Posted on 03 November 2014
We tend to think of government as solely those bodies that have been elected to make laws and manage public works on a national, state, or city level. This, I believe, has been a bad error in the way people have been considering the shape of society.
Any time an institution of any sort has the right to tell you how to behave, they are a form of government. Educational, religious, military, and corporate organisations all exercise forms of government over your life. The military to this day still have their own courts of law. In the middle ages the Catholic church held courts in numerous countries and meted out punishments. They also declared war.
People pushed for democratic governments, because they felt they were a fairer, more enlightened way to manage public life. Everyone has a greater chance of having their issues represented. How decisions are made is more likely to be transparent and open to debate. You aren’t buffeted around by and in danger from the inscrutable whims of an overlord.
However, we only have such guarantees from educational, religious, military, and corporate organisations in so far as our political government exerts its power. Separation of church and state, as in the United States, does not simply ensure religious diversity and freedom. It keeps from central power institutions that are non-representative and opaque to investigation. This is why we also have separation of military and state. We should also be insisting upon separation of business and state.
We are currently having our rights and our freedoms chipped away because we have not insisted on enough democracy.
Various progressive religions do use democratic systems to make decisions: Unitarian Universalists and Hicksite Quakers come to mind. Community credit cooperatives are making a resurgence. We need to start demanding that businesses are run on a cooperative model. You then no longer need an adversarial relationship between business administration and workers’s unions. Everyone gets an equal vote. Everyone looks out for the welfare of their company and those who are making it viable. A responsible military that does its job to the highest ethical standards would be more likely if democracy occurred in that organisation as well. Universities, who are our stone and mortar for the future, need to give their students who are building that future a say in their education.
Corporate power and its abuse is the greatest danger our generation is facing. The damage being done to lives and the well-being of this planet is incalculable. Politicians need to be given budgets for their campaigns and not be allowed to accept donations of any kind. Accepting large donations gives corporate donors undue influence. We need to ensure that politicians are paid a comfortable wage after serving as representatives, so they are not tempted to make laws in favour of a future employer.
Do not take democracy lightly. It is a high value and an important means to a healthier happier world. Cynicism concerning human behaviour is dividing us and handing power to those who will give you the illusion of safety from one another while putting you in danger of tyranny. The road ahead may be long and rocky, but you have to be committed to a vision of a better world in order to make it happen. You can create circumstances where people will become kinder and more reasonable.
Peace and kindness,