"Who makes up a criminal conspiracy? If you go and look, [you'll find] they are made up of bankers, politicians, judges and, just perhaps, once in a while, a criminal" - Beppe Grillo
What kind of world has our vaunted system of Western democracy brought into being?
As well as several major wars there are at least seventy covert conflicts involving the US alone. This is set to increase with the recent incursions into Africa. Armed drones now murder children on an industrial scale in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia and Mali. Drones were also used in the recent Libya campaign. Israel has used (and will continue to do so) drones in Palestine, and other nations are now following the lead of NATO and developing their own drone technology, with China and Japan aiming to use them to monitor the disputed Senkaku Islands, raising the likelihood of tensions between the two Asian giants being ratcheted ever higher. Drones are not only for killing and causing wars, however: an enormous market for surveillance drones is opening up and the demand from so-called free democracies is voracious.
75% or more of people killed in modern wars are non-combatants. In World War I, it was 5%.
What else has our precious democracy brought about? From an earlier article on this blog (see original article for information sources):
The UN said in 2010 that more people die due to a lack of access to clean water than violence. One in seven, almost a billion people, suffer from hunger; 80% of the world live on less than $10 a day, with 50% on $2.50 a day; 22,000 children die every day due to poverty. Read that again. Twenty-two thousand kids die every day. The fact that this preventable disgrace is permitted to continue speaks volumes about the priorities of leaders, democratically elected or not.
We live in a world in which up to 27 million people are slaves, where endless war is engendered by corporate psychopaths in the boardrooms of the arms industry; where climate change, now a serious global emergency, is nigh on ignored and even dismissed or ridiculed by public figures and the establishment media; where thousands of kids die daily in unnecessary ways; where inequality and financial misery for millions is gleefully brought about by the willfully callous and self-interested actions of the leaders of Goldman Sachs and financial corporations like it.
From another article:
People who suffer in slavery and human trafficking; the starving and those dying of easily preventable diseases; those in poverty or forced labor and those dying (or losing a loved one) due to lack of health coverage; victims of addiction, domestic violence, abuse and discrimination; families who have lost their daughters in honor killings; girls who have suffered genital mutilation; political prisoners; those who have suffered due to official corruption, persecution and war; families whose children were blown to pieces by drones; male, female and child victims of rape and genocide; people displaced by climate change, pollution, desertification, drought, famine and war; those needlessly and illegally tortured; people who have lost life or limb due to cluster bombs or land mines; mothers whose children have been born with leukemia or genetic deficiencies thanks to the use of chemical weapons and depleted uranium (by the US and its allies).
Add to all this a massive for-profit prison system in the US that lobbies politicians for stricter drug laws to ensure ever more young (disproportionately black and male) people waste away in prison for victimless 'crimes' in the name of the horrifying war on drugs, all to make prison company executives fatter and please shareholders.
Etc. etc. etc. The list of human rights abuses and gross injustices could continue forever.
Many would argue that the West is not directly responsible for many of these ills but that does not fly. In particular, NATO powers along with the US, now the world's de facto imperial master, have invaded, looted and abused weaker and poorer nations, opening their markets for exploitation by their corporations, and created the social instability that has caused or exacerbated many of these problems. As an example, see how this was accomplished in South America over the last century by watching John Pilger's superb War on Democracy. This documentary alone exposes the decision-makers of our democracies as mendacious, arrogant and utterly amoral psychopaths, a fact that has not changed over time; people perfectly willing to remove democratically elected leaders by force via underhand means and implant their own puppets, who then go on to torture, rape, maim and kill thousands of civilians, all in the name of 'national security', which translates precisely as commercial, military and political hegemony. With Africa now on the agenda, resources and all, and the benign-sounding Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) designed to open the huge Asian market to many international corporations, the West really is on the verge of having a controlling stake literally everywhere.
Corporations are becoming more and more aggressive, as one would expect when corporations make up more than half of the richest entities on the planet (including nation states). George Monbiot explains here how they are using the law to intimidate protesters, often ruining their lives and finances in the process.
As Monbiot writes, without public protest, democracy is dead.
In the meantime, Europe is in the midst of a savage economic crisis, with sky-high unemployment in many nations tied by the dogma of 'austerity'. Greece is on the verge of a humanitarian disaster, falling into the hands of fascism and lawlessness. Spain and Italy, two of Europe's largest economies, could easily be next.
