Thursday, May 31, 2012

Politicians: Services No Longer Required

"Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world" - Arthur Schopenhauer

The word 'politics' comes from the Greek word, 'politikos', meaning 'of, for, or relating to citizens', and is generally used to describe the running of state and government affairs. In representative democracies around the world, people elect politicians to represent and execute their collective will. So goes the fairy tale.

The reality is quite different. In many cases, politicians have a profound influence over policy in fields they have little or no background in. Take George Osborne, currently the UK's Chancellor of the Exchequer, who studied modern history at Oxford and has no significant background or experience in economics. In other words, we have someone with no relevant qualifications whatsoever in possession of decisive power over economic policy that affects millions of people.

When it became clear that his policies were not working, were in fact detrimental, a large group of real economists, true experts in their field, sent an open letter to Osborne, practically begging him to try their 'Plan B'.

But no...stay the course.

If you need a solution to an economic problem, you go to an economist, or even better, a group of economists. This is obviously preferable to trusting one woefully unqualified person, who may be following a radical agenda of his own or his party; so obvious it is embarrassing to write such a statement. Yet we nonetheless persist with this ludicrous state of affairs.

We have considered just one example, but there are politicians in power in representative democracies all around the world who have no significant background or experience in the departments they are responsible for. Why are politicians trusted with so much power when all the great advances for humanity have come from the citizenry: academics, doctors, scientists, artists, writers and activists? How many politicians have significantly advanced the progress of the human civilization?

The theory, of course, is that politicians will listen to their scientists, economists and other experts before formulating policy, but alas that is not the case. Policy is dictated far more by lobbyists for big corporations. Imagine health policy being written with help from representatives of McDonald's and the like. You'd scoff at the very thought, wouldn't you? Oh.

Ironically, the spirit of the idea of David Cameron's Big Society is a very good one, namely a society in which the aim is 'to create a climate that empowers local people and communities, building a big society that will take power away from politicians and give it to people'. This is the kind of language that we often find in party manifestos, a benign and expansive claim lacking any details, but it is coincidentally the theme of this blog. Is David Cameron really advocating a direct democracy, where the power is truly in the hands of the people, not the politicians?

Sadly, he is not.

Put briefly, a direct democracy is a system in which committees of experts formulate policy. These experts are carefully vetted to ensure they do not have conflicts of interest, like payments from lobbyists or documented advocacy of corporate interests. These policies are created by consensus then presented to the people to be voted upon. These votes could take place just twice a year, or more often in emergencies.

In the past, this was almost impossible for various reasons, not least cost and inconvenience. However, the internet now reaches into almost every home in developed countries. Software is available to ensure there is no voter fraud. Websites like the UK government's E-petitions demonstrate that it is perfectly viable for large numbers of people to vote online. For those few people who still have no internet access, other arrangements could be made, such as using public libraries as voting centers.

Under such a system, politicians would simply not be required; only a civil service charged with administrating the will of the people. As a great added bonus, with the extinction of politicians, corporate lobbyists would also be crippled as they would have no powerful individuals to influence behind the scenes.

Imagine it: dietary experts writing food safety policy; scientists creating energy policy; education experts making education policy. It's a litany of the bleeding obvious...and a sad, sad comment on the dysfunctional nature of our current so-called democracies that we do not already follow such a system.

Representative democracy has failed - demonstrated as eminently corruptible - leading to unnecessary misery for millions while an elite few possess obscene amounts of wealth. Direct democracy would remove from the equation all the factors that corrupt true democracy. My free book (see postscript below) serves as an introduction. Overcome system justification and open your mind to a new system of government.

