A True Democracy - Etienne Chouard - Montpellier - March 14 2012

Uploaded by aboutdemocracy on 22.08.2012

A True Democracy
Thank you, thank you for being here. I am traveling the country
presenting conferences on a subject I have been working
on for the past six years, something that I think
should be of interest to you. Something that is poorly addressed in our media;
yet a subject that seems trite: that is democracy.
And ... while the referendum debate of 2005 was being prepared (NT: on the European Constitution)
and studying what turned out to be an anti-constitution
since the European constitutional treaty is in fact an anti-constitution.
In other words, it is a text aimed to destroy national constitutions.
(I will explain what I mean when I say that)
As I was studying the anti-constitution, I woke up.
Meaning, I was politically asleep.
I was like the majority of us, a voter without any specific loyalty, without
a party, without a syndicate / union, even with no social organisation.
I was taking care of my own business, like all of us. And on the 2005
referendum debate, because of an anecdote that turned all eyes on me
(and I am not saying this to talk about me),
I started to think about what kind of institutions would be able to make
the same changes that happened to me,
happen to a greater number of people.
Athenians were very good at this, mind you. In other words, humans are sensitive...
The majority of humans are sensitive to the way others view them.
We are driven by what others expect of us
and we are held back to a certain limit.
Often, that limit is in the suspicious or disapproving look from others.
Meaning that the look of others,
benevolent or reproachfull, helps us behave well or badly.
And this is what happened in a way for me, I think.
At least in regards to my decision to act,
to engage in politics, trying to understand, and putting myself to work for the greater good,
and finally after the intense emotions that I lived
for two or three months during the time of the referendum,
March, April May and June 2005, I did not stop.
Meaning that for the entire period we contested the European Anti-constitution.
We will talk briefly about it, maybe during the Q & A
I will try, although it is difficult for me, but I will try to be brief
and leave time for a Q & A
because I come here looking for ideas too, from you.
The political Trap
So after criticizing an anti-constitution,
which was the European constitution, I asked myself: What do we replace it with?
Could we build something else instead?
And so several schools of thought emerged in my head
I am looking to decipher, enumerate, the variables of the political trap
in which we are all trapped throughout the world.
We are in a political trap that has shared characteristics
in all the countries around the world, especially by inverting the meaning of the words
by literally inverting the meaning of the words like Orwell argued in 1984.
You know, Big Brother and the Newspeak deprived people that they wanted
to dominate from the possibility of resisting
by inverting the meaning of the words and by suppressing the words entirely
that would highlight the problem. They weaken us.
Thus we need a real effort here, that we should all do,
which is re-appropriating the real meaning of the words
that contain solutions. We aren't even able to find them
because we were giving them an inverted meaning.
In addition, I am working on an alternative, I am researching
(Oh here you go! That's nice, does this work? Can you hear me now? Note: Etienne is handed a microphone.)
I am researching in a constructive way, realistic way, not at all utopian.
I am looking to institute, to imagine a system of institutions
that would finally protect us against the abuse of power.
So in fact, the back bone of my work,
in fact of all the work that I have done politically for the last six years
is.. finding what are the causes of the abuse of power? What makes social injustice possible?
And I am going to share with you what I have found today
on this project and what we could do
to protect ourselves efficiently and for the long term.
Here again I believe I found some paths... By searching I found...
But, I don't come with polished ideas, fully conceived, finished and packaged, I am not here to sell you anything
because I am not a candidate for anything. Many people asked me to run,
it is simply, absolutely not an option.
I refuse even the notion of power the same way one would refuse drugs.
I know that if I used drugs, it would be delicious
I clearly see that drug addicts live in a world..
But I also know that it is a dangerous world, so I don't use drugs
Well, it is the same with power. I want to stay alert,
trying to be of service without hurting myself in the process
When we study the history of humankind, there is practically no exception
that power corrupts, power changes people for the worse,
money too, but power corrupts. So I am not here
to try and convince you, I am not here for your votes
but instead I believe that we are all in need of
each other, to implement and to desire the success of
the idea that I am going to defend before you and which could work.
It is about implementing a real democracy.
Seeking the root cause
What I would like to focus on is:
What is a constitution?
What link does it have to social injustice?
The nature of the social injustice, the battles against the social injustices,
will inherently divide us if we burden ourselves with the consequences instead
of focusing on the causes.
What should we have to change so that we finally have
a true constitution? I am a beginner in politics.
It has been 5 years that I have been practicing
and I crossed paths with activists, old activists
that have over 40 year of political life. Every Wednesday
they distribute flyers in the markets, they run meetings non-stop
they think non-stop about the greater good and this for decades.
To each one his or her sector has a priority,
and this one's priority is the corporate injustices, because to him this idea appears of utmost importance and is essential.
This right, unjust, which gives power to the owner of companies
and none or very little to employees whose only power is their work,
for this activist, it is essential and he fights against that.
He tries to improve the workers' situation in companies.
But also, so is the case for another activist, who is working hard
on ecological catastrophes
that are becoming more and more threatening. For another, the problem is nuclear energy
and its danger, for another person, it is the GMOs etc.
I don't want to get into more details. What am trying to say, is that I met
hundreds of people with their own specialty
in activism and protests and they embraced, heart and soul, social injusticel - it is the word I use
to group all protests - a social injustice that he fights
and in which he becomes expert and knowledgeable of the mechanics of injustice
and the cunning of those behind it, and is often driven to
consider as an enemy another activist, which surprises me
that he fights someone who is also fighting social injustice that has nothing to do with his,
but is as important. The first example that comes to mind
when I tell you this, is the anti-nuclear activist
who perceives nuclear as an imminent threat
and has made it a priority, and this activist when he is side by side
with an activist fighting financial fascism or
predatory finance, and which is a priority for him,
but he happens to be pro-nuclear because he considers that it is progress,
Well, for now he thinks it is dirty, but in the long run it will be clean
These two activists can hate one another to the extreme,
when from where I am standing, I consider both activists
relatively heroic, alone in their corner, where they spend most of their time,
all their energy, and their fight is worth it on both sides.
