International ideological currents

 
Political current
Political tradition
Main agenda
Leading institutions
Internal disputes
Exemplary proponents
Global justice movement
Anarchism/

socialism

De-globalisation of capital (not of people); globalization-from-below; anti-war; anti-racism/sexism/ homophobia; indigenous rights; feminism; ecology; decommodified state services; radical participatory democracy
Social movements like Occupy;  EZLN; environmental justice activists; indigenous people; autonomist groups; radical activist networks; leftist labour movements; left think-tanks; left media; semi-liberated zones; left part of the World Social Forum; Crimethinc
Fix-it vs. Nix-it for international agencies; role of the State/party politics; gender and racial power; divergent interests (Northern labour and environment vs. Southern sovereignty; tactics (symbolic property destruction)
H. Belafonte; J. Butler; N. Chomsky; A. Choudry; P. Freire; E. Galeano; D. Graeber; D. Harvey; J. Holloway; N. Klein; M. Moore; E. Morales; R. Nader; A Negri; J Pilger; A Roy; V. Shiva; G. Vidal; V. Wandale
Third world nationalism
National capitalism/

corporatism

Increased and fairer global integration via reform of inter-state system; debt relief; expanded market access; democratized global governance; regionalism; rhetorical anti-imperialism; Third World Unity
Non-aligned Movement, G77; South Centre; self-selecting regimes; supportive NGOs
Degree of militancy against the North; divergent regional interests; religion; large vs. small countries; Islam; ego & internecine rivalries
Y Arafat; B. Al-Assad; HK Banda; F. Castro; H. Chavez; F. Fanon; Lulla da Silva; M Gadaffi; S. Hussein; Kim Jong-Un; N. Kirshner; N. Mandela; R. Mugabe; B. Wa Mutharika; Nasser; K. Nkrumah; D. Ortega; V. Putin; Xi Jin-Pin; J. Zuma
Post Washington Consensus
Liberal democracy/ social democracy
Fix ‘imperfect markets’; add sustainable development to existing capitalist framework via UN and similar global state-building; promote global Keynesianism; oppose US unilateralism and militarism
Some UN agencies (Unctad, Unicef, Unifem, Unrisd); some international NGOs (Care, Oxfam, Transparency International); big environmental groups (WWF); big labour; liberal foundations; Socialist International; some Scandinavian countries
Alliances with left or right (Washington Consensus); optimal reforms
K. Annan; Bono; G. Brundtland; A. Giddens; Hollande; J. Sachs; B. Sanders; A. Sen; G. Soros; J Stiglitz; G. Verhofstadt
Washington Consensus
Neo-liberal capitalism
Rename neo-liberalism; more effective bail-out mechanisms; financial support for US led Empire
US State; corporate media; big business; World Bank; IMF; WTO; elite clubs (World Economic Forum); some UN agencies (UNDP); some universities and think tanks (University of Chicago economics, Adam Smith Institute) most G8 countries
Differing reactions to US Empire due to regional-capitalist interests and domestic dynamics
T. Blair; J. Chirac; B. Clinton; H. Clinton; M. Friedman; A. Greenspan; T. Mbeki; A. Muluzi; B. Obama; J. Wolfensohn
Extreme right wing
Neo-conservatism
Unilateral petro-military imperialism; crony deals; corporate subsidies; protectionism and tariffs; reverse globalization of people via racism and xeno-phobia; religious extremism; patriarchy, social control
Republican Party populism; right wing think tanks; the Christian Right; petro-military complex; Pentagon; right wing media (Fox, Washington Times); European extreme right; Israels Likud party; Islamic extremism
Disputes over US imperial reach; religious influence; protection culture; patriarchy; state sovereignty
Achmadinejad; A.B. al-Bagdhadi; S. Berlusconi; O. Bin-Laden; Z. Brzezinski; P. Buchanan; G.W. Bush; D. Cheny; N. Gingrich; J. Haider; B. Johnson; H. Kissinger; J. Kushner; M. Le-Pen; R. Limbaugh; T. May; R. Murdoch; J. Negroponte; R. Perle; K. Rove; D. Rumsfeld; D. Trump; G. Wilders;  P. Wolfowitz
 Inspired by P Bond

Theories of the media in modern day Malawi

 

In our journalism schools the students learn different theories of the media. This is good, hypodermic20needle20modelbecause a journalist should know there is not one correct view of the media, but it is possible to hold different, contradictory, views of the media, that are al valid. However one important theory is often left out, which deprives our future journalists of an important way to look at their occupation: the Propaganda Model of the media, developed by Herman and Chomsky.

