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RE: <nettime> the myth of democracy + christianity
n ik on Wed, 31 Oct 2001 11:41:23 +0100 (CET)

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RE: <nettime> the myth of democracy + christianity

<begin reply to Kermit Snelson>

>The term "democracy" has been around since the fifth century BC.  So as a
>concept, or "myth", it far predates Christianity, the nation-state and
>especially capitalism.  And no, democracy hasn't always been the exclusive
>propaganda weapon of capitalism.  Remember the German Democratic Republic?

actually, you misrepresent my point - the point i made was that 
democracy *has never existed* as it is 'described' to be: i.e, it has 
never been about "the rule of the many". Yes it does pre-date 
capitalism, but it does not pre-date mercantilism or imperialism 
(both points i made in the post you are referring to).

I keep asking for an example of a nation, state, society, etc that 
has *actually* been a democracy, in the sense that it is "ruled by 
the people" (for what that's worth) - but none has been provided. And 
I cannot find a single example of one. In fact, I'd say examples like 
Athens and the German Democratic Republic are further proof of my 
point - that the myth of democracy is used to hide the fact that the 
many are ruled by the few, and that the promise of democracy is held 
out as an ideal to be worked towards under the 'current democratic 
system' - that is, it is a tool to channel desires for freedom, 
autonomy, life, etc into vague reformist projects of the current 
(then and now) fundamentally inequitable political system that have 
no chance of actualising their modest aims.

And seeing as Negri et al keep coming up, its worth noting their 
point that "the people" is as much a political construction as an 
actual thing - a people is the political construction that the 
nation-state is built upon. To be "ruled by the people", is to be 
ruled by a fiction created to maintain the nation-state. This would 
indicate that 'democracy' is an even more profound lie than if it 
were just a matter of straight deception - not only is the sense of 
participation a lie, not only is the idea that the people who live 
within a nation-state have the power to rule over themselves a lie, 
but the notion that they are even *one people* a lie. But maybe the 
word lie here is inappropriate - a much better notion I feel would be 
Baudrillard's notion of simulacra - "the truth that hides the fact 
there is none".

>Of course, "democracy" meant different things to Pericles, Jefferson, JFK
>and Walter Ulbricht.  But the main idea remains the same:  that the many
>should rule instead of the few, or the one.

this much is true - i do not dispute it. but the reality is that the 
many have never ruled, only ever the few (or the one).

>Centuries of political theory and experience have established that
>democracy has three natural enemies:  mob rule, empire and war.  And these
>three are not unrelated.  In fact, they usually work as one insidious
>system through which democracies are destroyed, just as Athens was
>destroyed by the Peloponnesian War.

its too bad the slaves, foreigners and women didn't get together and 
destroy it. They sure as hell didn't get a chance to 'vote' or be 
represented in Athenian society. Perhaps you should add one more 
'nateral enemy' to that list - those that are subjugated by the 
simularca of democracy - the dispossessed, the indigenous, women, the 
unemployed, the homeless....

>The same thing is probably happening
>to us right now. And today's "anti-state brand of idealism", allied with
>neo-liberalism and worse, is riding all three of these to yet another
>Spartan victory.

this move to align counter-globalisation protesters (a much better 
term than anti-globalisation IMHO) with right-wing christans (and 
militas), Islamic fundamentalists, and nationalists (protectionists 
in the neo-liberal terms of reference) is a public relations move - 
not a logical one. It makes sense to lump all of 'globalisations' 
opponents together, to take the reasonable and rational ground for 
themselves. To say 'they all oppose the state' means they are all the 
same is a facile critique - they are no more united in what they 
oppose than in what they would wish to see (making the distinction 
between a 'counter' and the 'anti' camps makes this abundantly 
clear). To say otherwise is either poor scholarship or propaganda.

But all this and more has already been said on this list many times 
over: "Indeed, I would have thought that the term antiglobalization 
was invented by the mainstream press to isolate, humiliate, and 
belittle 'progressive activists.'"

<end Kermit Snelson>

And on Ian Andrews reply <Christianity and the myth of democracy>, i 
would ask - how does the similarities between right-wing christians 
and neo-liberals ...

"The end of big Government is also the agenda of the neo-liberals who 
want to see government reduced to a minor administrative role in a 
world dominated by corporate decision making. But unlike the 
born-agains, the neo-liberals see big government as the natural enemy 
of the free market, not God."