Their disagreement deserves a debate, a discussion
And then we will vote, we will have a referendum, and we will see what comes out of it.
It is not worth banning each other when we should be resisting.
So what I want to say, I could elaborate on this, but I am going to summerize
What I would like to say is that all these activists have a common goal
that they are fighting over, what I call, consequences.
The consequences of a cause, which in fact is common.
I think that ALL these social injustices,
but I could be wrong, I am not perfect,
but it appears that all these social injustices
have a common point, a common cause which is none other than our political powerlessness / impotency.
And you are concerned too, like me, I believe, unless you are ...
even if you are from the parliament. I find our common political impotency
to be the common cause.
behind our inability to resist all social injustices,
practically all. And if you would like, I follow a precious method
that I think will serve me all my life.
I discovered this, I find it very helpful.
I found out an advice from a guy named Hippocrates
in Antiquity, he was a doctor and put forward, in a few words
an idea he left us, which is very helpful.
It is very logical, very practical and very pragmatic
Hippocrates left us with these few words: "search,
"search for the root of causes." Then he died and disappeared
but he left us with this "search for the root of causes"
and it is very shrewd, I believe.
We can take one or two examples: We don't cure a disease
by attacking symptoms, everyone understands this I think
We cure a disease by looking for the cause of the disease
and by attacking the cause, we fix the disease.
And when we are faced with several causes, which is often the case,
practically everything is multifactorial, if there are several causes
we don't attack just any cause, we try to locate
the source, it is a different image, we try to go back to the source
to locate the cause of origin, in other words, to detect and
destroy cause "zero" (the root cause) which controls the other causes.
And I integrated this research method
and it is this method that I use. So when I look at all these social injustices,
I don't limit myself to fighting corruption,
I try to find the cause of corruption.
I fight however, the bankers who are bankrupting us.
I try to understand, what gives these bankers
all the power and none to me. Do you understand what I am trying to say?
I don't attack a banker by saying "he is evil and we are good".
Not at all. I don't think along these lines. I try to understand
what is the cause, the principal cause of my total political powerlessness.
I think of course in terms of the greater good, for the city,
for our social society.
A true constitution
When we graduate from law school we are under the impression
that the constitution... is a tool that protects people
but I think we don't know much, most importantly what is bad
is that we are only taught this in law schools.
I think that every citizen should know from a very young age,
people should learn
what they could win or lose from having a good or bad constitution.
Let me explain in a few words: The idea of the constitution is simple ...
it is simple and it is fabulous. It is there to save us.
We need it, this is what we need today.
I will get back to it later, I will come back to the link between this and our problems.
But to say it in two words, to say what we ought to explain to our children
when they are little,
but we should later keep in our minds, between us, so as not to lose sight of its importance.
If I put the citizens on the bottom, the group of people who want to create society,
if there is no written law, no State of law,
we will be hitting each other and will live by brutality.
But to create peace, and this over 2500 years ago,
they decided to submit to law
which would be superior to this society and would prohibit the powerful
from imposing "their law" which in essence was not a law.
The law of the fittest is not a law, it is a perception
To prevent that the most powerful abuse the rest of us,
humanity put in place a law, a written text of rules
which are produced, written by people in power
who are above us. So we consent to putting in place,
we say "to institute" powers, that will have
the important duty of producing the law to which we will consent.
This is very important but at the same time very dangerous
Meaning these powers that we accept to govern us
are at the same time very useful and very dangerous.
Therefore, given this context, thousands of years ago,
the people who were aware of this danger,
because they were not insane,
put in place a set of rules above these powers.
Rules that were superior to these powers in order to protect us.
These rules are called the law of law, the Constitution
The constitution, is law, but it is a higher system
whose charge is to question the powers and to weaken them,
to weaken the powers so as to protect us.
This, any kid could understand. A kid should know this.
An adult also understands this. We should have in our heart
this protective organization and we should defend
this precious ideal, this protective, appeasing thing that is this Constitution.
Beware! A true constitution, not a fake one.
We will see what I call "power thieves" are champions
in word inversion, including the word "Constitution"
They are champions for using the word Constitution when
in fact it is exactly the opposite,
because it is not because you put together a text that you have solved the problem
This text, I repeat, this higher text
shouldn't just organize the powers.
Because powers in place don't need us to get organized
A constitution does not serve to organize the powers.
A constitution is meant to weaken the powers, to make them
protect us, to protect everyone from any abuse of power,
to protect us at all times, rich and poor, young and old,
to protect us from the maximum amount of abuse of power
there is a constitution. Once we understand this
normally, we are ready to understand that a person
that is going to write, the people that are going to write this higher text
to keep in check those who will produce the law,
meaning those of parliament, the judges, the ministries, the presidents,
even those of the media. If the constitution covered the media too,
journalists would fear the Constitution too.
The banks, because financial systems should be covered too
by a modern constitution in which powers would be separated
We may talk about this later. Right now, these powers
produce rules that we fear.
These powers, you understand now, should fear the constitution which is designed to protect us
Do you see how since they are useful and dangerous
It is necessary that they have something to fear.
It is absolutely insane to grant to these people (in power) the role of writing the constitution.
I hope you see that if the people in power write the rules that they should
be following and that they should fear, it won't work.
Is this clear? If you bring it back to basics, it is simple
and very important. And I am surprised
that it is not in public debates more often. But that it is not
in the debates of parliamentarians, ministries, and men in power
this does not surprise me. That it is not discussed by
people in parties... Well I know that there are great people in parties.
I have many friends in political parties, but at the head of each party
there are people that are ... it is like a filter
it seems as though the parties choose amongst us those who lie the best,
who are the most resilient to ill treatments, the biggest traitors, the most...
Well not all of course, I know some are not, however, it seems
that the people at the head of parties are in no way similar to us.