The Propaganda Model describes how the Main stream Media in the USA functioned in 1988 when the book “Manufacturing consent” was published. There is an updated version from 2008 with an updated foreword and an updated post script. This updates the text somewhat, but it is not essential to my point here. I am trying to apply the Propaganda Model of the media to the Malawian situation now.

The Propaganda Model describes five filters through which the news goes before it is published.

  1. the size, concentrated ownership, owner wealth, and profit orientation of the dominant mass-media firms;
  2. advertising as the primary income source of the mass media;
  3. the reliance of the media on information provided by government, business, and “experts” funded and approved by these primary sources and agents of power;
  4. “flak” as a means of disciplining the media;
  5. anticommunism as a national religion and control mechanism.

Some of these apply to Malawi 2017, others need some adjustment.

Let’s look at them one by one:

  1. Ownership of the media has a clear influence on the editorial content. The public broadcaster is heavily influenced by the ruling party. On the other hand the private media tend to have a more liberal look on society, as one would expect from a profit based enterprise. They are promoting a liberal democracy with rule of law. The reporting is heavily biased towards politicians, who are often criticized for corruption, nepotism and such. Conversely many politicians have criticized the private media for being unpatriotic, biased, politically motivated and such.
  2. Advertising is a typically capitalist business: it promotes products to increase sales. Also in Malawi there are a lot of government sponsored advertisements. Advertising brings in most of the revenue for print media (mostly the two dailies) and all for the private broadcast media and the few internet publications that are not politically financed. . The public broadcasters are financed mainly from tax money through the ruling party, which gives a very different kind of bias. The business sections of the newspapers are strongly influenced by advertisers, who get preferential treatment for coverage in the newspapers. Also, capitalist advertisers would not want to advertise in a medium that is strongly critical of capitalism. This is clear in the US as shown by Herman and Chomsky. I do not have numbers available for the Malawian media.
  3. The reliance on information provided by government, business and experts funded by these is clear in Malawi. The coverage of news is heavily biased towards politics. Often journalists rely on transport provided by organizers of an event covered, and there are persistent rumours of “checkbook journalism” where the subject pays for the coverage. Because of strong budget constraints in the Malawian media often the funds are not available for independent research, especially when travel is required. This biases the news towards the financially strong in society. In Malawi this also includes NGOs, who provide journalists with opportunities to cover the news they find important.
  4. “Flak” in this case means lambasting of the media by government, business, business or government financed “think tanks” and such. In Malawi the media seems to be unimpressed with government lambasting, but does rely heavily on government or university experts. This is specifically prominent in economic and political reporting. This means other trends in thinking than those promoted by government or universities are mostly excluded from the news.
  5. Anti-communism is not very applicable in the 21st century, since communism as a world power is non-existent. In the US it has been replaced by the ”war on terror”. We notice this mostly in international news that is almost completely copied from international press agencies like BBC and Reuters. A clear exception is the reporting from IPS which sometimes is published in Malawi, and does not have this bias.

bigstock-speech-bubble-mass-media-22543973-1-300x225All in all, our news is strongly filtered in one direction, which means that it is difficult for the electorate (and the population as a whole) to form a sound opinion on matters of policy. This undercuts the quality of our democracy. We need wider news coverage with less filtering.

 

The President and the place of Civil Society

Mutharika’s remark last week, that Pac should form a political party shows a poor understanding of democracy. He seems to be saying that only political parties are legitimate political players, while we all know how important civil society is for democracy. Especially in Malawi where the separation of powers does not function well in politics, we need civil society to provide checks and balances to the powers that be. But Mutharika does not like it that way: he prefers to deal with elections only, and then the winner is the Bwana for 5 years. Well, Mr President Mutharika, democracy does not function that way. If we look at what the experts have to say about it, we see that all political philosophers see democracy as much more than only elections and winner is the Bwana.