...equate with, say, the meshwork of groups, individuals, 
organisations, unions, etc, that were protesting the Asia-Pacific 
World Economic Forum meeting in Melbourne, during September last 
year? The 'left' has always had strong anti-authoritarian 'strands' - 
Negri and Hardt (as Kermit said, few activists have probably read 
them. And as I've been told by an Italian friend, they are probably 
read more by activists outside of Italy (home of the body of the 
autonomist-marxists) than inside) don't exemplify 
anti-authoritarianism. The major political theory amongst 
counter-globalisation protesters that is anti-authoritarian would be 
anarchism...but then, there would be so many species of it, so many 
types and new kinds invented off the cuff while engaged in 
resistance, that even the word anarchism is probably too vague and 

There is no equating counter globalisation protesters (which is, to 
say the least, a very hetrogeneous mix of bodies, groups, peoples, 
organisations, movements, etc) with those that would institute some 
form of 'fascistic' rule - right wing christians, neo-liberalists, 
fascists, etc. The two 'groupings' aims run completely counter to one 
another. To use an analogy from one of the organisations that played 
a massive role in initiating this most recent 'round' or resistances 
- the right wing christians, neo-liberalists, fascists, etc would 
want many worlds, each where they rule over all within them as they 
see fit. The counter globalists on the other hand, would see "a world 
were many worlds fit". Would this be best described as a 'global 
democratic order'? Well, descriptions will have to wait till it 
appears (or rather, is made), but i would say no - one, for democracy 
is a myth that we can well do without, and secondly, because i would 
hope that future networks of locally autonomous groupies of bodies 
and peoples would not be based on parliamentary representation, but 
on direct participation.

<end Ian Andrews reply>

< begin Kermit Snelson>

>And as a result,
>well-intentioned people are likely to be misled and neutralized until
>historical events shame them.  The past is full of similar cases. 
>Eugenics, for instance, was once perfectly respectable in countries such
>as the United States and Great Britain. Membership in a Eugenics Society
>was considered the ultimate sign of a progressive intellectual.  It was
>considered a humanitarian application of modern scientific methods to ease
>human suffering.  And then Hitler came along and lent some clarity as to
>what such ideas really amount to.

how does the good intentions of people (say, like the Brazilian 
Landless Peasants movement) equate to eugenics? I would have thought 
that the policies of neo-liberals, and the 'fall out' of those 
policies (ie, the debt crisis, mass privatisation, stringent border 
control coupled with the mass destabalisation of whole populations, 
etc) would equate to eugenics?

>Now, somebody very much like Hitler has come along again.  And suddenly,
>breaking windows at a downtown Starbucks doesn't look so good.  And a
>popular, imprisoned guru in Italy who writes about martyrs and saints and
>the purifying effect of violence in the name of the world's dispossessed
>against a corrupt, worldly empire is starting to sound a lot like a
>certain millionaire caveman in Afghanistan.

this is ridiculous - Negri equals Osama? Seattle equals broken 
windows equals 9-11? S, let me get this straight (because im having a 
hard time following your logic):

a Saudi political dissident, who's primary enemy is the political 
structure of Saudie Arabia, and who wishes to "free" the most holy of 
places from the "grip" of the USA (just a little sarcasm there..) is 
the same as a mixed bag of individuals, groups, and organisations 
that oppose the exploitation of the planet and the peoples that 
populate it, and oppose the displacement of power from them to a 
select group of politicians, bureaucrats, economists, and corporate 
CEO's, and would institute, not a fundamentalism, but political 
system where decisions are made my the people that must live with the 

>Amazingly enough, he discovered that doing so requires the very opposite
>of a decentralized, deterritorialized network that "autonomously" creates
>a politics of "deploying myths against symbols."  Instead, it requires a
>highly centralized, cadre-based organization of hard-nosed materialists.
>Atoms, not bits.  It wasn't accidental that Marx's very first serious
>writing, his doctoral dissertation, was on the ancient Greek atomists.

interestingly enough, police, security, and military analysts would 
disagree with you. Perhaps the RAND corporations books on Netwar 
would be good reading. They talk exactly of the power and 
effectiveness of decentralised networks of autonomous 'actors' 
against centralised structures and organisations, and especially of 
the importance of the 'infowar' aspects of netwar. But, of course 
netwar doesnt just involved the destruction of myths (which is quite 
different to the deployment of myths against symbols - which is also 
important). If the last few years have shown us anything, it is that 
direct action - the act of deploying the body against that which you 
must resist - is back.

I was such an optimistic kid. I'm an anarchist because I'm angry 
about not being able to be an astronaut

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