The Right of the People
Re-Claiming Our Rights to Dream, Want, and Yearn
Newsletter Introduction: “Losing Big by Thinking Small, and Dreaming Not at All”
Poll after poll shows Trump leading Biden. Like for example this poll from Morning Consult which shows Trump leading Biden in seven crucial swing states. Or THIS one from CNN. Wall Street Journal. You get the picture.
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Unemployment is down to record lows, the Dow hit record highs, but still, and to steal a term absolutely in use in the discourse right now, the ‘vibes’ are off when it comes to how people feel about the economy. The Democrats are steadily flogging the merits of “Bidenomics”, but the people aren’t buying. This isn’t really a partisan issue, either. Republicans fed on a steady diet of Fox News and NewsNation and wherever Tucker Carlson ended up probably aren’t ever going to heap hosannas upon anything Biden or the Democrats do.
Wide swaths of would-be Democrat voters are feeling the malaise. The vibes. Are off. Trump’s going around straight up admitting that he’s going to be a Dictator on Day One, and it’s hard for many folks to muster up the energy to be outraged. As always, this guy’s ‘jokes’ become our ‘very not funny’ reality in short order.
When you narrow the focus down to Trump vs. Biden, Democrats vs. Republicans, it gets easy to lose the plot, and fast. Are Trump and the Republicans dangerous fascists hell bent on destroying the last remaining vestiges of functioning governance? Yep. Is Biden compromising on core human rights values and proving that when it comes to propping up dictators and sacrificing immigrant communities he can be every bit as bad as any Republican? Also…yep.
We’re where we are, choking on a presidential “choice” between two legitimately terrible candidates (and to be fair, we’re not saying they’re the same. They’re not. They’re absolutely not.), hoping beyond hope to find some way to stave off the immediate fascist threat by selecting the lesser of two evils, thereby “winning” nothing — but living to fight another day.
Trump’s ascendance represents a well-understood but criminally under-addressed societal failure. Other people have talked about it. We’ve talked about it. A lot. But let’s put that to the side for the moment.
Biden and the Democratic Party establishment represent societal failure as well.
The evidence of this failure could not be more evident than in the Biden- and Democrat-led plan to sacrifice immigrant communities -- in the form of an asylum ban, resurrecting Title 42, and mass deportations, all in exchange for military funding for Taiwan, Israel, and Ukraine.
A majority of Democratic voters support an immediate ceasefire -- NOT sending more weapons to Israel. A majority of Democratic voters oppose draconian restrictions on immigration. A majority of Democratic voters, in short, aren’t going to be fooled by — or look favorably upon, some half-assed attempt on the part of the Democratic Party to look tough on the border by shredding human rights.
This particular ‘deal’ is bad politics. And it’s even worse morality. It shouldn’t be all that surprising, though. It’s the natural end point of decades of triangulation, of centrist think tank-style reasoning that loses the forest for the trees, that thinks in terms of daily media cycles instead of the long-term health of the country and the planet.
It’s small thinking. It’s making your thinking so small that you believe throwing immigrant communities into the fire to capture some imaginary segment of the voting public heading into a hotly-contested election is the right thing to do. It’s cynical, it’s cruel. It’s stupid.
It’s thinking like this that got us to where we are. One party is full of turbo fascists, and one party is…slightly more competently managing a society fully gone over to oligarchy. This is it? This is where we are as a country, as a species?
If we keep thinking small, then yep. We’ll be pining for the glory days of Biden vs. Trump with the horrors coming down the road.
If we’re ever to get out of this mess, we’re going to have to envision a new way of politics, a new way of living, thinking beyond neoliberalism and centrism -- and ceasing to compromise on our core values. If we’re going to stop the fascist onslaught, save the planet and ourselves, it sure ain’t going to happen with James Carville-style triangulation.
That’s just what this week’s feature analysis delves into -- a detailed examination of the empty promises and present failures of neoliberalism, and a substantive exploration of what a just, fair, and sustainable series of alternatives might look like.
The Devil’s Got Nothin’ on Trump
You’re likely aware of the famous Baudelaire quote: “the finest trick of the devil is to persuade you that he does not exist.” Neoliberalism’s biggest trick is to persuade you that yearning is wrong – in other words, that you “don’t exist.”