It looks like they went through a filter. So I am not surprised that amongst these people there is no talk of constitution.
But for us and to me, the current context is favorable
to explain this. Nowadays, the abuse of power is in open daylight
We see these abuses on a daily basis. It is impressive when
we have 4, 5 new and considerable abuses.
And always, something that we can no longer formulate
so much we have became used to it, always our political powerlessness / impotency is there.
Stop me if am exaggerating, if I am saying something that
is .. if I am extremist. This "democracy" that they show off
as if "it was the best on earth in terms of politics",
what does it leave me as a fundemental right? The right to designate every five years political masters
that will decide everything for me. I don't votes the laws
so I select people who will vote them for me
and who are my political masters. I elect among them people
I have not been able to choose: These are false choices.
When my choice is dreadful candidate A and terrible candidate B, in this case it is a false choice.
I am not allowed to choose people I consider good around me.
Not at all, freely I cannot do that.
This "democracy" supposedly leaves me only with the possibility,
the right to designate masters, among people I have not chosen
and against whom I cannot do anything.
For five years, I will say it again, I cannot do anything for 5 years.
I can march in the streets if it amuses me, they could care less.
I can't do anything if they betray me,
even if they betray me to the extreme
I cannot do anything. All I can do
is at the end of their mandate, not re-elect the scoundrel that just betrayed me for the past 5 years.
I exaggerate here, I am pushing it, but it is just to make a point.
I am not saying that they are all scoundrels. Although....
No, I am not saying that. But what I am saying is that
even if he is a top quality scoundrel - and there are a few, you know it -
even if he is the finest scoundrel , all I can do
is not re-elect him. The poor guy ! The poor scoundrel.
Because, in fact, it does not matter what will happen to him
because if I don't reelect him, I will elect another one,
the one I refused to elect five years earlier because he betrayed me the five years before that
and I only have this choice. I only have one choice between two larger parties.
When I am not happy with one, I take the other one
and when am not happy with the other one, I retake the one I just rejected.
They are part-time workers. And they have voted some sort of unemployment benefit, you wouldn't believe it
I don't know if you realize this, they voted unemployment benefits
that lasts five years. Which means they continue
to be paid as if we had elected them
when in fact we did not reelect them. They continue to be paid full-time for a half-time job.
Just waiting that the one elected gets sacked ... Right? And they call this "democracy".
The political awakening
At 50 I did not understand very well what a democracy was.
Thus, I accepted, I accepted like you, like everyone,
some sort of an incredible lesson, that they told me since I was a kid.
"Election = democracy". Boy, repeat after me: "Democracy = election",
"Election equals democracy, democracy equals election."
And they repeated this at school,
they repeated this in the newspapers, on TV, in the books
Books that speak of democracy, I have... I don't know,
specifically about democracy, the organization of democracy,
400 or 500 books maybe. Well let's just say out of 400 books
there were 10 that really speak of true democracy.,
that speaks of a democracy that deserves this name, of democracy
"demos kratos", "the power of the people". The other books speak of our actual regime,
the one we should refuse to call "democracy". The regime in which we live
carries a different name. It is called representive government;
We should say the so-called representative government.
But let's call it by its official name.
Back in 1789, 1776, the USA, founders of our regime
set up something totally different from what a democracy should be.
They knew exactly what democracy was, but they didn't want it.
They were prominent citizens. The 99% didn't make the French Revolution happen.
When Sieyès writes: "What is the Third Estate ?"
you know, the Third Estate, during the French Revolution
You had the nobles, the clergymen, and the rest.
The rest was the Third Estate. The Third order.
You could call it nowadays the 99%.
The problem is that Sieyès
in 1789, a great thinker, bishop Sieyès, a great thinker of
the French Revolution, when he wrote "What is the Third Estate ?",
and when he thought of what should come as replacement of the Old Regime,
Sieyès thought about the 1% of the Third Estate. He was thinking of the rich businessmen,
the bankers of the Third Estate. They financed
the wheat wars, the baking flours wars, that starved the people
for over three years before the French Revolution.
This pushed the people, the folk, to rise against their masters that they couldn't stand anymore
to take their place afterwards. The people were manipulated.
That's when Talleyrand, and I must watch my language,
that scoundrel Talleyrand did what he did.
I said I wouldn't leave my main thread, but I'll make this one exception.
I strongly recommend that you
discover the historian Henri Guillemin.
Look on the internet for "Guillemin", or "Guillemin Napoléon"
"Guillemin, the Commune". "Guillemin 1914 - 1918"
You will find televised lectures/shows. The man is dead.
But he left us fabulous treasures.
The man is a diamond. I listened to two lectures on my way here.
Two or three. They are half-hour conferences.
He explains how representative governments were born.
He explains the Third Republic (NT: 1870 - 1940 in France)
The Republic of Businessmen. The Republic for kicks & laughs.
The Republic of "honest men". That meant the wealthy.
The Republic of the "moderate". The Republic of the "Center-Left".
That just meant the bankers, the colonialist bankers
who went to willingly pillage the countries of Africa.
They called it "Center-Left" and called themselves "Democrats".
They called themselves also "Progressive".
All were businessmen and bankers. It had nothing to do with the people.
Or at least the idea you could have of a people's party.
So it's very important. I see many young people, who are 20 years old,
20 years old or 30 it seems, not even. I woke up, I was 50 years old.
I am so angry to not have begun earlier. You need time to discover all this.
You need time. If you start when you're 20 years old, you are lucky.
There are so many things to find out, it's true.
You can only understand the current situation if you study it and you need to work on it a bit.
But it's delicious! History feeds us with so much information.
When you discover how Bonaparte, Napoleon,
was pushed by the private bankers to take power in France,
to assassinate the ideals of the Revolution, to create the so-called bank of "France"
which isn't at all from France, but the bank of bankers
that pushed Napoleon... It sheds some light on what is happening today.
It helps you understand the current situation. It hasn't changed at all.
