Thursday, October 22, 2009

Decisions, decisions!!!

Decisions, decisions, representing both the problem and the opportunity of mankind, are the unavoidable precursors to effective action, in both personal and communal life, to produce the results desired and guard against the troubles to be avoided.
That’s politics in all its dimensions, from the curse of bad decisions to the euphoria of sweet success. But, do the sufferings and the rewards descend equally on all. That too is politics. Is it good enough?

I have just finished reading Taylor Branch’s masterly coverage of the Negro search for freedom and dignity in America, from the Civil War to the march on Washington that concluded a long series of struggles against the political segregation which, along with the deeply manifested hate, lay so disastrously heavy on the Negroes, in the South especially.

But this detailed history covering some nine hundred pages also revealed the dysfunction of the separate government institutions which so effectively stood in the way of righting widespread, severe wrongs. Clearly, America is still in turmoil today, with high aims for itself and the world, but enormous dissent. Has the ‘democracy’, which she seeks to implant in the East, real credibility?

But where do we stand? We are quite different and it has been said that our Prime Minister has more power than an American President. But both are at odds with the varied manifestations of representative government – small parties and state powers. Difficulties abound and critically question the reality of the democracy so often claimed. There are many who are worried – how can the many problems of the present – and the future - be resolved in a desirable climate of peace? Our democracy needs reform. The ballot in parliament is sound but has appealed to few. Where else can we look?

A Queensland group, The Foundation for National Renewal, have conceived an entirely new basis of democratic government, in which fifty representatives of quite small electorates (5000) would meet in regional parliaments (covering 250000), which would each send a representative to the National Parliament. These representatives would rejoin their regional parliaments on the Friday of each sitting week, thus enabling cross conferencing and integrating government of all levels automatically. So, what do you think of that?
Check for more detail.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Symposium again!

A VIP at the Symposium (self-defined 'Very Irish Person'), complained volubly about 'Compulsory Voting'.
1. Barry Jones explained that it is not compulsory voting, only compulsory attendance at the polling booth, (with your use of the secret vote or not being up to you). The aim is to make parliament, as much as possible, truly representative of the whole secretly-voting population. But does this democratic correctness maximise popular support of the government?
2. By a further requirement, all squares on the voting paper must be correctly completed, enabling the two leading contenders to share all transferred preferences, giving the winner over 50% of the vote, invulnerability in the Lower House, and the Prime Minister nearly dictatorial power - to the frustration of the Opposition and many of the people!
3. In other countries the percentage of people voting is often quite low. Britain, for example, has first-past-the-post voting, and government is won without preferences, and less than 50% of the vote. There the party government's rule is more flexible, except where a policy is determined by a 'three-line whip' making member conformance mandatory.
4. The real point of course is that the ruling party power derives its undemocratic power by its control of parliamentary voting in the absence of secret voting in the House. The cure is dead easy for a populace which might become inclined to take an elementary interest in the government of their country.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Democracy’s Failure

As I ‘look’ around the world, I see nothing but trouble, and the more trouble I see the more I think to myself: ‘Wouldn’t it be good if only we had democracy – instead of power politics from shire councils up. At every level, from local to global, policies and decisions are determined in the adversarial context created by the virtually unhindered acquisition of political power and consequent advantage – the so frequent failing of mankind in matching greed and a disrespect for the second commandment – ‘to love thy neighbour as thyself.’.

While experimental models abound, serious flaws prevail. Democracy suffers from the lack of a true model anywhere, in place or time. Even the Athenian democracy from whence the dream of democracy sprang, is picked over by the cynics, to ‘prove’ that it can never be achieved, so why bother. Certainly, slaves had no vote but, throughout the people generally there must have been a remarkable generosity of spirit amongst the people, even for the dream to be born, and also lived for a time.
Their decisions were simply reached in open meetings of the people, with opinions of all freely expressed, until desirable solutions became obvious, and no longer challenged. Thus the people made the rules by which they were governed. Quaker meetings today betray a similar principle of operation, reflecting the regard that they have for each other. It is apparent that mutual respect is encouraged in this context and tends towards becoming the norm in a climate of trust.

Thus the genius of theoretical democracy lies in its design that no one might dominate another. But, what has happened to sabotage the theory, to the serious disadvantage, and risk, to us all?
Principles of peaceful governance fail us from the local level, to the state, nation and the world. Leaders are treated with contumely and even their lives sometimes threatened by individuals and groups who are dissatisfied with current trends in policy. It is reported that the net is alive with threats to the life of President Obama, in ‘the world’s greatest democracy’.

At present I am reading the story of Afghan independent MP, Malalai Joya whose life is under continual threat, and before her expulsion from parliament her microphone was cut off if she dared to speak, because she would not refrain from exposing the criminality of the warlords who control Afghanistan with the support of America and its allies, including Australia.

The world is struggling uphill with mounting problems, with its peoples’ ideal of self-government wrecked on the rocky shores of ideology and religion. Democracy, which belongs to the people, is secular, standing for the public interest, the wellbeing of the people, but it has lost the battle with the self-interest of the people. Is that the way we really want it to be? There are some ‘stirrings in the tree tops’, but a national revival of the will of the people is essential.