Politically, we’ve come full circle from Rome’s ‘bread and circuses,’ through democratic politicians falsely claiming they will support our wants, to the point where the elite now has us believing our wants themselves are wrong, that we should have no expectations, and that liberalism is the real apocalypse we should fear. Somehow they’ve got supposedly educated humans believing that dystopia is acceptable -- but utopia is dangerous.
Neoliberalism does not offer anything new, and it’s decidedly illiberal, but of course hypocrisy is a great part of its attraction for America elites, especially those on the right. It is a return to feudalism, royalty, elite plunder, upward wealth distribution, and slavery, artfully disguised as capitalism and falsely presented as inevitable, just, aligned with American ideals, and pre-ordained.
But neoliberalism does offer us a new outcome -- invalidating 300,000 years and 12,000 generations of human yearning for justice, equality, and freedom and replacing those with a cocktail of anomie, apathy, and resignation.
Neoliberalism is an amazingly successful political theology – the over-arching but largely tacit ethos that animates cultures and invisibly channels societies. It is also both the world’s first globally successful post-truth, anti-philosophy, and organized crime doctrine.
As philosophy, it is the antithesis of the aspirational desires of people and the full expression of the human spirit. Philosophy historically has been an approach to discourse enabling broad consensus on societal optimization paths – as well as helping individuals find meaning in their lives and to identify the “good life well lived.”
In contrast, neoliberalism asks us to stop “philosophizing” both because doing so is effete, and because “the market” already has and always will prioritize, sort out, and smooth over our conflicts and differences with its innate and ordained justice rationale. In essence, neoliberalism asks us to stop doing the very thing that makes us human. This is both its biggest crime, and the source of its effectiveness.
But neoliberalism is also a playbook guiding and justifying global plutocracy, oligarchy, rent-seeking, wealth extraction and upward distribution, inequality, corruption, and impunity. As all this activity is globally coordinated, deliberately undertaken, and primarily against the law, we argue that neoliberalism also serves as an unacknowledged doctrine of organized crime.
Because this activity is conducted under the guise of, using the mechanisms of, and being protected by – democracy – (even North Korea calls itself the “Democratic People’s Republic of Korea”), yet its purpose is to subvert democratic governments, we also contend that neoliberalism’s practitioners are illegally (such actions are prohibited by most national laws and the UN Charter) subverting nation states as well as fomenting and supporting national insurgencies.
In terms of conspiracy theories, this is the closest the world has ever come to a real-life “Pentaverate” or SPECTRE-type situation. Trump is the perfect villain and domestic neoliberal leader, and the MAGA movement is the equally perfect strike force for its strategic objectives.
How bad are things? Well, if not checked, the global neoliberal movement will engender negative outcomes that dwarf those caused by Hitler, Stalin, and Mao combined through accelerating climate change, deteriorating human health, reduced human populations, worsening pollution, and increased violence.
Things indeed appear grim for the home team as we close out 2023. But all is not lost.
We have written extensively about the need for a Just Nation Movement to counter neoliberalism, vanquish MAGA and global authoritarians, and help usher in an age of human flourishing. Our work heretofore has been long on “How to Win,” but woefully inadequate when it comes to “Why We Fight.” In this essay we begin an admittedly lengthy journey to re-legitimize human desires and re-energize the fight to secure human rights, animated by existing philosophical principles, and enabled substantially by the Just Nation Movement. We do so by identifying a set of principles and achievable objectives we can rally around domestically and globally.
Just Nation Movement Objectives: What are the signposts, milestones and measures that indicate success and signal victory? Well, we don’t know the entire universe of them. Too much must emerge from the interplay between evolving circumstances and the Participative Democracy mechanisms of our proposed program. This is not a dodge, this is reality.
The overall approach to victory we selected — because it best addresses future uncertainty — has been described as “Cathedral Thinking, a concept that originated from the medieval era when great cathedrals were constructed. It revolves around the idea of long-term planning, patience, and collaboration to achieve a grand vision. It is a mindset that focuses on creating something extraordinary, which often takes generations to complete,” “Rethinking Digital Growth: The Cathedral Thinking Approach,” Martin Jeffrey, April 22, 2023, Linked-In. A more modern name might be “The Field of Dreams Approach,” or: “If you build it, they will come.”
