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The Poverty of Electoral Politics

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  • Bureau of Public Secrets
    [Just to put the current election hoopla in perspective. . .] Roughly speaking we can distinguish five degrees of “government”: (1) Unrestricted freedom
    Message 1 of 3 , Nov 30, 2000
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      [Just to put the current election hoopla in perspective. . .]


      Roughly speaking we can distinguish five degrees of “government”:

      (1) Unrestricted freedom
      (2) Direct democracy
      (3) Delegate democracy
      (4) Representative democracy
      (5) Overt minority dictatorship

      The present society oscillates between (4) and (5), i.e. between overt
      minority rule and covert minority rule camouflaged by a facade of token
      democracy. A liberated society would eliminate (4) and (5) and would
      progressively reduce the need for (2) and (3). . . .

      In representative democracy people abdicate their power to elected
      officials. The candidates’ stated policies are limited to a few vague
      generalities, and once they are elected there is little control over their
      actual decisions on hundreds of issues -- apart from the feeble threat of
      changing one’s vote, a few years later, to some equally uncontrollable rival
      politician. Representatives are dependent on the wealthy for bribes and
      campaign contributions; they are subordinate to the owners of the mass
      media, who decide which issues get the publicity; and they are almost as
      ignorant and powerless as the general public regarding many important
      matters that are determined by unelected bureaucrats and independent secret
      agencies. Overt dictators may sometimes be overthrown, but the real rulers
      in “democratic” regimes, the tiny minority who own or control virtually
      everything, are never voted in and never voted out. Most people don’t even
      know who they are. . . .

      In itself, voting is of no great significance one way or the other (those
      who make a big deal about refusing to vote are only revealing their own
      fetishism). The problem is that it tends to lull people into relying on
      others to act for them, distracting them from more significant
      possibilities. A few people who take some creative initiative (think of the
      first civil rights sit-ins) may ultimately have a far greater effect than if
      they had put their energy into campaigning for lesser-evil politicians. At
      best, legislators rarely do more than what they have been forced to do by
      popular movements. A conservative regime under pressure from independent
      radical movements often concedes more than a liberal regime that knows it
      can count on radical support. If people invariably rally to lesser evils,
      all the rulers have to do in any situation that threatens their power is to
      conjure up a threat of some greater evil.

      Even in the rare case when a “radical” politician has a realistic chance of
      winning an election, all the tedious campaign efforts of thousands of people
      may go down the drain in one day because of some trivial scandal discovered
      in his personal life, or because he inadvertently says something
      intelligent. If he manages to avoid these pitfalls and it looks like he
      might win, he tends to evade controversial issues for fear of antagonizing
      swing voters. If he actually gets elected he is almost never in a position
      to implement the reforms he has promised, except perhaps after years of
      wheeling and dealing with his new colleagues; which gives him a good excuse
      to see his first priority as making whatever compromises are necessary to
      keep himself in office indefinitely. Hobnobbing with the rich and powerful,
      he develops new interests and new tastes, which he justifies by telling
      himself that he deserves a few perks after all his years of working for good
      causes. Worst of all, if he does eventually manage to get a few
      “progressive” measures passed, this exceptional and usually trivial success
      is held up as evidence of the value of relying on electoral politics, luring
      many more people into wasting their energy on similar campaigns to come.

      As one of the May 1968 graffiti put it, “It’s painful to submit to our
      bosses; it’s even more stupid to choose them!”


      [Excerpts from "The Joy of Revolution." To see the complete text, which
      discusses many other issues of radical tactics and goals, click
      http://www.slip.net/~knabb/PS/joyrev1.htm.%5d


      * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

      The Bureau of Public Secrets website, which has received 250,000 page visits
      during its first two years, features Ken Knabb's translations from the
      Situationist International (the notorious group that helped trigger the May
      1968 revolt in France) plus Knabb's own writings and comics on Wilhelm
      Reich, Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, radical Buddhists, Chinese anarchists,
      the Iranian uprising, the Gulf war, etc. The site index --
      http://www.slip.net/~knabb/index1.htm -- includes over 2000 name and topic
      entries, from anarchism to Zen.


      BUREAU OF PUBLIC SECRETS
      PO Box 1044, Berkeley CA 94701, USA
      http://www.slip.net/~knabb
      knabb@...
    • Bjørn Petter Hernes
      Dear Listmembers: I was wondering if any of you could point me to where I could find some more information on the Dhammadevi institute in Sri Lanka. From what
      Message 2 of 3 , Feb 13 12:17 PM
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        Dear Listmembers:

        I was wondering if any of you could point me to where I could find some more
        information on the Dhammadevi institute in Sri Lanka. From what I can see
        there was some activity through INEB and there a few years back, but I´ve
        been unable to find anything recent.

        Any assistance is much appreciated.

        In peace,


        Bjørn Petter Hernes
        Norwegian Federation of Buddhists
      • Jill & Graeme Jameson
        Dear Bjorn, Greetings. Our contact with the Dharmavedi Institute was thru Raja Dharmapala, but we haven t heard from him for nearly 2 years now. His address
        Message 3 of 3 , Feb 13 6:07 PM
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          Dear Bjorn,
          Greetings. Our contact with the Dharmavedi Institute was thru Raja
          Dharmapala, but we haven't heard from him for nearly 2 years now. His
          address is:
          170,Skandha Devala Mawatha,
          Obeysekerapura,
          Rajagiriya, Sri lanka
          Tel?F: [94-1] 874 967
          e-mail: kalyana@...

          Good luck!
          In love and peace,
          Jill Jameson
          At 10:17 PM 13-02-01 +0200, Bjørn Petter Hernes wrote:
          >Dear Listmembers:
          >
          >I was wondering if any of you could point me to where I could find some more
          >information on the Dhammadevi institute in Sri Lanka. From what I can see
          >there was some activity through INEB and there a few years back, but I´ve
          >been unable to find anything recent.
          >
          >Any assistance is much appreciated.
          >
          >In peace,
          >
          >
          >Bjørn Petter Hernes
          >Norwegian Federation of Buddhists
          >
          >
          >
          >International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB)
          >
          >E-mail: ineb@...
          >
          >INEB Website: www.bpf.org/ineb.html
          >
          >INEB e-mail list: www.egroups.com/group/ineb/
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