'The 99.99998271% - Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy’ by Simon Wood is available for free download. In this 70-page book, the current state of human rights and democracy is discussed, and a simple method of implementing direct democracy is suggested.
Simon Wood on twitter (simonwood11) and Facebook or at his blog.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Nothing To Hide, Nothing To Fear

A new data surveillance plan for the UK was outlined in the Queen's speech earlier this month. This legislation updates the legal powers available to intelligence agencies and the police with regard to email, telephone and social media communications. The authorities stress that they will not be allowed to access the actual content of emails or text messages without a warrant. They further assure the public that strict safeguards will be put in place to protect privacy, and that this law is essential to keep the public safe(TM).

Well, that's OK, then.

Things like this just grow and grow, with ever more information required with various justifications, such as the need to combat terrorism. To see how large these things can grow, we need look no further than the land of the free itself. The Washington Post ran a series called 'Top Secret America' back in 2010. I would link to it directly for you, but...I kid you not...my computer, in true X-Files fashion, kept shutting down every time I tried to access the page directly. The next best thing is an article here (which does link to the original article) by the always excellent Glenn Greenwald on the findings of the series. Salient points about the National Security Agency's surveillance program are made. Here is one:

Every day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7 billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications.

Then we have William Binney, an NSA whistleblower who granted an interview to Democracy Now in April this year, saying that the NSA has 20 trillion 'transactions' of US citizens with other US citizens.

The irony is, the more information in multiple languages and formats the intelligence agencies have, the less safe 'we' are, simply because the volume of utterly irrelevant information is so large. Let us not forget that the intelligence agencies actually had the data predicting the 9/11 attacks, but they failed to put it all together. Just having the data is not enough; an ability to meaningfully interpret it is critical. And having trillions of messages on government databases containing mindless noise like 'LOL' and 'ROTFLMAO' can only make the job of meaningful intelligence gathering even harder. According to the Washington Post Top Secret America series, huge amounts of data are routinely ignored. How does this 'keep us safe'?

So we have two databases, one about to grow, one already monstrously bloated, containing data on everyone. But it doesn't matter, right? So what if they have this information? After all, if you've done nothing wrong, you've nothing to fear, right?

The next time someone says that to you, find the nearest fork and stick it in his or her eye. It is the single most idiotic phrase ever uttered, a statement of utter ignorance, and the core philosophy of the mindless authoritarian.

And here is why. First, this page gives a nice introduction to what can go wrong, and then, if you need more proof, on this site, which was last updated in 2009 but is more relevant now than ever, we can see a very long list of abuses that occur when completely innocent people have their data kept unnecessarily on a database. Some examples are as follows:

September 2008

The Daily Telegraph reports that "a battered wife’s confidential address details were twice passed to her ex-husband by his girlfriend while she was working in a government tax office. Mother-of-two Donna-Lee Camacho, 28, lived in fear while her former spouse – who cannot be named for legal reasons – tracked her down. One of the addresses Sarah Gillett, 33, passed on to him was for a women’s refuge where Miss Camacho and her sons, aged four and 11, were trying to rebuild their lives. She was able to access the information because she worked for the Child Tax Credit department. Gillett was jailed for 18 weeks at Preston Magistrates Court, Lancs, after pleading guilty to a charge of wrongful disclosure of HM Revenue and Customs information."


July 2008

The Telegraph reports that “young women fleeing forced marriages are being betrayed by GPs and benefits staff who “collude” with families to return them against their will, a senior police officer police has revealed. Doctors and Job Centre workers are breaching confidentiality rules and passing on vital information to families, allowing them to trace and punish Asian women who are attempting to escape coerced marriages and “honour”-based domestic violence.”


April 2008

The Sun reports that “A ruthless rapist found victims by getting a job as a care worker and trawling a council’s database for vulnerable young girls. Simeon Kellman, 43, used computer records to identify teenagers who had just come out of the foster care system. Then he forced his way into their homes and attacked them. Kellman has just been jailed for eight years for the vicious rape of an 18-year-old, who was blindfolded and bound.” The Met police say “Further investigations revealed that Kellman had accessed information concerning the woman on the council database more than 30 times.”