That said, we have some ideas to offer on human wants and their mapping to movement objectives. Below we articulate the overarching framework goals which we term “idealities. We follow that with our proposed macro movement objectives. Then we include two already accepted global frameworks for wants and goals. We conclude this section with the principles we prose will optimally animate the movement.
Idealities: We suggest that our movement will have two dynamically competitive objectives/North Stars. The first is to establish Participative Democracy as the dominant mode of collective political expression globally.
The second is Victory over our adversaries. Authoritarian movements like MAGA must be suppressed, vanquished, then prevented from recurring (or at least rising above the nuisance level) through the movement and emergent vigilance and governance mechanisms.
The dynamic tension between the two objectives will go a long way towards preventing the “ends justify the means” rationalizations that have plagued major left and utopian movements in the past.
Macro Movement Objectives: What we seek first is global alignment and the integrated execution of effective approaches to retard, reverse, and prevent future degradation of the environment — so that we survive long enough to make substantial progress towards quality-of-life objectives.
Second, we intend to preserve existing democratic governments so that there is a resource and power base from which to launch efforts to improve quality of life.
Third, we intend to ensure that there is sufficient global capability, policy alignment, and resources to enable all human beings to self-actualize in a truly meritocratic world.
This list of objectives is prioritized for clarity and resource allocation, but of course they are systemically linked and must be pursued simultaneously.
Principles: We’ve also got to come to agreement on what we stand for -- our principles. To simply stand against Republicans, authoritarianism, and neoliberalism will not generate sufficient energy to prevail. We remember fondly the “Arsenal of Democracy” World War I slogan, but probably not the “Stop the Mad Brute” anti-German poster of the same period, right? It is also important to lay down what we really want beyond simply overcoming the reactionary forces now plaguing us, because it is just this lack of faith in and focus on the future that has opened the door to creeping authoritarianism.
We’ve incorporated our principles into a declaration, as follows:
Declaration for Democracy: “We the People of the United States: affirm life; embrace our civic responsibilities; and declare our support for Democracy, the United States as a democracy, the inalienable rights of people, and the enumerated Constitutional rights of American citizens. To honor those on whose shoulders we stand, preserve that which we have built, and leave the world a better place than we found it, we will defend all transgressions of our principles to the last full measure of devotion.”
Let’s examine our declaration in some detail:
The shoulders we stand on: first, the untold millions of people who advanced the cause by simply doing the right thing, whether that was just raising a good family, resisting tyranny of kings and tyrants, or refraining from exploiting others. Paradoxically to some, we owe the English heavily in this regard, as they led the way towards representative government and constraints on the use of power and led the charge against chattel slavery.
Second, those who made defined contributions to American Democracy, including Salem Poor, Phyllis Wheatley, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Harriett Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, William Lloyd Garrison, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Susan B. Anthony, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Lyndon Johnson, and Stacey Abrams.
Finally, those who served without public recognition in the cause to which we also now devote ourselves, with special consideration to those who were injured or lost their lives so that we might have a better world.
The value we seek to preserve: things are not perfect, far from it, even in the last best hope of earth -- and they were never so despite the revisionist history of white supremacists. But in the aggregate, people are freer, live longer, healthier lives, fear less violence from each other and their government, have more physical safety, have more agency and more opportunity to express themselves than the millions who came before us did.
Thanks to previous social capital built, technology, representative government, democracy, the state of health care and its trends, international organizations, rule of law, and the signal contributions of the United States as global leader -- we can climb higher now and, in the future, than we could without all these things. To willingly give them up due to collective frustration, depression, ignorance, or religious belief is to turn our backs on all the good work, sacrifice, endured pain, and successful striving of our own species – it is in fact a collective suicide and a type of future genocide. These have not been the values of any religion, any serious ideology, or of America -- why are we so willingly accepting them now?
