Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Colliery Dam Struggle - Leadership – Theirs and Ours

A strong people need no leader – Benaventura Durutti

True leadership is obedience – Sub Comandante Marcos

There are two ways of looking at leaders and leadership:

The first is that of Durrutti's, leaders as bosses, people who can force their way on to others, people who have power over us, but not necessarily our respect. This form of leadership, their leadership, is that of the Council majority and the city bureaucracy.

The second form of leadership, that of Marcos, where leaders have little or no power over us and can lead only by example and moral suasion. This leadership grows out of  respect. Our leaders clearly articulate the people's wishes and have no personal agenda other than that of the people. They have no police or army to beat us into submission if we disagree with them. If they were to lose our respect, their leadership would crumble and they would fade back into the masses.

Such is the leadership provided by Dave and Jeff. (And even though they have legislative powers, our "Fab Four" City Councillors and Chief Douglas White clearly share these moral attributes)

Our leaders are not the only source of ideas. We are not receiving gifts from on high from some know-it-all elite. Where our leaders have special skills, they use them to the public benefit, yet at the same time they articulate the viewpoints expressed by the populace. Many ideas come from "below" and through our spokespeople become public conversations.

Durrutti's concept also means, "we don't need leaders because we are all leaders." In large measure this is true with the Colliery Dams struggle. A multitude of people have come forward and played leadership roles by taking on tasks or acting upon their own ideas. Think of the fund-raisers, the Colliery Dam float, the Silly Boat race, the Colliery Dam Singers, the tee shirts, posters, the speeches to Council, the petitions, the people handing out fliers and so on and so on, all done by people who have taken leadership. Our movement would have not gotten very far without this form of leadership.

Finally, in a system based upon maintaining alienation and passivity, just by standing up and getting involved at any level, you are a leader.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The Colliery Dams Dispute in the Larger Context

The Colliery Dams dispute, like so many other disputes today, is in large measure a result of a difference of opinion over what constitutes democracy in the contemporary world. People should be aware that democracy is not a thing, it is an-on-going process. What was in the past considered democratic is considered authoritarian today. Voltaire praised 18th Century England as a bastion of liberty, and compared to Louis 15th's France, it probably seemed so. In reality, 18th Century England was a vicious slave-owning oligarchy where less than 5% of adult males had the vote. Jump ahead 100 years to Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy In America where neither women nor people of color were considered persons, but this was a vast improvement on 18th Century England.

After the First World War the present system of representative democracy was finalized with women's suffrage, and not much has changed since. I would suggest that this concept of democracy is that of council majority and that permanent government that is the city bureaucracy. This concept of democracy is in direct conflict with a new conception of democracy.

The older concept reduces democracy to voting for candidates every number of years. Once in power these members can do more or less as they see fit. Should the masses object to the policies imposed upon them, they are treated as a virtual enemy. Should they persist in their protest, the state is there to repress them with force and violence. Civil disobedience arises when democracy is not working properly, where people have been excluded from the process.

For a population that was mostly uneducated, inarticulate and insecure, this system was not too problematic. People grumbled but obeyed. We saw this with the damming of the Arrow Lakes in the mid-1960s. Thousands of acres of prime farm land was destroyed and small towns inundated. There were complaints, but no action was taken. This is an example of Peter C. Newman's concept of Canadian deference to authority. However, today, with a population that is well educated, highly articulate and full of confidence, - such as the people fighting the destruction of Colliery Dam Park - deference has flown the coop. For them, the older democracy is not democratic at all but is more of an elective dictatorship.

It is no coincidence that at the same time as the Colliery Dam protests erupted, so too the spectacular revolts in Turkey, Egypt, and Brazil. A global movement for a new form of democracy has evolved and encompasses everything from Spain's Neighborhood Assemblies and the Occupy Movement to the Neighborhood Committees of Venezuela.

With the new-style democracy, people must have a say over every important event that impacts upon their lives. Democracy must be 24-7 not every 4 years. People prefer delegated power rather than independent representatives. All stakeholders must be involved and a rational compromise sought acceptable to the overwhelming majority. People with different ideas are not always the enemy, but a source of valuable input to be included, not excluded. Political power is to be horizontal, not top-down, webs and networks, not tightly controlled centralized bodies.

I wish the city Council majority would consider what they are doing in this world historical context. I invite them to stick their toes into the cool waters of the new democracy. They can do so by bringing all the stakeholders together, and most especially the First Nations, and find a rational solution to the conflict.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Austerity Equals Mass Murder

More evidence how austerity and other neoliberal attacks kill people – literally by the millions see

Blogging Change
BCBloggers Code: Progressive Bloggers Site Meter