But it is very important so that you are able to imagine a solution; to correctly understand
the basic situation of the problem at hand. As long as we are being manipulated with words,
and use words but give them their opposite meaning,
you are lost. When you accept giving the words
an opposite definition to what they are, you won't even be able to formulate the solution.
We don't live in a democracy. We voluntarily live [in a lie].
Sieyès knew fully well what he was writing when he made the representative government.
That is: a regime where the people don't get to vote their own laws.
The people are not autonomous. The people don't vote their own laws.
The people are heteronomous. The people submit to laws written by others.
At the bottom of page 11, I have written for you the quote of Sieyès
that lets you understand what kind of regime we live in since day one.
We never lived in a democracy that slowly sank and became different.
From day one, we live in a regime that renounces democracy.
It is very important that we know this
so that afterwards, we can imagine alternatives. What bishop Sieyès said
back in 1789 was: "The citizens who nominated for their
own sake representatives" - so, they nominate themselves -
"[the represented citizens] renounce and must renounce making the law themselves.
They have no particular will to impose.
If they dictated their will, France could not be that representative State.
France would be a democratic State. The people, I repeat,"
- says Sieyès - "in a country that isn't a democracy,
and France can't be one, the people can talk,
can act, only through their representatives."
Democracy and the Random Draw / Common Lot
If, when you discover this book
that I strongly recommend,
- and I've been talking about this book for over a year in conferences -
this book has shaken me, transformed me. I beleive it will transform you.
It is a very important book. This book that I will talk about
doesn't have a very "sexy" title at all.
If you see it in a library without having been told that it is great,
you'll probably just miss it and think:
"That one, maybe another day." The auther is Bernard Manin
and the title is "Principles of representative government."
It is an essential book. It is a book
that talks about election and of random draw / common lot. It is a book that is surprised
that the random draw completly dissapeared
from the political scene. And with that tone, the book tries to
make an honest inventory of the pros and cons of democracy,
of the random draw and of the election. When did we start using the election process?
How does it work? Has it given us satisfaction? Who talked about it
and when did the transformation take place?
And since we have never heard of the random draw,
- well maybe you have heard of the random draw -
but I, during my whole education, including law school,
I never heard of the random draw / common lot.
And when democracy was debated
with the existence of the random draw, it was described as an odd ball
and we passed quickly to another subject. I absolutely didn't see
how central the random draw was to democracy. And we discover it with Bernard Manin
in a very lively, tonic, and passionate litterary way.
And there is a whole bibliography
that will make you discover other books on democracy, the true democracy!
The true one, the one the Athenians had. The one that could be ours
if we wanted it! We need to want it for it to become true.
I will talk more about it. But books like the one by M. H. Hansen,
that describes Athens in detail, and who spent his life working
on all we could know about Athens and all the documents
from far or near on the topic... a great scholar
who wrote many great books on athenian democracy.
Concerning the period of Demosthenes, he compiled it all in one book.
So it's a summary and it's captivating. It is about the life of Athenians
who go to the Assembly in the morning... Well when they go to the Assembly that is.
The Assembly is about 6000 people and 2000 present themselves for the random draw.
And every day, people are randomly drawn.
So I'll explain this in very few words,
and I will let you argue as to why this could be wrong. I know many possible objections.
I am getting used to them now,
but I hope you will find objections that I haven't seen yet.
I actually appreciate that ... I am looking for it. I am not trying to be right.
I am trying to imagine a robust system that could work
and that wouldn't be a utopia. And if you show me that I am wrong,
I will adapt, I will change, I will work on it or on something else.
For now, I am under the impression that I have a hold on something strong.
And I want to see it under fire from your objections.
The Athenians
So Athenians, 2500 years ago, had
a small city-state of 60,000 citizens, give or take,
depending on the period, depending on the plagues and so on. It lasted 200 years.
The Athenians, after 800 years of tyranny and when a reform came along
by one of the prominent citizens - someone of the high society, Solon -
- who started to reform Athens and started to change
the mechanisms of power to protect the social body and core from abuse of power -
the Athenians started to put in place a regime under which
they wrote by themselves the laws and also voted their own laws...
the laws that they obeyed. They would gather
in an assembly, a great assembly, 6000 seats,
and whoever was willing could come. And same as nowadays,
many did not come. And it wasn't always the same who showed up.
You had a daily agenda that was published on the Agora,
and you came to the Assembly if the subjects of the day were of interest to you.
And I'll diffuse the first objection that generally pops up
and that is that the Athenians, the people of Athens, so the citizens
or at least those who were the citizens of Athens weren't all the Athenians in Athens.
You had half of humanity that was set aside:
women back then had no political right. And you also had slaves,
and slaves had no political rights either.
Foreigners also had no political rights either.
Of course, children and animals had no rights either.
What I am getting at is that there are common points
that you still find today: children, animals, the insane people...
or even us, living human beings who have no political rights.
So what I want to say to diffuse that objection
so that it doesn't bother you the whole while because I know
some of you know this and it stops us from moving forward.
I know fully well that they were slave traders and they were male chauvinists,
but I am not interested in that. Personnally, I am neither
a slave trader nor a male chauvinist. What I want to say
is that you shouldn't transpose that system as if it were a model to our present day.
The Athenian regime is of course not what I am pointing out here.
What I am pointing at here is that all the civilizations at the time
- remember 2500 years ago isn't the same as today -
all the civilizations at the time ill treated their women
and had slaves. It was not specific to democracy.
And emocracy can fully well work without those elements.
Or at least, today it could. Maybe back then, it couldn't have worked without it,
because women worked so much that the men could
free their time and take time
for politics. Slaves too freed up time
for men. But today, we would have with the help of oil and machines,
we would have more than enough to free some time in our schedules
to make room for politics, all of us, without the need for slaves.
And we would have women along side us in the assembly.
So as you can see, that objection is not worth the trouble.
Objectively, that objection is worth nil.
