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Étienne Chouard - Researcher in cause of causes.

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I'm here to talk about democracy. But the real one. The one that doesn't exist at all! The one that, I think, would get us out of this mess. I am a teacher in Marseilles, and, in 2005, I started to exist. I woke up, politically speaking, thanks to a public debate in France. A referendum about a so-called "constitution" (NT: a European treaty). While reading it, I became angry, I found it dangerous. I wrote a response of about ten pages, plus notes. Then, I published it on my website. Sent it to my tiny contact list, as a last-ditch attempt. Then, something happened and changed my life. People grabbed onto it, it matched something they missed. For months, I spent my nights trying to reply to them. Particularly to those who didn't like me. Trying to prove them wrong. Little by little, newspapers took on the topic, then TV, radio… They visited me at home. The site's visit counter turned like a fan! 40,000 visits per day! 12,000 emails in 2 months. Now I realize that it was the eyes of others staring at me that changed me. Giving me incredible strength! First, positive looks expecting something that I couldn't disappoint. Then, those who didn't like me, at all! Suspicious. Calling me an impostor, a bum, illegitimate. I wanted to prove them wrong. All these eyes added to my motivation, giving me considerable energy. It still propels me today. I discovered that this was an old issue. Athenians called it "verecunia". A very interesting and essential concept. For the Athenians, a good citizen was sensitive to the looks of others. It pushed them to virtue. When others were counting on them, rewarding them by their gaze, it gave them the will to be virtuous. And, when they sensed a reproving stare, it encouraged them to stay on the path of virtue. Indeed, it works! People who have "verecunia", are more virtuous. Conversely, those who don't, are very dangerous. To the point… At that brutal age… Well, no need to put them to death, but… we could avoid giving responsibilities to the dangerous. Since 2005, I bother working hard, for… For what? First, I try to understand the cause of social injustices. I try to find out the main cause. Then, I discover, with wonder, the brilliant ideas founding the Athenian democracy. A real democracy. I recover many important words and turn them right side up, They were turned upside down, for at least 200 years. Finally, I try to imagine this work in progress. I don't have the truth. I'm polishing, building and enforcing an idea. I try to think of institutions, good ones, which would protect us all against the abuse of power. I rely on good institutions to push us to virtue. I don't count on virtuous citizens. We all contain good and bad. But, good institutions could lead us to virtue. The same way they can pull us, away from the general interest and the common good, like today. To do so, I use a great method, recommended by an old doctor: Herodotus (NT: Hippocrates, mistake). Who was seeking the cause of causes. I use this all the time. Why? He said: For a problem, an illness, don't fight its effects! Obviously. You won't fix anything. Neither its causes! Too many factors. It's not that! Among all causes: seek the main cause. At least a decisive one, one that determines the other causes. It's the one we need! The one I look for. So. All the activist friends, that I met in politics, with whom I share battles (of course), are endlessly struggling. I drew a tree showing the range of topics on which people resist. I'm surprised to see all these fighters focusing on… very important things. But things that are only consequences. I think no one tries to understand the cause of all of this! I think I found… I could be wrong. I think I found a common cause to all that impotence, and injustice. Where social injustice starts… I think it's the lack of control over political power, that produces the impotence in the people. Social injustices are there because "normal" people, don't have the power to resist. All the strikers I know, these activists, spend their entire lives struggling… They don't change anything! How come? Because their political impotence forbids them to take action. Where does this impotence comes from? My analysis is that it's from the constitution. The text that makes elected officials not liable to annulment nor accountable. We can't choose our candidates. No referendum based on popular initiative. We can't decide anything on our own initiative. We let the currency being privatized because the constitution doesn't require it to be public. Etc. Not time for a detailed list. But, in the constitution, all our impotences are established. It didn't happen by magic! It's written. Keep considering the root… Why do all constitutions anticipate people's impotence? Worldwide. It isn't a conspiracy, it can't be, not every time, in every country, it's not that! A universal process must have a universal cause. I think that's what makes bad constitutions. By prefiguring our powerlessness, instead of our power. Not guaranteeing against abuse of power, it prophesizes our impotence. I think it's because those who write constitutions, the authors, have a self-interest not to write a good constitution. Not mentioning people's power. They are judge and defendant, they are professional politicians. This gets closer to the cause of causes. It's not their fault, they aren't crooked. It's us who let them write! To measure the importance of this mistake, let's remember what a constitution stands for. People, us, since around 2500 years age, have needed to put representatives above us. In order to produce and apply the law, that protects us from the arbitrary rule of the powerful. So, these people are very useful, of course! They establish the laws that bring peace to society. But, they are also very dangerous! If they start to abuse their power, serving the interests of a select few, instead of the common interest… If they abuse power by going mad, power drives them mad, systematically. Uh, yes, we have known that for 2500 years! Power drives people mad. All powers tend towards abuse. Always! (said Montesquieu). Like laws of physics, implacable. And, there is a brilliant idea to protect us from it: the constitution. So, what is it? It's a text, standing above powers. Not to organize powers, no need for that, at all! Any citizen should know that its purpose is to weaken the powers. To worry the powers. In order to protect us! Against abuse of power. Wait… If representatives must fear the constitution… They mustn't write it themselves! If they do, they will plan their power