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Antonio Rossin, 'Forum for Citizens' Democracy', Thessaloniki Greece 18th June 2003

Introduction

Politicians are the hostages of TNCs economic power

The People are the victims of 'top-down manufacturing consent' meme

A revision of the Family Education model thus becomes mandatory


The efficiency of today's western Democracies can be summarized by one sentence:
"top-down policies with a bottom-up origin are the only ones that function effectively".

From this standpoint, Rossin focuses on the "bottom-up" origin of policies. It shall be preserved by both the EU Constitution and by I&R campaigning. Hence the possibility arises for DEMOCRACY Movements to find ways of expressing Direct Democratic ideas and Practices both in the New European Parliament and among the people, in due co-operation.
Still, two main obstacles conspire to upset any bottom-up origin of the people's wishes:

Today's politicians have become the hostages of TNCs economic power, so they apply marketing technologies of consent-manufacturing and opinion-making to change peoples' minds according to the demands of economic power. (For how to fix this problem see: http://www.simpol.org ).

The educational agenda, according to the party in office, conditions the people so they become the passive victims of top-down manipulation of consent, from the earliest language learning onwards. Hence a deep revision of family language patterning becomes necessary, to spot and remove the tools that prevent future citizens from any aware-active sharing-in to develop and participate in the policies that should instead have a bottom-up origin (on this topic see: http://www.flexible-learning.org ).

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Politicians are the hostages of TNCs economic power

This subject has been brilliantly explained by John Bunzl, the founder of ISPO (International Simultaneous Policy Organisation). "Simultaneous Policies" stands for a radically innovative approach to solving problems of corporate globalisation that offers win-win solutions for voters, civil society activists and politicians.
This is how J. Bunzl exposes the problem (more on this subject at the ISPO web site http://www.simpol.org ):

" Hundreds of thousands of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) are said to be at work throughout the world addressing the inequalities created by corporate-friendly economic policies. Through activities based on cooperation and sustainability they seek to provide solutions to problems of human poverty and environmental degradation. And millions share with them unexpressed concerns about the ways in which globalisation enriches the few at the expense of the many.
By contrast, business leaders claim "there is no alternative" to profit-based pursuits based on competition. For them it is self-evident that growth is beneficial because of the productive wealth it creates. But corporations have to grow because they cannot afford to lose ground against their competitors for fear of reduced profits and, ultimately, the threat of unwelcome takeovers. And nations are forced to compete with one another, to remain relatively more attractive to globally mobile capital and trans-national corporations for fear of investment and employment moving elsewhere. Thus politicians have wholly inadequate margins within which to enact policies that protect society and the environment, making voters increasingly aware that democracy is being subverted as globalisation gathers momentum.

Can the Vicious Circle be Broken?
The clash between street demonstrators and police in Seattle in December 1999 was the first widely visible flash-point between the concepts of economically sustainable democratic cooperation, and socially and environmentally destructive globalised competition. In January 2001, the first meeting of the World Social Forum in Porto-Alegre, Brazil became a focus for CSO-based movements pressing for change, thus creating a new institutional platform for promoting economic and social alternatives. Meanwhile, recognition and concern that globalisation is failing to deliver benefits to the poor is also growing even amongst its most ardent promoters.
Sadly, however, CSOs haven't responded to this significant change of mood by speaking with one voice. A few favour continued confrontation and the creation of global people-power. Others stress the need for local answers to local problems, and the painstaking creation of a democratic framework strong enough in its diversity to withstand attempted returns to global domination.

But, inevitably, the question: How?
The Simultaneous Policy (SP) proposes a challenging answer:
The International Simultaneous Policy Organisation (ISPO) invites voters, CSO activists and politicians to assent, by consensus, to a world policy for achieving global cooperation consisting of a range of measures to be implemented by all nations simultaneously. The key part of this bold initiative is re-regulation of global financial markets and transnational corporations such that genuine democracy can be restored to nation states, to be followed by complementary policies that emerge as the campaign gathers pace through active participation by those who sign on. ISPO is encouraging discussion of policies by various means, including an e-mail list devoted to that purpose.

SP additionally offers its adherents several completely new win-win options:

  • Everyone can express dissatisfaction with global inequalities,and participate in a demand for policy change, merely by posting a letter or sending an e-mail to register their endorsement of SP.
  • Voters can 'beat the system' by endorsing SP and by creating or joining local SP campaign groups which threaten to vote only for those parliamentary representatives who also endorse SP. They can thereby replace their previous passive or ambivalent function in national politics with direct influence over policy choices.
  • National politicians can demonstrate their willingness to move on from left/centre/right party politics, but retain voters' support by their successes in joining with other nations in out-manoeuvring transnational corporations and thus preserving hard-won civil liberties without risking the national interest.
  • CSOs who endorse SP can continue to pursue their existing priorities; but, through the variety of their concerns and growing international outreach, can become awareness creating think-tanks or pressure groups which constantly remind national politicians that top-down policies with bottom-up origins are the only ones that function effectively. "

So far John Bunzl of ISPO. Only one problem remains unsolved: how to get a sufficient amount of people to adopt SP. Adoption only requires individual awareness of what the responsible participation into the collective values of democracy stand for. Individuals, the people indeed, seem reluctant to directly control, awarely and responsibly, their consent - finally, their votes - in order to perform the more basic and mandatory of all the "policies with a bottom-up origin": namely, SP. It looks like the people are unable to decide by themselves and are instead waiting for their decisions to be led, i.e. controlled, "top-down" by the establishment authorities in office: just those politicians, opinion-makers and such "manufacturers of consent" who are the main obstacle to Participatory Democracy. Another vicious circle has to be broken, then, if we really want 'bottom-up Democracy' to succeed.. On that account, let's now see how the people's dependence on the authority consent may have happened -- and still happens -- in time.

