Assuming that the community has been identified, a relative liveable baseline has been established, civil oppression is minimised, and radical communities are promoted … there is no alternative other than [direct democracy] becoming empowered.Radical Civility: Implementation (Expansion of Constructed Consent) [rephrased]
Question 1: If you betray someone’s trust and intentionally drop them off a bridge when you assured them you would hold them up, is that violence? In contrast to the dictionary definition (behaviour involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something), I assert, since someone was intentionally injured, this must be answered with “yes”.
Question 2: If someone has been entrapped with no access to food and they starve, is that violence? Again, I would claim “yes”. Regardless of whether this was done by a person or a group, if inhibiting survival doesn’t constitute violence, I don’t know the meaning of the word.
Question 3: If someone cannot pay their rent and is removed from the property, is that violence? I think this is objectively “yes” according to any definition, despite it being lawful.
To be consistent with these answers, it is necessary to find a suitable and useable definition. While it is tempting to use explicit descriptions like “safety” or “wellbeing” to avoid any misunderstanding, scenarios such as evictions can be ignored if too restrictive. So, in an attempt to stay as applicable as possible, “the intentional disregard for another’s social comfort” will be used.
This article will claim that all violence is a hindrance to direct democracy (i.e. the style of governance in which citizens directly participate in democratic decision making). In order to do that, it must be acknowledged that the definition above begged the question “How can we know what ‘social comfort’ is?”
In the US, there is a claim that everyone has a “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”. At first glance, this is an honourable premise. The expectation that acquiring these properties will ensure that dreams can be fulfilled is likely true, but, upon closer inspection, there is a flaw: these are expectations for the INDIVIDUAL to fulfill. You may have a right to them, but you may not have access to them.
As with many things in the US system (and much of “western society”) the acquisition of needs falls to the person to acquire it. There is not a demand for society to ensure that it can be acquired. Food is often either tainted with pesticides or behind a paywall unless a Good Samaritan is willing to share their resources. The same applies to housing, clothes, and even water in some cases. There is no baseline of “comfort”, so instead people are forced to individualise their own expectations.
I see no way around the assertion that those with expectations for excessive levels of “comfort” are participating in violence against everyone else. They must know that what they want is unachievable for everyone, therefore they are intentionally disregarding others’ social comfort. I will not prescribe here how to rectify this situation since it is my personal opinion that this can only change through what society dictates people deserve, but, until this changes, direct democracy is impossible.
Further, it should also be noted that direct democracy cannot be expected unless the social comfort can include the baseline “rights” of the US, specifically and especially “life”, since the other two are ambiguous at best. It is therefore implicit that direct democracy necessitates a post-scarcity environment, at least for basic resources for survival, to be feasible. Debatably, we have arrived at that condition for the first time in history on a mass scale and, for that reason, entire communities can now avoid the violence that comes with competing for an expected social comfort.
Using dialectical materialism popularised by Marx, one could reasonably claim that if we no longer need to compete for material needs, power will start to disperse. Therefore, if we assume the analysis is sound, the world communities still believe competition is necessary (“believe” having the most emphasis).
Legacy of Authority
“People are social animals”. We say this because we, as individuals, don’t have the natural means to defend ourselves from the wild nor each other. Therefore, we work together as much as the resources allow. And when resources are scarce? Assuming that social comfort is respected and the community splitting will endanger itself to external forces, some type of guidance is needed. This is the virtue of authority. Instilling morality, be it law or ethics, and utilising a monopoly of force to ensure the community cooperates under strain. The flaw is that it will create this strain to ensure that it remains relevant and influential.
Obviously, as the name indicates, the monopoly of force that is essential to authority is a violence that inhibits direct democracy. Under the assumption that life can be obtained by all people without competition, any appeal to a singular moral authority or demand for dogmatic subjugation to an ideology is invalid. These mental structures are the legacy of historic peacekeepers which have outlived their purpose. Any unneeded monopoly of force is unjust because it inherently advocates avoidable violence. Authorities can and will arise in a direct democracy to help improve the social comfort, but they won’t need violence to enforce them nor praise to encourage them, since increased living standards will be enough.