Democracy needs checks and balances. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. So we need to prevent absolute power, and to do that we need checks and balances. In an ideal democracy the three estates of government are balancing powers. But in Malawi, as in some other Afrian countries, we see that the executive takes much more than its share of power. One reason is that the President, who heads the executive, has too much power in one person. He appoints and fires all ministers, the OPC, and the Attorney General, who heads the judicial arm of government. So here the Executive has direct power over another estate, the Judiciary. This is a violation of the separation of powers. Also the President appoints and fire the heads of several organizations that are supposed to provide checks and balances: the heads of police, Anti Corruption Bureau, Financial Intelligence Unit. This makes it impossible for these organizations to investigate those who enjoy Presidential protection. The President can even be pressed into doing this by powerful members of his party or other powerful people. We need to protect the President against this by spreading the powers he has over more of the estates: the judiciary and the legislative. The same goes for the appointments of the heads of para statals, the Malawi Broadcasting Company and others. Again here the President can be pressed to politicize appointments. Again we can protect the President from this by spreading these powers over the three arms of government, and panels of experts.

blog_accountability_word-cloudNow that the situation is that there is an enormous power in one person, the President, and this power extends over the other arms of government, the opposition from outside government becomes even more important for the correct functioning of democracy. This means civil society: pressure groups like PAC, trade unions, professional associations and others need to provide the checks and balances that keep government in check.

Sometimes some government people give the impression that they feel civil society and other organizations are in their way when they try to provide development. Government has to take all kinds of hurdles in implementing its policies, and some of these are put there by civil society. However, the opposite is true: these hurdles are essential in providing the checks and balances that keep government functioning for the good of the people. Government functionaries inevitably develop interests of their own, which sometimes are different from the interests of the people. These interests are pursued, as all people pursue interests. This is not a character flaw or a lack or morals, this is being human. And we must recognize that all government functionaries all the way to the Highest position, are human. The way to protect them from immoral behavior is not to appeal to morals: in the current situation there are often no alternatives. So we need to change the situation to one where the checks and balances on the government functionaries are functioning, and the functionaries, all the way up to the Highest functionary, are not capable of behaving in an immoral way, because the checks and balances are strong.

If we look at the international situation: in the USA President Trump tried to impose an2b0ff2cf2d6a3ad5b1b0a566c337d0cf illegal Muslim ban, and he was stopped by the judiciary. He tried to take away health care from many American citizens and he was stopped by Parliament. The MPs were pressured by their constituencies in Town Hall meetings. All examples of checks and balances on power, which keep democracy functioning when a President tries to overstep his constitutional mandate. We need that too: we need a judiciary functioning independently of the Executive, which means the President cannot have the power to fire the AG. We need Town Hall meetings, or something equivalent, where the constituency can hold their MP to account. We need a Parliament that is not bought or intimidated into supporting bad laws. And we need civil society to expose any bad policy from Capital Hill. They have a mandate to do so, simply because of the fact they are inhabitants of the country Malawi. Whether PAC or any other organization or inhabitant wants to: every one of us has the right to hold Government to account. And that includes you and me!

Our rulers, our Democracy

We see some traits of democracy in Malawi, but a lot of them are not there. And there we need to improve. Democracy is not: vote once, and shut up for five years under a dictator. Democracy is much more beautiful than that.

According to experts (and they should know) there are a number of requirements before we can speak of democracy. An important theory holds that we need at least four things for a democracy to be democratic:

  1. Upward control: the sovereignty lies with the common people, they are the top authority. (this is what democracy literally means: demos is people, kratos is rule) Usually this is translated in free and fair elections, as well as other democratic controls like checks and balances on power.
  2. Active participation of citizens in political and civic life. This means people should be actively involved in the way the country is run. This is often done through civil society organizations like pressure groups such as PAC, through professional organizations like unions, through the media and these days also social media.
  3. Protection of human rights of all citizens. This is important for minorities, who otherwise could be mistreated by the majority. We see attacks on this in the US against muslims.
  4. Rule of law, where all citizens are equal before the law.

If we look critically at the situation in Malawi, we see that we are falling short to all of these, to a greater or lesser degree.

