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By Jerome Irwin
A question oft raised by journalists, writers and social scientists world-wide asks, “Is Democracy in the United States, as well as every other country in the world, dying a slow, barely visible death?” Military coups, openly fascist takeovers through the normal election process of former quasi-democratic political systems and the more quiet, passive, inexorable, everyday erosions of the democratic process and community life at the grassroots level in local municipal governmental structures and procedures continue to call into question the once lofty goal of human society and its long-held dream to achieve some kind of gold standard of local, regional, national democratic rule. Yet as time goes on, the reality is that as modern civilization continues to evolve that concept seemingly continues to slide ever-deeper down history’s rabbit hole.
The recent election victories of anti-democratic politicians like Donald Trump, India’s Narendra Modi, Brazil’s Jair Bolsanaro, the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte, New South Wale’s Premier Gladys Berejiklian, or likely-soon to be elected notables in the West as the U.K.’s Boris Johnson and Canada’s Andrew Scheer, to name but a few, suggest this same dismal, pathetic trend in the affairs of human societies will only continue to be sucked down the same rabbit hole.
As one lone, lowly citizen-writer-activist observing from afar the whole scene from the particular vantage point of his own tiny community of Lower Capilano, located in Canada’s province of British Columbia, on its North Shore District of North Vancouver, this writer constantly looks with dismay at how the politics and involvement of the citizenry, or lack thereof, in his own tiny world also dramatically has been sucked down the same rabbit hole and wonders if this is but yet a simpler template version of the same pattern on a wider world scale.
Some describe this problem at the world level as being a mid-life crisis as one government after another continues to deteriorate into various authoritarian, dictatorial states of being. But if one were to examine more closely the founding constitutions upon which most modern governments have been predicated over the past several hundred or more years they would be shocked to discover that they weren’t remotely created “for all the people, of the people, by the people”, but instead for only a select few elites among the, generally, white, male, privileged members of whatever society.
The vicious and constant push back that has occurred among right-wing Republicans and Democrats in the United States and others of a similar authoritarian-autocratic leaning throughout the world, who stand in opposition to basic things like: fair, open and transparent voting rights for all; supreme courts and legal systems that philosophically represent a cross-section of their citizenry; a fairer distribution of wealth among all the populace, and; instead favor more military-type factions or military-minded factions to run their governments; should give ample cause to all those critics who would disagree to pause and reconsider.
For ever since the discovery of the New World by the Old World, the re-establishment of a centuries-old Dominion Code, created by the old world’s original harsh, feudal, Christian systems of government rule that historically held sway, fundamentally continue to this day. Indigenous peoples throughout the New World can readily attest to what, in the final analysis, the so-called mayhem of democratic rule and government really is all about.
With the creation of the American concept of Democracy in the New World, the Old World immediately thought this to be an exemplary example of the direction in which the world at large, finally, was headed. Yet with the American’s Civil War, and the woeful sabotage of the concept of its idealistic Reconstruction Period of government, that, as some would argue, has continued to this day, means that for the vast 99% of its citizenry, life has instead turned from the dream into a veritable nightmare. As the 21 century continues to everywhere similarly unfold as it is, it seems inceasingly more apparent that the rest of the world is heading in the same direction.
Whether the problem ultimately can be blamed upon the worlds 1% elites and their: predatory capitalistic, plutocratic financial systems; is an outgrowth of a high-tech national security state now gone equally berserk; the master plan of some malevolent deep state, or; the results of a new Artifical Intelligence that more and more dominates and subsumes the existing human element; fifty or sixty years ago what is now unfolding in the world wouldn’t or couldn’t have happened.
The dream of the Perfect Union between the citizenry and those elites who would lead them was still too strong a concept to openly attack that many today would contend is a concept that never has and never will ever work because of the very nature of Human Nature itself. They would say the erosion of the basis of government, predicated upon the so-called betterment of the whole, now is too great! The corrupted form of capitalism now everywhere in power too out of control! A Labor Movement that once could try to put the brakes on it all, while more fairly distributing the wealth among the people, now all but defunct! While municipal, regional and federal levels of government are far too hopelessly embedded in the deep pockets of all those greedy ones – high-tech engineering-construction-real estate firms, investor consortium and speculator syndicates, – who can’t ever get enough of everything, whose philosophy is predicated upon perpetual growth of everything, from: the economy, the population; the GNP, to their own personal amassed wealth.
These simple truths recently became more evident to this writer one day as he was clearing out, and reorganizing, his cabinets that already were too chock-a-block full of articles, op-ed’s, and papers written over the past forty years about not only the same focus as this article but a multitude of related local community issues pertaining to such things as: unwanted population growth, preservation of the community’s single family zoning regulations; increasing the greening of the neighborhood streets; slowing down through traffic; preserving the local human architectural heritage, preserving the natural world; creating safe routes for cycling through the community, and so on. This kind of input was possible forty years ago because the elites who presided over the local municipal and region had allowed small communities like Lower Capilano to create their own Official Community Plan.
The concept of its Official Local Plan (OCP) concept was a brilliant ideal, based upon as pure an example of local democratic rule and autonomy as one could ever imagine or hope for. Interested citizenry could form interest groups concerned about whatever aspect of community they were interested in improving or addressing, include their recommendations into their local OCP and then run it by the elected politicians and officials of the local District for their acknowledgment and approval. It was a classic example of Democracy at Work or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Had it been allowed to continue there is no way of knowing now what kind of potential could have been realized in such a truly democratic form of government.
But it wasn’t meant to be. The forces of outside development and expansion, and the politicians who didn’t like to be beholden to the unversed, unwashed masses, didn’t like the idea of local community members having so much say or control over what would happen. The outsiders already had their own greedy sights and designs on our community. We were but the next of one of their latest grandiose development schemes, sarcastically called the Lower Capilano Village Plan, that they intended to become not a viable source of community resources but an ordinary complex of concrete and glass skyscrapers, like every other high-rise development on the globe, that never was intended to remotely reflect what the local citizenry envisoned as their own “Iconic Gateway to the North Shore”.
The long and the short of this sordid ugly tale, that could be told and retold throughout the world, besides writing a lengthy expose about all the grubby details, is one of how: the integrity of a given community can so quickly become: compromised and utterly destroyed; its local democratic form of rule sabotaged by eliminating its local Official Community Plan, and putting it in the hands of outside political-corporate-economic forces, over which they had no further control or input; their future controlled and dictated by those distant ones in their ‘glass palaces’ and ‘ivory towers’ who cared next to nothing about how its transformation would negatively impact upon the local peoples lives in the short and long term. It’s a tale that has and will be told many times yet by those who might otherwise simply say, “Well, That’s Progress!”
End of the Story about Democracy as a Still Unrealized Dream versus Democracy as a Sham!
Jerome Irwin is a freelance writer who, for decades, in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, has sought to call attention to problems of sustainability caused by excessive mega-developments, horrors of traffic gridlock, loss of single family neighbourhoods and a host of related environmental-ecological-spiritual issues and concerns that exist between the conflicting philosophies of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples.