Alternating minorities versus democracy
The 9th article in the series "Political Catastrophes".

This is a first attempt to elucidate a system that eventually can replace democracy.

In my book “The Scarists”, contemplations about a society beyond democracy, I give many reasons why I do not like democracy. See e.g. the chapter 5 and chapter 6.

Often people have told me that democracy is the best system ever though it still needs some improvement. Nevertheless, I want a fundamentally different society in which people have more direct influence on subjects that interest them. Therefore I propose a system in which alternating minorities of involved, interested and active citizens directly put pressure on leading individuals. This idea is in clear contradiction to a democracy in which majorities of hardly interested and not-involved people transfer their power to a political elite that rules over and not together with the masses.

My idea of involved minorities is not as strange as it looks. Small groups of involved people often come together to form a club about something that interest them, e.g. about soccer, pop music, collecting rare objects or the wish to gain money on the stock exchange. Most people belong to one or more of such associations. Sometimes they lose interest in a subject, leave the group and join other groups in which other subjects stand central. Indeed the activities of many humans are determined by non-hierarchical groups of alternating minorities of involved and interested citizens. Elites hardly influence, control or inspire such associations.

Nearly everyone is only interested in a limited number of subjects and does not want to be involved in everything that occurs. People are often prepared to discuss or even to become active about those subjects which concern them.

The situation in political parties is different. Though members are supposed to be involved in a myriad of subjects the political elite takes most decisions and is hardly influenced by ideas of lower party members and certainly not by ideas of people that only voted on the party.

My proposal excludes in the decision forming process all people who are not interested in a certain subject. When you do not like soccer, you do not become member of a soccer club and you are never involved in decisions that are taken about soccer. When you do not want to collect stamps, you do not join a stamp collectors association and you will not be troubled by problems that arise from collecting stamps. The majority is not involved and only a minority of people who are interested in soccer or stamps will also be involved in decisions that are taken in these fields of human activity.

In a democracy you are not allowed to be member of several parties, one party that is in favour of the lower classes, a second party because it wants a better educational system and a third party because it propagates a more effective civil service. The political elite determines the ideas of the political parties and you can take all or stay outside. Most people prefer to stay outside.

I propose alternating minorities because the masses are a collection of individuals with different political ideas, demands and interests and not a homogeneous group of zombies who all think in the same way. The slogan “together we stand strong” is false, it subordinates the masses to the wishes of the elite, it suppresses individuality, autonomy and creativity. And nobody can anymore say that he/she represents the “silent majority” when anyone can belong to an alternating minority that worries about the specific interests of individual citizens. Everyone can join the group he likes or can even start an own group about the subject in which he is interested.

But what can a small group do? What is the overall idea and what are the specific activities? The overall idea is the transformation of a society in which leaders live in another world that is far away from the world of the masses. By specific actions activists will enter the world of the elite and make direct contact with leaders. When the actions become massive the world of the elite will cease to exist because they cannot anymore live the live they lived before. Their eliteworld is drawn into the massworld.   

Experts who now lead our society are hardly controlled by the masses. Bureaucrats rule the Western democracies and only a few are elected. You may wonder why so much weight is given to the idea that leaders have to be chosen.
Because they are not controlled, the distance between elite and masses is huge – and still growing. By encroaching on the private living place of leaders the elite will acknowledge that not only fellow elite members populate the world but also that many more people exist. Their mind will change because they have to take into account the demands and ideas of active minorities that are permanent present in their environment.

In a democracy the weapons of the masses are restricted by the limits set by leaders of mass organizations. Those leaders interpret the wishes of the masses but most of them belong to the elite or want to belong to the mightiest (and mostly also richest) group in the country. In demonstrations masses only ask and never demand that the elite changes its attitude. Demonstrations also never come so close to leaders that their thoughts are deeply influenced. And moreover demonstrations – as all other mass actions – take only place once in a while. Only in special circumstances, e.g. during the recent Argentine crisis, demonstrations occurred nearly daily. For less intruding decisions of the elite it is hardly possible to organize a series of demonstrations. Demonstrations belong to the democratic system, it is an outlet for the feelings of the masses but it does not change the policy of leaders. And moreover leaders can always say that indeed many people are demonstrating but that it is only a minority and that they abide by the wishes of the silent majority.

By a constant stream of varied actions minorities can intrude into the heads of leaders. They can make clear that an important minority of interested and involved citizens have deviating wishes and demands. In this way citizens can become active in connection with the subjects they choose and also on the time and place they choose. In a democracy only those actions are permitted that are approved by leaders who also determine when, how and about which subject actions will take place. Alternating minorities are autonomous and because they lack leaders nobody can tell them what to do. People have to think for themselves what kind of actions they have to carry out, they have to use their own creativity, their own imagination that will improve during the action period because there are no leaders that tell them what to do. In the end they will become really free humans. 

Many ideas I have already described in my book "The Power of the Autonomous Human". Because many autonomous actions of alternating minorities can suddenly lead to a very different kind of society I have included this article in the series "Political Catastrophes".

Joost van Steenis (June 15 2002)

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10. Alternating minorities versus a democracy based on majorities
To the index of Catastrophes