Excerpts with References:
References listing 'H' through 'M'
...Mass media has been the traditional mode of one-way information transfer from the governing classes to the voting public. Up until the last few decades, there really hasn't been any technical option for a more democratic means of information transfer. But even now with the ubiquity of The Internet and "social media", political parties are still mostly reliant on polling data to gage public opinion, and normal citizens are limited to the old "write a letter to your representative" method of providing any type of feedback (outside of marking an X on election ballots every four years or so). The dominant election campaign strategy is still largely based on negative attacks on the character of opposing candidates. In Canada, with over a year before the next federal election, the governing conservative party have already been bombarding us with negative TV ads attacking the opposition leader who (it is widely believed) will provide the greatest threat to their re-election. One of the recent ads features slow motion footage of the opposition leader dancing with a big smile on his face. His name is superimposed over the footage in a kind of pixie dust style of lettering (think Disney's "Tinkerbell") with the accompanying declaration: "He's in way over his head". Media analysts have suggested that the poorly disguised objective of this campaign is to call into question the virility, manliness or sexual orientation of this opposition leader (they are calling him, in effect a "fairy"). The conservative arsenal of media rhetoric seems to be limited to the tactic of "guilt by association" (even when the association is tenuous at best). One of their most recent rhetorical gems in the House Of Commons was used in pushing through a piece of legislation dealing (in part) with paedophiles. Despite the fact the legislation dealt with other issues that were contentious to opposing parliamentary members, all the legislators were expected to provide their full support: "You are either with us or you are with the paedophiles" - they were warned. I am reminded of a scene in the movie "How To Get A Head In Advertising" where the main character Dennis Bagley (an advertising executive played brilliantly by Richard E. Grant) gives a lecture to a train compartment of fellow commuters:
Fellow train commuter reads aloud from newspaper item:
"The police took away a bag containing 15 grams of cannabis residue. It may also contain a quantity of heroin."
" Or a pork pie! The bag could have been full of anything. Its the oldest trick in the book: the distortion of truth by association. The word is MAY [also contain]. You believe heroin was in the bag because cannabis resin was. "
News flash from Bagley's boil: "...greed is out of control. Greed is abolishing the future, turning truth inside out and upside down and this [the television] is it's poisonous mouthpiece... we are living in a shop, and if it doesn't have a price tag, it isn't worth having!"
...Why does it take so long for new and radically improved paradigms (scientific, social or otherwise) to be adopted by mainstream society? Why has the computer revolution not resulted in the revolutionary social improvements predicted by the computer cheerleaders of the 1970s to 1990s? Kuhn's analysis outlines the forces involved in spawning or preventing paradigm shifts which change the way we look at reality. We may like to believe that theories gain wide adoption through their own natural inherent strengths: massive supporting evidence, logical integrity or just the superior "goodness-of-fit" with which a theory models actual experience. In reality, the forces at work determining the dominant modes of thought may have little to do with any of these things...
...but what amount of citizen participation is sufficient to achieve what might be called a properly functioning democratic system? In times of low public approval ratings, we are often reminded by the ruling party that we will have the opportunity to try a different government when we go to the polls next time around. Is that enough? Does the electorate just have to endure whatever flawed and ineffective political program sponsored by the current government until it is time to go to the polls again? In "The World We Want..." Mark Kingwell examines the question of what it means to be a citizen participating in a "democracy":
" The modern discourse of rights has given us a tool kit of valuable ideas and arguments, but it has not helped with the more basic political difficulty, getting citizens to care and listen and act in the first place... citizenship can function only if it is perceived and inhabited as a political role, which is to say as a concrete disposition to act. What we need is a new model of citizenship based on the act of participation itself, not on some quality or thought or right enjoyed by its possessor. This participatory citizenship doesn't simply demand action from existing citizens; it makes action at once the condition and task of citizenship. "
I belive the proposed P.R.C. System could be the first step towards achieving something like a true participatory democratic system...
...The focus of Naomi Klein's "No Logo" is on corporate branding and how the evolution of this process has transformed public consciousness. from p. 30 : "The project of transforming culture into little more than a collection of brand-extensions-in-waiting would not have been possible without the deregulation and privatization policies of the past three decades... It also didn't hurt that the public climate during this time ensured that there was almost no vocabulary to speak passionately about the value of a non-commercialized sphere. This was the time of Big Government Bogeyman and deficit hysteria, when any political move that was not overtly designed to increase the freedom of corporations was vilified as an endorsement of national bankruptcy."
...I suspect that the new model of participatory democracy I am describing will have to contend with a widespread belief that computer systems are inherently insecure and open for easy manipulation by fraudsters. Even Jesse Ventura - who I believe has correctly identified the political party culture as the main culprit obstructing the proper functioning of modern democracies - is very opposed to any computer-based solutions. Of course there have been some very high profile examples of electronic voting systems which fail due to bugs or poor design, but the opposition to the use of computer systems in the political process seems to be mainly fear-mongering. A perfect example of this can be seen in the mainstream 2006 theatrical release "Man of the Year": The central plot of this film is that the candidate played by Robin Williams erroneously wins the presidency due to a bug in the computer-based voting system. One of the programmers employed by the company that developed the system finds that a bug has done an erroneous tabulation of the election results - It appears that the error stems from the fact that the candidates have double alphabetic characters in their names, and this somehow confused the system. Anybody who knows how database systems function will immediately recognize how preposterous this scenario is: Votes would never be tabulated based on algorithms which sort the text fields containing the candidate's names...
