Note: This post has been written years ago. I believe it is very important but no one has picked up the idea. So I keep it at the top of this page at least, in the hope that one more person might read.
First we need definitions. Democracy, coming from the Greek word dēmokratía, literally means “rule by people”. Dēmos “people” and kratos “rule”.
Merriam-webster defines it as:
“a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections.”
The direct democracy is where people vote on specific issues. Today, with the growing population direct democracy is difficult, so we usually have representative democracy. We vote for representatives, and they govern. Voting is considered an exercise of power by the people. It is sold as such. We've been made to believe from a young age that democracy is the best form of government, that elections is a civic duty, that's how we have our say in the government. We've been told over and over again that it is the most just and fair system. Winston Churchill's words are famous: “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”
However, this does not mean that we should accept it as is and not try to find a better way. The problem with democracy today is that people do not really rule. It's not even the government who rules. It's the people with the money, the lobbyists who rule. The people with money have the power, the more power they have the more money they make, the cycle repeats.
“If voting made any difference they wouldn't let us do it,” is a quote attributed to Mark Twain. Regardless of the original author of the quote, it has a big part of truth to it. Elections and voting is just a part of the game that keeps the game going by giving people the impression that they have power and there is a possibility of change. Whereas in fact, the players change, but the game still stays the game. The only way for people to actually rule, to exercise power is by them having a say in where money is spent. Because that's how our world works. It works on money. Money runs the world. That's why money decisions, where it's spent, is a very important issue. And it's very important that the one who pays the piper plays the tune. Whereas now, we are paying and the governments are playing the tune. It's totally unacceptable.
Some people say taxation is theft. Many others are fine with taxes. After all, public services need to be run, the fabric of society needs to be protected. No need to argue whether taxation is theft or not. The bigger problem that is overlooked here is not whether we are taxed or not, it's that governments get to decide where our tax monies go. Even if you are for paying taxes as a dutiful citizen, you should not be fine with governments spending that money, your money, on things you do not approve of.
For example, in 2014, Erdoğan built a Presidential Palace with more than 1,150 rooms. It was called Ak Saray (meaning "White Palace"), both as a reference to the “White House” and to the governing Ak Party. Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party) AKP is also called Ak Party. Ak means “white” or “pure” in Turkish. The presidential palace was also called “Kaç-Ak Saray", again a play with words, kaçak meaning illegal, making it “Illegal Palace.”
Now... This is not a criticism of Erdoğan. It applies to every single item of expenditure in our national budgets, for every single country. People pay the taxes, they give the money, they should have the say. Instead of arguing for or against the building of such a palace, there is a different way of approaching the controversy. There are people who would like to brag about their country being so grand and see the president's office as representing their grandeur, those people should be free to pay for such a presidential palace. But others, who are not fine and do not consent to give a cent to pay for this lavish expenditure, should not be compelled to do so.
Similarly, if there is anybody who wants to pay for controls, for erecting walls/fences, for fancy tech equipment that makes war-mongers get rich, let them. There are people who feel more comfortable and secure that way. Anybody who wants to give money to soldiers, let them give it. Anybody who wants to pay for the security equipment at airports, to put security officers here there and everywhere on a salary, help yourself. But nobody should be obliged to do the same. Nobody should be obliged to pay for things s/he doesn't support.
Governments may dictate how much everyone is supposed to pay. But they may not dictate where that money will go to. People need to be given the means to decide where their money goes. It's their money after all.
With today's technology, it's not that difficult. In fact, it is partially put into action in Italy. You may give 5 per thousand of your due tax to any NGO of your wish. There is no reason for this not to be 1000 per thousand. The government makes a list of expenditures and how much is needed for what, this list is published online. Then, people go and pay their taxes distributing it to the causes they see worth. Just like a crowdfunding project. The only difference is that the government runs the crowdfunding and people paying taxes make the choice. If something is not seen as necessary, it won't get enough funding and cannot be put into action. If there is money, it gets done. Simple as that.
Even then, one might be in the minority, with the majority supporting what the status-quo propagates; still, it might be just a bit easier to accept the situation than what it is now. At least, one could go to bed with a free conscience that s/he didn't have to pay for things s/he didn't support.
Of course not everybody cares. Some people do not mind where their money is spent, they do not wish to be involved with such banal matters. They prefer to just give the money and let others think about it. So the governments won't be left without any resource for things they want to do. Not everybody in Italy uses the 5 per thousand for a cause they care about. If you don't say anything, the state gives it to the Church. But at least, people have a say over their 5 per thousand, in case they want to exercise that power.
