Archives for posts with tag: democratic rule

I have been following a course on anthropology looking at the ways in which the management of countries evolves, from tribal groups, through chieftains to democracies which most seem to trend towards. This all happens slowly in western societies, most of which have reached what we refer to as democracies. We tend to lose sight of where we came from, and where we could go to achieve a fairer democracy which would result in greater equity for all citizens.
Early groups depended more on reciprocity in which gifts, of time or goods, were exchanged. Once money took over as an intermediate bargaining tool the personal aspect of reciprocracy was lost. The early system seems to have led to a fairer share of wealth to all. Currently statistics seem to show that the gap between rich and poor keeps rising in democratic countries. The trouble is that those who are suffering most under this system are hidden from view so we tend to be less aware of them.
From my own personally biased view it seems wrong that any society could allow some of its older people to be homeless. Ageing, and the physical deterioration which accompanies it, is not easy to live with when you are surrounded by all the mod cons but it must be even more difficult when you have no roof over your head. I’m sure those working with other disadvantaged groups would make the same arguments.
This raises the question of what we mean by an advanced society. It tends to be measured by gross domestic product, in other words the value of total production in any country. This puts countries such as India and China right at the top of the list, simply because they have large populations producing goods, even though this wealth has to be shared among huge populations, resulting in enormous levels of poverty.
This takes me back to the original question about democracies. Are the current versions of them the best way to run countries? Could we produce a better model and are we looking for one? Because this aspect of our progress towards successful societies, in terms of wealth fairness, tends to move slowly, or even not at all, are we just accepting that this is what it is and should be?
If current efforts to move on to other planets is successful have we thought about the type of societies we would want to set up there? Will we replicate one version of the democracy we currently have on earth and if so which one- the American, the British etc.?
If we start thinking along these lines maybe we will come up with a better one to use on earth, one in which there will be more equity and people will be discouraged from amassing large quantities of wealth for themselves and taking it, albeit indirectly through use of money as a tool, from those who are disadvantaged. The early groups of people had much more openness about who had what.
One primitive tribe used yams as a measure of wealth. The chief had a house outside his own, with the size dependent on the number of yams he had, to house them (they were later distributed to the rest of the tribe). I couldn’t help comparing this with our own wealthy people who display their wealth through large, well equipped houses, for their own use, and numerous expensive cars, again for their own use. In many ways we have come a long way backwards!

I grew up in England when ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland were very much in the news, particularly when they often spread to England through the killings. The war as I understood it was between the Anglican Irish and the Catholic Irish who were intent on wiping each other out. This didn’t make sense to me as it involved two branches of the Christian church, all affirmed followers of the God of love, each trying to kill off the other group. The cost was horrific, both in financial terms and in terms of human lives either wrecked or lost yet it continued for decades. Imagine growing up in a world in which each day you didn’t know whether you or a family member would be killed.
About this time the leaders of the two branches were starting to communicate with each other- it was regarded as a breakthrough in the Christian church. What I could never understand was why they didn’t make a joint visit to Northern Ireland to bring peace. After all, if the two leaders could do this what was the point of the two sets of followers killing each other, if there was any point in the first place?
I am reminded of this as Islamic terrorism tries to spread across the world. Some Muslim leaders say that violence is not part of the Islamic faith but they say it very quietly. Instead of the current waste of ammunition and lives wouldn’t it be possible for Muslim leaders in every country where ISIS is a problem, and this seems to be most at present, to organise their own demonstration marches condemning what is happening and saying that it is not part of their beliefs and isn’t being done on the prophet’s behalf.
We are now questioning how we elect our civil leaders given the mess each party seems to land us in, particularly financially. Shouldn’t we also be questioning how we elect our religious leaders, particularly where violence by their followers is involved . Why can’t they stand up for what they believe in and be real leaders of their followers, whatever their faith. We all share this same planet and we should all be working to make it the best place possible. Murder has no part in that.

I guess as we get older we have seen so many New Years we get quite blasé about them, feeling that no matter how hard the world tries little will apparently change. It is changing of course but I am not sure it is through our choice.
Every year we add enormously to our knowledge source and one area in which we are committing huge resources is in the ‘big bang’ field, trying to find out how the world/universe started and perhaps why we are here. This I guess is a huge and expensive topic but it seems to have a single focus which I suspect is why we do focus on it. The rest of our problems are complex and hard to define so they tend to get ignored. Trying to make the current world, and its inhabitants, a better place is much too complex for us to think about addressing. Or is it just that we are too selfish to try, knowing that if we did provide every inhabitant with the vital necessities in life, such as shelter, clothing, food and fresh water, we would each have to lower our own standard of life, some more than others? We have created a strange world in which we admire those who are unselfish and share with others yet few have any wish to do the same. Worse still we tend to also admire the rich, the collectors of material wealth, and try to emulate them.
This particularly applies to many politicians who can’t see the very real danger of an ever widening gap between the rich and poor. To me the gap between what the lowest 10% of the population have and what the highest 10% have should be the real measure of a country’s wealth and prosperity. The ridiculous argument that if you tax the highest earners too highly they will stop working is just nonsensical. The rich are rich because they are addicted to money and wealth and having a bit more will always appeal to them.
Maybe our joint and individual resolution this year should be to stop at nothing to make the world a better place, particularly for those who currently have insufficient for their essential needs. Maybe a joint effort might actually work. Then we would have a New Year worth celebrating.

