This page was launched in recognition of Frances McCall
Rosenbluth and Ian Shapiro's recent book: Responsible Parties: Saving
Democracy from Itself.
I also note Professor Richard Wolff's campaign toward (I gather) a polity made up of many democratically run, worker owned co-operatives.
It grew out of my "Tomorrow" and "Politics" pages, from which some of the items here have been borrowed.
* This page has been more recently revised in the light of Lummis' book: "Radical Democracy".
(You're at: https://57296.neocities.org/democracy.html)
^ Arguably, the Constitution's amendments plus legislation have secured "the right to vote" for women and minorities, but there's no general right to vote in the Constitution --which was cited in the Supreme Court's decision to end the vote count in Florida --allowing Bush to become president --despite that Gore actualy won.
For what it's worth, and however it affects my point/s of view, I'm certainly "out of the loop" with respect to much of the digital revolution that's moving our society and the world. Although I make ample use of Google's search utilities, I stopped shopping Amazon years ago (mostly because they seemed to be gaming me on shipping costs). I use no Apple gear or services, I own no brand of "smart phone" (just a cheap Tracfone flip cell that costs about $10/month). I've never signed up for Facebook or Twitter. I don't "text". I "<" back out of all pay/membership walled access web pages.
* Does that distance give me more perspective --or am I one who doesn't "share [or understand] the passions of his times"?
While I mostly use 20 year-old creative digital technologies,
I'm ever so enamored of HTML, web pages, digital graphics and word processing.
(Might there be "low tech" ways to accomplish similar goals? Is this whole
digital experience a cultural mistake? Is it information and communication
over-reach --beyond our human scale?)
* I don't know what's going on with "The World", our skinny little local paper. At this entry, the single issue price is back down to $2 weekdays. It costs $480/year to subscribe. As of January, 2019, the weekday newsstand prices for The New York Times was $3, The Boston Globe: $2.50, The Washington Post: $2, and The Dallas Morning News: $2.49. The newspaper dispensing boxes (including for our nearest big city newspaper, Eugene's the Register-Guard) --by our Post Office and our favorite restaurant are gone. After all: who has dollars worth of coins in his/her pocket? However, The World is still available from the restaurant's cashier.
Remembering the feeling of national coherence when Walter Cronkite told us: "And that's the way it is", it seems essential to the members of a community being "on the same page" (if only about its differences) --that it has an affordable, trusted, accountable, "newspaper of record". Perhaps a web based news and opinion center would answer --if it was printed out, documented and archived at the source, the local public library and at City Hall. (It would need journalistic integrity and the standing to run legal notices.)
* I'm really surprised that some enterprising soul hasn't taken up the slack --slack created by the loss of (previously) very remunerative advertising revenue (now lost to such as "Craig's List" and "Home Advisor"). Perhaps the current ownership paid way too much for the newspaper, its newsprint operations, and can't service the debt load.
* Now that the newspaper boxes are gone, can't someone at least be printing news, commentary (and the ads, of course) onto paper place mats (both sides) for regional restaurants?
* Be my guess that (local) journalism itself doesn't cost all that much --that alternative sources of national news, opinion, images and cartoons could also be affordably secured. Printing and distribution would be a cheap snap --via 11x17, monochrome, on-line laser printers in the restaurants --as needed/wanted for the cost of the toner and the paper.
* Local/regional TV stations already have a news and weather desk --plus a developed web site presence, so why not format a small^ newspaper version?
^ And I do mean "small". Opening up a traditional newspaper at home or at a restaurant table --and then repeatedly refolding it to follow "continued on page B-17" stories --is an absurd exercise which interrupts conversation and tends to alienate your dinner companion (who's often reading that "B" section).
The most popular part of a newspaper is often the "Letters-to-the-Editor" --which must be edited, but is otherwise free copy. Another economy would be in publishing only (say) twice per week --allowing unhurried polishing/editing, formatting and fact/source checking.
* While Fox News saturates our body politic with its (billionaire subsidized) free distributions, responsible "papers of record" such as the Washington Post and the New York Times have erected "paywall" barrier pop-ups to interdict us as we follow Google links to news and commentary. There's no point in trying to bypass their paywalls, nor is there anything to gain by paying (something like $7/month). If I find something worthy of attention at their websites, I'll not be giving my e-correspondence friends nor those who visit one of my web pages a source link --any more than I'd give a friend a present with an unpaid bill from the seller attached.
* There are alternatives. I commend The Guardian for being one of them --per: "We want Guardian journalism to reach as many readers as possible in order for it to have an impact on society. This means we don't have a paywall on theguardian.com and that readers will always be able to find a Guardian story without being charged to read it."
