Reclaiming Democracy: Real Democracy Is Not in the Ballot Box
Demos (“common people”) - kratia (“a power, authority”)
Reclaiming Democracy: Real Democracy Is Not in the Ballot Box
By Kevin Buckland / filmsforaction.org
Nov 10, 2016

Whatever you are feeling now, it is powerful. Embrace that, cultivate it, learn from it - emotion is where power comes from. We should feel disillusioned, but not with politicians but with the democratic process. What democracy has granted us is the understanding that we are all collaborators in the world we co-create, but electoral democracy has diminished that to a single act of voting. This is the danger of representational democracy - it encourages people not to engage in political life by providing the illusion that others will do it for you. 

November 9th, 2016 marks a turning point for the world. I voted, it was rather easy - I ticked a few boxes and went on my way. But, democracy is not just a ballot box - this illusion has sedated millions into thinking that voting is our only means of contributing to shaping a better world. This assumption is convenient for the parties who maintain the political status-quo, but what this election has seen is precisely a rejection of this assumption that a ruling elite should be empowered to make decisions for us. This is an honorable intention, though horribly, horribly misplaced. As neoliberalism marches ever further right, we must be organizing to pick up the people who fall through its cracks. As more and more become disillusioned by corrupt political systems, let us work to provide empowering local alternatives, rather than just alternative candidates. The populist fervor that surrounds the personality politics of electoral democracy is never far from fascism so instead of looking to new leaders let us look to lead - by creating meaningful and empowering spaces for all those disenchanted with the status-quo. The 2-year political circus cycle has destroyed our political attention span, we must regain this focus on longer-term work and start engaging in the deep work of co-creating our own communities. The bi-annual spectacle of constantly changing political candidates has only impeded us from growing deep roots that do not advocate for, but instead creates, deep social change. Let us aspire that November 9th marks a turning away from the disempowerment of representational politics and towards new forms of direct democracy. Democracy is a process that requires constant attention. It is intended to activate a population and give us agency and ownership over co-creating our own collective future. Let us reclaim the understanding of democracy a relationship between ourselves and our communities: in the streets as we protest together, in the marketplaces when we speak to our farmer, in our neighborhood assembly, in our building’s annual meeting, in our block party. It is these hyper-localized parts of democracy we need to be cultivating and strengthening on a daily basis; it is in our own backyards that the empowering work of creating and embodying real change happens. Its not easy work, but in the very process of discussing alternatives new ideas will develop, opinions will change and new relationships of trust will be built upon which further projects may grow. If we all spent the next four, eight, twelve or sixteen years building local autonomy and political community, for each election we would already have our networks built and the hardest part of our work done for us. We could all just hold an event or pull together some door-knocking brigades, go tick a box and then get back to the real work turning and empty lot into a park, re-municipalizing the town’s water, divesting our mayor’s pension from fossil fuels or actively resisting the new shopping center that nobody besides the developer seems to want. There is no shortage of work to be done, and no presidential candidate knows better than you do what your community needs. 

I like to think about mycelium, the vast underground networks of mushrooms that are among the worlds largest living organisms. Occasionally they send up visible mushrooms, and this is all we see. But it is the dark underground is where the future is born, let us cultivate this fertile ground. Let this election be a wake-up call to reimagine democracy: no one will solve your problems for you: we are the one’s we’ve been waiting for. What is your role in the experiment of democracy? 

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Reclaiming Democracy: Real Democracy Is Not in the Ballot Box