  1. The upward control is not strong here: we have elections, which are more or less free, but not fair at all: all government parties have abused government resources such as vehicles and state broadcasters for their campaigns. And even though there is one-person-one-vote, the other side of the equation is not free: only rich people who can buy a lot of support can have any reasonable chance of being elected. This means that only the rich part of the country is represented in Parliament and Office of the President and Cabinet. This clearly favours the interests of the rich over those of the common people.
  2. Active participation in political and civic life is severely limited for the common people in Malawi. The urban population has some kind of access, but the majority in the rural areas cannot afford the smart phones, televisions and other gadgets that ensure the option of participation. If we are only informed by a little radio, we cannot make meaningful choices in elections, or in other political activities. And the President recently tried to dismiss the PAC, which represents the religious section of the Malawian population: he told them to form a political party and wait for years before they can vent their concerns. This clearly shows Mutharika does not understand democracy. Involvement of everybody is important, to make the democracy function. This active participation is supposed to be a channel for the upward control: the common people dictate policy. This is important, because the political class inevitably develops their own interests, which are not necessarily parallel to the interests of the population as a whole. The fight against corruption is severely hampered by the exclusion of common people from the decision making process: it is in the interests of office holders that office holders can steal our tax money, while it is in the interest of the common pople that the money is put to the intended use. Because we have no channels for active participation, and because we have insufficient checks and balances on our political class, the country lacks behind in development, because a lot of the funds are stolen or diverted instead of being put to the intended use. Many projects are not designed for maximum efficacy in development, but for maximum efficacy in opportunities for lucrative contracts and/or kick-backs.
  3. Protection of human rights is essential for minorities. For instance sexual minorities Have difficulty getting their rights respected. Also women are being discriminated against, for instance we need a 50-50 campaign, because of this.
  4. Equality before the law is clearly not followed. The person who steals a chicken is punished heavier than the government person who steals billions of kwacha. And many influential people do not even have to face justice. Think of the murder of Robert Chasowa: we have a report that clearly states a number of people involved, but they have not had to face justice. By the same token: a poor person, who does not have the funds to hire a lawyer to further the case can be on remand for many years, which is illegal and a violation of human rights.

We see that our democracy may have one good point: elections, but that we are falling short on many others, and that this impairs on the development of the country. We need to do better, be active, hold office bearers to account. This can mean activism, blog writing, or other ways. But we need to get on the case of the political class to get them to behave. We owe that to our democracy.

Project objectives? Personal wealth?

lack-of-clarity

 

Last Saturday the Nation opened with an interesting article: Priority mix-up in Government.

It shows how the different government projects are not working towards the same goal, in this case the scrapping of tourism as a priority and the building of an airport in Mangochi. These are two different directions, which means that no way will we get the best return on the investments. This is a familiar situation, I have mentioned examples several times.

However the journalist covers the story as if it is a lack of capacity and/or coordination in Government. It seems increasingly unlikely that that is the cause. If these types of mishaps and bad investments from Government side keep happening, one would suppose there is some systemic issue at hand. What can this be?

The answer seems surprisingly simple: if we presume that the overall objective of these projects is not as mentioned in the proposals and other project documents, but it is that certain well connected individuals get opportunities for lucrative contracts and/or kick backs, then suddenly it all makes sense. The abysmally bad management of the sugar factory in Salima, the building of an airport not in line with Government priorities, Nsanje Inland Port, Tractorgate, failed irrigation projects, the list goes on and on. If Government officials were rewarded for good performance as measured against project objectives, then we would have a very different situation. But the opposite is happening: what is rewarded is a creative abuse of project funds for personal benefit, and political support for the Government of the Day. This explains why Malawi is a “least developed country”: this type of priority stifles effective projects, but rewards ones that do develop certain people’s personal wealth, instead of the country as stated in project objectives.

OUR PRESIDENT, OUR MPs, OUR DEMOCRACY

With elections coming up (in 2 years, but we see the first signs of campaigning 4fb2177f1968895bb5b23812242cfa42_xlpoliticians) it is now more than ever interesting to look at democracy. What is it, and what do we want it to be?

I have noticed that some people are puzzled by my notions that democracy is more than “Vote-once-and-shut-up-for-five-years”. This error is sometimes reflected in concepts like: “There is only one boss at the time”. That is autocracy and not democracy.