Of course people must come to the belief they are able to live without competition. And as long as authorities are given validation, they will manipulate the cultural narrative to justify their own existence within the community. Religion will always see heathens, socialists will always see capitalists, parents will always see children, bosses will always see workers. If these structures use fear and violence, even passively, to promote themselves, they must be seen as violent and, consequentially, unjust.
Assuming it is fundamental to a community that social comfort is promoted for everyone without the expectation for more, and the monopoly of force has been distributed to the community, what happens? Would society tear itself apart? I honestly don’t see why it would. People want to be validated. They want to be included. They want to be respected. All this is deserved. And assuming these traits are part of the social comfort, society as a whole would not tolerate systemic violence.
Of course there would be disagreements, crimes of passion, horrendous savagery; but is it really a belief that the community cannot make sound decisions in these cases? It shows up time and again that the wisdom of the crowd almost always provides better answers than a single authority. Much of the crowd will appeal to experts, relinquishing their individual voice to ensure that a trusted claim is promoted, many others will abstain, but as long as cultish appeal to a “universal truth” is negated, collective decisions will almost always be preferable to limited dictations, assuming a diverse group is allowed to decide.
So we have a choice: do we believe we are living in fundamentally different realities in which some people cannot coexist and we will always be forced to fight with each other? Or do we take the risk of validating our enemies with the expectation that they will validate us in return and society can thrive without fear? I believe the latter.
If you agree then the conclusion that (I hope) has been shown here is that direct democracy is nothing if not a total invalidation of all violence. Or – put differently:
Our best future is obtained when we promote each other in spite of what is appropriate.
This section is an unfortunate caveat. Regardless of the internal rejection of violence, there will always be threats to a society: authorities which see the lack of violence as potentially infectious and an easy prey. While cooperation and inclusion are always favourable (especially for communities that have less of a social comfort), the desire to sow division and fear within a direct democracy will be both natural and an expectation from authorities needing validation.
If we are honest with ourselves, direct democracy is actively practised in many friendships, neighbourhoods, public get-togethers, and a multitude of other social gatherings. These have (at least temporarily) an inherent expectation on the social comfort of the group and no party has an authority of force. I hope it is not lost how much an external authority (be it police, parents, a religious god, etc) can split the group apart if members become “unacceptable”. This depiction should look familiar to what we commonly see today.
Even more meaningful, it is important to see that everything suggested above can be realised now if we decide – as a community – that people are more important than authorities. It is the responsibility of each of us to stand united against these violent economical, ideological, and forcible invasions.
Every action, every decision, every choice is a vote to make reality what you want it to be. Please help promote each other.
A US based author that is focused on community building and abstract level analysis of society. Author of the thesis “Radical Civility” (accessible here), I stray away from the strict socialist appeal of material analysis in favor of looking at the stories we create to describe our experienced reality.
“Every action, every decision, every choice is a vote to make reality what you want it to be. Please help promote each other.”
4 thought on “Direct Democracy and Violence”
So much stuff here to challenge the mind, refreshingly written
Interesting analysis JUR. I would point you in the direction of Marx. In Capital he points out that the capitalist system is predicated on the existence of two large classes. One has wealth and can employ the other who have nothing to sell but their Labour power. Rhetorically, he asks, how did this situation emerge? There is nothing natural about it. In your terms it was a result of violence done by a minority that secured for them the means of production, something they secure in Engels phrase with “bodies of armed men” (these days, women too). The result is to achieve direct democracy we have to take on and defeat the state in the process of remaking society.
I essentially agree with Marx and Engels, although – and I’ll need to look more into this – I believe that if we focus on fighting to take the system over, we will be wanting to simply control the violence that will still exist because of the institutionalized structures in place. This will, of course, cause those that “own” the system to fight back. Personally, I would like to see a new system form around egalitarianism and promoting all voices (much like this project is attempting to do) so that the capitalistic system will be forced to conform to us… and we can shed it like the chrysalis it is. Of course this is a different conclusion of what Marx came to, and it would still end in conflict (but more out of self defense), but I think they would practically come about the same way.
Regardless, thank you for the insight. I will look into it more.