November 2006

The Guardian reports that "Investigations by [ICO] staff and police had uncovered 'evidence of a pervasive and widespread ‘industry’ devoted to the illegal buying and selling of [personal] information.'"


March 2005

The Guardian reports that “The Home Office has been forced to apologise to 10 men placed under controversial anti-terrorist control orders after it linked them to the ricin plot in London, the Guardian has discovered. In an embarrassing letter to the men, the government claims that it made a “clerical error” when it said the grounds for emergency restriction imposed on each of the alleged international terrorists was that they “belonged to and have provided support for a network of north African extremists directly involved in terrorist planning in the UK, including the use of toxic chemicals”.”


Sources for all stories can be found on the site (linked above).

These are but a tiny few of the examples given, and that is only one site which stopped updating in 2009. There are plenty of other cases out there showing what happens when totally unnecessary private details of ordinary people get into the wrong hands. Bear in mind that all this data was supposed to have the 'strictest safeguards', too.

There are those who will now say that these horrors are a price worth paying for the safety of the society as a whole (now reach for another fork and target the other eye), but as we have already said, just having information is not enough, and the more information kept, the more likely those tiny nuggets of useful information will be missed or ignored. To crown it all, only the dumbest terrorists in the world would openly discuss their plans in any kind of electronic communications as they know full well that anything they write or say on the phone or online could be used against them or would jeopardize the operation.

Here's the rub: the authorities themselves know full well that even blanket coverage of all communications will never guarantee safety, so we have to ask ourselves: what is the real purpose of such a system?

The answer should be plain to anyone who has been paying attention. We have a small elite group of people in charge of all strategically vital institutions: the IMF, the World Bank, NATO, powerful nation states, and so on. These people do not fear terrorism; indeed, terrorism is their justification for asserting more control of that which they really fear: you. Blanket coverage of all electronic communications will not stop terrorism, but it will enable the authorities to easily identify, target and deal with dissidents: investigative journalists and bloggers out from under the editorial control of the corporate-owned mainstream media, political or human rights activists, independent media organizations, protest groups, and so on.

Our privacy is the last defense we have against state power and exploitation by the authorities. Without it, we are completely at the mercy of what may be an abusive government. And for those who believe this is all a flap about nothing and that governments are essentially benign, please read a little history and then come back to me.

As we have seen from the treatment of alleged whistle blowers like Bradley Manning and transparency organizations like Wikileaks, those in charge are willing to pull out all the stops to make an example of them, hoping that it will serve as a deterrent to other potential troublemakers. This belligerence toward anyone who steps outside the permitted orthodoxy of media dialogue will also only continue to grow unless we do something about it now.

The only way to do something about it is to take back control of our societies through a grassroots movement of direct democracy. My free book (see postscript below) will tell you all about it.

'The 99.99998271% - Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy’ by Simon Wood is available for free download. In this 70-page book, the current state of human rights and democracy is discussed, and a simple method of implementing direct democracy is suggested.
Simon Wood on twitter (simonwood11) and Facebook or at his blog.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chrome Democracy

In the age of the internet, technological progress moves at a blur. This will come as no surprise, of course, to anyone familiar with the concept of accelerating change. New gadgets and upgrades pop up in profusion like mushrooms, and one can easily imagine the reaction of any serious gamer if you said you were still using the Super Nintendo (aka Super Famicom), and just picture the looks you would get if you admitted you still used a typewriter.

As technological progress moves at these ever increasing speeds, upgrades are not only convenient; they are necessary. Those old stalwarts who steadfastly refuse to buy a mobile phone face ever diminishing numbers of public telephones. Old operating systems like Windows 95 are useless for most, if not all (sorry, I'm no techie), modern websites. Meanwhile, Google Chrome is fast becoming the world's most popular browser.

This is all quite logical and, indeed, inevitable. Why, then, do we so readily embrace change with regard to technology, while at the same time clinging to ludicrously outdated and demonstrably unfair and unrepresentative systems when it comes to the most important aspect of our societies: our democracies?

