Beyond democracy
The 6th article in the series "Political Catastrophes".

The first condition for a political catastrophe is a new paradigm, a new but still vague idea about the organisation of a future society that is based on principles that differ fundamentally from the old paradigm. In my fourth article about political catastrophes I hinted at the activity of alternating involved minorities in contradiction to the predominantly inactive majorities in the present elitist democracy.

Active involved alternating minorities are independent groups of interested masspeople that during a limited time period act together on a specific social problem. The action includes the exerting of pressure on members of the elite to make clear that the judgement of involved masspeople is at least as important as the ideas of elitepeople. When the problem is solved, masspeople withdraw in their private life till the moment a new compelling problem arises. Then can than again become active by forming a new group often with different people.

Some elements of the new paradigm can be found by analysing the old paradigm. In my book "The Scarists", especially chapters 5 and 6 about democracy and elections, I give several arguments against the democratic organisation of our society and why I think democracy obstructs further progress. The monotony of democracy becomes evident in the lack of any utopia, it does not give people any inspiration. There has to be something better than democracy! 
In "The Power of an Autonomous Human" I give more arguments against the elitist democracy in which small groups of elitepeople take all decisions. When democracy was still young it was a progressive feature that changed society but now it has become conservative because leading groups want to keep what they have, they want to maintain their privileges. Decision-taking has to be expanded to all people who are interested and involved.

A possible change in the political paradigm can be found in the e-zine Fragments.
“In today's context, revolution occurs when people stop believing one thing and start believing something else; when people discard their old ways of living, and begin to live in new ways. When enough people lose faith in an institution and begin to act as if it did not exist, that institution disappears.”

The organisation of society is however only partly determined by the way people live but also by the possibility how and where people can exert influence on their own life and on society. There will be no profound change when people withdraw from society for example by making their own music. The centralised power must be undermined and thus people have to become active in social struggles. This power structure is personalised in elitepeople who use the democratic system to keep control. The influence of common citizens is limited.

By using a new paradigm more people (all of them?) will become active in decision forming, making and taking. This cannot be achieved by withdrawing from society. In our complicated and interrelated society this is impossible because the environment, which is partly determined by the dominating old paradigm, influences everybody. Communities that have tried to live according to new principles often succumbed because greed and the compulsion to be better than other people overwhelmed them. But even when some people secure a place in which they can live in a different way, the rest of the world will not change. That happens only when people act according to the principles of a new paradigm. The right way to think and to act successfully is more important than to live now already completely in a new kind of society.

The participation of citizens in our democracy is limited. Only a few leaders are elected at a moment leaders determine. In the elitist democracy emphasis lies on majorities. In a new society activity of small groups, minorities, must become more important than a majority that mostly follows leaders. In the system of alternating minorities people can live their own life and sometimes, when they are deeply touched by something, they can join other people to get influence on the solution of problems.

The present social struggle is mostly organised by big organisations with a professional leadership on which members (or participants in e.g. demonstrations) have hardly any influence. The leadership of big social organisations is oligarchic and reflects the ‘normal’ organisation of our society in which elites decide. In political parties the party elite has a predominant influence on candidate lists. Elections take place on the time others decide and after the voting the influence of party members and voters becomes minimal. Citizens transfer their electoral power to chosen representatives who hardly consult voters. Actions nearly only take place when leaders decide it is time to act. Elections give citizens hardly any influence and the autonomy of individual citizens is non-existent.

The new paradigm gives citizens the possibility to exert influence on the time, the place and the situation THEY decide. People want to live their life and only become active when something happens that influences that life. When the problem is important many small independent groups of citizens will come into existence and together, but mostly without knowing each other, they will exert a decisive influence on decision takers. This activity of many independent and involved minorities cannot be stopped by the votes of a non-involved majority that is mostly under the spell of professional leaders. In the present society the centralised power makes the rules and common citizens can nearly only exert influence when they take complicated and expensive juridical steps.

Under the new paradigm only small independent groups of involved people will carry out actions. Massive demonstrations in which people often participate out of solidarity with third persons will become obsolete. Actions not only intend to make the will of the people known but also put direct pressure on leaders that take wrong decisions. In this power struggle alternating involved minorities from the people will actively confront alternating minorities from the decision taking elite. The modern means of communication as Internet have opened the possibility to find like minded persons.

Direct actions that put pressure on members of the elite will mostly remain within the boundaries of the law. In mass actions as demonstrations and strikes other common people are also bothered (and the police when clashes occur) so the elite can call on the police to intervene. In the struggle between alternating minorities the police will be a non-involved onlooker. They will not be touched or hurt by the actions and they will often be sympathetic towards the goals. So they will be less inclined to act against activists than in the present situation when they often become targets.

A catastrophe will come nearer when more and more small actions take place. In the appendix of my book "The Scarists" you find some simple mathematical background. The Theory of Chaos tells us that a small perturbation suddenly can have a devastating influence on a complex system as human society. The Theory of Catastrophe says something about the method how to get close to the moment that such a huge change can occur that repressing institutions will vanish. This happens when the elite, that wishes to maintain the existing situation, cannot continue to live as it lived before because people from the masses exert too much pressure. This is the result of the increasing direct contact between mass and elite with the help of the kind of activities I have recorded on my site. After the change the same people will see things in another way, so it is not needed to remove all old elite persons (though some will still not understand the new society). During this catastrophic process the minds of many elite members (and also the mind of the masses) will change and they will act differently in a society that is based on the new paradigm. The continuing activity of alternating mass minorities will prevent the rise of a new elite. In this way history will not repeated as was the case the Soviet Union and elsewhere where after a revolution a new elite arose that was very similar to the elite that was removed.

I do not say much about the future. I propose a new method to cause a fundamental change that will remove the inequality in wealth and power and that at the same time will unleash the now restricted creativity and autonomy of human beings. When masspeople successfully can influence leaders they will become really free.

A last remark. The elitist democracy is not the best social system possible though citizens in our countries have slightly more influence on their own life than the masses in the Third World where democracy hardly exists. I write about a possible change in the political system in rich countries, the Third World has still a long way to go not in the least because general knowledge (general literacy) is not widespread.
Democracy is coming to an end, let’s try something else. 

Joost van Steenis (December 31 2001)

See also a later article called "
Alternating minorities versus a democracy based on majorities".

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7. The guiding myth
To the index of Catastrophes