Essential Knowledge Needed to Grow a Democracy part 18
Top Down or Bottom Up Democracy
What does it mean by top down or bottom up democracy? It is an odd question to people who have little to no understanding of power and democracy. But it is an important question if you want to understand the structure of power, and also to make correctional changes . It is a question about the direction from which the power flows; is the power on top with your leaders (as in the overwhelming number of nations) or does the power reside with the people, and flow from the bottom up? To be more specific with a question; do your leader and/or government make the decision? and how much input comes from the people?, and how much say do the people have? As you might have seen, I love questions because questions shake down issues to their core. The next questions are, how accountable are your politicians to you? In other words, how much control do you have over your politicians and leaders? Do you have a mechanism in place that allows the people control of your leaders, and your local representatives?
The answer to these questions will determine 1. If you have a democracy, 2. And if you determine that you have a democracy, how healthy of a democracy is it?
If you have read much of my writings you will know that I am of the opinion that, here in Canada, we do not in fact have a democracy. And the reason I argue this, and the criteria I derive this opinion, is that I do not see Canadians having any real say in the political process. We are not consulted, at least anywhere beyond tokenism and beyond the whimpy threat of “you can kick the bums out in 4 years, there is little to nothing to make our politicians accountable to the people. The word accountable is an important word here, it means are the politicians answerable to the people, and the people do have a real and substantive control over those who were elected and whom are being paid to represent the people.
If asked “what is democracy” most people would rhyme off Lincoln’s famous quote, that “Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people” My opinion is that Canada’s government fails the acid test on so many levels that make it clear that we do not have a democracy here, and in principle, Canada never has had a democracy all the way back to the Magna Carta, when the barons and people of the city of London England tore a little bit of power from the hand of King John. And perhaps they had more democracy than we do today, because although they had no idea of what democracy was, and perhaps that they weren’t even trying to achieve democracy, they were at least doing something. I will interject my own personal definition of what democracy is here. “Democracy is people having the power of say even between elections”. (Now this definition has been changing and growing over the many years of my writing and I welcome others to contact me and we can tinker with the definition further if it still isn’t quite right.)
To look at democracy you really have to go back to Greece and look at their model of direct democracy. It was in no way perfect, excluding women from speaking at their assemblies and from voting, but the kernel of democracy was held within their assemblies, every freeman that wanted a say was able to get up and speak, and then every man got a vote. As Greece got larger, too large for the freemen to congregate in one area, Greece’s next adaptation was in choosing councils etc. Rather than choosing council members by a vote they picked members by a lottery. The “Selection by lottery was the standard means as it was regarded as the more democratic: elections would favour those who were rich, noble, eloquent and well-known, while allotment spread the work of administration throughout the whole citizen body, engaging them in the crucial democratic experience of, to use Aristotle’s words, “ruling and being ruled in turn” (Politics 1317b28–30)” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athenian_democracy
Now there is a trap that we have chosen to stick our foot into; our Party System’s criteria in scheming is to choose someone eloquent and/or someone that can win the next election against the competing parties. It doesn’t matter if that person is dominating or ruthless. This criteria within the domination of the political structure become a detriment to the peoples’ power to choose the best individuals.
A second model, as written in another one of my blogs, the Swiss choose 7 leaders that take turns in administering the governments duties. Each leader has no decisions to make beyond administration, and the leaders are rotated so that no leader will gain any real power. This becomes a total prohibition of power ever hoping to be amassed at the top and dragged away from the people on the bottom.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swiss_Federal_Council Also the Swiss have an Initiative mechanism that allows the Swiss the right an the ability to force their government to hold referendum. With this mechanism the politicians have no right not hold a referendum. In the Swiss system the people are sovereign, unlike our system where the politicians say Parliament is the source of power. But in reality, power is more and more being consolidated into the Prime Minister’s office.
A third model could be the North American Native Model was considerably responsible for the American Model of democracy. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and others lived in close proximity to the Iroquois Confederacy and took ideas from their model. The point in these inclusions is to show that there are other and better models of democracy out there and if we are to hope to have a better democracy we must 1. know that there are better models of democracy, and 2. we can examine the way other nations or groups have dealt with their forms of governance. http://www.ratical.org/many_worlds/6Nations/
Conversely, isn’t it interesting that the top down model of power is the structure of dictatorships, communism and kings.
The very basis of good democracy and governance is whether your representative represents you, your personal interest, and the people of your constituency.The bottom line is that the reason for government is, for our representatives to enact the common affairs of the people. We all cannot fit into the same room to speak and to vote, but collectively things must be done to give the people stability, order and security, so we can feed and house ourselves, and in the words of Thomas Jefferson, to pursue happiness. We need stability to seek beauty, meaning, and fulfillment in our lives. Leaving politicians without scrutinizing what they are doing and without accountability is a sure prescription of those politicians messing with our lives, and for us to not to be involved in politics is to give our politicians a ticket to cause us and our nation trouble.
If you want a change to the trouble that our past inaction first YOU have to become informed, and then you must find a way to act. Acting is a form of maturity; something we could do with more of. If you want to pull the power back down to the people, then you need to stop waiting for our politicians to fix the mess, it isn’t going to happen. It is the politicians that caused the mess, and they don’t even know they made it.
A postscript: The right, under the banner of Neoconservatives, began organizing with their agenda to control the political scene and the people about 30 years ago. You remember Margret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan and Brian Mulroney, these were the fronts for the Neoconservative Movement. It was a concerted effort of the Rich Elitists to take control of our Western Democracies to protect their wealth. I am very happy to say that activists are beginning to mobilize and unite to to push back for our freedoms, our rights and our democracy. If you are looking to help in making the necessary change to protect our freedoms and democracy, and the future democracy for our children and grandchildren, I would suggest that there are groups that are at the head of that change. Contact a local Social Forum, the Council of Canadian, or Leadnow to be part of the bottom up movement for our democracy.
Thank you for being a citizen that cares to make a change. Enjoy maturing as a person in the struggle for a better Democracy.
Contact info for the organizations cooperating to bring about this change.
Contact for the Canadian Social Forum:
190 O’Connor Street
Ottawa, ON K2P 2R3
(613) 236-8977 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact info for Council of Canadians: The Council of Canadians,
Contact info for Leadnow:
http://www.leadnow.ca/contact/ PO Box 2091, Stn Terminal, Vancouver, BC,
V6B 3T2 — 1‑855‑LEADN0W | 1‑855‑532‑3609
Quote from Thomas Jefferson: Do you want to know who you are? Don’t ask. Act! Action will delineate and define you.
You Tube clip of how the American Government works from top down. Clip from just before 5 min. mark speaks on how Government should be from bottom up.
Other Articles you may learn from and/or enjoy:
Not My Idea of a Party ( the hazards of the Party System ) https://pushinback.wordpress.com/2012/02/02/essential-knowledge-needed-to-grow-a-democracy-part-9/
The Question That Shouts Out from the Silence of the Page https://pushinback.wordpress.com/2013/07/16/the-chart-that-shouts-out-of-the-silence/