Each so-called 'representative democracy' has its own unique election system. To take a relatively well-known example, in the US the winner of the presidential election is determined by the electoral college system, in which each state is allocated a number of points to be awarded to the winner of the state in an election. This leads to a series of issues:

Firstly, because the winner-takes-all system is used in all states except for Nebraska and Maine, the winner of the national popular vote is not guaranteed to win the election. Secondly, elections often come down to a focus on so-called 'swing states', giving candidates a huge incentive to focus only on states where there is no clear favorite. Thirdly, voter turnout is greatly discouraged in states where one party traditionally dominates, essentially disenfranchising millions of people. And fourthly, the winner-takes-all system means third parties have no chance whatsoever of even making a dent on any election.

So the two main parties in US politics are the only possible winners. Given that these parties now share bipartisan consensus on a huge range of issues such as NSA surveillance, government secrecy, contempt for whistleblowers, indefinite detention of anyone deemed a 'terrorist suspect', endless war, murdering multitudes of Muslim civilians and their children in foreign sovereign states with drones etc., what choice is there for any US citizen who happens to disagree with his or her tax dollars going toward the funding of any of the above?

This is not democracy by any stretch of the imagination.

The UK employs the 'first-past-the-post' electoral system. This system also leads to a society that does not in any way reflect the attitudes of the electorate. The main problems with this system are as follows:

First, this system encourages tactical voting, where in a given constituency, if a voter's preferred candidate has no chance of winning, he or she is likely to vote for another candidate who is more likely to defeat the least preferred one. This more than anything leads to a society that is woefully unrepresentative of the true sentiments of its citizens. Further, gerrymandering thrives in the first-past-the-post system as it allows a high number of so-called 'wasted votes'. And finally, under this system, smaller third parties can suddenly find themselves in an extremely powerful position if the main parties require a small number of extra votes to get their bills through parliament. This gives third parties, which could possibly be extremist and representative only of a tiny minority, the power of blackmail over more moderate parties.

One single factor links all of these issues: they are all profoundly undemocratic. We often hear politicians banging on about how lucky we are to live in a society with free elections. This is the kind of woolly bullshit we have come to expect from these people. A free election is only 'free' if it is founded on honest and fair principles. We have already shown that the systems in two major Western nations are critically flawed.

A Guardian/ICM poll was published last week in The Guardian. Among other things, it detailed the voting intentions of UK voters. This poll is, frankly, meaningless and the third comment (by 'Ocoonassa') below the line summed it up perfectly:

Lies, damn lies, and statistics. As usual your poll has done the marvellous trick of predicting a 100% turnout from an electorate that at the last local elections barely bothered to turn out at all.

Why can't you present a more honest picture of the peoples opinions instead of massaging the stats to pretend that all is rosy in the garden of British democracy?

All your conclusions are invalid if you're wilfully discarding the section of the electorate who think the political class is ideologically and morally bankrupt and are thus responding none-of-the-above. Why not present the true picture, how many of us did you have to ask before you got your 1002 respondents?


Absolutely spot on. So many people are now utterly sick of the status quo and would snap up an alternative if a credible one existed. Witness the Pirate Party's success in Germany, where it now apparently has 11% of the popular vote. If a party like that, which stood for direct democracy and access to basic human rights like education and health without people having to go into heavy debt, could gain a credible foothold, we might just begin to see the first steps toward true democracy. I say first steps because as it stands at the moment (in the US and UK at least), we are nowhere near true democracy, no matter how many times the politicians say we are.

As already mentioned, vast numbers of people are moving to Google Chrome, and in time, that also will be superseded, as is only natural. With the internet and huge possibilities now available to us in the field of collaborative e-democracy, why are we still stuck in the dark ages when it comes to our election systems? The answer is simple: those entrenched in power know that if a truly democratic system comes into being, they will be straight out of the door.