I understant that an elected representative, who wants us to stop talking about the random draw
that is going to put him out of a job, is going to tell me:
"But Mr. Chouard, you are defending
a slave trading regime ? - Yes, yes, I know.
- And you wouldn't happen to be a slave driver, by any chance? - No, no, I am no slave trader or driver."
What I observe in Athens, in the small community of Athens,
and of course I am only talking about athenian citizens,
therefore excluding women, [slaves & foreigners], OK
So in that community, you had many poor citizens.
Almost all of them were poor and you had very few rich,
very rich. And this looks oddly like today.
And listen closely: for 200 years, 200 years of randomly drawing people,
- and you will see how random draw garanties this -
for 200 years of randomly drawing people every day, the rich never governed.
Not one day. And the philosophers, Plato, Aristotle,
spent their lives spitting on democracy. To say how wrong democracy was.
Because how dare you imagine a regime
where the poor, the rabble, the poor lead and govern. They govern poorly.
They lie, they learn how to lie. So Plato slandered,
and the word isn't strong enough, Plato invented wrongs
that someone who then studies democracy can easily break.
He can easily undo the lies. Plato should have been
- and he was a noble - should have been a company boss.
One of the city bosses, and bad luck for him, he lived at the time
when democracy was around. So he missed his political career altogether,
because of demcoracy. So he spent his whole life writing how bad
democracy was. You need to know this. Mind you, he said some very interesting things,
about us, our condition. You won't hear me reject entirely the works of Plato.
I invite you just to be aware of Plato's situation when Plato speaks about democracy.
He had a score to settle, a personal score,
and in my eyes it didn't correspond at all with the greater good.
Plato actually respects quite poorly the greater good when he talks about democracy.
So you need to keep it in mind when you read Plato. Aristotle is in the same situation too.
Most philosophers despised democracy.
So Athenians protected themselves from abuse of power.
And this happened after having seen over 800 years that power changed people,
transformed them. People who were good at the start
ended up becoming madly insane and started to serve
personal interests rather than the greater good.
So noticing that it was the case and quite pragmatically - not at all idealisticly -
with their priorities set right, they made something very robust
that could still work very well today. The Athenians put in place
a system of rotating responsibilities. You can actually still find it in our conversations.
I am sure that when you are having a conversation, often you say:
"The problem is that politics is now a question of professionals.
It is always the same people who end up leading us, and there is just not enough renewal in politics."
Often, we say that or hear it, nowadays. Well the Athenians
solved the problem by making an institution where the responsibilities rotate.
You have short mandates, one year maximum,
often six months, even shorter. Even the boss of Athens
was randomly chosen every day. Every single day, the chief of Athens was randomly drawn.
So you had short mandates, non-renewable,
which garanteed to Athenians and others
that you had political amateurism.
The Athenians did not want professionals politicias to run the show.
They did not want it. They absolutely did not want it
to protect themselves against abuse of power.
They said, and they knew, then... or they had as first hypothesis
that at the beginning, you have real political equality.
That is why it is at the center of your schematic. A real political equality.
Athenians knew very well that they weren't equal.
They knew fully well that you had intelligent people
and idiots. They knew you had people with virtue
and dishonest people. They knew you had strong people and weak ones.
They knew that. They knew that there were people capable
of governing a ship and others who weren't capable of it.
That wasn't the question at all. Here, the question is politics.
"Concerning politics," said the Athenians, "there is no necessary skill.
We are all competent." To give strength
to this central principle, of true political equality,
you had to put political amateurism in place. And we are all,
as said Aristotle, in a democracy where the citizens are alternatively
governing and governed. Governing and governed,
at random. The central procedure that made Athens possible
was the rotating responsibilities and so political amateurism
and political equality all held together!
If you take random draw away, it all falls apart.
You loose democracy. The procedure that makes it possible
is the fast rotating responsibilities and political amateurism.
It is the random draw. On the contrary, the election is by definition
- and it isn't even subject to a debate -
the selection of the best one out of us. An election isn't choosing
the worst, this we agree on, and I am not exagerating.
The goal of the election is to choose the best. Whether you achieve this or not,
you are looking for the best one. The best one, "aristos" in Greek.
Aristocracy is the regime of a government led by the best.
So what Aristotle observed 2500 years ago,
was that aristocracies degenerate, degrade over time, always. That was what Aristotle said.
So already 2500 years ago, we saw that an aristocracy never stays for long.
An aristocracy becomes an oligarchy, said Aristotle.
So this is nothing new. So if you will, up to 200 years ago,
until Rousseau, Montesquieu, every one knew,
and this was general knowledge, everyone knew
that the election was aristocratic by nature. And that the procedure of democracy
was the random draw. Everyone knew this.
What I like about democracy is that it is not about finding something
that is perfect. I know fully well that it isn't perfect.
That's not the topic here. I am not looking for a utopia... Something that is perfect.
I am looking for a way out of an awful situation in which people are [trapped].
We are going back to war here. You find the same signs
that were present just before the previous World Wars.
But for the same reasons, with the exact same political impotency of the greater mass of people
who don't want to go to war, and the same political power
of those who have money and who want war.
Listen to Guillemin, you will see the geneses of the wars:
the genesis of the Napoleonic Wars, the genesis of the Commune (NT: period 1871 in France)
and that of the war in 1870, the genesis of the 1914-1918 war,
and the genisis of the Second World War. And every time, those were unecessary wars,
manipulated wars, wars that were only wished by the 1%.
It is very important that you listen to Guillemin.
You will see clearly what is happening to us today.
And you already know it, or at least you already partially know it,
but you will see how strong it is and how strong it can become.
I mean by that that it doesn't only seem clear to you but it becomes powerful.
You tell yourself: "Hang on, we've got to do something about it!"
I won't go further into details... I don't have much time.
But what I still need to explain
is that the random draw scares. It scares us today.
When I talk to you about randomly drawing people, the first reactions are:
"But what on earth is that thing ?! The random draw,
yeah right! You want to put power in the hands of randomly chosen people ?"
