Is a Desire for Direct Democracy Underlying the Student Protests?

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T. Truman
Is a Desire for Direct Democracy Underlying the Student Protests?

 

The Democratic Renaissance Springs Forth into its Second Year

   A New Era of Enlightenment Emerges


 Eyes have been opened. Minds have been freed.

 At the time of its publication in the summer of 2010, who could have imagined that the Direct Democracy Ireland manifesto, with its foreshadowing of a Democratic Renaissance, would be the first document of its kind to accurately describe a political and intellectual movement yet to attain substance and form; an aspiration that resided solely in the hearts and minds of millions around the world, brought closer together through technology and social media; an audacity to dream a little dream of freedom, dignity and hope everywhere, emboldened by the unshakable belief that a life of endless political and personal freedom, coupled with economic prosperity, is possible.

 This movement, first described in the media as the Arab Spring, has only grown since its unleashing in the fall of 2010.

 Though the winds of change began to be felt in North Africa and the Middle East, the Arab Spring has blown into a whirlwind of revolution: Tunisia is free, Gaddafi is gone in Libya, the regime of Bashar - Al Assad is crumbling, and Egypt is slowly crawling toward a democratic denouement.

 Be it prescient or just happenstance, the recognition of a Democratic Renaissance here in the West has today come to fruition, not only in the Republic of Ireland, but across Continental Europe and North America. People are involved and demanding a greater say, their inspiration those who have thrown off the shackles of political repression and fear—the foundation of totalitarianism and oppression; tens of thousands have gathered in city squares from Athens to London.

 But the Democratic Renaissance has brought with it much more than just new voices of political freedom: it has once again sent the  individual down a new path of empowerment and intellectual enlightenment, a path filled with new perspectives and new ideas of a future within the grasp of men and women everywhere, grounded in the ideas of reason, logic and common sense;  a path that markedly resembles one the human race abandoned long ago in favour of war, ideology and consumerism ...

 the Enlightenment.

 The Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries took place in a time similar to ours. The world was torn by wars of religion, by imperial and economic conquest. Persecution and witch-hunts were widespread. Looking closely at the activities of today’s activists, one might be surprised to note the similarity both of tactics and the intended outcome of such confrontation: political and intellectual assassination without just cause or trial.

 Now, as then, the call for more democracy and freedom has also unleashed a set of circumstances and events showing the world to be little changed from the past, when Europe itself was ruled by the heavy hand of the aristocracy and priestly enslavers. Even though we in the West have rid ourselves of private armies, mercenaries and countless wealthy overlords, there are those still struggling for their freedom in the Middle East and North Africa.

 Yet, as recent history has shown, humanity tends to move in the direction of less rather than more freedom, a world of shackles rather than a world in which people live in the full light of liberty and reasoned intellectual understanding. Really, how different is our world from that of our ancestors who struggled to free themselves from oppression and the tyranny of a ruling elite? Now, as then, do not the elite see the rest of us who dwell in rural prefectures, bankrupt suburbs and urban slums with indifference and contempt?

 Certainly the West has come a long way from feudal landlords and debtor prisons. But has the individual really gained any more power since the final days of revolution in the 18th century? We may be more prosperous, we may have more stuff, but are we really any more free?

 People in the West continue to face soft tyranny and systemic oppression, even now.

 Are today’s bankers any different than the lords and barons who ruled in centuries past? Back then, we were at the mercy and reliant upon the generosity of an elite class for our livelihoods and future prosperity. Today, can anyone get anywhere without a loan or a mortgage that must be repaid with the price of interest, doubling and some times even tripling the final price of your home or car? And what is the difference between being required to adhere to a dogmatic religious code of conduct and the need to be politically correct to gain entry into a good paying job?

 The major themes of the Enlightenment are kindred spirits with the zeitgeist today. As professor Paul Brain, Washington State University writes, “Like then, individualism, freedom and change replaced community, authority and tradition as core European values.”

 And the similarities do not end there. As in the Renaissance, we are today coping with the end of one way of thinking and the emergence of new avenues of introspection. Just as the influence and importance of the church was on the wane then, science as a vehicle to provide future intellectual growth and economical, technological progress is today grinding gears and losing traction.

 Today’s science is not that of the 17th and 18th centuries when the Renaissance exploded through  this magnificent and powerful tool of investigation to enlighten people. We are now faced with boundaries and limitations that were not even conceived of then. John Horgan’s The End of Science is probably the best description of just how daunting—and possibly insurmountable—are the obstacles that now face those searching for tomorrow’s answers to today’s questions.

