Northern Dragon

… life in the twilight years of modern-day democracy …

Thwart Democracy at your peril

A powerful post about democracy – and how it is undermined and weakened by the very people who are supposed to uphold it.
Never mind whether you are for or against Brexit; the whole question of democracy itself is up for grabs here…

Categories: Reflection

13 replies

  1. That is scary but in essence, most likely true. I think most of us have a potential dark side within us, it is how much we keep it under control by our values and morals.

    Liked by 1 person

    • We do, yes. And yes, I have read reports like this before, concerning journalism. In fact, just today I happened upon an interesting read about how two US news channels reported a totally differing version of what happened – at the same town hall.
      And… just as a kicker: there is a video too, so you have proof of what actually went on:

      The DailyKos website is interesting to follow, if you are into US politics. It is left-leaning, so be aware of that. But despite the Internet tendency to make news/debate-sites into echo-chambers, it seems reasonably above-board in its reporting.

      I don’t generally expect politicians to keep their dark side in check; I do get disappointed every time I find a journalist who doesn’t…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Don’t get me started on journalism! You would be very disappointed in ours. The imbalance of reporting in the recent election was unconscionable. The Murdoch press have far too much control of media in this country. It is dangerous. As their favoured side is now in power for three years, I feel pessimistic about anything changing in the short term.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I used to think that the Internet would “level the field,” so to say, and that the free flow of information and open debates would enable a better, more informed democracy…
          I was mistaken.
          Instead, we get information overflow, fake news, and echo chambers. Sifting through the garbage and finding nuggets of reasonably objective news is getting more and more difficult.
          And thus: what is going to happen with our way of government, when (not if) our news media is overwhelmingly controlled by a specific, political point of view?

          Liked by 1 person

          • I fear that day. I hold a candle that independent news will see a resurgence, but the outlook has to be pessimistic. If only it were not all syndicated. Perhaps when Rupert passes, surely it must happen sooner rather than later, a flicker of hope will be lit? Or am I being too naive? Because China is becoming very interested in all sorts of media.

            Liked by 1 person

            • We are anticipating a number of my future posts here, but no matter. 😉

              Yes, Forestwood, independent news may see a resurgence; the signs are all around us: the consumer-activism, the grassroot movements – both green and political, the backlash against Facebook, the gilets-jaunes (yellow vests) protests in France … I may agree or disagree with some of them, but there is no doubting that they hold real power.

              As recently as today I even saw a notice that Disney is warning Georgia that the company may pull its production out of Georgia entirely, if the state proceeds with its anti-abortion law. I have a rather intimate knowledge of how large corporations work and think, and there is no doubt that message is a direct consequence of how they perceive the shifts in their main consumer groups.
              So yes, the future may not be as dark as it looks…

              Still, things are never clear-cut when looking into the crystal bowl. And I am deeply concerned that despite those trends and movements, we are inexorably heading for the twilight and the long night beyond. Mainly, because I see nothing which will actually counteract the growing concentration of power and resources on fewer and fewer hands – something, which I regard as a deadly poison within our society. A consequence of that – as I will argue in more detail later on – is that surveillance will continue to get more and more prevalent and intrusive in our lives… And hand in hand with surveillance comes control…

              China? Yes, that is one, very interesting player. You know, I guess, that they control most of the rare earths manufacturing in the world today? And that they are investing heavily in all kinds of projects all over the world? They hold stakes in more than a dozen European ports, and have major interests in Africa, the Middle-East, and the US…
              I regard it as a given fact, not even a hypothesis, that they are actively digging at the weak underbelly of capitalism in this way. And doing so in a most masterful way. I have great respect (not liking, but respect) for them.

