Adbusters.org has a very well written essay on the overwhelming feeling of powerlessness and its relations to the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement–find it here: http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/101/occupy-perfect-storm.html.
The article takes stock of the situation and offers three points of note:
1. [There is] a huge culture of disillusionment and disappointment among youth. (And if there is one central issue that the last year of global uprisings has raised, then it is that of youth. The question of youth is the question of the future, and that future has disappeared. We who are no longer young have to try and understand this and not simply adopt a patronizing attitude toward youth).
2.[…] accept the description of things as they appear […] but then to do something, to take arms against a sea of trouble to take politics back from the political class through confrontation with the power of finance capital and the international status quo.
3.[…] the Occupy movement is fascinating from the standpoint of the separation of politics and power and is particularly fascinating to the student of Athenian democracy, with its focus on the ekklesia
, the general assembly, and the boule or council. To be with these protesters when the chant goes up: “This is what democracy looks like!” is powerful, really powerful. What was equally powerful was the way in which OWS conducted general assemblies peacefully, horizontally and noncoercively. So, given the separation of politics and power, the Occupy movement is trying to remake democracy, direct democracy, with a mixture of the old – assembly, consensus, autonomia
and freedom – and the new, like Twitter feeds and flashmob demonstrations organized through cell phones.
Here’s my take on each point, after which I’ll suggest some piece to a potential solution.
This isn’t really a novel point, and a symptom of the situation–I think by tacking points (2) and (3) we can actually alleviate a lot of the disillusion that people abound are feeling.
In order to take power back, we need to route out the politicians that have become proxies for non-constituent interests, but this is tantamount to calling for more transparency and accountability in politics. For some time now people have been calling for more transparency, accountability, and whatever other buzz words are in vogue at the moment. I don’t mean to trivialize this call, but I think simply asking for it isn’t enough, so we need to suggest a frame work that is easily adoptable and can eventually lend itself to these things. Institutionalizing these things take time, especially in an entrenched bureaucracy that benefits from its nebulousness.
Remaking democracy into something more ideal, something more direct, isn’t a bad thing to strive for. It seems to me that one major step towards reinvigorating the people would be a large step publicly pronounced towards transparency and direct democracy.
Well we have the internet, and technological methods by which the dissemination of information is almost a trivial task–television advertisements, and news sites (or even news papers!). Simply telling the people what politicians are doing, however, not only has a track record of being at best mildly effective (transgressions have to be truly egregious before the masses brush off their malaise and bring forth the pitchforks), but also doesn’t make people feel any more involved in their governance.
What we really need, then, is something closer to a forum than a news paper. I realize that giving everyone a voice is not only impossible, but potentially dangerous, and more likely simply counter productive, but I do think we’ve already got a decent system in place for politicians to know how their constituents feel about them. Its called voting.
I think the best solution for this would be a website where politicians and their constituents could interact. The idea is to constantly present the people with relevant, context-full information on political matters at all levels. The people can then express how they feel about it, in a way that their representative will know is legitimate and relevant (that is, representatives are presented with their constituent’s information).
In theory this is all well and good, but the biggest pitfall I can see is simply convincing people to go out of their way to educate themselves on the democratic proceedings of their country. I guess we should try and solve that first before we build a fancy forum, eh? (Jesus, I just got all disillusioned myself, didn’t I?)