Democracy means: demos=people, kratos=rule. People’s rule. This means there are 15 million bosses that rule Malawi together. This is the benchmark of democracy and we need to keep that in mind with everything we say or do in connection with our democracy.

Because it would be a bit cumbersome if every one of those 15 million bosses would have to discuss every single issue, we have appointed some representatives to represent our interests and opinions. These we call MPs and we appointed one called President. What we see happening in history time after time is that appointed authorities develop interests of their own, which are not always in line with the interests and ideas of the people. So we need controls on the appointed representatives, to make sure they stay in line with our ideas. This we do in several ways: one is the separation of powers.

This means we divide authority in three branches:

  1. the executive, which is administered by our employee the President, who we pay to do this for us. This branch of government is supposed to implement the policies we, the people, want, according to the law of the land. It does not always do that in a perfect fashion, so we have another authority to check on it:
  2. the legislative, called Parliament. Here we appointed 192 employees. They have several tasks to perform for us, for which we pay them (through taxes). They make laws, which reflect our values, norms and interests. Often these laws are proposed by the Executive in the form of a bill, which Parliament can pass or reject. Also Parliamentarians can make their own bills, where the Executive has no input. On top of this Parliament must control the Executive. In the worst case scenario they can fire the President for us. If we are not satisfied with the performance of our employee the President, we can order our representatives in Parliament to fire him (or her). This is called impeachment, and it has never been done in the history of Malawi, no matter how dissatisfied we were with the President. Personally I think this should be done as soon as we are dissatisfied. Then we have a third branch of government, which is supposed to be independent of the other branches,
  3. the Judiciary. They implement and interpret the laws made by Parliament. They should be able to overrule the Executive if the policies are not legal, but in Malawi that is extremely rare. Even when Bingu wa Mutharika bulldozed bad unconstitutional laws through Parliament, the Judiciary did not stop him, which they should do. This means that it is difficult for any citizen to have recourse to the law if he/she is maltreated by the Executive or another branch of Government. A problem here is that the head of the Judiciary, the Attorney General, is appointed and fired by the President. This undercuts the independence and with it the power of the Judiciary, and accounts for the situation that we have no recourse if the Executive mistreats us. Here the Presidential powers should be removed to be in line with the international standards for good governance and to give us, the people, an opportunity to fight back if the Executive misbehaves.

These are the official branches of government, but there is more in a real democracy. Especially because in Malawi the Judiciary and the Legislative are dependent on the Executive, we are not protected if people in the Executive develop personal interests and misbehave. We need more. Sometimes the Media is called the fourth arm of government because they also provide a check on Government activities: the Media carries out investigations independently of Government, so they can expose scandal in bad governance to the people. This reporting is essential because sometimes government people can lie to us to protect their own interests and violate the law as well as our interests in the process. Then the Media is supposed to step in and let us know, so we can fire the misbehaving employee, like the President or Member of Parliament. In the worst case scenario we have to wait until elections to vote a misbehaving employee (President, Councilor, MP) out of office. But this can take years, so we need more than just the Media. This is where Civil Society comes in: all of us citizens in a democracy can form an organization (officially registered or not) and organize. We can let the Government know when they are not performing well. We can do this by writing articles on social media or in the Media, we can organize mass demonstrations or civil disobedience. We can occupy government installations (the successful international Occupy movement is called after this form of protest). All of this is part of democracy. Mass demonstrations are legal, but multiparty-malawiour Government has killed protesters for attending, most recently on 20 July 2011. Other forms of activism may be peaceful but illegal, like occupations or civil disobedience. Even though some forms of activism can be illegal, they are still an important part of Democracy, and are integral to the checks and balances on our employees, the President, the Councilors, the MPs, civil servants and others that we pay to administer our business for us. Especially when the official checks and balances do not work properly, such as when the Judiciary and the Parliament are not acting independently of the Executive, but are being bullied, bought or otherwise commanded. Then we must take strong action. Sometimes illegal action from Government side can only be checked with illegal action from the citizen’s side. Keep in mind that not all illegal action is immoral, unethical or unjustified. The laws were made by Government and Government employees are not always ideal people who perform the task we pay them for. Unavoidably, some of these employees will follow their own interests, and they may make laws to protect their own interests instead of protecting ours (which is what we appoint and pay them for). If they pass bad laws, there is no reason whatsoever that we would be ethically bound to follow those laws. In fact it can5d88b123e73eb103335af3707cdf61f1 be unethical to follow unjust laws. Remember that it was legal to discriminate against blacks and coloureds in Apartheid South Africa. The population revolted against this, often in illegal ways. Consequently they got their rights after decades of hard and illegal activism. If the Government is unjust, undemocratic or otherwise birmingham_campaign_dogsflawed we have a moral duty to resist. The government in the USA South in the 1960s was officially democratic, but it was undemocratic in that it mistreated African Americans. So they revolted, often in illegal ways. They improved their rights so much that there was even an African American President in the USA (about 40 years later!). Here clearly it was ethical to resist in illegal ways to get bad laws changed and improved. We should decide for ourselves when this situation is happening here, and how we are going to act. It is Democratic for us to decide how to defend and improve our Democracy, in legal or illegal ways.

