the Muslim Brotherhood, i.e pulling a Gaza. When really, its guys like this who have got their number:

Mark LeVine:

What about the role of the US in this conflict. How do people on the street view its positions?

Hossam el-Hamalawy:

Mubarak is the second largest recipient of US foreign aid aside from Israel. He's known to be America's thug in the region; one of the tools of American foreign policy and implementing its agenda of security for Israel and the smooth flow of oil while keeping Palestinians in line. So it's no secret that this dictatorship has enjoyed the backing of US administrations since day one, even during Bush's phony pro-democracy rhetoric. So one should not be surprised by Clinton's ludicrous statements that were more or less defending the Mubarak regime, since one of the pillars of US foreign policy was to keep regimes stable at expense of freedom and civil liberties.

We don't expect anything from Obama, whom we regard as a great hypocrite. But we hope and expect the American people - trade unions, professors' associations, student unions, activist groups, to come out in support of us. What we want for the US government is to completely get out of the picture. We don't want any sort of backing; just cut aid to Mubarak immediately and withdraw backing from him, withdraw from all Middle Eastern bases, and stop supporting the state of Israel.

Ultimately, Mubarak will do whatever he has to do to protect himself. He will suddenly adopt the most anti-US rhetoric if he thought that would help him save his skin. At the end of the day he's committed to his own interests, and if he thinks the US won't support him, he'll turn somewhere else. The reality is that any really clean government that comes to power in the region will come into open conflict with the US because it will call for radical redistribution of wealth and ending support for Israel or other dictatorships. So we don't expect any help from America, just to leave us alone.

Dale Carrico said...

the organizations and leadership you're talking about are already beginning to take shape

Of course! As Arendt says, the treasure is always there, it's there, burrowing out, getting buried...

Of course one doesn't hear much about this in the US

Yes, of course, again of course, you're right, Americans are jerking off on twitter and on tee vee, jerking off at the scent of sweat and skin and blood and rubber bullets and tear gas Made in the USA and falling asleep the moment they come, not even bothering to flip their fat diabetic carcasses off the meat they've targeted so eager are we all now in bland blank bulldozing satisfaction to dream already the next discontent at the rising price of gas in a world of ads barking out our own endless dead-time dream-time utopian promise that we can eat and eat the planet forever and still have it forever, forever, too.