Given that the huge and ever growing levels of inequality, the policy failures, the wars, and all the other heartbreaking tragedies going on every second of every day around the world prove that our current systems are ineffective - counterproductive, in fact - it is time for everyone to stop focusing on the myriad petty distractions and realize that unless you are rich or otherwise privileged, we are all up a certain creek without a certain instrument.

It is time for direct democracy.

'The 99.99998271% - Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy’ by Simon Wood is available for free download. In this 70-page book, the current state of human rights and democracy is discussed, and a simple method of implementing direct democracy is suggested.
Simon Wood on twitter (simonwood11) and Facebook or at his blog.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Education

“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation." - Walter Cronkite

It is not a stretch to say that every single one of the woes afflicting mankind come down ultimately to the issue of education. A reasonable level of education empowers the individual greatly, giving one the freedom to choose from a range of occupations, and to secure the means (via material income) to gain further qualifications and hence more freedom.

A lack of education leads to myriad social ills. Young people who fail to gain sufficient qualifications are severely limited in the occupations they can choose, and are doomed in most cases to menial, repetitive and soul-destroying work simply to pay the bills. The alternatives are living off state benefits or turning to illegal work, both of which greatly harm society as a whole.

Far more importantly, the despondency felt by those trapped in low-paid, menial work can only lead to great unhappiness, something which can only negatively affect their families and other loved ones. Further, because of their breadline income, it is nigh on impossible to break out of this vicious circle in order to acquire the qualifications necessary to find better work.

As an related aside, how about those dastardly 'benefit scroungers', who can't even be bothered to work at all? Extreme examples are presented as commonplace behavior in the tabloids, and the unsuspecting readership get angrier. Lost in the noise is the fact that in many cases, those on benefits have disabilities or other issues that prevent them from working. There is also the tiny problem of mass youth unemployment in countries like, for example, the UK.

What these outraged tabloids fail to point out is that while 1.7 billion pounds is lost annually to benefits fraud in the UK, 20 billion pounds is in fact unclaimed. Only 2-3% of claimants are actually playing the system illegally. While this is obviously an issue, it is nonetheless blown all out of proportion by sensationalist media, further reinforcing the view that anyone on benefits is either lazy, stupid or thieving.

In poor or developing countries, the education issue is even more devastating. Consider, for instance, the chances of those working in sweatshops for big Western corporations in Southeast Asia and China somehow breaking out of the poverty cycle. These downtrodden souls work every hour they can to take home near slave wages and they have neither the time, money or energy to even consider escaping the trap. Not all is lost, however: the usual avenues are available to them: prostitution or crime. Take your pick.

I have always believed that you judge a person not on how they treat their betters or equals, but on how they treat those weaker than them. Anyone can suck up to authority and peers in the hope that it will engender benefits in kind, but it takes true character and courage to spend time and energy aiding the helpless, those who can never pay you back for your kindness.

"Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do" - Voltaire

Education, a human right, is now increasingly inaccessible to the poor. Wherever education has become a private industry, the idea of a university degree is simply a very expensive dream. The choice for the poor is either to go into massive debt in order to obtain a degree that does not necessarily guarantee work, or to find unskilled work that may be a great waste of their talents. This not only hurts them, it hurts everyone. What if the next Einstein is one of these poor students? The ludicrous possibility exists that our great future minds could be stacking shelves because they cannot afford to go to college.

If aliens are covertly observing us, one can easily envisage their perplexity.

Student protests have occurred worldwide. In Quebec, students have traditionally enjoyed relatively low tuition fees. This is because all attempts to increase them in the past have been confronted robustly. The students have once more risen up because of a proposed five-year precipitous rise in tuition fees. In March, a demonstration involving over 200,000 took place, quite incredible in a city (Montreal) with a population of only 3.3 million. More information can be found here.

