Posts Tagged ‘Fake Democracy’

Cuomo And His Admirers: Bully Lovers

April 5, 2021

Too much power into too few hands.

We need to be controlled by superior ideas, not highly successful bullies. To change this requires changing the nature of politics and “leadership”: instead of trying to elect miracle leaders, we need to find out what the better ideas are, and accept to be ruled by them, the better angels of logic and compassion. So we need to learn to aspire to be led by debates, not by bullies. 

Representative democracy, as we have it now, disingenuously represents that a few individuals represent all of us. They can’t. It’s a lie to pretend they can. Democracy should not be about the one replacing the many. Democracy should be about people power (what demos-kratia means), and the power of the people is what comes out of the debates of the people: suggesting ideas, adjudicating them, modifying them, and accepting them. As long as we look for brutish “controlling” autocrats, to “lead” us, we will get them. Cuomo is just the latest blatant example. It is the aspirations of the political system, what the “demos” wants, which need to be changed. As long as we prefer to listen to lies rather than finding the truth, we will be the victims of pseudo-progressives and pseudo-democrats.  

New York Times: “You can’t call yourself a progressive champion while cutting school funding and Medicaid. You can’t call yourself a progressive champion while fondling young women and making them feel as if they are only valued for their high heels and short skirts. You can’t call yourself a progressive champion when your quest to assert your dominance leads to needless death. But Mr. Cuomo has tried to pull it off by using his political might to divert our attention.

The unmasking of Mr. Cuomo’s aggressive and abusive tactics offers a moment for us to reflect on the kinds of leaders we want and the best ways for them to pursue change. “I am a controlling personality,” he writes of himself in his new book. “But you show me a person who is not controlling and I’ll show you a person who is probably not highly successful.”

This is wrong. Requiring our leaders to be ruthless makes it harder for women and people of color to enter the halls of power. It associates competence with cruelty, which is something white men are allowed to brandish but other leaders are not.

The NYT says that we should have known about Cuomo long ago. Yes, starting with the fact his dad was NY governor too, so he inherited the job. But not just that: democrats should know they don’t have democracy, as it is, and structural reforms are needed.

Patrice Ayme

***

More NYT on Cuomo: “For Mr. Cuomo, government has always been a show, and that was the case long before he won an Emmy for appearing on TV with PowerPoint slides. His flashy policy actions were paper thin, a veil for his pointed attacks on the most vulnerable.

In truth, he has long championed deep austerity even as he has touted high-profile progressive social issues. As early as his first year in office, he crowed about a “historic and transformational” state budget that reduced spending by more than 2 percent, in particular through reductions for Medicaid and education. The budget also eliminated some services for domestic violence victims and the homeless.

He has been at it ever since. In 2019, he clashed with newly empowered leaders of his own party in the Legislature when he resisted an increase in spending on education and other social programs. The next year, as a health crisis hit, he was still insisting that he couldn’t complete a state budget without cutting Medicaid. He has long opposed education increases, even for the neediest schools. When Congress sent coronavirus relief funding to the country’s highest-poverty schools in March 2020, including those in New York City, Mr. Cuomo cut the exact same amount from the state budget that the city would normally receive, wiping out the new money with a stroke of his pen. (This came after he had the gall to accuse Democrats in the State Legislature of failing to increase funding for poor school districts in 2019.)

All along, before the pandemic and during it, he has refused to consider raising taxes on the wealthy (until very recently),

His focus on his own image over and above improving life for New Yorkers has bordered on the absurd. Beginning in 2014, Mr. Cuomo installed more than 500 “I Love NY” signs along our highways as a PR move, despite being told that the Federal Highway Administration wouldn’t allow them, costing the state a $14 million fine. (The signs themselves had already cost $8.1 million.)

We still don’t know if, or when, Mr. Cuomo’s many scandals will ultimately depose him. But whenever he leaves power, New York should be ready to pick a different kind of leader. It would be a mistake to replace Mr. Cuomo with someone who pursues actual progressive policies with the same brutal aggression. We need someone who can get things done without leaving a path of abuse in his or her wake.

We Are 30,000 Times Less Democratic Than Athens!

November 18, 2020

To pass a law in Athens, when Athens was at her greatest, one needed a minimum of 6,000 votes from 6,000 citizens. Out of a total population of 300,000 (including children, women and slaves). That means one vote for 50 inhabitants.  

To pass a law in the USA, one needs 200 votes in the national assembly (US Congress; actually 218 votes, a number unchanged for more than a century during which the US population more than tripled). Out of a population of 300 millions (actually, 330 millions). That means one vote for 1.5 million people. Now: (1.5)(10^6)/50 = 30,000.

The Athenian/Attica national assembly (ἐκκλησία, ekklesía) required a quorum of 6,000 citizens to pass (important) laws. A law approved by 50% or more would pass. Any free adult male above 20 was eligible to pass laws… And had the right to address the ekklesia (that was part of ISEGORIA). The officials of the democracy were in part elected by the Assembly and in part chosen by lottery in a process called sortition.

