Democracy

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I was thinking about power and responsibility the other day – as you do 🙂

It’s a bit of a theme with me, that I see many human things around me in terms of those two terms. I believe (helped of course by reading science-fiction 😛 ) that having power without responsibility makes you bad, having responsibility without power makes you sad and having them unbalanced makes you mad. Or maybe it’s viceversa 🙂

Anyhoo, I reckon that only by having a balance of power and responsibility can we act well.

I will examine those two words in other articles. For now though, I want to focus on human systems. I was reading an article a couple of months ago, and for the life of me I can’t find it. What I understood it to say is that roughly 50% of the people surveyed don’t believe democracy is the best ruling system. Now I have to confess I am biased and stand with Winston Churchill “democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others”. I shall explain.

Going back to power and responsibility, I guess the point I am taking from the life I have lived until now is that only people can take responsibility for themselves. And if they are to take responsibility, they might as well take the power to help them carry it. The alternative, for me, does not bear contemplating. Now I don’t mean each man for himself, That’s why I have used the plural, because I believe that only by standing together we escaped extinction, only by standing together we hunted the mammoth and only by standing together we have any chance of making it past the troubles that are all around us. I am, after all, a humanist.

And yet, people have an abysmal record when it comes to turning against their own. How to reconcile these without going bad, mad or sad? I guess I could analyze the options, at least those that have already been applied: oligarchy, aristocracy, autocracy, anarchy, theocracy. Each of them have been taken to extremes by people with the usual gruesome consequences. Each of them has its own proponents and protesters. But in all of them, the responsibility remains with the people themselves (yes, even in a theocracy, it is still people) yet the power stands (with the exception of anarchy) with people that are kept apart by an ideology that accepts collateral damage in its own name. I have issues with that.

Isn’t it enough that democracy itself is too generalizing because there are too many of us for it to be flexible? Do we have to loosen the reins on an already damaging idealism and make a joke out of caring for one another?

I have spoken before about my views on communism and capitalism (please please please do not confuse them or put them on the same level as the subject we are already discussing!). I have already expressed a wish for a particular type of revolution. But what worries me is not the fact that many people wish for something else than democracy. It’s the fact that history seems to have been forgotten… or not learnt. Except for Antarctica, where we don’t seem to want to live, each of the continents has seen different ruling systems put in place at one time or another. Countless people have died, are dying or wish they were dead because of them. All of the systems are thought up and executed by people, no matter what else they might say. A few people, I might add. It seems to me that, chancy as it were, standing and ruling together is the best hope to actually live.

People ruling… safety in numbers… democracy. Now, if only we could get it right!

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Days

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I can loll, cruise and procrastinate with the best of them. Nothing like deciding to banish all responsibility, plop yourself on the couch with a good book and just paddle into the kitchen when you want a snack, a cup of tea or a box of chocolates. Then in the evening, order some pizza/Chinese/Indian etc., open a bottle of wine and watch a movie, listen to music or check your Facebook account, just because. At the end of the day you will probably feel rested. I have this theory that it’s because we don’t pay attention to our bodies and the environment as the industrial revolution is only slowly giving way to more humane schedules. Rain, hail, shine or storm, we go to work if it’s a work day and we are that way employed by ourselves or, more often, by others. Does anyone else think it’s just slightly silly to do so? I imagine the birds sheltering in their nest during a storm look very puzzled at the soaked human beings rushing towards their various places of money earning, as if they couldn’t wait for a better day.

But I digress 🙂

So here we are, refreshed after a day of blobbing, but feeling rather guilty, some of us anyway. Because we’re adults, and responsibility is our middle name, whereever we are in the civilized world.

Then there’s the other sort of day. When we have plans but for some reason or another the Universe itself is conspiring against us. The beautiful day it has been forecast turns to drizzle that puts an end to clothes drying so your house starts looking like an obstacle course with clothes horses taking up precious, scarce space. The previously healthy toddler starts throwing up and looking miserable when you are trying to get the housework done. The usual discussion at the end of the day with your special people turns to an argument involving killer eye contact and slaming of innocent doors.

I tend to smile because the Universe enjoys sending these things in threes, so I kinda know there’s no point in fighting too much, I just try to ensure I don’t kill anyone accidentally. This has worked so far! 🙂

And then we have those days! When I have a plan. Everyone who needs to be involved is there more or less voluntarily. Everything goes smoothly, things get accomplished and are visible to the naked eyes of others (show-off that I am! 😛 ). The Universe sends a kind glance and the world is wonderful. A productive day in an expected sort of way, with tiny, mundane surprises that happen anyway when people work together because they want to. Synergy, you might call it 🙂

Evening comes, and the last experiment turns out beautifully. Tired and happy, I am off to bed.

To fantasize (in the human way) of a day when I don’t have a plan, but beautiful special people happen to do amazing things and I get lost in a maze of brightness, and love, and spontaneous happiness I am at a loss for words to explain.