In Chile, and across Latin America in general, protests (which have turned violent) have occurred for the same reason: education is being turned into a profit industry and the people are revolting against the very idea. In the UK in 2010, the existing cap on tuition fees of 3,290 pounds was increased to one of 9,000 pounds and many universities moved immediately to charge the maximum possible amount.

Nick Clegg, the leader of the UK Liberal Democrats, stated before the election that he would not vote for any increase in tuition fees. After being made deputy prime minister as part of a coalition government with the Conservative Party, he changed his tune, as most politicians do when it is expedient, and supported the rise of 3,290 to 9,000 pounds (yes, I want to repeat those numbers). A tripling of the money students would need to spend.

Education is quite simply the most vital asset of any individual or group. Making it inaccessible to those without financial resources is not only a violation of the most basic of human rights, it is destructive to any society that attempts to do so. Having a huge underclass of poor and uneducated people can only lead to a multitude of social ills. It is a sad indictment of the state we are in that free education for all is not universally accepted as, say, universal suffrage is.

In my free book and also my last article, I advocate a free education system created in the same way Wikipedia was. The alternative is ever-rising tuition fees, and more and more young people thrown onto the scrapheap. Is that what you want?

'The 99.99998271% - Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy’ by Simon Wood is available for free download. In this 70-page book, the current state of human rights and democracy is discussed, and a simple method of implementing direct democracy is suggested.
Simon Wood on twitter (simonwood11) and Facebook or at his blog.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Are You Certain?

"Judge of a man by his questions rather than by his answers" - Voltaire

In my last post, I let fly at the true believers who support Obama no matter what he does. To them, he is just the coolest guy on the planet who has even won the Nobel Peace Prize while at the same time being tough enough to order the assassination of Bin Laden from the safety of the Oval Office. Little details like the four pages of broken manifesto promises and the massive expansion of Bush-era policies that 'liberals' screamed blue murder about daily at the time are conveniently put aside.

Psychological research has uncovered a very long list of cognitive and social biases that affect all of us to some degree. Only someone with remarkable mental discipline can be aware of and avoid the effects of all of them. One of the more telling social biases is known as system justification, which is the tendency of humans to bolster or support the status quo, even if it harms them or their interests.

Like much psychological research, the evidence and explanations can be woolly, but common sense and experience tells us that system justification is indeed alive and well, as it has been since time immemorial. From a primitive group-survival point of view, it also makes sense, as a group faced with adversity is more likely to survive if they are broadly of one mind as opposed to all members of the group being in random opposition.

One obvious recent example of system justification is the behavior of the members of the Tea Party movement in the US. This movement, funded and promoted by billionaires on a massive scale via corporate-owned Fox News, is made up of ordinary hard-working Americans who have had enough of the federal government and its meddling ways. Their quite justified anger was co-opted by corporate interests to fight Obama's healthcare reform, eventually forcing him (ostensibly) to abandon the single-payer option. As ordinary Americans, any improved access to healthcare would benefit the Tea Party members themselves, and yet they fought with notable passion against it.

The point of this little psychology treatise? Humans are not rational creatures. Billions possess beliefs that are based on erroneous assumptions, while many have an irrational distrust of science. There are also significant numbers of basic misconceptions: a 1996 Gallup poll, for example, found that only 67% of Britons knew the earth revolved around the sun, while 19% answered incorrectly and 14% said they did not know. If knowledge as basic as this is lacking in adults from a wealthy and developed nation, how much worse will it be for lesser-known facts? Hint: a lot worse.

So it is easy to sneer at the Obamabots, but it should be borne in mind that all of us are in the grip of psychological forces that can make us act and think irrationally. At the same time, system justification shows how hard it is for people to embrace change. Recent research suggests that people can accept change if they see it as either highly likely or inevitable, but for something like, say, the main focus of this blog (direct democracy), it will be a battle even to make people consider the idea.

