While we may consider democracy the best of all known governance systems, it does not mean that we cannot invent something better.
Our democratically elected governments have not only failed to ensure health of people and planet, they are systematically damaging it beyond repair. How is it that this widely acclaimed form of governance, bringer of all good things, has failed so miserably in advancing us towards equality, justice and freedom?
There are a number of phenomena that have contributed to the demise of democracy as it exists today and to the necessity to radically revise and reinvent governance. While democracy claims to encourage wide representation and citizen involvement in governance, the opposite is becoming true. We are discovering that democratic governments are in fact serving an increasingly narrow population group and that that small group is growing stronger while 98% are increasingly enslaved by democratically crafted laws.
Democracy has become almost synonymous with the ideology of free market capitalism, and the two have become inseparable in manipulating global decisions that affect the planet and all its inhabitants. Small monied groups pulling government strings are making that money at the expense of enormous suffering to people and animals and the destruction of the planet. Many of those in power are invested more in hiding their actions from the public than in engaging the public in real ways as active partners in governance. And this is all legal according to a legislative system that is determined and manipulated by those same monied groups!
The democratic system of voting for single representative once every few years, with limited perspectives and vested interests on the basis of narrow platforms, false promises and sectorial interests, and who gain power on a small majority win creates a very false illusion of real citizen representation in government.
We are led to believe that our main role as democratic citizens lies in the act of voting once every couple of years for a representative, and then spending the next few years having heated media driven debates while getting on with one’s own lives regardless. This seductive notion of the vote being the principle route to influence government keeps many of us happily oblivious to and lazy about what is happening around us. When we awaken a couple of years later to the corruption of the recent government we voted for - we turn to the next messiah of the hour who convincingly promises to single-handedly fix all the pain. And so we go on and on with the noose getting tighter around the necks of the hard working citizens whose taxes pay for extravagance of the elites, wars and international soccer tournaments while the ordinary citizens are forced to deal with ever more drastic austerity measures.
Feudal type hierarchies and entitlements between different groups are embedded in democracy as we know it today. We have merely shifted the 'whos who' in the elite groups we revere. Media idolizes the wealthy, no matter how ill gotten their stash may be. Corporate indoctrination for the ‘have-nots’ to envy and desire what the ‘haves’ have is regarded as a legitimate strategy to get people to buy more and more - no matter the cost to mind, body, soul, community and planet. The capitalist concepts of privilege, ownership, unmitigated growth and depletion of resources go directly against basic life intelligence of healthy eco-systems.
Democracies with all their aura of inclusiveness and collective accountability have actually spawned divided and divisive societies deeply at odds with each other. This is partly because democracy encourages the idea that different sectors of society must look after their own interest at the expense of other sectors.
With slogan and promise based politics steeped in artificial dichotomies, vested interests and tribal affiliations, democracies tend to split countries down the middle into right and left, or fragment them into partisan groups competing amongst each other for resources. The idea of sectors in conflict with each other and with the planet over scarce resources may be good for the democratic business but it goes against basic life wisdom.
The way we have abused democracy has created a culture of winners and losers on narrow margins that fragment the moral, emotional, intellectual and physical fabric of society as a whole. The dumbing down of political campaigns to the level of glitz, favors and slogans, creates a culture of sports team loyalties rather than one that works with integrity and nuance to address real life issues with full attention.
It is only fragmented societies with limited understandings of healthy eco-system behavior that insist on allegiance to one part of the eco-system at the expense of others. The notion of loyalties and allegiances to a part of the whole at the expense of other parts is about as absurd as a human being swearing allegiance to the left arm rather than the right arm. Split allegiances emerge from a worldview of loyalty and not one of love. They result from a human-centered framework of fragmentation and privilege, rather than from an ecological framework that recognizes the inter-dependence, connectivity and complementarity of living systems.
Our democratic system has become a breeding ground for legitimized lies that have generated entire societies struggling with fundamentals of open, honest and kind communication. From false political promises and corrupt deals to economies driven by legalized false advertising, honesty has almost disappeared from our collective competencies or expectations. We are dealing with the violence and insanity that results from the impact of the ruthless onslaught of "legal" false messaging on entire cultures under the guise of freedom of expression and freedom of choice.