This required a considerable effort: the average citizen needed a day to travel from the average farm in Attica. Voters were financially compensated (when they had not been the effort on the families was too great). The Ecclesia was overseen by the council of 500 (boule). Those and the courts (a minimum of 200 people, on some occasions up to 6,000) were selected by lot. 

Selecting overseeing assemblies by lot prevented nepotism and the purchase of sympathy in exchange for gifts (a gift could be just a traffic of influence; Joe Biden once memorably described exactly how that happened in his long career… and added that it could not be avoided… well, with Athenian or Roman term limits, it could have been avoided…) 

The Athenian Constitution was as complex as the Roman one. In the Athenian and Roman Republic, citizens voted laws directly. In Rome the elected Tribunes of the People oversaw the National Assembly and its voting by “tribes”. In Athens there were no tribunes, but the the Boule, selected by lottery, oversaw the Ekklesia…

The Athenian democracy was severely criticized and even ridiculed by Socrates and Plato. But the latter, who wrote about it, belonged to the .1% of Athens, and had an obvious taste for dictatorship (Plato befriended the tyrant of Syracuse, something that was doubly strange, not just because the tyrant was a bloody tyrant, and it doesn’t look philosophical to befriend a tyrant… but also because the destruction of Athens as great power happened from her defeat during the siege of Syracuse, in 413 BCE). 

Many of these Platonic critiques were justified: some institutions inside Athens such as the military and the navy, needed to be professionalized at the highest level.

Contemporaneously, the Roman Republic had found how to accomplish this (but with an official aristocratic component, the Patricians, that Athens did not have). Rome avoided terrible mistakes such as the attack on Syracuse (Rome did attack Syracuse, but only when pretty sure of victory, and with a good motivation, whereas the Athenian scheme against Syracuse was grotesque, and not a just war…). Rome, in a much longer history, avoided the sort of crime against humanity Athens committed against Melos [1]. I am not saying Rome was soft and cuddly, far from it. But Rome wisely always waited to have excellent reasons to be really mean. The Melos atrocity made much of Greece fear Athens, and ally itself against Athens… Whereas Rome, by avoiding blatant atrocities before it turned plutocratic, kept an excellent reputation as fair and an acceptable ruler, and was well-considered, even by its natural enemies…

In any case, the European Middle Ages would institute such institutions, starting with the guilds (around 1000 CE) and the Feudal order (initially coming from the Counties Charlemagne had set-up)… and then the legal and medical orders… Followed by the judicial system set in place by Louis IX of France (the US system derives from it) and then the national police set-up by his grandson Philip IV Le Bel, King of France

  I call such institutions “Democratic Institutions”: they are part of the Deep State, and are compatible with both tyranny and democracy. And they are both necessary to make either optimal. But now we have them, so the debate launched by Socrates has been satisfactorily concluded.     

What we need to do is rebuild the DIRECT DEMOCRACY. How do we avoid disasters such as people voting according to what Big Money has decided? (As Prop 15 and 22 in California, on Nov 3, 2020) Simple: we make the purchase of minds illegal for violating isegoria. 

Nowadays voting in person is easy, because of the Internet. It is easier to verify the identity of someone using the Internet than using the methods used in California, November 3, 2020: identities were not even verified!

My leaders should not be the ignorant representatives who are supposed to be representing me. How could impartial knowledge be represented by greedy ignorance? How could long term wisdom be represented by self-obsessed professional prostitutes who made a career of influence trafficking?  

Last but not least, the number above, 30,000 as in 30,000 times less democratic is a minimum. Indeed our 200 legislators or so, being professionals influence traffickers, cannot be compared to the free citizens of Attica, who had no agenda, no masters, no employers, no higher-ups, and especially not plutocrats, or plutocratic institution to satisfy. So the “200” we put in the denominator should be actually restricted to the incorruptibles determined not to make politics into a career, nor to extract a career out of politics… Verily very few of them, and certainly none of the divas and stars which make the political world as we have it…

So let’s recapitulate: only a few hundreds of us vote… There is no isegoria, no parrhesia. Why should we call this democracy? Shouldn’t we instead call it ‘fake democracy”… To go along with the fake news, fake history, fake Federal Reserve bank, fake meritocracy, fake educational system, fake equality of chances, fake justice, fake debates, fake issues, fake problems, fake outrages, fake Paris Climate Accord… And now maybe even now a fake president (tell us ain’t true, Joe)… But all too real Global Deep Plutocracy?

Patrice Ayme 

***

[1] Athens invaded Melos in the summer of 416 BC and demanded that the Melians surrender and pay tribute to Athens or face annihilation. The Melians refused, so the Athenians laid siege to their city. Melos surrendered in the winter, and the Athenians executed their men and enslaved their women and children.

***

[2] The genesis of Rome, its slow rise as a (nearly direct, yet “mixed”) democracy was extremely full of conflicts, but just of the right size. Athens in the end of the Fifth Century BCE and the Fourth Century BCE found herself fighting for survival against the mightiest enemies, and actually plutocracies full of hatred for democracy, hell bent to destroy democracy by all and any means… (Sparta plus Persia in the 5C BCE; Macedonia plus Persia/Seleucids in the 4C BCE.)… So no wonder Athens got crazy….


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