Indeed, in my few months of writing this blog, while gratefully receiving a huge amount of support, the concept of direct democracy has also encountered resistance and even disdain from some established journalists, who obviously suffer from their own form of system justification. It is a sad fact, therefore, that this movement must fight not only the indifferent and openly hostile, but also even some 'progressives' who think their responsibility ends with writing articles on abuses by elites. While these articles are vital and often superbly written and researched, it is not enough just to piss and moan. Ordinary people are now involved in a life-and-death struggle with the financial elites and every progressive needs to overcome this phenomenon of system justification, especially established writers with international profiles.

To my point, then: the most dangerous people in the world are those who are certain they are right, people whose beliefs are beyond judgment. This applies not only to religion, but also to conventional beliefs about economics, politics, society, education, family, sexuality etc. Those who do not question their beliefs for one moment, even (and especially) their most closely-held ones, are frankly stuck on the very first rung of the enlightenment ladder.

Political partisans are particularly deadly members of this sorry group. Their lack of skepticism leads to unquestioning support of whoever or whatever they identify with, and any evidence that shows their beliefs to be destructive is either ignored, disdained, condemned or outright denied, often in aggressive ways. This is simply human nature - no one likes to admit they were wrong. After all, doing so would harm the ego, which is central to one's self-esteem. Further, very few can easily admit that their support leads directly or indirectly to atrocities or illegality in general.

Some people in power are either certain of the justifications for unethical behavior, or even worse, know that what they are doing is evil but also understand that they can get away with it due to the lack of accountability and transparency that plagues modern governments. Simply put these sociopaths are able to bomb children in a foreign sovereign nation because they have support from partisans willing to overlook such behavior.

The establishment media helps to keep ordinary people either misinformed or completely ignorant of the actions of their government. How many Americans, for example, know that their tax dollars have funded at least 60 drone bases around the world, dozens of bases encircling the supposedly aggressive Iran, 7,000 drone aircraft that are killing civilians almost daily in Northwest Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia? How many are aware that their government has attempted to overthrow the governments of more than fifty nations, many democratically elected, since 1945? How many know that thirty nations have been attacked and bombed causing the deaths of countless civilians?

Worse, because of these cognitive biases, even if they did know, how many would attack this incontrovertible evidence as unreliable or inaccurate? How many would attack the messenger? Endless sanitized media reporting has made war and the deaths of civilians an everyday, humdrum occurrence, justified lazily with the all-encompassing term, 'terrorism'. In other words, those giant swathes of the population who have neither the time or inclination to read past the headlines of a story have become sociopaths by default, desensitized by repetition.

And when these certain people encounter criticism or see protests on the news, those presenting a contrary view are 'hippies' or 'ignorant' people who should 'get a job'. This is, of course, a classic reaction for those who are blissfully unaware of their cognitive biases.

This is why it is vital to question one's beliefs, no matter how deeply they are held, at every opportunity. Authorities love those driven by certainty because it is easy to manipulate them into doing what they want, to channel their misguided passions in ways that may even be harmful to them. Skeptics terrify those in power because they question everything they are told and do not blindly accept authoritarian policies or laws. They agitate and can rally support, raise awkward objections to the status quo. These people have to be silenced, or at least smeared, ridiculed and condemned.

As things stand we live in a world where the huge corporations and banks now act as arms of the NATO countries and their allies (and vice versa). The fact that these entities do not need to respect democratic values makes them able to act in ways nation states can not. As explained succinctly in this George Monbiot article, international law itself is now simply a byword for empire, and bodies like the IMF and the UNSC with the ridiculous veto power of five arbitrary nations (one practicing no form of democracy itself) are simply part of the imperial effort. For an example of how corporations act in concert with the foreign policy of nation states, see this article regarding ExxonMobil in Indonesia.