Being a public WiFi "hanger on", I'd best not make an on-line donation, but I want to pull my weight, so I'm sending a check to their United States office:
The Guardian (US main office)
New York, NY 10006
--with a cover letter/note suggesting that they might want to explicitly facilitate such donations by mail.
* In a recent election (of non-party label candidates running for all those local/regional offices/positions/boards, often unchallenged), there was no guide/statement booklet (we don't get the spendy local paper), --and I didn't recognize a single name. There was no point in me voting. I should have hastened down to our library and tried to get myself up to speed, but soon it was too late. Had there been party affiliation labels, I could have voted on that basis.
* A significant fraction of the public simply avoids politics and even news reporting. They want to work, play, do family things and keep a roof over their heads. I suggest that asking the public to do more than vote for a party label is asking too much --and a formula for political failure. By definition, half of our population struggles to do right with an IQ of less than 100, so give us a break. (And on another topic: forget about retraining old farts like me to become programming wizards and such --work that's also going to India anyway.)
So (and *raising my hand* here): not all of us should be voting in every election --or voting the whole ballot. There's seldom been a general election in which I haven't skipped over ("under voted") items and /or names that I wasn't informed about. Voting Minnesota style for (Swede) "Peterson" instead of (Norwegian) "Petersen" --doesn't get it.
* Aside from the looming factor of voter ignorance, there's straight-forward civic belligerence (and "proud of it!") to contend with --often identified as fascism, often coupled with racism: a suck up, kick down affectation of patriotism that celebrates (and votes for) the "authority" of power. It's easy for "we the people" social progressives to fool ourselves about how tenuously a particular progressive faction can claim an electoral plurality. (Forget about "majority".) The fascist voting block is often estimated at 30% of the public, whereas an election won by a margin of 10% is considered an historic landslide.
The liberal/progressive answer to problems with government and democracy has simply been more democracy. Out of the bars and into the voting booths.
There should (of course) be no ethnic or partisan barriers
(like "gerrymandering") to voting, but there's nothing wrong with more
measured private and party efforts to "get out the vote". The requirements
to be a voter should also be considered. "Ferinstance": states have minimum
age requirements. Might there be other indicators of maturity and electoral
competence which would seem fair (at least to most of us)?
* Peaceable living was achieved in a long ago Oregon logging camp --back when loggers took their families into the woods with them. They spread their camp out: one end of it for those who kept cats as pets, the other end for dog families. No doubt that cut across other sensibilities and potential conflicts as well. (I tried to Google something up but found nothing. It might be in the Bandon Historical Society's records.)
So: let's look at community zoning. Most "disturbances" that result in calls to law enforcement involve noises. More often than not, the call is about the noise itself. (Go to the "Right 2 Quiet" for stats.) For a great percentage of the public, noise is a natural celebration of life and self-expression^, while a smaller percentage expends much time and energy in quests for quiet and uninterrupted thought.
Municipalities "zone" for commercial, residential, institutional, etc. uses --even (sometimes) "quiet zones" for hospitals and such. Why not establish "R1-Q" residential zones (for new developments/additions, perhaps with natural buffer features) in which stricter noise ordinances are enforced --ordinances which some would welcome, but which many others would consider an onerous imposition?
The economic and political results: 1) A real-estate boom for such a development as "cultural creatives" (authors, inventors, consultants, artists, designers) flock in from across the nation (with money). 2) A consolidation of intelligent, sensitive, social (if not economic) progressives who become reinforced by their felt sense of community. (Need I belabor the good politics which would issue from that?)
Yes: such a division would cut across other demographics as well: younger vs older, dogs vs cats (although my family does both), big families vs small, big sports/fans vs track/field, motorcycle buffs vs bicyclists, pickup trucks vs SUV/station wagons/electrics, beer joints vs coffee and wine venues, etc. (I suspect that any "Greenwich Villages" and "Echo Parks" would be yeasty, edge-of-town or urban core redevelopment cultural enclaves onto themselves.)
^ That extends to liberal jurisprudence. Years ago, a court in Eugene Oregon dismissed a citation for needless/heedless car horn blowing on the basis that it was an expression of free speech --!
* For a good rummage through the problems of democracy, see this 2016 New Yorker article by Caleb Crain --with commentary on Against Democracy by Jason Brennan and Democratic Authority by David Estlund --who in turn referenced Plato's and John Stuart Mill's positions on democracy. (Save the article to your flash or hard drive straight away, since The New Yorker web site will cookie and count a few of your visits, then turn off your access (for lack of payment).
** When indulging in such thoughts (of a more more qualified
electorate), be aware and "on guard" --but not embarrassed, concerning
the company we keep. The light which guides us through is a respectful
and felt connectedness with the people (all of the people) who we
present to be treating of (with a humanist spirituality). Admit it: we
all have family in the demographics of which we despair.