 If we were to truly take an unbiased look as the Western world today, we would find a civilization in decay; its economic structures crumbling; a people politically lost; an economy teetering on the edge. Worse, we are intellectually a fragmented and disjointed people driven by irrational fears and beliefs that stifle lasting economic, political and individual prosperity.

 Perhaps it is fitting, then, that the world should find itself in the throes of rebellion and revolution.

 For us in the West, the Arab Spring has become a Democratic Renaissance. It has brought forth an entirely new realm of political possibility and individual enlightenment.

 Truly, it can only be a matter of time before this energy and enthusiasm that fills the streets will find its way into other avenues of intellectual investigation and enlightened activity, exemplified by art, literature and philosophy.

 The following six essays will attempt to describe some of the intellectual possibilities emerging in this New Era of  Enlightenment, as well as discuss both the opportunities and obstacles facing the Democratic Renaissance as it moves into its second year.

J.R. Werbics is a Canadian writer and philosopher.

 All essays available for free reading at: www.scribd.com

www.refedbc.com

 Copyright 2011 J.R.Werbics

  Reprinted here with permission.

Coming next: Part II

 The Democratic Renaissance and its Meaning/Part 1

 From Cairo and Athens to Dublin, A New Political/Intellectual Enlightenment Defined


http://public.wsu.edu/~brians/hum_303/enlightenment.html

 

Issues Pages: 
Regions: 
NDPP

T. Truman wrote:

 

The Democratic Renaissance Springs Forth into its Second Year

   A New Era of Enlightenment Emerges


 Eyes have been opened. Minds have been freed.

 At the time of its publication in the summer of 2010, who could have imagined that the Direct Democracy Ireland manifesto, with its foreshadowing of a Democratic Renaissance, would be the first document of its kind to accurately describe a political and intellectual movement yet to attain substance and form; an aspiration that resided solely in the hearts and minds of millions around the world, brought closer together through technology and social media; an audacity to dream a little dream of freedom, dignity and hope everywhere, emboldened by the unshakable belief that a life of endless political and personal freedom, coupled with economic prosperity, is possible.

 This movement, first described in the media as the Arab Spring, has only grown since its unleashing in the fall of 2010.

 Though the winds of change began to be felt in North Africa and the Middle East, the Arab Spring has blown into a whirlwind of revolution: Tunisia is free, Gaddafi is gone in Libya, the regime of Bashar - Al Assad is crumbling, and Egypt is slowly crawling toward a democratic denouement.

 

NDPP

'Eyes have been opened and minds freed' but what they are seeing is 'Great Gaming', capitalism, imperialism and neo-colonialism not 'Democratic Renaissance'.

Mniemoeller

I think that the protests are about public discontent with the political status quo and that this protest must continue until Jean Charest admits defeat.

Negotiating with Charest will only result in a marginalisation of the protesters goals and the levers of power will remain firmly in the hands of the present villains.

The same holds true for an expansion or renewal of protests with a wider pan Canadian goal. Negotiating with any of the present villains will only result in the protesters' goals being finessed aside.

This includes Thomas Mulcair and his NDP. Mulcair is simply another angry old white dude intent on cementing his opportunity to hold power. He is a carpetbagger socialist-of-convenience who will sell out his constituency the moment he no longer needs them.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Well, that's a bit harsh. I like the NDP even though they're not perfect - who is???

Mniemoeller

Sure, the NDP is the best of a bad lot but where are the barmaids, students, baristas and ski patrollers elected to Parliament from Quebec? While the Leader may need to stay silent, NDP MPs should be making their views known. The fact that they are absent suggests the heavy hand of authority has come down on them to keep silent.

 

I think Mulcair's absence from this issue is based on political opportunism, not principle. It may be advisable for the Leader of the Opposition to absent himself from interfering in an issue of provincial jurisdiction BUT, protocol doesn't prevent him from interfering in provincial matters when he sees a political advantage.

 

If thats harsh, so be it. The NDP will soon see how Mulcair intends to attempt to ascend the throne and I doubt many will like it.

Fidel

The Renaissance wrote:
Now, as then, the call for more democracy and freedom has also unleashed a set of circumstances and events showing the world to be little changed from the past, when Europe itself was ruled by the heavy hand of the aristocracy and priestly enslavers. Even though we in the West have rid ourselves of private armies, mercenaries and countless wealthy overlords, there are those still struggling for their freedom in the Middle East and North Africa.