Just like the 5 per thousand in Italy, the majority of the population will most probably not bother even if they can have a say over the 1000 per thousand of their taxes. That's not important. The important thing is for people to have control over what governments do with their money. Everybody who pays taxes should have that right. That should be a basic right. Nobody, not even an elected government, should be able to spend somebody else's money without their consent.
Today, governments use taxes collected from the public for all sorts of plunder, nepotism and power games. It all ends up with money. You cut out the money, you make a blow to the corrupt system. Only when people control the money, only then do they control the government. At least up to a certain point. Otherwise, the government controls the people.
Sure, people with more money will still have a bigger say on how to run the country, what gets done. But the numbers are on the side of ordinary people and we might just have a chance if we are given the smallest amount of power.
The saying goes “He who pays the piper plays the tune.” Whereas when it comes to taxes, we pay -that is the governments get the money from us by threat, by force, grabs it even before it gets to our pockets- and they get to play the tune. Seriously... If you are the one to pay, you should get to play the tune.
Today's “democracy” is totally fake. The real democracy, true democracy, in the sense that people get to rule is only possible when we, the people, can say where our monies go. It is time to put that saying into reality: The one who pays the piper, plays the tune.
You want to give... But giving has to be done in a certain way.
We had some children stuff. I had actually saved Lara's nice clothes and shoes as a memory, but in the end, I decided not to keep them. Just a few. Who knows what's going to happen in two decades? If she will have children, if we can store them safely. Before going to Madagascar we wrote to Jean-Claude to ask if there was an institution we could donate children's clothes and toys. He said it's better to give them firsthand, where people in need get them.
In a way, I find that better as well. I know from experience that when you donate things to an institution they are at high risk of either:
a) being appropriated for the benefit of the people running the place,
b) being left rotting in a corner.
We had given some stationery to an orphanage in Ghana, the man in charge just kept most for his children. The rest of the books and pens were stashed in a corner, he didn't distribute, let them rot in the humid air. To his credit, the children in Africa do not really know how to appreciate things and look after them. Not that children in Europe or in other places do know it! They generally have too much and could not care less if some things went missing. In Africa, it's a different kind though. They do not value most of this stuff that they have no use for. Perhaps it's because children don't have a concept of possession yet. Or at least for things they don't especially care about, because they hang on to precious things. Actually they make a fuss if anybody else attempts to touch something they are not even using. When another wants something, all of a sudden, it becomes precious. Children scatter things around. If things get lost, they cry so hard so as to stress the parents. Then they forget. They move on to whatever is at hand. If it's found, it only takes a short time until it's tossed aside again.
Anyway... In the end, we ended up stopping on the road and giving the things in people's/children's hands.
I knew we shouldn't be doing it that way. Naturally, there are always many children surrounding us. So what happens?
We stopped at a rest place where other cars were stopping as well. Children ask for empty plastic water bottles. They serve for so many things, putting oil, gas, drinks... Or they make cars out of them. Toy cars. Anyway, we had given out everything, had only one pair of socks left to give out. Lara took them out, passed them to Jean-Claude, who passed them out from the window. These two 13-15 year-old boys started tugging the socks. And they started a real fight over it. Seriously hitting each other. I don't know if I can describe how horrible it felt, just try to imagine: You give something to someone, you want to help, then you witness them fighting over that, hurting each other. You ask yourself whether it would have been better if you didn't give, if they didn't have anything in the first place.
Of course that's not true. The thing is, people need to have their minimum needs met. As if you don't see the same ugly fight between the rich who have more than enough!
“Over something which neither of them has use for,” I said to Carlo when we were discussing what had happened.
“They trade amongst themselves,” Carlo said.
Could be... Whatever the case, it is heavy to see that there are people in the world fighting over an old pair of baby socks. No wonder about the fights going on over things at bigger stakes. Some companies do it in a politer, more civilized fashion; it's done at a subtler level. But the fight, is as ugly for the ones who can see it.