Black box voting --versus hand marked paper ballots (like we have here in Oregon):
* "An exclusive analysis last month by the AP found that virtually all voting systems currently in use in the nation's 10,000 separate voting jurisdictions in all 50 states run on software --- Windows 7 or earlier --- that will no longer be supported by Microsoft with regular security updates and patches as of January. That includes systems certified by the U.S. Elections Assistance Commission (EAC) from the nation's largest private elections vendors as recently as this year. Those newly certified systems still use Windows 7, which was released a decade ago in 2009." --Brad Blog (for 8/19/2019) at: https://bradblog.com/
* No one can alter a physically guarded paper ballot by hacking into a computer network.
* While we're at it, let's hand count those ballots as well.
* Think about how much security would be gained, how much
money would be saved.
* We've long heard about the prevailing state of public
ignorance, concerning the Constitution, government and elections. It's
not surprising anymore. My assumption was that elementary through high
school levels of education aren't sinking in. (Same goes for math, sciences
and composition, resulting in college students being assigned to take remedial
courses --"Composition-X" and such.) But I was surprised to read that traditional
"civics" (how United States governments and elections work) is poorly to
barely covered in a public school education. For more detail on that, see
Look at Civics Education in the United States" by Sarah Shapiro and
Catherine Brown (under the auspices of the American Federation of Teachers)
PDF. My own state (Oregon) and 7 others have no civics requirements.
Only two states (Colorado and Idaho) require a (single) year-long course,
followed by a passing test grade.
The burdens of our collective cultural kit:
I've been trying to get at a few of the troublesome underpinnings/assumptions --which motivate us as we strive, and as we react to the ideas and strivings of others. Today's (January 1st, 2021) edition of Democracy Now (hosted by Amy Goodman, and easiest to access via https://archive.kpfk.org/) was helpful. Similar efforts roam about on my Tomorrow and Politics pages.
* Ms. Goodman presented and interviewed others on matters of "intellectual property", artificial scarcity, profiteering (in short: capitalism) --in the context of our life and death struggle to surmount the Covid-19 pandemic --which was so badly mucked up by the Trump administration.
* The Gallup polling operation recently treated us to the revelation that Donald J. Trump is "the most admired man in America". (I'm tempted to "say no more" here.) Clearly: most of us "press the beast to our breast, even as it devours our heart".
* Lefties speak of "solidarity" --working class, but also across class lines. Can you think of a more effective way to alienate people from their would-be intellectual leadership --than the latter's pursuit of "intellectual property" (IP) and cashing out? How crushing of our social "team" spirit: rock stars suing their fans for making copies; university profs mandating expensive, self-authored textbooks; research papers blocked by paywalls; scientists patenting life forms and vaccines.
* Surprise: I'm not too keen on doing away with patent and copyright laws (although the latter could be made way less nuts) (and thank you, Creative Commons!). Of what significance is an open hand, if one is unable to make a greedy fist? However: I am advocating that our arts and sciences cultural creatives (and potential leaders) largely shun IP, save for what might return an average standard of living and security.
* The lefty goal, of course, is greater social-economic equity. The ultimate barriers to that --are subjects which often can't be rationally discussed: over-population and negative eugenics. An equitable redistribution of wealth would mean a hideous enlargement of the average per-person "carbon footprint" --in a world which already has 3 times the sustainable population (depending on assumed standards of living/consumption --existing or sought). We're much more likely to end up going to war for diminished resources --than achieving economic equity.
* Then there's the barrier of living in a technological
age, which rather requires a well ordered, managerial society (socialist
or capitalist --take your choice) --as advocated by Technocracy
Incorporated, and cautioned against by C. Douglas Lummis.
This be yet another beast that we clutch to our breast. Maybe "resistance
* Snippets from:
* The capitalist corporation has itself become an anti-democratic system of rule. The question of how to democratize the main actor in the free market -the corporation, is, for the capitalists and the managers, THE subversive question. (p-17)
* The expression "development of underdeveloped countries" refers to a set of activities which from another value perspective can be called "neo-colonialism." Under this ideology was launched the most massive systematic project of human exploitation and the most massive assault on culture and nature, which history has ever known. (p-60)
* It is not correct usage to apply the term development to the process of knocking down one thing and building something else in its place. (p-63)
* It is liberating, I think, to remind ourselves that most of the technologies that a human being really needs to live an orderly, comfortable and healthy life are ancient. (p-103)
* Choose a technology and you choose the politics (i.e.: the order of work) that comes with it. Choose mass consumption and you choose mass production and a managed order of work. (p-98)
* Like the little fish who asked: "what is the 'sea'?",
it's easy to miss some of Lummis' main points --plastered throughout his
book as they might be. He inveighs against --not acceptance, but our
acceptance --of the artificial (un-natural) disciplines of economic development.