the BIG Kahuna and the fight against corruption

A contribution by John K Black and C Companyero

 

In Malawi we are kept back from development by a pervasive corruption. The President has objected to calling it endemic (in a BBC interview) so I will refrain from that term. All our Presidents have shown to start out well on fighting corruption, but sooner (J Banda, B Muluzi, AP Mutharika) or later (Dr. HK Banda, B wa Mutharika) they got entangled in it. If all follow the same pattern we can safely assume there is a system here. That means that we cannot fight corruption sufficiently by prosecuting the criminals. That needs to happen too. But we need to address the system to improve. What is this system?

minimumwage

In our democratic dispensation it is not possible for anyone to be elected President without strong support from at least a sizable section of the ruling class. (How this support goes in detail, I would like to find out, If anyone has insider information, I would appreciate if this info were made available, either discretely to me, or in a public post: is this financial support only? Is the finance used for rally’s, chitenjes and other gifts, cash handouts?)

This support is bought with promises of rewards after election. These rewards are in the form of opportunities for corruption. It is not possible for a President to default on these promises, this will be at least life threatening. Many of the candidates find finance from all kinds of corners which again after election needs to be repaid, either in money or in opportunities. People are appointed in positions that offer opportunities for corruption and are shielded from above in exchange for political support. The people who supported the winning candidate have put themselves also in a difficult position: they need to repay all their sponsors and usually put their own fortunes into the campaign. So they need to get a return on their investment, and do this by means of corruption.

hyna

Small corruption on the ground is perpetuated: some of the small corrupt money goes upwards in the system to people who need to be repaid for jobs and for protection against the law. This money goes up stepwise to higher and higher levels, where many many small amounts accumulate to big amounts. The person accepting the money cannot afford to prosecute: that is what he/she is getting paid for.

Anyway: before anyone gets to the point of being a Presidential candidate in a party that has a realistic chance of winning, he/she must be part of the corrupt system. There are plenty of incorruptible people in Malawi, but they cannot rise in the hierarchy of governance, politics, and even big business. They stay away from the corruption, and never get to make the big decisions.

We can see how Bingu wa Mutharika in his first term was in a position to do things differently: he had dumped the party that sponsored him into the Presidency, and with it all the political debts that were necessary to be elected. He left Muluzi with the challenges, and had his hands relatively free. So he was capable of limiting corruption, and keeping the corruption in the FiSP (Farm Input Subsidy Programme) within limits. Unfortunately he was in the same predicament as other Presidents when he ran for a second term, and right after election he turned like a leaf, and sponsored innumerable corruption.

If we look at all this in a realistic way, we see that the people inside the system are

  1. Selected to function in a corrupt system
  2. Have had to play the corrupt game, and can be blackmailed with it
  3. Are in no position to fight corruption, because they have debts to repay

We cannot rely on anyone in the current system to really fight corruption. That means the fight needs to come from outside the political system. As a population we have the responsibility towards our children to leave them a liveable country with good governance. We cannot sit still and let the small group steal the national wealth. We need to act. We cannot enter the system without being corrupted ourselves, we need to exercise our democratic constitutional rights, and start with vigilant activism, to narrow the room of the corrupt to keep robbing our beautiful country of its wealth. The last time we held mass demonstrations in 20 July 2011 we were met with murderous violence. When Chasowa tried to exercise his freedom of speech and the freedom of the press he was silenced in the most permanent way. This wanrs us that we are up against the most formidable opponent. The interests are huge, both from their side and from ours. Their overreactions to the unarmed demonstrators, and the peaceful little publication of Chasowa shows that they are scared. They know that the people’s power is too great for them to overcome, so they come in with huge violence at the smallest action.

