Thursday, 12 July 2012 00:00 GFP Columnist - Joseph M. Cachia
"To be able to fill leisure intelligently is the last product of civilization, and at present very few people have reached this level." - Bertrand Russell

Let’s take back our democracy!

I believe, and everybody must grant, that no government can exist for a single moment without the co-operation of the people, willing or forced, and if people withdraw their co-operation in every detail, the government would come to a standstill.

Am I a bit older than you? I am in that group of people who are dying off and will soon be unable to worry about our country and its people.

I don't know how long it will take for the public to switch from "It happens to the other guy", to "Tomorrow it might be me!”. I think a revolution is the only thing that will ever work, unfortunately. Force can mean physical force, but can also mean the force of the political process When it arrives it'll be in the form of democratic politics and democracy in the workplace via the creation of a government exclusively of, by and for workers, consumers and small farmers that excludes and expropriates the rich, the 1%. Are we waiting for this or is it already happening?

I wish it were otherwise. I'm glad I'm old.

The Struggle of the 99% against the exploitation of the 1% is not just an election issue. It is a struggle between the Have’s and the Have Not’s. This must be remembered and not let up in the will to fight back against the 1%. There seems to be agreement all around that action to change the situation, for the poor to improve their lot at the expense of the rich, is an affront to civil society. I believe such a "war" can be justified, and indeed ultimately is inevitable.

Occupy Wall Street is a people-powered protest movement that began on September 17, 2011 in Liberty Square in Manhattan’s Financial District, and has spread to over 1,000 cities in the United States and actions in over 1,500 cities globally. The movement is fighting back against social and economic inequality through the corrosive power of major banks and multinational corporations over the democratic process, and the role of Wall Street in creating an economic collapse that has caused the greatest recession in generations. It is inspired by popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, and aims to fight back against the richest 1% of people that are writing the rules of an unfair global economy that is foreclosing on our future. The occupations around the world are being organized using a non-binding consensus based on a collective decision-making tool known as a "people's assembly” and strive to make the economic structure and power relations in society more fair and just. The movement, best described as a "democratic awakening", commonly uses the slogan “We are the 99%”.

Correspondingly, Madrid's Occupy movement, known as the ‘ Spanish Indignados’, saw tens of thousands take to the streets across Spain to protest against austerity measures and already hundreds of camps sprang up around Spain and across the world.

Many observers consider the camping in Spain as a marked-start of a global Occupy movement. "They don't represent us!" was the most common chant directed at the country's politicians. Banks and bankers were also the targets of the protesters' ire.

Today, it no longer is a force representing a small portion of the left – it is a living movement. It doesn’t express just the hope of people on the left, but also that of entire peoples who want this policy to stop, and that democracy and social justice be present always.

Today, 400 individuals have as much wealth as an entire HALF of America.

Even as ordinary people across the planet are coming together to fight back against corporate money, the powerful forces of the plutocracy are still pushing forward to seize more control of our world. Wherever this happens, the financial technocrats and bankers make the poor and working people of the world pay for the excesses of the very rich.

The capitalist system in the west and in most of the world holds corporate values that put corporate/shareholder profits above all else. Rules are made or changed to enable the profits, with no regard for anyone or anything else. The wealthy corporate/financial interests have the power to get their way, because the news people consume is also bought and paid for. As of now, the powers-that-be are busy trying to keep the 99% quiet by bringing up useless subjects which have no ties to our big problems.

My main point is that people who desire serious changes in the government, the economy, and our way of life need to do a lot more thinking about how to effect such changes. Not only is much more thinking required, but much more action is required as well, since thinking only goes so far, and the trial and error process involved in actions undertaken to effect systemic change yields data useful to our deliberations on how to effect systemic change. There is a mountain of work ahead, and whether people are up to the challenge, and whether this task will even be very effective no matter how much work is put into it, are unknown.

These movements have been initiated by youth but now are incorporating all ages, genders and nationalities from a broad diversity of backgrounds, life experiences and political philosophies.

Has the weakness of the left and of the workers’ unions been the cause of their creation or are our citizens too complacent and are only willing to complain rather than insist on radical changes? They are not willing to WORK TOGETHER for the good of our country.

And where does the Maltese proletariat stand? When I asked the title-question to a journalist friend of mine, his satirical reply was; ‘If you are seeking our youths, why not try at the entertainment mecca of Paceville?’

My honest advice: Engage in Politics Without Following the Politicians’ Rules.

Unfortunately and sadly, I was bound to agree with him, although perhaps not fully.

I still yearningly remember the young ‘Graffiti’ group and their enthusiastic members vociferously protesting against the presence of military ships in our harbours. They did a good job in highlighting the abusive insults being committed against the articles in our Constitution, thus showing the way to the Opposition Party. Labour’s historical link to broader struggles for social justice – a link that is often overlooked even by unions themselves - has to be clearly and strongly enforced. But, evidently, the energy of this movement has fizzled out, as not one word was uttered against our involvement against Libya in spite of the militarization of our ports and airport supporting battle engagements. A pitiful loss of a youth movement.

Do today's young people inhabit an age of unprecedented symbolic, material and institutional violence - an age of grotesque irresponsibility, unrestrained greed and unchecked individualism? Youth now constitute a present absence in any talk about democracy. Their absence or disappearance is symptomatic of a society that has turned against itself, punishes its children and does so at the risk of killing the entire body politic. The "suicidal state" produces an autoimmune crisis in which a society attacks the very elements of a society that allow it to reproduce itself, while at the same time killing off of any sense of history, memory and ethical responsibility.

What is evident in this worldwide movement of youth protests is a bold attempt to imagine the possibility of another world, a refusal of the current moment of historical one dimensionality, a refusal to settle for reforms that are purely incremental.

One way of addressing our collapsing intellectual and moral visions regarding young people is to imagine those policies, values, opportunities and social relations that invoke adult responsibility and reinforce the ethical imperative to provide young people with the economic, social and educational conditions that make life livable and the future sustainable.

The present crisis is not only the crisis of capitalism but also the crisis of morality. Man has all but destroyed public education and its by-product, critical thinking.

The deteriorating state of youth may be the most serious challenge facing educators, social workers, youth workers, and others in the 21st century. It is a struggle that is as educational as it is political and moral. It is also a struggle that is as necessary as it is urgent. It is also a struggle that cannot be ignored.

As Emerson counsels: "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail".

You may hate what I am saying because you fear that I am right.

Let me end by quoting Samuel Adams, who said of those whose allegiance was to money: “If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquillity of servitude greater than the animating contest for freedom, go home from us in peace. We seek not your counsel nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains set lightly upon you; and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”

“Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all - the apathy of human beings.” - Helen Keller

Image Contributed by Joseph M. Cachia

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