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
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
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
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.
more ideas about myths see the second chapter of my book "About Violence and
Joost van Steenis (February