We had run out of any material thing to give away. The kids on the riverside asked for biscuits. I had a couple of biscuits that I had taken from Rome, for us to munch on on the road. Once again, feeling obliged to give something, I took the bag out to give to the children. Again, of course there is not enough to go around. I suppose in general it's best not to take out anything unless you have enough for everybody. Anyway... I was going to distribute one by one. First, I randomly picked two girls to give to. A boy grabbed one from my hand before the girl could get it. Then one of the girls tried to get it from the boy. The boy, trying hard not to give it to her, squeezed his hand tighter. As he squeezed, the biscuit all fell in crumbles. The other biscuit had the same fate as the children were fighting over it.
Would it have been any different if there was enough for every kid? Perhaps. Perhaps then I could line up the kids and hand each a biscuit, one by one. Still, that wouldn't have guaranteed that there wouldn't be one who tried to grab a second from another.
This actually sums up what I learnt out of life in my almost half a century on this earth. There is a cake, or the image of a cake, and we all try to grab what we can. Some, like me, are weary of this greedy game and do not wish to get involved. (Of course lucky too to have enough.) Others like playing the game, their personality type fits perfectly for this kind of competition. Still others feel compelled to join the game as a matter of livelihood. There are not many options to live a decent life in our world. If people who are more than willing to work cannot get jobs, they may feel obliged to resort to other methods.
This may not absolve them, but it certainly is an explanation that calls for our understanding.
This time there was an elder man around the group of children. He had a stick in his hand. Anytime anybody tried to reach out and grab something as we were pulling it out of the bag, or anytime someone tried to get something given to another, the man would hit lightly on the children.
I'm not sure if I like/d this method. However, it seems to be the one that works. Do we need to have an authoritarian figure distributing the resources of the world like that to each one of us?
Perhaps that could be the only solution!
Or of course, we just keep playing this "the powerful or the rapacious grabs, the others starve or just get by" game.
I don't know about you, I don't like either. We'd better set up a long spoons game somehow, where the greedy cannot eat and have to learn to share if they want to survive. The continuation of our race might depend on that, because the way things are going, we will keep on plucking each other's eyes, or at least trying to.
As Anand Giridharadas so aptly says in his book “Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World":
“You can inspire the rich to do more good, but never tell them to do less harm. You can inspire them to give back, but not to take less. You can inspire them to join the solution, but never accuse them of being part of the problem.”
The crux of the matter is: The elite “...clings to a set of social arrangements that allow it to monopolize progress and then give symbolic scraps to the forsaken -many of whom wouldn't need the scraps if the society were working right.”
Give symbolic scraps to the forsaken... This cannot be emphasized enough.
-many of whom wouldn't need the scraps if the society were working right...
This cannot be emphasized enough either.
We really need some drastic changes. When I say drastic, I'm talking about radically different ways of thinking, not going on with the “already on the table, cold plates.” Those plates have long gone bad, they did not serve, and we live in a totally different world than when those solutions were served. I have some ground-breaking ideas that need implementation. Come up with yours. Let's start discussing them. Let's get the conversation going on a totally tangential route. It may seem erratic, but the route we are going on is the erratic one; it's time to change our approach, it's time to redefine our concepts regarding borders, nationality, money, profit, governments etc.
We need UBI for everyone. We need to establish free-market citizenships where governments woo for our loyalties and taxes instead of us being chained to them at birth, without consent.
Here are some quotes from “Winners Take All”:
“the connection between the extraordinary helping and the extraordinary hoarding, between the milking -and perhaps abetting- of an unjust status quo and the attempts by the milkers to repair a small part of it.”
“There are many ways to make sense of all this elite concern and predation. One is that the elites are doing the best they can. The world is what it is; the system is what it is; the forces of the age are bigger than anyone can resist; the most fortunate are helping. This view may allow that this helpfulness is just a drop in the bucket, but it is something. The slightly more critical view is that this elite-led change is well-meaning but inadequate. It treats symptoms, not root causes; it does not change the fundamentals of what ails us. According to this view, elites are shirking the duty of more meaningful reform.
But there is still another, darker way of judging what goes on when elites put themselves in the vanguard of social change: that it not only fails to make things better, but also serves to keep things as they are. After all, it takes the edge off of some of the public's anger at being excluded from progress. It improves the image of the winners. With its private and voluntary half-measures, it crowds out public solutions that would solve problems for everyone, and do so with or without the elite's blessing.”
“The only thing better than being a fox is being a fox asked to watch over hens.”
My view is the more critical view, the place I've underlined. Even though the darker way of judging also has a substantial truth to it. The moral outrage is shushed and diverted and there can be no change without moral outrage. Because for change to happen, there has to be pressure. Where is the pressure going to come from if there is no outrage at the unjust status-quo?