...They used to call my generation "Generation X". You do not hear this term used very much anymore - maybe it is because the counter-culture dropouts of that age group are now taking up the mainstream establishment positions vacated by retiring baby boomers. Maybe it is true that the revolutionary sentiment is strictly a function of age - a luxury afforded only by penniless youth. If that is the case, where are the revolutionary youth of today? Have they all been hypnotized by YouTube videos of waterskiing chipmunks? In this chapter, I am delving into the defining texts of my generation to try to rediscover what was behind the "slacker" philosophy and agenda, so perfectly illustrated from this quote from Richard Linklater's film "Waking Life":
"We've got to realize that we are being conditioned on a mass scale. Start challenging the corporate slave state! The 21st century is gonna be a new century, not the century of slavery, not the century of lies and issues of no significance... and classism and statism and all the rest of the modes of control! Its gonna be the age of humankind: standing up for something pure and something right! What a bunch of garbage: Liberal Democrat, Conservative Republican - it's all there to control you. Two sides of the same coin. Two management teams bidding for control! The C.E.O. job of Slavery, Incorporated! The truth is there in front of you, but they lay out this buffet of lies..."
...It has been very entertaining recently watching debates on the suggestion from economist Thomas Picketty that in order to save capitalism, there may need to be more redistribution of wealth in the form of increased taxation of the rich. This of course is heretical to free market capitalists who are quick to label those who endorse redistribution of wealth as Communists. (Funny though, how Wall Street didn't mind the redistribution of wealth during the bank bailouts of 2008 - when the direction of the redistribution was in their favour.) Similarly, if you don't mind being labelled a pinko for reading Karl Marx's "Das Kapital", you will benefit from some very insightful critique of capitalism which is still valid in the 21st century. Francis Wheen wrote an engaging account of Marx's life as it related to the writing of "Das Kapital" entitled "Marx's Das Kapital". In this book, Wheen provides a summary of one of Marx's main criticisms of capitalism, which could also serve as a criticism of political systems which serve to perpetuate the capitalist ideal:
"...the capitalist mode of production and accumulation, and therefore capitalist private property as well, have for their fundamental condition the annihilation of that private property which rests on the labour of the individual himself; in other words, the expropriation of the worker."
...During the late 1980's I worked as a treeplanter in the remote wilderness of northern British Columbia. Often we would be located in temporary camps for weeks at a time without access to television, newspapers or media of any kind. This type of experience is probably very rare in the 21st century: living outside of the "mediated world" would never happen without the conscious intention to do so. Smartphones, laptops and tablets ensure that we are never "out of touch", and constant access to these devices has become something of an addiction for many people. But even in that era where connection to the "wired" world was somewhat tenuous, several days into my removal from media sources, I would experience a type of withdrawal - a definite shift in consciousness which I attempted to document in my journal. In my journal I theorized about two alternate states with two alternate modes of identity: The first state would form the natural, unmediated identity which arises from simply perceiving the world with the senses. The second identity would be a media construction oriented towards electronic, mass marketed imagery which only mirrors or is built upon the primary perceptions from the natural world. This second world I labelled "The Sub-Reality Matrix". Years later, I was fascinated to see that the film "The Matrix" presented a similar idea of a false, electronically created world - but this time one which was directly projected into the brains of humans sealed in pods on huge farms controlled by Artificial Intelligence. Throughout the 1990s and into the early part of the 21st century we saw several other films which used a similar plot of human populations plugged into electronically generated virtual worlds which becomes for them the primary way of experiencing reality ...
...The theory (or "thought experiment") advanced by Macintyre in "After Virtue" goes a long way to explain the current sorry state of political discourse in modern Western democracies. MacIntyre suggests we may now be living in an era where all of the literature on moral theory and what it means to live a "virtuous life" has been forgotten or is disregarded - so that now when people say "this is good", they really mean nothing except that the thing being referred to is something desirable in a strictly hedonistic, physical or psychological pleasure-seeking sense. There is no longer any shared notion of "The Good" as a social ideal that we all strive towards. There are just a half-dozen or so competing ideologies which are mainly just thinly disguised agendas advanced by special interest groups. Even central concepts like what the idea of "democracy" really means is somewhat blurry and indistinct. In practice, every four years or so voters get a choice between two or more prefabricated ideologies, which supposedly inform the law-making and decision making actions of the governing party until there is a potential new change of course on offer in next election....
..."The Power Elite" was first published over 50 years ago. I was assigned this book as part of my reading list in the "Introduction to Sociology" course I took sometime towards the end of the 20th century. It seems fitting to describe this work as part of the previous century because somehow the notion that all aspects of our lives are controlled by a powerful military-industrial-political elite seems so punk rock: "Fuck The System!". Back in the last century it seemed a lot more of us were ready to at least try out conspiracy theory propositions. Does that mean we now live in an era of greater democracy with more open and transparent governments? Or are we just more effectively duped into believing those dark days are behind us now?