My god where has this guy named Renaissance been hiding? Has he never heard of Blackwater or "Al-Qa'eda"? Has he not observed the privatization of military toward thousands of contractors, privateers and other outsourcing opportunists in the U.S. and Europe in their struggle to re-colonize Africa and the Middle East? Does he not realize that Halford Mackinder is alive and well in Zbigniew Brzezinski senior and other long-time warfiteering bureaucrats embedded in government? This is the beginning of the new dark ages, man! Lighten up! It might not last, though.

The reason for formations of democratic and parliamentary governments of the past was to guarantee repayment of war debts to financier oligarchies. War and socialism for rich people are the root causes of all national debts and economic stagnation. Conventional warfare with actual troop invasions are far too expensive nowadays. Today it's financial warfare by marauding capital. The financier oligarchies will probably want to return to democracy at some point in order to guarantee repayment of debts. Today the people are slowling beginning to realize that nouveau marauding armies are really only walls of money and worthless paper iou's. Who's afraid of those? Not Bolivians nor Argentinians. Ex-nay on Chileans who no longer fear the US-backed dictators or government bullets. Not Greeks or Icelanders, and not students in Quebec. Definitely not the Taliban or the other 80% of the Afghan resistance. 

The gig might be up for today's financier oligarchies and their bought and paid-for governments. They might return to democracy at some point; and the 1000 year-old financier oligarchy will be the driving force behind it. Why? Because they want to be paid on time and without very much revolution in the process.  It's a cycle and pattern throughout history. Democracy is on the way, because the financier oligarchies are beginning to lose faith in their own stoogeaucracies to trick and lie to the masses. And their crappy economies aren't creating enough "wealth" for them to skim the cream from. We are stagnating, or, their system is stagnant and creating social unrest. Social unrest is bad for power and its hangers on.  Corrupt stoogeaucracy is on the wane as more and more people realize that democracy is missing from the film show. Yes more and more young people are understanding that Maggie's TINA is not true, and that there are many alternatives to stoogeaucracy. And the situation is dangerous as far as the world's oligarchs are concerned. Democracy is on the verge of making a comeback.

Brachina

Boom Boom wrote:
Well, that's a bit harsh. I like the NDP even though they're not perfect - who is???

Don't worry Boom Boom he's just part of group here on rabble that's upset that the NDP isn't protest party any more, they might actually form government and they have to keep in mind the consquences of thier actions over immediate gratification of revolutionary urges.

Mulcair is already the most left wing NDP leader we have in Canada, he's doing what he can.

See what they don't understand is Mulcair job is to win power so we can have things like universal daycare, lower tuitions, no wars with Iran, cap and trade, Peace keeping instead of "Peace making", affordable housing, amoung other things. Its not to lead protests, they have leaders for that, its not to oppose the Charest government, that's the job of QS and Amir Kadr, its to fight Steven Harper over tuitions and to make sure he doesn't interfer on Charest side. And this applies as equally to NDP Quebec MPs as it does to thier leader, because its thier job too, to fight Steven Harper, they share in his responsiblities.

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

Why do I feel you are damning the NDP with faint praise? LaughingFoot in mouthEmbarassed

love is free love is free's picture

well, the only examples of direct democracy that we have in canada is a sort of scaled-down town meeting that some boroughs (mine, for instance, plateau-mont royal) use to set budget priorities.  so far, participation is about 1/3 cranks, 1/3 older folks and activists, and 1/3 serious people (business owners, amir, associations) who want to set the agenda, and that's in the most left progressive borough east of the danforth.  there's a lot to be said for direct democracy, but few actually willing to get in there and take the time to say it.

what i think is really taking place in montreal and quebec is that for many many years, we have had an extremely apathetic and low info voter selecting one of two political cartels that none of us really identify with, and that real political action has stratified and evolved in different rhythms at different loci.  this movement has become a sort of point of convergence where a large group of people with broadly similar experiences and broadly similar politics come together to oppose an entire political class.  this IS what happens during revolutions, but we don't really have middle class buy-in yet, which students of history with know is the basic requirement for revolution in industrialized countries, and at any rate, the demands are two diverse to be sustained beyond the fairly artifical dyad that we have with charest's rules vs. student demands.

i have the feeling that if the government bends and brings in something that seems reasonable to most people, most students will come out of this feeling like they've won, while a core will continue on.  if we're really lucky, the charest government will continue to overplay its hand, run an even harder line, compell radicals to expand their vista of action and radicalize thousands of others.  when chaos reigns, when business suffers, when the project just seems like mis-rule, that's when the middle class comes on board, and we can end up with a major capitulation that leads to some very major changes.  direct democracy?  that's nowhere in even the brightest of scenarios.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

Boom Boom wrote:

Why do I feel you are damning the NDP with faint praise? LaughingFoot in mouthEmbarassed

Boom Boom you live in Quebec. I can't help thinking from my vantage point on the other side of the continent that the people on their streets banging pots ARE the Orange Wave.  Do the NPD MP's stay indoors at 8:00 PM no matter where they are?  I am afraid for the party that if I am right and it is the Orange Wave making all the noise they might notice the absence of the people they just elected as progressive MP's.