We need to defend our democracy. Remember: democracy is not voting once in 5 years and then letting teh powers that be get away with corruption and even murder. Democracy is a process that demands our vigilance, our involvement. Lots of our time, energy and courage. Even in mature democracies in teh West the population is fighting for their rights, let alone in our young beautiful democracy: we need to adjust the authorities to the new times. We cannot accept our National Wealth to be stolen by a small group while the large majority suffers in poverty. We need to address the system.

 

Direct action or representation

A contribution by C Companyero, inspired by CrimethInc

 

The opposite of direct action is representation. There are many kinds of representation—words are used to represent ideas and experiences, the viewers of a TV show let their own hopes and fears be represented by those of the characters,—but the most well-known example today can be found in the electoral system. In this society, we’re encouraged to think of voting as our primary means of exercising power and participating socially. Yet whether one votes with a ballot for a politician’s representation, with kwachas for a corporate product, or with one’s wardrobe for a certain culture, voting is an act of deferral, in which the voter picks a person or system or concept to represent her interests. This is an unreliable way to exercise power.

Let’s compare voting with direct action, to bring out the differences between mediated and unmediated activity in general. Voting is a lottery: if a candidate doesn’t get elected, then the energy his constituency put into supporting him is wasted, as the power they were hoping he would exercise for them goes to someone else. With direct action, one can be certain that one’s work will offer results. In marked contrast to every kind of petitioning, direct action secures resources that others can never take away: experience, contacts in the community, the grudging respect of adversaries.

Voting consolidates the power of a whole society in the hands of a few individuals; through sheer force of habit, not to speak of other methods of enforcement, everyone else is kept in a position of dependence. In direct action, people utilize their own resources and capabilities, discovering in the process what these are and how much they can accomplish.

Voting forces everyone in a movement to try to agree on one platform: coalitions fight over what compromises to make, each faction insisting that its way is the best and that the others are messing everything up by not going along with its program. A lot of energy gets wasted in these disputes and recriminations. In direct action, no vast consensus is necessary: different groups apply different tactics according to what they believe in and feel comfortable doing, with an eye to complementing one another’s efforts. People involved in different direct actions have no need to squabble, only if they really are seeking conflicting goals, or years of voting have taught them to fight with anyone who doesn’t think exactly as they do.

Conflicts over voting often distract from the real issues at hand, as people get caught up in the drama of one party against another, one candidate against another. With direct action, the issues themselves are raised, addressed specifically, and often resolved.

Voting is only possible when election time comes around. Then you are told to shut up for 5 years. Direct action can be applied whenever one sees fit. Voting is only useful for addressing topics that are currently on the political agendas of candidates, while direct action can be applied in every aspect of your life, in every part of the world you live in. Direct action is a more efficient use of resources than voting, campaigning, or canvassing: an individual can accomplish with one kwacha a goal that would cost a collective a thousand kwacha, a non-governmental organization a million kwacha, a corporation a ten million kwacha, and the government a billion kwacha.

Voting is glorified as a manifestation of our supposed freedom. It’s not freedom— freedom is getting to decide what the choices are in the first place, not picking between Fanta Orange and Fanta Pineapple. Direct action is the real thing. You make the plan, you create the options, the sky’s the limit.

Ultimately, there’s no reason the strategies of voting and direct action can’t both be applied together. One does not cancel the other out. The problem is that so many people think of voting as their primary way of exerting political and social power that a disproportionate amount of time and energy is focused on electoral affairs while other opportunities to make change go to waste. For months and months preceding every election, everyone argues about the voting issue, what candidates to vote for or whether to vote at all, when voting itself takes less than a day. Vote or don’t, but get on with it! Remember all the other ways you can make your voice heard.