and our powerlessness. A child understands that. The main and essential idea is: men of power mustn't write the rules of power. Don't wait for them to renounce their power, they won't, never. The solution won't come from them, but from us. We must forbid them to write it. I think this is the essential idea that we lack. So, in the scuffle between normal people and those who wield power at the moment. There are… Oh, there is a timer there, good! There are… words turned upside down. First, I'm not a citizen. A citizen is autonomous, voting his own laws. I am just a voter, I'm heteronomous. I'm under laws written by someone else. "Citizens": it's taking us in with fine words. We show off, but we are nothing! What do we have in this so-called "democracy"? What rights? Take your pick of political masters who decide everything for us. Selected from people we didn't even choose, the richest choose them. And, when they eventually betray us to the marrow, there is no way to resist! Well, we have freedom of speech, right. But absolutely no power of constraint. We can jabber, if it has no effect, it's allowed. If it changes anything, it's a massacre. We call this democracy!? It's our fault! We should boycott these trojan words, refuse to call democracy what is in fact its strict opposite. We feed our political impotence by allowing ourselves to call democracy something that is the very negation of our rights. When we call it democracy, we can't even express the solution. We need democracy, but we can't express it. Since the word is taken hostage by its opposite. Reversing the words is genius! Big Brother, absolutely! It didn't happen by accident. It was not good, at first, in 1789. And didn't deteriorate later. Not at all! Sieyès, a great thinker of the French Revolution, a top dog, not a minion (NT: similar to Madison in USA), in 1789: "Citizens who choose to have representatives […] must give up making the law themselves. They don't have any particular desire to impose. If they were dictating wills, France wouldn't be this representative state, it would be democratic. The people, I repeat (Sieyès speaking), in a non-democratic country (and France cannot be), can not speak, can only act through their representatives". He wasn't a democrat! He knew very well what a democracy was. I'll show you. Everyone knew, before 1789, Montesquieu, Aristotle, that the election is aristocratic, thus, oligarchic. Aristotle said it explicitly, I skip the quote. Montesquieu as well, I skip too. Lookup online, I must save time. Let me underline the two most important things: for 200 years of random designation* in Athens… *(NT: citizens drawn from the society for responsibility) During which there were rich and poor. OK, I know they set aside slaves and women. That's not my point. I'm talking about the citizens! The citizens of that time. For 200 years of random designation, the poor governed, always. Always! Then, another historical example, no opinions, facts! 200 years of random designation: the poor governed. There were rich people. But they didn't govern. And in a "supposedly representative government" regime, not a democracy, for 200 years, it's always the rich who governs. Always! Since random designation gives power to the poor, to the 99%. Since the election empowers the 1%, the ultra rich, how long will the poor, the 99%, defend the election!? As if it were a sacred cow! It's untenable, the poor defending the election process, while random designation would give them power back… Why do we value so much the election? It's not due to reason, the facts show that it's not in our interest. But, we have myths. The "Republican" school teaches, since we are toddlers: elections = democracy = election, etc. From childhood we believe it. We need to rehab from the lies of these robbers of power. Turn words the right side up. We are not in a democracy, we need one with random designation. To change things, we can't rely on those who are now in power. To change things, we can't rely on those who have the power right now. The solution won't come from them. It will come from normal people, simple people. People who don't want power. You must know this thought of Alain. A great thinker, I recommend him, who said: "The most visible sign of the righteous man, is that he doesn't want to govern others, at all. He seeks to govern only himself. This seals everything. In other words, the worst will govern." If righteous people don't want to govern, and if we give power, as in representative government, to those who want it, the worst will govern. This despairing representative trap - Alain is right - might also makes us overlook righteous men. We won't have them. But, we can escape from this trap, these pincers, I think. With a real democracy! By granting power to anyone, the best of us are among "anyone", those who don't want power. Democracy we need! But we must want it. Don't wait for our elected officials to want it. They will never want! True democracy would make them useless. Random designation in Athens meant giving away a little bit of power, but not for long, and never twice in a row. With many controls, but no time to explain. Athenians were giving up a little bit of power, to keep the power for themselves! Randomly selected people weren't voting on the bills. They were police, justice, and applied the law. They prepared the bills, because the Athenians, couldn't prepare them in the assembly. Representatives were weakened by random designation… Weakened! Thus, citizens had the guarantee that they remain sovereign. Don't fear random designation, we would, all of us, be greatly empowered through random designation. Random designation implies that our representatives remain our servants, and can't become our masters. One last word… One word… Visit, which was created by one of you. I think we should… Like viruses, as a grassroots movement… - don't expect anything from the media or the powerful - Let's spread the word among one another, on this principle: "don't elect the constituent assembly, select it randomly". Everything will follow from this. I think this idea is valid for the entire world. Thank you for listening. Translation: Camille Harang & Tomasz Bethell

Video Details

Duration: 17 minutes and 56 seconds
Year: 2012
Country: France
Language: French (France)
License: All rights reserved
Producer: TEDxRepubliqueSquare
Director: TEDxRepubliqueSquare
Views: 408
Posted by: mammique on Apr 23, 2012

Constitutional assemblies: the original conflict of interest that felled the 99%? Are modern "democracies" founded by the 1% for the 1%? Draw V.S. election. -----------------------------------------------------------

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