He encourages our awareness of what economic development (technologically
driven mass production) turns away from: the natural disciplines, wholeness
and personal mastery of crafts and cottage industries. We equate development
and growth with "progress", even though progress and change (as desperately
necessary as they might currently be) are inherently pathological (I wanted
to say: "evil") --and I do mean growth
in the broadest sense. --Craig
Engineering fashion and consent:
7/21/2013: Dr. Majia Nadesan better acquainted me with Edward Bernays by putting me onto: "Century of Self". Bernays was an amoral cultural force who expertly shaped the world as we know it --and see:
"In the post modern condition people are set free from oppressive and ridiculous dogma. But they are also set adrift from invaluable, sensible ways of understanding how life should be lived, ways that have been realized through emotional, social and bodily experience gleaned over millennia. Into this vacuum step the herders of the post-modern psyche – the public relations people – the engineers of consent as Bernays called them --" --Mackey
Steve Mackey's perspective on where we're at comes from an unpublished paper of his (save for a copy on the Internet). It sure rates an appearance on my page:
"Using the Rhetorical Turn to Grasp the Full Importance
of Public Relations"
by: Steve Mackey (As formatted, English spellings changed , lightly edited, and punctuated by Craig)
An unpublished paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association, Marriott Hotel, San Diego, CA, May 27, 2003
This paper sides with critics who say that at present public relations is NOT a bona fide area of university study. However the paper argues that public relations COULD be made a legitimate and surprisingly important academic discipline through a deeper understanding of notions of rhetoric than that given by Robert Heath (Heath. 2001). In the post modern era, scientism, progressivism, grand narration, in fact all the other pointers to thinking and philosophy, are coming adrift from their foundations for most western people. One consequence of this fragmentation of perspectives, this loss of religiosity or faith in progress and the modern, is that the academic ‘market’- as we might call it, has a new opening for a subject which specializes in understanding frameworks for thinking in the post modern age. Public relations activity fills this role in a similar way to the way rhetoric filled this role for the ancients.
Extract (from pages #1 and 2):
Social commentators and neighborhood gossips may exert some pressure to tell people what is ‘right’ in a ‘godless’ and ‘liberated’ era. But of far more importance is the daily, in fact hourly, round the clock work of corporations, governments and other organizations who constantly round up those aspects of democratically [scattered], un-narrated thoughts, which they would prefer were aligned to their own self interested perspectives. These are the thoughts which determine what sort of politics we should live within; who we should go to war with; how we should direct our charity; what we should eat; how we should travel; what our expectations should be in terms of education, health and other social services; what we should think about environmental degradation.
Less and less are our thoughts drawn from the revelations of our forefathers, foremothers and social leaders in terms of what sort of a society we should build cooperatively. Less and less do these thoughts come from an aboriginal dreaming or a notion of social progress or a conscience based on religion or a value based understanding of what is best for our children and our communities. In the post-modern world all those old fashioned mythologies fade into the background behind the vivid TV sound bite, the persuasive PowerPoint presentation, the massive issues management or election advertising campaigns.
In the post modern condition people are set free from oppressive and ridiculous dogma. But they are also set adrift from invaluable, sensible ways of understanding how life should be lived, ways that have been realized through emotional, social and bodily experience gleaned over millennia. Into this vacuum step the herders of the post-modern psyche – the public relations people – the engineers of consent as Bernays called them (Bernays. 1969).
But psyche engineers are not new. Strategies for getting people to see things in certain ways were well understood by Aristotle and many other rhetoricians in the centuries before and after him. Aristotle even wrote a book about it: The Art of Rhetoric (Aristotle. 1991). But the psyche engineers of the 21st century do not understand much of the above. They themselves are mostly cut off from philosophic roots. What they do have however is a finger on an unprecedented array of communication technology, including instant global communication technology. In addition those employed by the already dominant organizations have access to very large economic resources.
To understand how public relations can be turned from a rather shabby practice, captured and incorporated by dominant interests into a legitimate academic subject, it is first necessary to reflect a little on ontology. One has to be aware of the naïve objectivism which still holds out as an underpinning to orthodox public relations thought. It is no little embarrassment to say that most intelligent academics in other university subjects, including many in management studies, abandoned objectivism long ago. Objectivism hangs on in public relations studies because it is fundamental to the ideological underpinning of the tradition form of public relations. To explain the political-cultural reasons for this hold-out would take another paper. Suffice it to say they are to do with the American-style capitalism which dominated first the US, and which is now dominating the globe. Dominant capitalist institutions and their orthodox public relations [spokespersons] prefer people to hold the naïve view that there is right and there is wrong; there is good and there is evil; there is truth and there is falsehood and that the American way is best. One only has to analyze the last speech by any serving US president to realize what an unsophisticated view of the world American capitalism requires.