 

 

The ruling class and the hegemony, national, inter-national

A contribution by C Companyero

cultural-imperialism-1-638Hegemony (cultural domination ) includes social class; hence, the philosophic and sociologic theory of cultural hegemony analyses the social norms that establish the social structures (social and economic classes) with which the ruling class establish and exert cultural dominance to impose their world view—justifying the social, political, and economic status quo—as natural, inevitable, and beneficial to every social class, rather than as the artificial social constructs defined by and beneficial solely to the ruling class.

Internationally hegemony is a political relationship of power wherein a sub-ordinate society perform social tasks that are culturally unnatural and not beneficial to them, but that are in exclusive benefit to the imperial interests of the hegemon, the superior, ordinate power; hegemony is a military, political, and economic relationship that occurs as an articulation within political discourse.

77f3a440ebb678f9d1752147f7495043

In the praxis of hegemony, imperial dominance is established by means of cultural imperialism, whereby the leader state (hegemon) dictates the internal politics and the societal character of the subordinate states that constitute the hegemonic sphere of influence, either by an internal, sponsored government or by an external, installed government. The imposition of the hegemon’s way of life—an imperial lingua franca and bureaucracies (social, economic, educational, governing)—transforms the concrete imperialism of direct military domination into the abstract power of the status quo, indirect imperial domination.

Suggested examples of cultural imperialism include the latter-stage Spanish and British Empires and by the end of the 20th century, the United States.

Here in Malawi the British hegemony is mostly superseded by the international capitalist logic of neo liberalism. Now instead of British direct rule or indirect rule via HK Banda, the United States are imposing their interests on us. By direct means of money as in the MCC grant to Escom on the condition of unbundling and privatization on capitalist terms. Also by cultural means: we get international advertising on our satellite TV channels, internet websites, radio and by the roadside on ever bigger billboards, that are taking over our public space. In our newspapers we read advertising. Al this bombardment with capitalist consumerist norms and values (Buy! Buy! Buy!) influences our culture, so the neo liberal logic from the US is ingrained in our subconscious. You cannot enter a trading centre without being pushed to buy.60882-original-3534-640x445

We see how our communal values have been eroded by this onslaught of consumerism. Our ruling class does not value the community. Many MPs never enter their constituencies (in spite of 500liters of fuel per month at the tax payers cost) until re election is coming. Instead they busy themselves with raking in more and more money to try to satisfy their consumerism. And it goes all over. Our personal relations are so transactional. Many of our peers cannot view any relation other than: what’s in it for me? Rather than the African, Malawian communal values that make life worth living. It should be better to give than to (corruptly) take away from others. It should be more satisfying to feed our hungry, than to rake in more personal property. More satisfying to house the population than to build an empty white farm of over 80 rooms. But we let the cultural imperialism of the foreign capitalists take over our values. We should re think our society: what is best for us? Is that the rat race to personal riches, or the African communal values of the gift economy?

 

The rulers and the Spectacle

The Spectacle replaces authentic experiences. The media offer fake experiences likesociety-of-the-spectacle “reality shows”, far off sports events, or celebrity news. All this is used to replace authentic experiences we miss because of our alienation from our work and life. In the village life is hard, but there is a clear connection between the activity of the farmer and the product, especially when it is subsistence farming. On the other hand the city dweller is alienated from her food, and spends time in pursuit of money which is used to buy products from which the history is unknown. The rich do not experience life, they hide behind walls with electricity on top or razor wire. They collect imported products that give no real experience and no real satisfaction. In an air-conditioned vehicle the passenger does not experience the surroundings. The MP avoids his constituency, the rich drink imported liquor and use private guards to keep away the population.

This way, the rich are alienated, and caught up in the Society of the Spectacle as much as the poor are caught in poverty and dis-empowerment.

15977945_530176687182886_2186257890590890258_n

We need to liberate ourselves, we need to liberate our compatriots, our brothers and sisters human beings. Do away with the rat race and share on a justified basis the resources we have. That way there are no rich who need to hide their property, no poor who need to beg and still starve.

At the moment our spectacle is ruled by a ruling class that is victim of the alienation as much as we are, but they will defend their privileged position, and keep all of society captive until we make them change. And we will. Let’s get moving!