This merging of corporate and state power, famously defined as fascism by Benito Mussolini, at both national and global levels is already well along the road to being irreversible. Democratic elections, particularly in the United States, do not give adequate choice to citizens and disenfranchise huge segments of populations. Protest is brutally suppressed thanks to increasing militarization of police forces as well as dubious laws designed to negate even the possibility of large groups congregating. Surveillance drone technology is advancing quickly and over the next decade people will have to begin getting used to drones flitting around above their heads wherever they go, as if the millions of surveillance cameras were not enough. And all the while, man-made climate change grinds ever onward; the greatest existential threat to humanity by far, its existence confirmed by an overwhelming majority (97%) of the world's scientists, dismissed and ridiculed by numerous public figures and politicians in the pay of the energy companies. Yet the International Energy Agency said last year that any new fossil-fuel infrastructure built in the next five years will make destructive climate change irreversible.

In other words, unless these people are stopped, we are all in serious trouble. These dire warnings are not science fiction; they are demonstrable fact. A tiny financial elite in control of all vital strategic areas and governments has brought this about. Almost every other person on the planet will suffer because of their actions, and as can be seen in global inequality statistics, the poor and vulnerable are already suffering.

In order to remove this threat, a massive online grassroots movement needs to form. Occupy Wall Street and protests like it are simply not enough. They will not bring about significant societal change, and the bankers looking down on the protesters from their ivory towers will be laughing over their champagne at the very idea that they can. That is not to say protests are pointless; indeed, they serve to raise awareness and Occupy has done extremely well in this regard, raising the issue of inequality to the level of global debate. Unfortunately, the protesters themselves need to overcome their own form of system justification and realize that protest will not lead to any changes except cosmetic concessions by politicians who will say anything just to get their vote. Things can never change while the underlying societal systems are rotten to the core: these systems need to be completely reformed in ways to suit the modern era.

This online movement needs to create a people's government in each nation, to form the backbone of a future direct democracy. It can only grow with massive support from both ordinary people and those in the media who have a platform to attract more followers. One method of achieving this is described in my FREE book (see below), although it is by no means the only possible way. The book also suggests a free global education system created in the same way as Wikipedia that can lead to real, accredited qualifications for anyone, especially those who are not able to afford exorbitant tuition fees. Education is a human right, and should not be a profit industry - the online global movement I suggest in my book will in part allow people to empower themselves with free education. This independence from the state and private educational systems would be a vital step in countering the ongoing creation of a poor, under-educated, unskilled underclass (even in rich, developed countries) caused by ever-increasing tuition fees.

This post was written with some trepidation; forecasts of doom are generally ridiculed. The end of the world is nigh, and all that. However, the end of the world is not nigh...nothing so dramatic, although global warming does indeed present a serious threat to life and land. What is at stake is the kind of world we want.

Do we want a world where lawless corporations run rampant over the lives and livelihoods of poor and vulnerable people, where up to 27 million people are slaves, where multitudes of children are trafficked into the sex industry, where endless war and drone strikes bring horror, trauma and grief to millions upon millions of people, who suffer unseen, where Wall Street criminals remain free to ravage even national economies, where every email and phone call is checked by some giant, quietly whirring machine, where every move we make is tracked, and where every interest we express on social media is sold on to be used for targeted marketing?

Or do we want a world that enforces peace, equality and human rights, punishes war, embraces true freedom, democracy and cultural plurality? One in which health and education are seen as human rights for all, not just the privileged elites?

If you prefer the latter, you need to overcome your system justification and join the movement towards direct democracy at national and global levels. To stop the criminal elites, it is simply the only viable option, and the sooner everyone realizes this and stops tacitly endorsing the status quo, the better. And if you feel certain of anything, stop it now!

'The 99.99998271% - Why the Time is Right for Direct Democracy’ by Simon Wood is available for free download. In this 70-page book, the current state of human rights and democracy is discussed, and a simple method of implementing direct democracy is suggested.
Simon Wood on twitter (simonwood11) and Facebook or at his blog.