No! That's just it. Random draw isn't used for giving power;
it is used to keep power for us, us all, the 99%.
Up to now...and last year still, I was saying "the rich & the poor"
and that was a problem. But it is in effect very simple,
I was thinking about the ultra-rich, and the poor were everyone else.
So they are not really poor, but they are us. And we are having a hard time
imagining that we are the poor ones. We can't identify with that term.
So it wasn't the correct image. And then the rich,
we are all rich compared to someone else.
So that wasn't right. But when I say:
1% the rich, 99% the others, everyone gets it.
And the Protestors / Occupy movement gave us those words,
it is useful, it describes better the fact that it has always been the same problem.
And so, in a democracy, or a democracy that is worthy of the name,
What the Occupy movement / Protestors are looking for today is:
"We want a real democracy". Well, Athenians
had already found exactly what they needed,
what they were looking for. But sadly, you don't find the random draw
present in the Occupy Movement. It is still missing.
They haven't discovered it yet. But listen to
how it was back then, in Athens, for the 99%,
that is all those who want to write the laws.
Well no, not write the laws because we are not all capable of writing them.
Here, in this room, we would already be too many to write laws.
To write a law, you need to build a small group.
But we want to vote for the laws. That is we want to say,
for every single law, not bit by bit, but law by law,
we want to say, if we are autonomous, if we are citizens,
and not simple voters but autonomous citizens,
we want, we the Athenians, we want to vote ourselves our own laws.
So how did it work ? Well we would get toghether in a great assembly
where people would come up. So you had speakers
who would come to the floor of the assembly and say:
"We need this law because of this reason". Then another speaker comes.
When you are 6,000, you don't all talk. The people in the assembly
can ask for permission to speak and go down to the floor and talk.
But there is no debate or discussion. Everyone is silent during the assembly.
You vote. It is outside of the assembly that you will do the talking,
to prepare. But once you are in the assembly,
you vote. You listen to the speakers. You listen to the successive debates.
And so that the system can work, the assembly can't do everything.
The assembly can't prepare a law. The assembly won't prepare them.
The assembly can't carry out the laws either. The assembly is not going to be the police,
or the judges. So the Athenian assembly, the democratic assembly,
it would be neighbourhood assemblies. Here, we're in Montpellier.
You would have multiple neighbourhoods, and in each,
you would have assemblies. But for each assembly, we need representatives.
Our own assembly needs representatives.
And a democracy worthy of the name has representatives,
but they are not masters. They are the servants
that we must constrain so that they remain servants,
So that they never become our masters. And the random draw was there for that.
The random draw is there to give a very small bit of pwoer, and never twice in a row,
and never for long. So the randomly drawn in Athens were,
for example, the Counsel of the 500 that were randomly drawn.
The Counsel of the 500 prepared the laws. They made parlementarian study groups and think tanks.
They didn't vote the laws. The representatives never voted the laws.
So for the random draw, you are afraid of it when, at first,
you think: "We are going to randomly draw people who are going to vote instead of me."
Not at all. A democracy doesn't work that way.
Representatives aren't the ones who are going to vote for the laws.
Do you see what I am getting at ? We will always vote for the laws.
The 99% who want to build a real democracy,
a democracy woth of its name, they will put in place
the random draw because they know they need representatives
to write the laws, or to carry them out, or to be the police.
Policemen were randomly drawn. Judges were randomly drawn.
Short mandates, non-renewable, and at the end, you were accountable for your actions.
There were a serie of control mechanisms added to the random draw, and they were fabulous!
To be randomly drawn didn't mean that you did nothing. You had a collection of responsibilities
and you were in danger. People could loose their life at the end of their mandate, since they were accountable.
I'll grant you that it's a bit brutal, but life was more brutal at the time.
We wouldn't have to be so brutal today, of course.
We could simply punish, without sentencing someone to death.
We could punish instead. But what I want to say is that since you were held accountable,
it was quite strict! What did he do during his mandate? Why did he do it?
And you kept asking questions until you were sure that he had correctly served the greater good.
And if he had correctly served the greater good,
you built an arc of triumph for him. You treated him with the highest honors,
you looked at him with gratitude, and he would make a reputation for himself.
And with the eyes of society on you, and its appreciation,
you didn't need a money reward. Only insane people try their very best for society
only if you reward them with money. Most of us
we work really hard for the greater good, without the need of money rewards.
We need money to live, and that's it. Afterwards,
the simple fact that people are grateful and are happy
with what you have done keeps us going and makes us happy.
For most normal people, that's enough. Of course, you have crazies
who need a million euros a year to actually bother working hard,
but you should throw those in jail. That's absolutely not the general case.
That was just a joke. So the randomly drawn were filtered.
Well, not filtered, they were slightly selected.
In your schematic, what I am going to tell you
is on the left part... the vertical line there...
that was the checks done on randomly drawn people,
because Athenians were afraid, as you are, to randomly draw idiots
or dishonest people. Of course they were afraid! But they put in place a large set of control mechanisms
that made sure they had nothing to be afraid of from those randomly drawn.
So at the start, it is on a voluntary basis.
That was the first filter. So already, those who thought themselves
to be incapable of taking up the responsibilities didn't come forward
to be randomly drawn. So that was your first filter.
Then, you had ostracism that pushed out those
you didn't trust. And Athenians didn't trust most of
those who could speak well. Athenians, who had strong political experience,
and it is very interesting to discover it - you learn so much from it -
yhey built up a political system to protect themselves from the abuse of power.
From demagogues, from corruption. They put in place
many institutions that are absolutly incredible.
So ostracism today has a very negative meaning. But ostracism,
back then, not only was it not negative,
but it was a very important word for Athenian democracy.
It let you put someone aside that you were afraid of.
So since they were looking for agreement, in order to pacify society,
you absolutely had to push aside individuals that could cause hate
or fear, or panic. So for individuals who worried them, Athenians
could, with the help of a procedure call "ostracism"
put those individuals aside. I'll talk about it later
if you are interested, you'll just have to ask. So you had a method to put aside
people that you feared. You also had "docimasy" [Greek].