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The People are the victims of 'top-down manufacturing consent' meme

Any genuine bottom-up origin of collective policies is actually banned because the people behave as the victims of the "top-down manufactured consent and propaganda" political way, acting and propagating itself as a meme. Indeed, the so-called "people's wish" is fixated by careful propaganda and opinion making, managed to drive the people to comply with the elitist wish of the so-called "specialized class" and the powerholders establishment, by means of the mass media.

About how this meme presents itself, I take some quotes from Noam Chomsky's writing "Media Control", MIT, March 17, 1991, excerpted from the Alternative Press Review, Fall 1993. Chomsky exposes:

" Let me begin by counter-posing two different conceptions of democracy. One conception of democracy has it that a democratic society is one in which the public has the means to participate in some meaningful way in the management of their own affairs and the means of information are open and free....
An alternative conception of democracy is that the public must be barred from managing of their own affairs and the means of information must be kept narrowly and rigidly controlled. That may sound like an odd conception of democracy, but it's important to understand that it is the prevailing conception....

...The Wilson administration established a government propaganda commission, called the Creel Commission, which succeeded, within six months, in turning a pacifist population into a hysterical, war-mongering population which wanted to destroy everything German, tear the Germans limb from limb, go to war and save the world.
That was a major achievement, and it led to a further achievement. Right at that time and after the war the same techniques were used to whip up a hysterical Red Scare, as it was called, which succeeded pretty much in destroying unions and eliminating such dangerous problems as freedom of the press and freedom of political thought. There was very strong support from the media, from the business establishment, which in fact organized, pushed much of this work, and it was in general a great success.
Among those who participated actively and enthusiastically were the progressive intellectuals, people of the John Dewey circle, who took great pride, as you can see from their own writings at the time, in having shown that what they called the "more intelligent members of the community," namely themselves, were able to drive a reluctant population into a war by terrifying them and eliciting jingoist fanaticism. The means that were used were extensive. For example, there was a good deal of fabrication of atrocities by the Huns, Belgian babies with their arms torn off, all sorts of awful things that you still read in history books. They were all invented by the British propaganda ministry, whose own committment at the time, as they put it in their secret deliberations, was "to control the thought of the world." But more crucially they wanted to control the thought of the more intelligent members of the community in the U.S., who would then disseminate the propaganda that they were concocting and convert the pacifist country to wartime hysteria. That worked. It worked very well. And it taught a lesson: State propaganda, when supported by the educated classes and when no deviation is permitted from it, can have a big effect. It was a lesson learned by Hitler and many others, and it has been pursued to this day.
...Walter Lippman, who was the dean of American journalists, a major foreign and domestic policy critic and also a major theorist of liberal democracy... argued that what he called a "revolution in the art of democracy," could be used to "manufacture consent," that is, to bring about agreement on the part of the public for things that they didn't want by the new techniques of propaganda....
...He argued that in a properly-functioning democracy there are classes of citizens. There is first of all the class of citizens who have to take some active role in running general affairs. That's the specialized class. They are the people who analyze, execute, make decisions, and run things in the political, economic, and ideological systems. That's a small percentage of the population... Those others, who are out of the small group, the big majority of the population, they are what Lippman called "the bewildered herd": 'We have to protect ourselves from the trampling and rage of the bewildered herd... ...So we need something to tame the bewildered herd, and that something is this new revolution in the art of democracy: the "manufacture of consent.' The media, the schools, and popular culture have to be divided. For the political class and the decision makers have to give them some tolerable sense of reality, although they also have to instill the proper beliefs. Just remember, there is an unstated premise here. The unstated premise has to do with the question of how they get into the position where they have the authority to make decisions. The way they do that, of course, is by serving people with real power. The people with real power are the ones who own the society, which is a pretty narrow group. If the specialized class can come along and say, I can serve your interests, then they'll be part of the executive group. You've got to keep that quiet. That means they have to have instilled in them the beliefs and doctrines that will serve the interests of private power. Unless they can master that skill, they're not part of the specialized class. They have to be deeply indoctrinated in the values and interests of private power and the state-corporate nexus that represents it. If they can get through that, then they can be part of the specialized class. The rest of the bewildered herd just have to be basically distracted: 'Turn their attention to something else... In what is nowadays called a totalitarian state, then a military state, it's easy. You just hold a bludgeon over their heads, and if they get out of line you smash them over the head. But as society has become more free and democratic, you lose that capacity. Therefore you have to turn to the techniques of propaganda. The logic is clear. Propaganda is to democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state....'
The U.S. pioneered the public relations industry. Its committment was to "control the public mind," as its leaders put it. They learned a lot from the successes of the Creel Commission and the success in creating the Red Scare and its aftermath. The public relations industry underwent a huge expansion at that time. It succeeded for some time in creating almost total subordination of the public to business rule through the 1920s. Public relations is a huge industry. They're spending by now something on the order of a billion dollars a year. All along its committment was to controlling the public mind... The corporate executive and the guy who cleans the floor all have the same interests. We can all work together and work for Americanism in harmony, liking each other. That was essentially the message. A huge amount of effort was put into presenting it. This is, after all, the business community, so they control the media and have massive resources... That's the ideal. Great efforts are made in trying to achieve that ideal. Obviously, there is a certain conception behind it. The conception of democracy is the one that I mentioned. The bewildered herd is a problem. We've got to prevent their rage and trampling. We've got to distract them. They should be watching the Superbowl or sitcoms or violent movies. Every once in a while you call on them to chant meaningless slogans like "Support our troops…" You've got to keep them pretty scared, because "unless they're properly scared and frightened of all kinds of devils that are going to destroy them from outside or inside or somewhere, they may start to think, which is very dangerous, because they're not competent to think. Therefore it's important to distract them and marginalize them… "