I think that if the NPD does not stand with the people they will be a flash in the "pan" in Quebec politics.

kropotkin1951 kropotkin1951's picture

I think Mulcair should allow his MP's to join in and be seen on their own streets joining in the joyous cacophony.  No comments need be made the act of banging a pot is the only comment they need to make.

Fidel

I think that while the students demands for affordable PSE are valid, they are tragically barking up the wrong tree. I've explained why in other threads on the subject of PSE funding. Mulroney, Chretien, Martin and herr Harper must be laughing their heads off over these student protests in Quebec. It's like being given the wrong address to a house party. At some point someone will realize there is no music and homeowners,  while corrupt and despotic, have no party favours and are not in party mode.

Mniemoeller

Brachina wrote:

Boom Boom wrote:
Well, that's a bit harsh. I like the NDP even though they're not perfect - who is???

Don't worry Boom Boom he's just part of group here on rabble that's upset that the NDP isn't protest party any more, they might actually form government and they have to keep in mind the consquences of thier actions over immediate gratification of revolutionary urges. Mulcair is already the most left wing NDP leader we have in Canada, he's doing what he can. See what they don't understand is Mulcair job is to win power so we can have things like universal daycare, lower tuitions, no wars with Iran, cap and trade, Peace keeping instead of "Peace making", affordable housing, amoung other things. Its not to lead protests, they have leaders for that, its not to oppose the Charest government, that's the job of QS and Amir Kadr, its to fight Steven Harper over tuitions and to make sure he doesn't interfer on Charest side. And this applies as equally to NDP Quebec MPs as it does to thier leader, because its thier job too, to fight Steven Harper, they share in his responsiblities.

 

I'm not worried that the NDP "isn't protest party anymore" under Mulcair, I'm worried that the NDP won't be the NDP anymore under Mulcair. With Jack in command, the NDP could do both but Mulcair isn't Jack and he is willing to throw people and policies under a bus to get his way.

Mulcair isn't a Dipper, he's a Liberal who sees a better opportunity with the rising NDP than rebuilding a sagging Liberal rump with Bob Rae hiding behind every lamppost. Just look at the candidates he will attract and then look at the NDP stalwarts expected to fall on their swords to make room.

Mulcair is just another angry old white dude opportunist. He's part of the problem, not the solution.

NDPP

If the social movement blossoms as it appears to they won't need the NDP anyway. Clearly for a party with such a stake in Quebec to be silent at such a momentous time in Quebec history,  is more than a bit outrageous... Perhaps some of the reason for the silence of people who were themselves at university so recently may be found here:

"The MP for Thunder Bay was first elected to the House of Commons in 2008, then re-elected in 2011, both times under the banner of the New Democratic Party. But in April, just weeks after the party elected Thomas Mulcair as its new permanent leader, Hyer announced he would be leaving caucus to sit as an independent.

In a letter to his riding association outlining why he left, Hyer said he was 'concerned about a type of leadership style' that sees MPs as little more than 'puppets on a string to their leader'. At the time, about one-third of the NDP caucus signalled support for his move, Hyer said.

'Many of the caucus members - I'm not going to identify them individually - have expressed considerable sympathy for what I did and kind of agree with me,' he said. 'Interestingly, many of those are the young Quebecois MPs who believe more in democracy than they do in party discipline.'

Going Against Party Lines, MP Says He Wields More Power Now as Independent

http://www.globalnews.ca/canada/going+against+party+lines+mp+says+he+wie...

Fidel

Mniemoeller wrote:

Mulcair isn't a Dipper, he's a Liberal who sees a better opportunity with the rising NDP than rebuilding a sagging Liberal rump with Bob Rae hiding behind every lamppost.

I thought Mulcair used to be a Liberal before he found that party to be too dictatorial and just another conservative party?

And I thought Bob Rae used to be an NDPer until he realized that there is more money backing the Liberal Party than the party he chose to leave?

Boom Boom Boom Boom's picture

I think roughly about 60% of the criticism directed towards Mulcair is a bunch of BS.