I keep the word because I like it a lot. There is a certain form of poetry in some greek words,
like "isegoria", the right to speak for all at every moment,
or like docimasy, that sort of test, not of skills,
since I told you earlier that all Athenians believed they were equally skilled in politics.
That was their hypothesis. They knew there weren't equal [in skills]
But the hypothesis was equality in politics, however,
they could understand that there was the issue of aptitude.
For example, an insanely disturbed person, a mad man, you had to have a
mechanism to put him aside. So docimasy served to put mad men aside.
They also had criterias - and we could think of what criterias
we could choose as ours, modern criterias - but they had their criterias
that I find fun. You couldn't be randomly drawn
and pass the docimasy
if you weren't someone who took good care of your parents.
It is curious to see that. You couldn't take care of the greater good
if you weren't even capable of taking care of your own parents.
So this simple assessment should lead us to study the athenian system.
They practiced it for over 200 years.
If it were so bad, if there were so many faults, if there were so many problems,
if it were even suspicious, they would never have lasted 200 years.
200 years, that's a very long time. It's the same length of time as us trying out the election system.
Since 1789 (French Revolution), you have approximately 200 years. A 200-year long trial of elections.
And in Athens, you had a 200-year long trial of random draw.
If it were so wrong, if it had so many objections, without any answers to them,
it would never have lasted 200 years. So have a look, you will see.
If you feel you have an objection, when you dig slightly deeper...
you need to work on it a bit... if you just work a bit on the subject, you'll find out
how passionate it is. If you work, you'll see that the objections
all find a solution. When I weigh the pros & cons,
and this is not an opinion, but facts,
when I look at 200 years of random draw,
and when I see that during 200 years of random draw
it is the citizens in their vast majority, almost exclusively
the 99% that voted their laws and who for over
200 years voted their laws that put forth a society
that knew prosperity, was rich, politically stable. They weren't miserable.
They weren't more miserable then their neighbouring societies.
It wasn't chaos at all. They had their problems, for sure.
Democracy had problems that would be interesting
for us to study to try and avoid them and make the system better.
But over 200 years of practice, the 99%, the poor were in power.
And they didn't squash the rich either. They didn't kill them.
They didn't steal from them. The rich lived a very good life back in the time of Athens!
They lived much more comfortably than the poor.
They had great villas, many slaves,
and lived wealthy lives but they didn't have political power.
We have a hard time imagining it.
We grew up in a regime, since we were children,
where all the societies in the world
have rich people in power and they have everything. And if we are poor,
we don't have power. We have nothing. And there is a synchronisation
to which we have becomed used to.
I want you to become aware that in Athens, for 200 years,
because of random draw, the political power and the economical power
were desynchronised. You did not have the same people who were politically rich
and economically rich. And today, it is the opposite, for 200 years,
the false universal suffrage, in our false democracy,
with false citizens, these elections with their false choices,
for over 200 years [have left us powerless]. Listen to Guillemin, you will
find the details of what I am telling you. For 200 years,
it is always the 1% who have been in power,
voted laws of ultra-rich people for the ultra-rich. It is without a single exception.
And the 99% have never been in power, not even during the Popular Front [1936-1938], not even in 1981 [Women's emancipation].
So the simple assessment that the random draw gives power to the poor,
that democracy, the true democracy, gives power to the 99%
and that representative government gives power to the 1%, the rich
that should normaly stir you. I am not saying adopt it right away.
I know fully well that you will need time to get used to the idea
because it is so shaking, upsetting. You'll need time to shake off the habits.
It's been 50 years that I have been taught "Election equals Democracy",
"Democracy equals Election". That's not true!
The solutions.
So I'll stop talking about athenian democracy until further questions.
So I would like to talk about our concerns,
the problems we face today, and the solutions
that I have come up with because I am interested in your opinion.
Do you think that it could be possible, doable ?
What wouldn't work ? What are your objections?
I am in need of your objections.
Over the past 6 years, I have been living with controversy.
Endlessly, I rub against opposition. Almost every day,
I am in a controversy, people contradict my point
and you move so much faster when people contradict you, oppose you.
We need that. Today, there is a good chance that most of you
won't completly agree, but most often, in an assembly,
we come together because we share more or less the same point of view.
The progress made in such an environment isn't as good.
What is better for moving forward is when we [disagree]
That's the gamble of democracy. In Athens, the general idea of democracy
was to get people together, and most importantly people
we dislike, to bring up conflictive situations. That's what is important.
To make the best possible decision, the Athenians beleived
that we should give everyone a say. That was isegoria.
To give everyone a chance to speak up, the right to speak for all, concerning any subject, at any given moment.
Isegoria... a beautiful word. That right of speech and the setting for conflicts
let them shed light on which were the correct decisions.
What I observe everywhere is that in the Constitution,
the rules that organise our power are not planned at all.
That is, they are anti-constitutions.
The institutions that organise our power are missing.
That is why we are powerless, politically impotent.
Because nothing is programmed to give us any kind of power.
That is a cause. You know, I was telling you
about the tree of social injustices earlier, with all its consequences.
All the branches that are types of political corruption,
abuse of power in companies, ecological catastrophy,
unemployment, low income, and so on. All those social injustices
all the discrimination, the racism... All those social injustices,
to me, they are all consequences of our political powerlessness / impotence to fight against them.
We are many, very many, (and we don't need all),
we are many ready to fight against these injustices.
But we are without power. I propose that we take on
the cause of our powerlessness and get rid of it.
Like someone who is sick isn't going to just take some aspirin
when his head hurts. He is going to try and find out why
he has a headache. So for very serious diseases,
where it isn't just a headache that goes away with aspirine,
and by then, the cause has dissapeared, but for serious diseases,
the doctor is going to have to search for the cause of the disease. The root of the issue.
So that political impotency, where does it come from?