The better world we seek: includes all the following for all people: democracy; equality of opportunity; dignity; compassion; justice and just outcomes; freedom from coercion and discrimination; lawfully bounded power. Am I describing a utopia? Yes, and no. Why wouldn’t we seek that which we want and deserve? Why should we instead unconsciously ‘eat’ the dystopia shoved down our throats by those suffering from collective psychosis? That is the height of cowardice, and inconsistent with the spirit and sacrifice of those who came before us. On the other hand, utopias have been unbounded by the types of idealities, objectives and principles we just articulated, and this absence dooms them to either fail to gain traction or devolve into “Lord of the Flies.”
Instead of utopia, we endorse a much more useful concept called Eupsychia. It is a powerful theory of leadership, human nature and motivation developed by Abraham Maslow towards the end of his life. Eupsychia “involves actively and ongoingly cultivating cultural conditions that produce awe-based creative living in accordance with human nature, authentic freedom, and social justice,” Andrew Bland and Brett Swords, “Eupsychian Versus Authoritarian Leadership: Existential-Humanistic and Empirical Support,” Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 2021.
We also believe that existing global goals frameworks, such as the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Sustainable Development Goals, (both follow in full here) are worth incorporating into the emerging “wants” framework because of their specificity, comprehensiveness, momentum, and widespread global acceptance. We encourage you to read them in their entirety, but you can skip them through this hyperlink.
U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights:
Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,
Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law,
Whereas it is essential to promote the development of friendly relations between nations,
Whereas the peoples of the United Nations have in the Charter reaffirmed their faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person and in the equal rights of men and women and have determined to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
Whereas Member States have pledged themselves to achieve, in cooperation with the United Nations, the promotion of universal respect for and observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms,
Whereas a common understanding of these rights and freedoms is of the greatest importance for the full realization of this pledge,
The General Assembly, Proclaims this Universal Declaration of Human Rights as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.
Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence.
No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any actor omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State.
Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.
Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
This right may not be invoked in the case of prosecutions genuinely arising from non-political crimes or from acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Everyone has the right to a nationality.
No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to
change his nationality.
Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.
The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.
Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others.
No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. 2. No one may be compelled to belong to an association.
Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.
Everyone has the right to equal access to public service in his country.
The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government;
this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.
Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.
Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.
Everyone has the right to rest and leisure, including reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection.
Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.
Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.
1. Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.
2. Everyonehastherighttotheprotectionofthemoralandmaterialinterests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.
Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration can be fully realized.
Everyone has duties to the community in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible.
In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society.
These rights and freedoms may in no case be exercised contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
Nothing in this Declaration may be interpreted as implying for any State, group or person any right to engage in any activity or to perform any act aimed at the destruction of any of the rights and freedoms set forth herein.”
U.N. Sustainable Development Goals: Note: You can access greater detail about each goal by following the links in parentheses.
“The short titles of the 17 SDGs are: No poverty (SDG 1), Zero hunger (SDG 2), Good health and well-being (SDG 3), Quality education (SDG 4), Gender equality (SDG 5), Clean water and sanitation (SDG 6), Affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), Decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), Industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9), Reduced inequalities (SDG 10), Sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), Responsible consumption and production (SDG 12), Climate action (SDG 13), Life below water (SDG 14), Life on land (SDG 15), Peace, justice, and strong institutions (SDG 16), and Partnerships for the goals (SDG 17),” Wikipedia.
The primary purpose of asking you to read these two documents is to illustrate how much powerful thought has been put into human wants and rights, and how much consensus already exists on how to express them. The reason these haven’t gained much traction is that we’ve lacked the mechanisms for the people themselves to ensure their fulfillment. We’ve been counting on governments that are now thoroughly neoliberal at best to “give us what is rightfully ours.”
What we lack are the socially legitimate mechanisms for the people to fight back when their rights are transgressed. And we’re at war with a mighty adversary. Neoliberalism — serving as the elite’s unitary and proactive response to “the people’s” expressions of wants, systematically twists everything around so that theoretically merit is the only legitimate claim to “rights” and the satisfaction of wants. Thus, wants and rights must be “earned,” and only the elite have done so.
We continue to aver that Participative Democracy is the most promising mechanism pathway for the securing of rights, and that the Just Nation Movement is the most viable organizational catalyst to vanquish neoliberalism and point us to a better world. We’ll continue to build out the path to victory in subsequent newsletters,
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