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Democracy School November 1, 2006

Posted by Kilgore Trout in Uncategorized.
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This was quite an experience and its something I would recommend to any activist but also to anyone who is simply interested in how our country has come to be the way it is. Interestingly this goes well beyond simple dem vs. repub or even liberal vs. conservative, everyone at the school I attended would probably accept the label of Liberal but we were learning about tactics used by farm towns in rural PA, quite conservative people. Because the reality is that this is about people who think that in a democracy the people should rule, its that simple. The problem is that huge corporations have trampled our rights, and so ideology is of little importance so long as you believe that we should return to a democratic system.

The school takes two and a half days, Friday afternoon through Sunday. It’s a very fast and fairly draining couple of days there is a ton of information to try to absorb which is why many people end up coming back, some even become instructors. 

So what exactly is the idea behind Democracy School? The short of it is that it’s a new (sorta) way to think about organizing, or mort to the point it’s the idea that rather than fight against the symptoms, we need to fight the root of the problem. So what is the root of the problem, first we should ask what the problem is. It seems to me and many others that huge multinational corporations have gained unprecedented control over our country and our way of life, and in reality over the way of life of almost every person on this planet. So there is the problem, what is the solution? Well the first thing is to see the history that only a few hundred years ago a corporation was considered a gift, it had incredibly narrow range of operation, even having limits on how long it could operate. Many decisions of the corporation had to be ratified by the public, because these decisions affected the pubic at large and therefore were bound to majority control, because this is a democracy. So if we are still a democracy (and that can be questioned) then why is it that a few people in a boardroom can make decisions that over rule the decisions of an entire town? I’m not going to get into details and examples of town in those situations, if you want to know more than you’ll have to attend a democracy school.

In the end these corporations have nearly unlimited power because they are legally considered to be people, and people have inalienable rights, unfortunately they don’t have the same liability, so if a real person kills someone they go to jail, when a corporation kills thousands that’s progress, they might get a fine.

I need to give a couple of the things that I came away with but first I should say that I had a rather different experience than most of the folks there. For one I was the youngest person by about a decade, and that most of the people were of retirement age. This isn’t an insult its just the way things are, retired folks have the time to get involved in their communities. What this means is that many of these people have been activists for a long time, they had very strong pre-conceived notions of how to do things. I on the other hand am very new to this stuff. I was looking to learn which is much easier than un-learning and re-learning. What we were learning makes total sense, the entire system has been stacked in the favor of the corporation, nothing surprising about that. They showed that when you go to do battle with a corporation the first thing you face is not the corporation but the law. The state will defend the corporation without the corporation so much as needing to lift a finger. So what can you do? Again this is a very brief overview but one main goal was to get laws passed and not regulatory laws. If the problem is factory farms, you don’t pass laws limiting the number of hogs or the amount of pollution, if you do that then you are legitimizing the idea that the corporation has the right to pollute in the first place. So you pass a law banning factory farms in your community. Ignore the regulatory system, go around it and pass the law you really want. The problem of course is that this is illegal, you run the risk of being sued, and if you are, you will lose. Or the state Attorney General may come down on you and declare your law illegal, which it is, but when they do then more people will see that the state is protecting the rights of a multi-national corporation at the expense of its citizens, this angers more people and the movement spreads. The idea is to be confrontational, the state is going to come after you, and when they do you’ll win, even when you lose. One instructor told us about a town which had tried to sue a corporation and lost, who then appealed it and lost again, and when the lawyer said look this is hard and expensive and your going to lose again is this really worth the effort? And someone at the town meeting said, “I want to hear the judge say it one more time.”

This was a terrible summary of the school. It’s an incredible amount of information to get in three days so my jumbled description on a few paragraphs isn’t even close to doing it justice. It might be a little difficult to find one of these schools, as they don’t advertise. It has spread almost exclusively by word of mouth. So if your interested in attending a school and can’t find one near you then leave a comment and I can get you in contact with the right people.

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