Trickle-Up Democracy
By Douglas Rushkoff / tikkun.org

I know we’re not supposed to say such things, but I have lost faith in national politics. Yes, I’ll [continue to vote in] elections and do my part to get the less sold-out, less anti-communitarian candidate in office. But I no longer look to the top tier of centralized government to solve our problems or help us grope toward conclusions together.

For me, big government has become as abstract as the corporations that made it possible. The more I study the emergence of corporate capitalism, the more I see central government as the other side of the same coin: a booming peer-to-peer society was intentionally dismantled during the Renaissance in order to reassert the authority of the aristocracy. This was achieved by giving “chartered monopolies” the exclusive authority to do business in their industries (cronyism) and by giving central banks the exclusive authority to issue currency.

All work, trade, lending, and borrowing now had to go through the central authorities. This abstracted what we think of as commerce. We don’t buy from our neighbors, anymore. We buy from the firms our neighbors might work for. We don’t create value; we serve as employees. We have no relationships with our producers. We engage instead with the brands concocted to shield us from the labor embedded in what we buy. 

We live in a society where laborers are disconnected from their competencies; consumers are disconnected from producers; and consumers are alienated from one another. We are taught to look up for solutions, rather than to the side. Our best presidents, true believers in the corporate-government partnership, try to kick start our economy by giving banks money in the hope that they will lend money to corporations, who will in turn open factories in depressed regions so that people can get jobs. This only create more dependence on institutions whose true purpose is to extract value. 

What a national leader might do instead, of course, is simply encourage the people in these areas to develop their own economies, beginning with simple favor banks, local currencies, and community agriculture. (Just like what is going on Greece, where people’s limited access to the Euro and the greater economy has forced them to look to one another as resources for goods and services.) 

The focus on national politics gives people the false impression that a new national leader is going to somehow get us the things we need, when the tools and rules he has at his disposal are intrinsically biased against that ever happening. National politics doesn’t simply occur on an abstract scale that has nothing to do with us; this activity itself reinforces the conditions and beliefs that perpetuate its dominance. 

So I have taken my eyes off the prize, and my focus off the national political stage. I am looking instead at very local politics, and the trickle-up effect of people engaging on the ground with the issues that matter to them on a daily basis. I want a state legislator who will help my Community Supported Agriculture group get its land approved for something other than corn, or who will change the regulations on biodiesel alternatives to oil. 

But most of all I want to help develop conversations about what we can actually do for one another, instead of who is supposed to represent us in the abstracted, stalled, and dehumanizing landscape of national politics.

Douglas Rushkoff is the author of a dozen books on media and society, including Life Inc., Program or Be Programmed, Nothing Sacred, and Media Virus. He makes documentaries for PBS Frontline, and teaches and lectures around the world.

Join Our Movement Donate to Tikkun

 
Tikkun Daily
Load Comments
You Might Be Interested In
6 min · December 2010 and Cablegate has burst open. With a steady trickle of Diplomatic communiques leaking out every single day, the Book of Revelations is expanding dramatically. In all the hubbub, the global community is forced to ask questions of its leaders. At the same time...
3 min · Please note that the rapid increase in the national debt started in the 1980's, when we began allowing large corporations to contribute less than their share. With income levels for We the People stagnant — actually, after taxes, our income has decreased during this period —...
113 min · I wish my teachers had shown me documentaries like this when I was in school. Everything I was taught in school about government and politics was how things "should be working" if everything worked as intended (3 branches of government, all perfectly balanced and...
75 min · Ethos, a powerful documentary hosted by Woody Harrelson, is an investigation into the flaws in our systems, and the mechanisms that work against democracy, our environment and the common good. With a stunning depth of research and breadth of analysis, this film delves deep...
27 min · From crime beat reporter for the BALTIMORE SUN to award-winning screenwriter of HBOs critically-acclaimed The Wire, David Simon talks with Bill Moyers about inner-city crime and politics, storytelling and the future of journalism today. This show aired April 17, 2009. Bill...
2 min · Winner of both the Edward R. Murrow Award and the Polk Award for Excellence in Journalism, 'Boogie Man' tells the story of the king of trash politics. Lee Atwater, the brilliant and ruthless Republican political consultant and strategist who eventually became chairman of the...
34 min · The documentary, “Get Up, Stand Up”, 34 minutes in duration, is in some ways, an answer to many of the myths surrounding the nuclear power projects, the world over. Though this film is set particularly in the back drop of the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project and the people’s...
7 min · In this Tedx talk, Dave Meslin argues that it isn't apathy that keeps people from engaging in politics. People do care, he argues, but the barriers to participation make it prohibitively difficult to do so. If we can identify and break down these barriers, however, we have...
88 min · Uploaded by None on 2011-11-26. Debate Chris Hedges vs Sam Harris Religion, Politics FULL
3 min · "A most important project" - Noam Chomsky, Institute professor MIT "...a magnificent and entertaining introduction and elaboration upon an important way to understand the crisis in American democracy today" - Robert W. McChesney, University of Illinois prof. co-author, The...
2 min · Cities should be a solution not a problem for human beings. The city of Curitiba has demonstrated for the past 40 years how to transform problems into cost-effective solutions that can be applied in most cities around the world.A Convenient Truth: Urban Solutions from...
Ari Berman · During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama said over and over that he was running to "put an end to the Bush-McCain philosophy." Campaigning in Colorado just days before the election, Obama clearly stated his opposition to Bush-era economic policies and...
Derek Wall · When Professor Elinor Ostrom became the first women to win a Nobel Prize for economics in 2009, or to be precise, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences that she shared with Richard Williamson, most economists probably sighed with surprise and said something along...
Carl Gibson · What would you say to a family financial adviser who suggested your wisest investment would be to liquidate your own retirement account and empty out your kids' college fund to buy your wealthy cousin a new Bentley? Would you go ahead and gamble with your life savings in...
Yousef Munayyer · THEY SAY WHEN all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. But when you are a politician and all you have is a hammer, you must convince voters every problem looks like a nail. This is the only thinking that can explain Israel's behavior in escalating bombardment...
JESSE A. MYERSON · It's a new year, but one thing hasn't changed: The economy still blows. Five years after Wall Street crashed, America's banker-gamblers have only gotten richer, while huge swaths of the country are still drowning in personal debt, tens of millions of Americans remain...
Sustainable Man · A friend of mine invited me to attend the World Ocean Summit titled “Sustainability and Governance” hosted by The Economist recently at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Half Moon Bay, CA. Sponsored by Shell, DNV-GL, and Google among others, it was attended by three hundred people...
Chuck Collins · Imagine six months from now a social movement that no longer waits for elected politicians to lead and engages in direct action against the fossil fuel industry and their lobbying power. ~ By Chuck Collins It is time to form affinity groups. We need to come together to form...
Yes! Magazine contributors · Corporate power is behind the politics of climate denial, Wall Street bailouts, union busting, and media consolidation, to name just a few. And policies advocated by the 1 percent are bankrupting the middle class. But real people have power, too. Here are some of their most...
Like us on Facebook?