Friday, August 13, 2010

Is Democracy Possible?

No one needs to be reminded that we’ve all just been through some pretty depressing times. The economy nearly collapsed and remains anemic, BP pretty much trashed the Gulf of Mexico with its oil eruption, the health care “reformers” couldn’t even squeeze a public option into their pathetic bill, and the promised legislation to begin to bring greenhouse gases under control was just abandoned because of a lack of votes in the Senate. Barack Obama, hailed into office with so much fanfare and hope (at least from progressives) seems shell-shocked at best, and ineffectual at worst. Hounded on the right by Tea Party idiots who call him both a socialist and a Nazi, and criticized on the left by his own supporters as disinclined to fight for his beliefs, his poll numbers have plummeted so rapidly since the BP spill that some of the Democrats running for Congress have warned him to stay away from their districts. As to the congressional and gubernatorial races coming this Fall, most seem headed for disaster, with Republican yahoos threatening to take over one or both houses of Congress—a result that would doom any prospects for reasonable legislation and perhaps result in repealing the few decent items already passed (like health care).

To counteract their catastrophe, the Democrats are doing their usual dance—kowtowing to conservative ideas and slogans, and courting the banks and corporations which brought the country to its knees. With their need for campaign cash as primary, such so-called “representatives of the people” make ever clearer that they represent not you and me, but the biggest, dirtiest, most ruthless elements in the nation: Wall Street operators, corporate crooks, energy barons, health care frauds, and the military-industrial complex which profits from war and terror.

In short, though we all like to think that we the people control our government because we get to vote every two or four years, the sad truth is that our control is illusory, a con game meant to pacify the masses while the same old robber barons and insiders get to set the agenda, invent the terms of debate, and offer up the candidates (in recent years, bypassing the back rooms and seeking elective office themselves—i.e. Michael Bloomberg in New York, Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina running for governor and senator in California). And in the few instances where their control fails, they hire armies of lobbyists to hamstring any legislation that might threaten their profits, their incomes, their mandarin lifestyle.

The question this raises is the one in my title: Is Democracy Possible? Or more pertinently, is democracy doomed?

I’m not sure I can answer this question (surprises are always possible), but a recent documentary raises some fascinating alternatives. That’s why I’m suggesting here that you take a look at what average people in several other parts of the world are doing. The basic idea is simple: since those who represent/rule us are captives of the moneyed interests who brought the whole system to its knees, and since our so-called leaders could think of nothing to do but to rescue these same criminals and try to restore the very system of organized thievery that failed, the people themselves are obliged to find other ways. Other ways to survive. Other ways to come together as a society of human beings. Other ways to barter and bargain and aid each other without the mediation—and rapacious profit-taking—of the banks and corporations who care nothing for people or the planet they’re daily trashing but only for their precious bottom line. Other ways; because if the bigs can’t or won’t do it—and they’ve made crystal clear that they will fight tooth and nail not to—it makes no sense to wait until they sink the whole ship; the change has to come from the bottom up.

So here’s the url for the documentary. It comes from the web site,, of Katherine Austin Fitts, a longtime economist and U.S. government official who’s talking some of the most radical economics around. Take a look. I did, and though I’m not yet sure how or if it can apply to me or my community, just the fact that ordinary people are thinking and acting in these ways—opting out of the nefarious system that has us all bound and gagged, and implementing amazing alternatives—made my day. The website:

Lawrence DiStasi

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