I spent over 50 years as a teacher which means I have a pretty good view of the historical changes, or lack of them, in this field. Towards the end of my career I ended up tutoring at a University which gave me a more extensive view. I had started to realise that one thing we do really well in schools is to knock imagination out of children. This was confirmed one day when I asked a group of undergraduates in a sociology class to imagine that they were Health Ministers and I wanted to know what major changes they would want to make. My request was met with gasps of horror- how could I ask them to do such a thing? Their lives were built on facts to be regurgitated in the next exam! I suspect that this attitude is a result of mass education and an overfull curriculum in our schools. I seem to remember a researcher into children’s ‘modern’ illnesses, such as hyperactivity, also blaming our mass education system for that problem too.
In Australia there is a move to rewrite the school curriculum yet again! The signs at this stage are that it will be more of the same, yet again.
We are beginning to recognise the need for talented teachers (the low pay doesn’t make it an attractive job!) but I feel that there is an even greater need for talented school principals who create an atmosphere in which such teachers can operate and flourish. Unless we have such an environment we stilt children’s growth and stifle free thinking which is vital in the modern competitive world.
I wrote a letter to this effect for our local newspaper and it occurred to me that as I am no longer an employee I can tell it as I see it. It is a point of view unlikely to be supported or repeated by those still in the system. There would be negative repercussions if they expressed such views. Not only do we stifle innovative thought amongst our students but serving staff are equally stifled. To me this is a reflection on the qualifications and talent of those in the top jobs.
Yet these people at the top who do the stifling will be contributing to harnessing, sorry educating, the next generation through yet another curriculum which meets neither their needs nor the country’s needs. Will we never learn?

At one stage I think many of us looked forward to every nation in the world having democratic rule rather than the dictatorships which seem to be prevalent in many places. Recent events suggest that even in countries where there is what we call democratic rule there are still many problems including the ‘fair go for all’, which many of us equate with democracy, not being applied.
In Australia we have just had the first Abbott (liberal and national parties) budget. So many promises made before the election have been blatantly broken, such as ‘this will not be a government of surprises’ yet so many changes have been made which were not expected. India has a new government. Someone was surprised they had been elected considering their published platform but the comment was made there that what was promised before the election wouldn’t necessarily happen. Thailand is supposed to be a democracy but elected governments appear to be toppled regularly.
Are we getting the leaders we want? There seems to be two problems with the current way we elect our so-called democratic governments. The main one is the type of people who stand for election. If we don’t have good candidates then we won’t get good government. The current criteria for election is to want to be a member of a parliament (or whatever the ruling body is called) and to have enough support to be able to get the requisite number of votes. In Australia this largely means joining a major political party. Few people would have opinions and desires which exactly fitted a party so compromise comes in from the start. What about ideas no party has, mainly because no one at the political level has thought of them? These never get an airing even though researchers believe that they would create a better and more prosperous country for all.
Another factor may be that particular types of people are drawn to this role and these are not necessarily the best leaders. Their psychological health is questionable. They are drawn to the job by their sole need to have power over people and self prestige.
The second factor is the knowledge people bring, or don’t bring, to the role. Very few, if any, people who want this role bring anything but out-dated knowledge with them. Most of them haven’t been to University for decades and have to rely on personal learning, if any. This means that modern ideas and theories about so many issues by-pass our politicians. None of them believe in formal life-long learning despite the fact that all are conscious that the world is moving forward at rate never seen before. This is why there is still debate about climate change, including among our politicians.
With the current Abbott government they apparently still believe that progress should only be in the hands of the favoured few and that the rest of the population doesn’t really matter and we can kick them ever further downwards. History tells us this doesn’t actually work. The plagues and the fires in London hit every one, not just the poor.
We are on this world together and we should be working together for everyone, not just the favoured few. It is people with ideas such as this who should be running for, and being elected to, our governing bodies. Then I believe we would have genuine democracy with everyone being given the opportunity to contribute to their country and the world.