Discontent? No, just a desire for what we know ourselves to be capable of, that happens but rarely, due to responsibilities, and plans, and routines. There is so much potential for happiness in each of us… and so much fear that this means breaking the dams of our control…

Spontaneous

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You don’t have to be a linguist to look at this word and recognize it as foreign, and rolling it over your tongue to figure out it comes from that family of languages which lilt their ways into clearings of white-washed sky over Mediterranean waters. Latin, we call it, and memories of dead dusty tomes piled up in libraries we see in movies are all we may have. And yet it wasn’t always so, and that language was spoken freely over many lands, and my land was one, too. Which I miss, and perhaps even more keenly now that I have just re-read The Lord of the Rings. Mortal I am, and yet immigrants will identify with the elves’ yearning for the oldest lands across the Sundering Seas….

But I digress, or maybe I needed these words to come first before the mind can pay attention to more specific things.

Anyway, the word “spontaneous” came up in conversation with a friend, and I have explored it with others as well. In the controlled routine of most of our settled lives, something that translates as “of one’s own accord” may not always be welcome, we may even think it is dangerous and belongs to the very young and be sometimes regretful at its perceived lack in us.

But definitions are interesting sometimes… something spontaneous is said not to have any trigger, and that got me thinking about it. Spontaneous applause may not seem to have any trigger and yet is happens rarely in a forest but mostly in places where applause would be appropriate, like in a place of performance (be it a hall, or a square) and where there is more than one person… so the context is shaping even the unpredictable, which is a synonim. Context? Prediction? We have some knowledge of this at least.

We temper our actions within the pool of our responsibilities. Spontaneity seems therefore a thing of the past, when responsibilities were not the marking of our identity as adults. We sometimes wish for those times. But what do we put in the place where spontaneity once dwelt? What follows is my way.

By nature and by nurture combined I try to think of consequences. These are rarely discrete objects, mostly they are pathways one could tread. I try to follow each pathway as far as my mind can see, exploring on the way the side roads as they appear. This happens in quiet moments, when my body paces steadily in a confined space, and sometimes the moon shines its silvery trail at the crossroads. Once my mind has exhausted the pathways it can see, real life may present others which can then be added. So now I am reasonably confident (not fully, as you know, life is spontaneous!) that whichever pathway opens before me I can stand and walk at least as far as the next night with a few moments of peace for my mind to wander.

So in the daytime, when life does happen and pathways do open, I do not have to hesitate at the crossroads, for I have thought about what I can live with and what I can leave without. When we have the security we expect, we can be brave, and assertive, and fast.

It is not spontaneity. It is not, I believe, detachment (although that plays a role). But it is a way. And, if our minds and hearts lean towards one of the pathways, I have found that sooner or later, as a main road or a side road or just a trail disappearing into the forest, that path will one day be open to us, so that we may tread it until the end of our journey.

Dream

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I was talking with a group of colleagues about money. Although the discussion was fairly specific I (of course!) managed to generalize and pontificate on said subject 🙂

Aside for pet hates of mine (reliance on banks exclusively, for example) we were touching on subjects like values, attitudes, ideals and frustrations linked to financial matters. So, being in an environment where things will be taken at face value rather than judged and found lacking, I expressed a dream of mine about the uncomfortable issue of social welfare. While I am repulsed by the idea of people as economic units and I regard a good life as a right, welfare dependency is something I struggle with. I cannot see an easy way out in real life though, so this dream of mine is so called because it has nothing to do with life in a “civilized” society.

It seems to me that welfare dependency stems from a separation between the person and the society it belongs to. If you have to go to a government department to beg for your daily bread and prove to said department that you are worthy of living… well, I know I would rebel (privileged, much?). Because proving myself worthy is a personal thing, it is private, to be shown off only if I choose to do so, not as a matter of public (open plan work space) record. And proving the worthiness of one’s life seems insulting, notwithstanding “why should I pay for you to be lazy?”.

Add to this that you don’t know what you don’t know. If you are raised in an environment that has no work ethic, it takes time, patience and investment later for you to learn this. Who will teach you though? And how will you keep learning if this has never been of value to you?

So if at a family level you’re missing something and the societal level is way too alienating, then the answer seems to be somewhere in the middle.

The short of it is that I believe in the small community as the basis of society, with all of its wonderful qualities and outstandingly flexible drawbacks. As expressed in another post, community is a limited number of people living and working in the same place/area/environment. It usually includes entire families as opposed to individuals. The community feels (and I believe should be) responsible for its people. Of course, responsibility has to be matched with an equal amount of power.

So if a youngster is born in a nuclear family without much work ethic he/she may live in a community where his auntie and his cousin and his friends work hard for what they have. When this young one is of an age to work or create (and no, I don’t mean 18!) the community is responsible for offering him those opportunities and mentorship… and the payment for it, too! The community is also entitled to withhold payment while still providing a roof over the head and simple food on the table if the youngster would rather do something else than work or create – for the benefit of the community.

It is one thing for a case manager at social welfare to say “your benefit will be cut because you haven’t attended enough work seminars”. It is a completely different thing for your nephew to say “sorry, mate, no money for you until that garden is spic and span”. Same result, if you will…

Now how are we going to clarify creativity?