Change must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Frederick Douglas
The ironical part which no one notices is expressed by Kirkus Reviews: "Give a hungry man a fish, and you get to pat yourself on the back—and take a tax deduction."
Yeah, that's what happens!
In Forbes, Jay Coen Gilbert comments:
“Giridharadas speaks truth to power, calling elites to account for giving so much lip service to 'changing the world,' while mostly upholding an unacceptable status quo."
Yes, the unacceptable status quo. Unfortunately, it's not only the elites who uphold it, it's a big part of the middle-class too. Nobody wants to give up their privileges. People are scared to lose their established status. They want their entitlements.
We're all playing a game of musical chairs. Who gets the chair?
The ones who already have a chair do not want to give up their chairs for even a short time to anybody who might be in need. It's logical in a way. They know they might never be getting their chairs back ever again. In fact, the probability of their not getting their chair back is almost 100 %. So we stick to our chairs and the status-quo.
Until somebody strong enough comes along to throw us off. Sometimes it happens, but not too often. The reason?
1- People are blinded by the status-quo. After all, they are like kittens who grew up with goggles as in the Blackmore experiment . Even the discriminated against are not aware most of the time.
2- Even when they are, “It is what it is” is a typical acceptance.
3- It's so difficult to break inertia.
So how do we change this game? The Musical Chairs Game... We can even keep playing it, but we need to establish a rule that forbids some people occupying million chairs when so many are without a seat. Plus, absolutely no stealing other people's chairs. (Which is actually what big global corporations and politicians do all the time.) Those who do, will be severely punished.
More important than that, we should change the song. Or change the game altogether. Let's start the game of long spoons. Those who are not altruists cannot survive. Solution for the overpopulation problem too. One stone, two birds.
What else is at the root of the problem with immigration?
People are self-righteous to claim a piece of land as theirs, people are near-sighted to claim only a piece of land, not the world as theirs to roam freely. For some reason, they stop short at an imaginary line, or they claim a continent. And this is a natural result of the current political system.
In “The Origins of Totalitarianism” (1951), the political theorist Hannah Arendt wrote:
“The conception of human rights based upon the assumed existence of a human being as such broke down at the very moment when those who professed to believe in it were for the first time confronted with people who had indeed lost all other qualities and specific relationships – except that they were still human. The world found nothing sacred in the abstract nakedness of being human. .... (Refugees knew) that the abstract nakedness of being human was their greatest danger.”
Yes, isn't it ridiculuous to argue that a sovereign nation-state has a right to control its borders and decide who can get in, but a human, any human, does not have a right to go anywhere s/he wishes on the planet s/he was born by the mere fact that s/he is a human?
We have rights as citizens, and we have more rights if we are a citizen of a “great” country. We do not have rights as humans.
As Joe Humphreys writes in the Irish Times:
“Arendt witnessed how those without a state were “expelled from humanity”, and the same applies today.
Slavery is better than being stateless, she wrote, as “to be a slave was after all to have a distinctive character, a place in society more than the abstract nakedness of being human and nothing but human”.
Think about that the next time you bleat about your right to something. Think about what’s being done to refugees in your name. Their vulnerability is ours.”
Yes. Their vulnerability is ours. And deep inside, we all know that. That's why the resistance not to accept a basic human right: the right of movement. That's why we want to deny others that right, so that we can enjoy it ourselves. For as we believe in scarcity and not abundance, and we are selfish. We believe in scarcity and not abundance even when it comes to security. We do not believe everybody can live in security. It's either our security or theirs. Eh, when faced with that choice, it's the most natural thing to choose our security over "the other's.
As long as the political arena stays the way it is, i.e. As long as there are countries... No, let me not say that, let there be countries... As long as we see countries as on a political map, as long as we set up artificial borders between people, as long as we see sovereign nation-states and being its citizens at birth as the norm, as long as there is the belief in a government to protect us and to defend our rights, as long as we sustain governments by our money, as long as we go on with the same money game, I don't see a way for us to get out of this.
Our goal should be to install a new world software where man does not fear man.
Our goal should be to install a new money software where we give/share/exchange the produce of our labors.
Apart from these... To me, the best message would be... To break down the artificial barriers between people, to break down the current political system. And the way I found to get the message through to achieve that end is to travel to every country in the world and burn my passports. So please endorse my endeavor and let's be in this together. Let's reset the world!