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  • Why We Need an International Movement for a Participatory Society

    | Photo: Jonny White / Wiki commons

There is an earth and human emergency, and a global movement is needed to combat it.

Liberal capitalist democracies have been undermined by international finance and business interests. Political preferences by individuals as well as small and large constituencies are rendered insignificant. As a study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I Page suggests, in the USA, “policymaking is dominated by powerful business organizations and a small number of affluent Americans.” This, the scholars further stress, has the following implications:

When a majority of citizens disagrees with economic elites and/or with organized interests, they generally lose. Moreover, because of the strong status quo bias built into the US political system, even when fairly large majorities of Americans favor policy change, they generally do not get it.

On an international level, decision making is biased in a similar way. Noam Chomsky has described how a “virtual senate” comprised of heavy weight investors and lenders influences policy via “capital flight, attacks on currency and other means.” This virtual government has undermined representative democratic governance.

During the last decades, the virtual government has facilitated the implementation of radical policies aimed at redistributing wealth and resources in favor of the powerful. In accord with elite priorities, there has been a consensus among Western governments, including that of the USA, UK, and the European Union headed by Germany, to impose “austerity” measures against domestic as well as foreign populations such as in Greece.

“Austerity” policies have contributed to a massive international wealth gap that is illustrated by the following figure: A 2015 study by Oxfam found that “the combined wealth of the richest 1 per cent will overtake that of the other 99 per cent of people next year.” Similar inequalities can be found in virtually all liberal capitalist democracies from the USA to Scandinavia. Such inequalities are unjust, undermine democracy and indicate societal degeneration.

The same elite interests have relentlessly been driving towards militarism. Via overt and covert intervention, Western states have facilitated a major war theatre that currently unfolds in the Middle East, Eurasia and Africa approximating a World War III scenario. Offensive military intervention is executed under the guise of the “war on terror/war against ISIS” as well as “humanitarianism”. These adventures are extremely costly for the target populations and invite major “blowbacks”.

Powerful business lobbies and the mass media have been preventing rational debates about constructive strategies to mitigate man-made climate change. Actions to counter the effects of climate change are a matter of survival. Accordingly, Dahr Jamail reported a recently published study in Science that states, unequivocally, that the planet has officially entered its sixth mass extinction event. The study showed that species are already being killed off at rates much faster than they were during the other five extinction events, and warned ominously that humans could very likely be among the first wave of species going extinct.

The lead author of the study, Gerardo Ceballos of the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico (Autonomous University of Mexico), told reporters that if current rates of ACD [anthropogenic climate disruptions], deforestation and pollution are allowed to continue, “Life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on.”

All these issues suggest the need for multi-level and peaceful grassroots activism aimed at pressuring governments to change societies for the better.

There is an urgent requirement for a popular movement that shares a vision which goes beyond liberal as well as centralist socialist alternatives to the status quo. Such a visionary framework has been put forward by the fledgling and slow to develop project called International Organization for a Participatory Society (IOPS). This type framework could be tried and tested within burgeoning local, national and international organizations and movements that strive for a better society. The idea is to seek new political, economic, gender and cultural institutions that augment and enlarge the aims of traditional progressive organizations such as left/socialist parties, Attac or Green Peace. This would hopefully provide a useful framework that self consciously classism and other oppressive features. Perhaps the following values could orient such an effort.

Self-Management

Decision making influence in proportion to the degree you are affected by a decision.

Equity/Justice

Distribution of circumstances and benefits in accord with duration, intensity, and onerousness of socially valued labour, or comparable factors in other aspects of life.

Solidarity

Creation of conditions that foster mutual aid and empathy.

Diversity

Respect for dissent and difference, including making room for minority and dissident positions to develop and revisit earlier commitments.

Ecological Stewardship

Care for natural habitats and environment in accord with sustainability and the thriving of diversity for species and humans.

Internationalism

Applying the above mentioned values not merely to a society, but to the community of all societies.

Such a framework could be adopted and put into practice. It could be tried and tested as well as altered and modified in accord with new insights and developments. If this level of coherence and shared aims is vitally needed as a visionary guideline during our peaceful activism for a better society - and who would say it isn't - then shouldn't we work to make it happen?

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