And in a devastating article in today's Guardian, Valerie Plame Wilson and Joe Wilson refreshed our memories of how the politicians 'we the people' voted into office engaged in a deliberate campaign through various media to distort and invent facts in order to mislead the public on Iraq: in other words they lied through their teeth to drag the US and the UK (with their Coalition of the Willing) into the illegal Iraq War, a conflict which has cost in excess of 655,000 civilian lives, according to a Lancet study.
All these terrible things...all enabled by our democratic system.
Simply by turning up to vote, we support a system that is democratic only in name, a system that has led to corruption, poverty, misery, murder and economic disaster on a global scale.
This begs the following question: how long are we going to continue to support and empower corrupt, dishonest, expense-fiddling, out-of-touch, sexually-harrassing, rich politicians? How much more abuse will they get away with before the endlessly-distracted, celebrity-obsessed masses finally crack?
Millions in Italy answered this question yesterday with a resounding 'no longer' as Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement (M5S) - co-founded with Gianroberto Casalaggio - stunned political analysts by attracting a massive 25% of the vote, potentially handing him the balance of power in the nation. M5S became popular thanks to a series of comic diatribes by Grillo attacking the technocratic government of Mario Monti, tapping into widespread anger at the corrupt and elitist establishment political parties. M5S promises direct democracy; to put the people in direct control of their destinies, and this resonates with a public who are sick to the back teeth of buffoons like Berlusconi, the scandals, and the disastrous economic policies they have been mercilessly subjected to.
Whether or not this movement will make more waves in Italy remains to be seen, but Grillo has proved in spectacular fashion that direct democracy is now taken seriously by huge swathes of the population of a major European nation. This fact alone is an enormous victory for the direct democracy movement, something that must be built on. It proves also that the earlier successes of the Pirate Party, which also supports direct democracy, were no one-off.
Direct democracy, already utilized in Switzerland (recently chosen as number one in the world for quality of life), is a viable alternative to the current sham. Under direct democracy there is no need for politicians at all, and big money lobbyists would no longer have anyone to bribe. Expert committees formulate policy under the watchful eyes of elected and regularly replaced citizen committees (like the jury system), which is then voted upon directly by the general public two or three times a year via a secure internet system. Elected experts, true servants of the public, conduct diplomacy on their nation's behalf.
Twenty-five citizens in Iceland recently wrote a new constitution with the help of hundreds of volunteers via online collaboration. If such a complex task can be done by a small group of citizens, there is no limit to the wonders that could be achieved.
No more corrupt, lying politicians. No more ultra-powerful corporate lobbyists in the revolving door. Just imagine that.
Without these malignant elements, societies could begin to heal, could redirect spending from the trillions spent on arms every year to social programs and education. It would likely take decades to heal the damage done, but by removing the main offenders, change could begin. M5S and the Pirate Party have shown that when there is a real choice at the polls, the massive public disaffection for the system can be expressed by other means than spoiling ballots or refusing to vote.
History is on the side of change, and judging by the hysterical reactions of conventional German and other European organs to the Italian elections and their open derision toward Grillo, they are terrified at these developments. Do we allow the wars, corruption, poverty, the murder of children and economic insanity to continue or do we act? Direct democracy movements are beginning to proliferate as the world starts to realize that the grip of the political and financial elites must be broken. Help them in any way you can and educate those around you. The elites are starting to feel the hands of the people tightening around their throats.
'The 99.99998271% - Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy' by Simon Wood is available for free download. In this 70-page book, the current state of human rights and democracy is discussed, and a simple method of implementing direct democracy is suggested.
Simon Wood on twitter (@simonwood11) and Facebook or at his blog. The Direct Democracy Alliance, a voluntary group dedicated to creating national/global direct democracy, is now also on twitter: (@DDA4586)
Author's note: For a year now I have been writing detailed articles on human rights and direct democracy, and have written a book on the topic which is freely available. However, despite some small successes, I am yet to make a scratch in any meaningful way that will bring about real change. For this to happen, I need to create an NPO or similar organization devoted to creating and promoting direct democracy. I therefore appeal to any reader who has significant resources, or who has connections to someone who has, to contact me with regard to making a philanthropic donation to bring about a transparent organization with paid, professional staff which can actually make a difference.