The guiding myth
The 7th article in the series "Political Catastrophes".

I want to change the minds of the masses as well as the minds of the elite by invading the private sphere of leading individuals so they will acknowledge that there are other people besides the small circle of privileged persons.
Then we will get one world in which people can communicate with each other on an equal footing despite the responsibilities some people will have in regard to our complicated society.

It is a myth to want a new society in which every interested and involved citizen can take part in decision-making and -taking on the time and about the subjects he or she determines. It will be a society in which all people have influence over their own life because they have real influence over what happens in the big world.

In proceeding along the long road to such a better society elements of the myth must be included in the present activities of citizens. The mythical slogans from the French Revolution - freedom, equality and fraternity but also the mythical idea that even the mightiest power can be broken down must have their influence on the forms of actions. Some of these ideals were brought forward at the birth of democracy but two centuries later it is clear that democracy failed to reach its idealist goal. The masses are still controlled and restrained by an elite that in the first place wants to safeguard and extend its privileges.

Mythical ideas can be guiding principles to reach a better world in which the distance between leaders and followers will be greatly reduced. How do freedom, equality, fraternity, power of decision and one world in which elite and masses live together translate into activities of the masses? Which actions have to occur and which actions take a side-road and are in vain?

Freedom. People have to be free to choose if they want to participate in actions (this is often not the case in strikes), to be free to stop with their activities (this is often not the case in leftist political groups) and free to act in the way they want (this is often not the case in actions that are decided upon by a majority).

Equality. Activists must act on equal terms so that an organisation with leaders and followers must be avoided. In many demonstrations leaders walk in the first row and claim that in this way better publicity is gotten. Indeed they get more publicity for themselves but it is doubtful if this method helps to come nearer to the goals of an action.

Fraternity. Between brothers and sisters there are no leaders who decide (from a distance) what others have to do. In guerrilla movements and communist parties a vanguard decides and the contours of a copy of the existing society with a leading body (the future elite) can already be seen. In other actions there is often a similar process of decision-taking.

Joint decision-making power. People must have the possibility to take part in decision-making when they want it. The elite spreads the fairy-tale that the masses have influence through the ballot box or in meetings in which they are allowed (by the leaders!) to express their opinion. But in the end it is leaders who take the decisions. Leftist elites determine also mostly the kind of actions in which the masses may take part.

One world for all people. Actions seldom attack the inequality of life, seldom put to question why people with a higher education or a higher background can easier get well-paid jobs. They seldom attack the fact that decisions are formed and taken in small groups at the top of our society.

No power is eternal. In the past we have seen that mighty empires as the Roman or the Ottoman Empire, the discrimination of coloured people or the colonising of the Third World were ended mostly because of developments inside the leading groups of mighty powers. The power of the present mighty elite is also not eternal.

These were some thoughts about how actions must be organised when elements of the myth of a better future are taken into account. A same reasoning can be followed in regard to the goals of an action. A central element of the proposed myth is the process of decision-making and -taking. Already from the start of this process people of the masses must be present. They must intrude in the private sphere of the elite because decisions are partly prepared in closed clubs, during secret meetings with other members of the elite or even in the circle of family and acquaintances. Not only fraternity and equality but also the myth of one world for all people demand a presence in the vicinity of leading people. Freedom demands that people have to decide themselves if they want to take part in actions, it is another word for the human autonomy that is needed for a new kind of society. And majorities may never restrain the creativity of minorities. But because the freedom of one person must not limit the freedom of another one, people must take into account the well being of fellow-citizens. To throw a stone in a demonstration can hurt other people, to throw a stone to the house of a leader can increase the pressure on this leader. Then the autonomy of an activist will be independent of other people.

Democracy cannot guide actions because the preservation of the system has become the prime target of all activities. Even when it is known that the policy of democratic leaders is hurting many people (e.g. the 40.000.000 people that die every year from lack of food) it is not allowed to call these incapable leaders personally to account.

An action group that rejects the possibility of another (still mythical) society and that only wants to improve the present society is so restricted in its methods that most masspeople will only temporarily participate in actions. The Anti-Globalisation actions will hardly have positive results within democracy and will contribute even less to the idea of another world in which all people will have a decent life. These actions will not change much about the lasting subordination and colonising of the Third World, nor will they result in more involvement of First World people in political processes. The centre of power stays out of range and the unequal power relations will remain roughly the same.

My proposal of activities by alternating minorities of involved and interesting citizens that penetrate in the private sphere of members of the elite is a step on the road towards another society. This myth will be more and more realised when the masses proceed on the road towards this new society. The vast majority of actions which I have seen or in which I have participated resulted at the most only in a tiny improvement of democracy, the actions I propose now are meant to get a totally different kind of society in which people can be free, autonomous and creative.

What I have forwarded in this article is not fully satisfactory. I have to reconsider more precisely which guiding principles can be derived from a myth on which a new society will be based.
But the idea that democracy can be improved has to be rejected. The democratic myth has brought some improvement to humanity but fails to reach new heights. Using the principles on which it was built can never change that system.

(for more ideas about myths see the second chapter of my book "About Violence and Democracy")

Joost van Steenis
(February 17 2002)

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8. Electoral landslide in Holland
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