It comes from the Constitution. You see, I go back to the source of things.
I go back to the root. It stems out from the Constitution.
Ah! The Constitution. So how come these Constitutions
are bad Constitutions? So I try to understand this.
But, but, but, but... who writes these Constitutions?
Who wrote them? Who voted them in? It is still we, the people.
It is always the people who vote their Constitution in.
So now we see that it isn't suffisiant to solve the problem,
since the Constitutions, as I told you, program in almost every country,
the powerlessness of the people. So voting for the Constitution doesn't change that.
You musn't just accept a Constitution you are asked to vote on.
That's a scam. That's not where the game is played.
What is important is not who votes for the Constitution.
What is important, is who writes it. So who writes it?
Everyone around the world, no matter the historical period, the question is who wrote the Constitution?
Do you remember what I told you earlier?
You have us, you have the powers who are capable of producing the law,
useful for us but also dangerous, and then you have the institutions that they should be afraid of.
Who writes the institutions that they never fear?
They do! That's my point. And I work hard, and I come here to meet with you,
because it must absolutely become your point as well.
It must become your thesis, our soul focus point.
If I alone fight this, it won't work. But if we are millions,
billions even, we can say: it is not the place or the role of people in power
to right the rules of their power. We must stop having
professionals in politics that find a seat in Constitutional Assemblies
for the following to stop: the simple fact that these political professionals
program the impotency of their people. But it's normal,
they have a personal interest in that. I am not saying they are scoundrels.
I say that, since they are professional politicians,
even virtuous, even very noble, even very generous professionals,
that when they will be writing a Constitution that they should fear,
and that will hinder their interests, in essence,
in that specific moment, they are in a conflict of interest.
Conflict of interest is a concept that is very important to understand.
It is the key. It is the key to all this mess.
It is the source of the catastrophic situation we are in.
I will give you an example of conflict of interest,
and I'll come back to our professional politician writing the Constitution.
Conflict of interest occurs like this: you have a judge, a very good judge,
an honest judge, who worries about the greater good, about justice.
More detailed, more conscientious than him, you won't find. Not an ounce of dishonesty.
A good judge. In his role, in the agenda of cases to do during the day,
comes along his son, or his daughter, either as a victim or accused of a crime.
Everyone on earth understand that this judge,
even a good judge, is incapable of producing justice
for his daughter or his son. Do you understand?
That is called conflict of interest. The conflict of interest
doesn't mean that he is dishonest, not at all,
it doesn't say he is a corrupt scoundrel, not at all!
It just says that for that specific moment, he can not be fair.
So what do we do, for that specific case, accross the world?
It is not even a problem, not even for the judge!
He makes it a point of principle and honor by recusing himself.
You declare him incapable of doing that particular trial.
Why ? Because he would be judge and jury, he would be in a conflict of interest.
So you can't have that. It is very important that you understand that this is wrong.
You understand it? Well I say that our political representatives,
our ministers, our judges, our presidents, our news reporters,
our bankers, all those who hold important power, [are in conflict of interest].
Media and banks, you must also put them in the same bag
as parlementarians, government, judges. It's a whole.
You don't have three powers but you have five powers
that threaten us and that we must weaken and control through a Constitution.
So all these people, including candidates for such positions,
including people who aren't parlementarians yet,
who aren't ministers yet, but who see themselves in the future
as candidates for a party, for power, they are included.
Do you see? So all these people, even the kindest ones,
the virtuous ones, the good ones, the devoted to greater good,
when we are in the constitutional process, when we are writing a Constitution,
when we are writing the text they should fear,
if that Constitution is well written, they are in a radical situation.
It is a strong conflict of interest. They will have a personal interest contrary
to the greater good of us all. We have let them deactivate
a great tool that is the Constitution, that could protect us
efficiently today against bankers, against oligarchs.
We have let the word lose its meaning:
a concept, an essential tool that legally protects us.
We have let the word lose its meaning by letting
the Constitution be written by exactly those who should be fearing it.
The solution is not with those people. If we wait and want them to make things change,
it will never change. That isn't the root cause,
they aren't the cause of the problem.
The root of the issue is the people who let them write the rules.
That's us. We are the lazy ones or the uncultivated.
I know : lazy, uncultivated, afraid, coward.
I am saying it nicely but you see what I mean.
But wait, wait, wait...
If you recuse yourself from writing the Constitution, you shouldn't complain
about your political impotency. It is your fault.
It is our fault. And I beleive that I found the cause. So it gives us hope.
If it is in us, then we can change it!
If it only depended on others, and they are scoundrels who double the stake by being in conflict of interest,
then we'd be stuck! But if it is us, then it's simple finally.
It's not complicated at all! Beleive me when I tell you it isn't complicated.
It is complicated only if we are few. Voilà.
If we are 1,000, 2,000, even if we are 100,000, it won't work.
They'll butcher us. When I say "They", I mean the "people from Versailles".
Listen to Guillemin, he will explain what happened during the Commune.
You will understand who "the people of Versailles" are.
It's awful. They still exist today and they still squash
us! When you look at the Greeks nowadays, just look at them. They are us!
When I look at Palestinians...we are Palestinians!
If we don't do anything, in the long run, it will end up with work camps. We have to wake up.
Internet Revolution
It seems to me that the Internet is a revolution as important as .
the first printing machines. The printing press gave us the power to read.
It gave the people the incredible right to emancipate.
That you have the right to read is good but not sufficient.
Even with the printing press, you can only read
the books that have been written, in general, by the elite,
by oligarchs, by people who are no longer part of the mutlitude.
What the Internet has given us, what the Internet has given to the people,
and by that I mean the people of the earth, is the right to write.
And that is probably [the breakthrough]. We have not yet seen the full consequence of this,
and maybe I am wrong, but I am under the impression
that it is at least as important as the first printing machine.
It will give us the possibility to educate the people
that we need, and to put powers back on top,
above our elite. It will let us put a text on top
that they will fear. And in my eyes, it can change everything.