Monday, April 23, 2012

Are They Working for You? No? Well They're Working for Somebody.

There's a thought-provoking article by New York philosophy prof Simon Critchley in the latest AdBusters that goes to a theme that appears periodically on this blog - no one is at the controls.   We go to the polls, hand people the reins of power and the exclusive right to use them for our collective benefit and then they do nothing, or next to it.  It's not that they can't help us, it's that they won't.  They lack both inclination to intercede on our behalf and, worse, power to act.

"Why do we have this feeling of not being in control?  Why can't we pinpoint the source of our fear?  Why do we have a general feeling of powerlessness?

"One reason, not the only reason but one important reason, is the profound separation of politics and power.

"...Representative Liberal democracy on the Western model is premised on the idea that we exercise political power through the vote and that these votes would be aggregated by parties, representatives would be elected, governments would be formed, and these governments would have power to get things done.

"The fact is that today politics and power have fallen apart in liberal democracy.  They are separated, maybe even divorced.

"...Democracy at this time in history, even representative liberal democracy, risks being no more than a word, a kind of ideological birdsong.  Power has evaporated into supranational spaces.  these are the spaces of finance, obviously, of trade, obviously, and also information and information platforms, obviously.  But these supranational spaces are also those of drug trafficking, human trafficking, illegal immigration, the many boats that cross the Mediterranean, and so on.

"...yet power still feels local.  We feel english or Greek or Tunisian, but power has migrated beyond those boundaries.  Sovereignty lies elsewhere.  It is certainly not populist or people-centered.  Politics does not have power.  Politics serves power."

What Critchley seems to be describing is a form of supranational corporatism that has already supplanted democracy even as we continue to go through the motions of politics and elections.  If he's right, and it certainly feels that he is right, then our political process has become a problem, not a solution.   Answers will have to be sought and found outside of government and that's especially true for the bound and gagged governmental apparatus administered by undemocratic hucksters like Stephen Harper.

When critical issues such as the environmental future facing today's kids can't make it to the floor of the House of Commons you can be damned sure those petro-pols on both sides of the aisle are working for someone and surer still that someone isn't you.

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