Another serious limitation of the so called "inclusive democratic representation" lies in the limited range of perspectives and skills we witness in most democratic governments. Governing systems are comprised mainly of politicians, lawyers and financial experts with little direct expertise in system health, working the land or cultivating healthy community. Politicians are for the most part steeped in technocratic discourse of debate, representing partisan interests and disconnected from principles of life.
The technocratic prism leaves little space for accessing the range of human experience and skill essential for creative, systemic solutions. It would be very different if our government were comprised of people from a broad range of disciplines including artists, farmers, philosophers, scientists, healers and system thinkers that are chosen on the basis of their dedication to the planet and all its inhabitants.
The sophistication of the legal system under democratic governance has become another tool to exclude citizens from real participation in government. Legal jargon inaccessible to the lay person has become the primary vehicle for entrenching injustice and criminalizing citizens who are fighting for integrity, truth, transparency and real justice.
An evolved form of eco-system governance needs to expand the notion of representation and participation of the governed in government. It needs to learn about what it means to function as part of an interdependent ecological system and what we can glean from this for healthy governance of a healthy environment on a healthy planet.
An ecological system of governance is based on cultivating integrity of body, soul, community and planet. First and foremost ecological governance recognizes that its sole purpose is the stewardship of local and global health and vitality that puts the planet and all its inhabitants first. Anything else - any myopic perspective, privilege or falsehood, small or big cannot be tolerated as it undermines the integrity of the entire planetary eco-system. In healthy eco-systems all parts work together in service of all other complementary parts of the whole.
Ecological governance transcends the human centered democratic idea that all peoples need to be represented in government. It recognizes that not only humans but all parts of our eco-system need to be represented for leaders to be able to attend wisely to the health of the entire interdependent system. It ensures that the non-human parts are represented by wise human voices that can accurately express the needs and potentials of all parts of the eco-system.
Ecological governance encourages ongoing healthy citizen engagement, by educating towards how health and vitality in interdependent systems are cultivated. Moving beyond the artificial notion that competition is essential to success, such governance learns and cultivates harmony in diversity. This means that children from a young age are not only encouraged to develop their unique gifts, but are also shown that these gifts do not only belong to them. A persons gifts are seen as nature’s offering not only to the individual but through the individual they also belong to and nourish the environment. Healthy community is based not on competition, but on complementarity and mutual nourishment of each of our unique gifts without privilege or power over others.
An ecological governance system is inspired by vital eco-systems in nature and seeks to apply these vital principles to complex human systems living in harmony with their environment. It addresses not only the technical legal dimensions of governance, but also the impact of the often less than conscious psychological dynamics that are impacting the health of the system as a whole. It integrates wisdom from the mind-body-planet disciplines that are evolving mainly outside of mainstream instititutions. There exist a range of systemic and integrative disciplines that have useful paradigms and practices designed to create healthy physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual and environmental health in the widest possible terms.
Healing local and global governance in a way that puts the planet and all inhabitants first requires a massive reeducation program for children and adults alike. It requires alerting people to our fundamental interdependence with each other, other species, the planet and the solar system. It means educating that given the scientific realization that we are inter-dependent with all of creation, we can no longer afford to live at war with each other and the planet. Sadly our moral compass did not lead us to the same conclusion. Perhaps reeducation with scientific endorsement will help. Such a re-education program has already begun on a grass roots level and is spreading in different ways on the internet.
The efforts of citizens across the globe to unite according to the simple principle of putting the planet and all its inhabitants first is contending with sophisticated strategies to ensure that we continue to construct a “selfie” culture oblivious of the distressing reality for animals, people and planet that we are co-creating with our lifestyle and consumer habits.
The movement towards the end of democracy as we know it and its evolution to eco-system stewardship is already happening. One of the first steps is to spread the seemingly obvious notion that the sole legitimate purpose of government is to responsibly steward and cultivate the health and vitality of the environment it governs by putting the planet and all its inhabitants first. Anything else is a colossal betrayal of the mandate given to leaders and must be dealt with as such.