So far from Noam Chomsky's analysis of 'The Democracy of the propaganda'. Any way, the successful efforts made by the power-holding elite in order to manipulate the people's consent, driving the latter to support a political agenda decided and originated top-down, are in common evidence. In particular, the people have got to be kept away from any active aware participation of their own in the phase of deciding or discussing policies.
Within this politically pervasive reality, politicians and governmental officials are reasonably expected to allow no way for the people's initiatives and policies with a bottom-up origin. Democratic efforts like the I&R seem destined to get official support provided only the issued subjects are compatible with the desires of the powerholders' establishment.
Therefore, there is very little or no probability that the people can be encouraged and supported by the establishment to improve their active aware sharing-in attitude -- which seems to be a pre-requisite to get policies with a bottom-up origin. Also many parties and movements that boast they're in favour of "Direct Democracy" seem to apply to the same tools of propaganda and manipulation of consent to get their public into agreement. The people that once were called the 'bewildered herd', now, after having been successfully tamed for decades, have become a 'benighted herd', indifferent and reluctant to take any active aware position as regards either the policies being enacted top-down in favour of the powerholder elite, or those in favour of the people themselves such as the social policies - SP included - that come grassroots bottom-up to answer the real necessities of humankind and the environment.

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A revision of the Family Education model thus becomes mandatory

Plainly, those who base their social and institutional positions on the consent of the populace, will not admit even that their supporters may behave like "benighed herd". Conversely, they are very likely to apply the same propaganda and manufacture-of-consent tools to increase their public's support. Thus, no initiative aiming to awaken the benighted herd can be reasonably expected from the top-down side of society. So let's see what can be done from the bottom-up side in order to increase the development of an active, aware, responsible and participatory personality amongst people generally, by defeating the "benighted herd" meme.

What happens inside the human brain in order to develop the individual's personality - the citizen's future style of life -- is already well known. For one, suffice it to remember the nobel laureat, Rita L.Montalcini. Her findings show that, at about two years age, the brain possesses the greatest number of nervous connections. Immediately after that, very soon a sudden reabsorption process of the supernumerary connections takes place, leading to what will be the individual's ultimate brain structure. Of course, all of that happens under family cultural feed-back.
The question arises now, and the solution of our problem follows as well, about how to spot the family feed-back parameters that may incline the individual's future personality either towards the "benighted herd" or the aware responsible participatory -- in one word, "flexible" -- end of our social continuum.

Out of my studies, I've found two couples of these "either-or" parameters:

  1. Parents speaking either first or second to the child, and:
  2. Parents either discussing their opposite opinions (if any) in front of the child, or hiding any dialectical confrontation thereby showing consent only to the latter.

Of course, the model which I suggest to you, and which I applied to my children's family education, it is the "parents speaking second" and "showing the child dialectic discussion" one. However, I do not want to deepen the analysis of these feed-back parameters here, because the whole matter has been copiously exposed in a dedicated web site, http://www.flexible-learning.org

What I want to bring to light, any way, it is that there is no parent anywhere in the world who knows about the practicable existence of the above parameters. Also, out of everybody's evidence, the "parents speaking first and hiding dialectic confrontation to the child" family education model seems to be the paragon worldwide. This meme explains why the people are so reluctant to originate policies bottom-up, eg. those which ISPO is about, but they fall down as the unaware victims of the top-down propaganda and manufacture of consent, as Chomsky so aptly pointed out as.

All of this also explains why I am campaigning, now and before, for the due information to be provided to parents all over the world, since the Family is the moulding pot where the responsive citizen -- the main actor of our collective building -- is expected to come from, bottom-up, towards Direct Democracy.

Antonio Rossin

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Antonio Rossin
Neurologist - Family Doctor
45010, Ca' Vendramin (RO)
Italy
www.flexible-learning.org

Last update: 07/08/03