              Are they dangerous? Undoubtedly. Can we do something about it? Very difficult to say. Should we do something? Well… I am not actually sure: it would depend upon the actual consequences of what they are doing, and those are murky at best…


              • It is not entirely unrealistic to think that even our conversations here are not being monitored, but I suspect that is still on a paranoid level. I applaud Disney for taking a stand on what I see as a retrograde step. But interesting that they are vocal about it. I think you might be right. It must be seen to affect their profits in some way, as I cannot see large corporations being especially altruistic.
                China has always done what is best for China. It doesn’t work any other way for them. And their psyche is less about the individual when compared to the west. I can’t say I blame them for securing their geo-political interests, buffer zones in the South china sea, securing bases in Africa for resources and potentially bases for the military. I can imagine this makes the West and America, particularly nervous? China doesn’t forget the humiliation of the imperialist days readily and wants to secure its future. The Chines are also buying up loads of farms here. (Yes we give away land to foreigners!!) Our food reserves are probably only 2-3 weeks as much is imported now. Fuel reserves are at best 4 weeks. How vulnerable does that make us as a nation?

                Liked by 1 person

                • It is pretty much a fact of life that anything you do you on the Internet is monitored. It is not paranoia; it’s simple realism. However, monitoring today does not mean that someone is actively staring at a computer screen, parsing through our conversations and jotting down notes about it. Rather, it consists of automated computer programs scanning communications for patterns and keywords. Humans are only notified, if the algorithms finds something which looks important enough.
                  I very much expect your son will say the same, if you ask him. 😉

                  Can we avoid it?
                  Yes, by encrypting our communication. To the extent that the encryption is efficient, and there are no backdoors in it, it will prevent anyone else from reading it. Both are large “if’s” however.

                  Should we avoid it?
                  Interesting question. To the extent that the snooping is actually a significant aid in regular police work, I am all in favour. To the extent that snooping can be used to discredit political enemies (a path which Trump is actively investigating, so yes – it is a real risk), I am very much in disfavour.
                  On the balance, I think the general idea that snooping is illegal, unless and until the police has an actual warrant, is good enough.

                  China’s influence – it’s a two-way street. You/we depend upon them – and they, to some not-insignificant degree, depend upon you/us. They probably have the longer end of the stick, but it is not a clear-cut picture, and I very much doubt that it is in their interest to exert their influence. However, it is something we should be aware of, on a national level, and counteract. Trump is going about it in all the wrong ways; the EU, I believe, is more rational: they have much the same problems with Russia as it sounds like you have with the Chinese…

                  Take care, Forestwood 😉


                  • Thank you, Northern Dragon.
                    Interesting points. I know my son would agree with you! He is very diligent with out security, and encryption. Our wi-fi password would NEVER be cracked by conventional means, or unconventional either, I suspect!
                    Agree with the political snooping – gosh what is the world coming to. Politics gets dirtier and more and more desperate and why? Are they sore losers? Or so power hungry it is win at all costs? What is the existential reason for this, given we live in relative prosperity? Are they contemplating a future that is so bleak because of potential ramifications of climate change, or competition for resources? I have not read too much about Russia’s plans, covert or overt. But I do know that the Swedes are not happy with them. Same reasons as the Chinese here. Rich Oligarchs buying up Swedish property. Why are Aussies and Swedes permitting this, I wonder?

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Well, Forestwood, everyone wants more money – “money makes the world go round,” as they say (I notice you collect traditional proverbs and sayings 😉 ). But it is actually just one of a trifecta of glittering attractions: money, sex, and… power.

                      Another proverb: Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

                      Politics has always been the worst of games throughout all of human history. Power… is a dark attraction. And while most of us ignore it, more or less, some get so close to the flame that it draws them in – and consumes them. Moths to the flame…

                      When you notice that “politics is getting dirtier,” then I am pretty sure that what you actually see is a breakdown in the barriers of common decency. The rules and traditions of old – the way people were expected to behave – are being disregarded as “oldfashioned” and “outdated.” Ignored and broken. And when people see that discarding those rules hold no penalty, then why should they stop doing that? Indeed, they will have a sizeable advantage, compared with opponents who still obey the rules. And politics – power – is all about advantages… and destroying your enemies.

                      When the conventional barriers of society break; when traditions are disregarded and decency seen as weak; then we move ever closer to a time when might becomes right, and power is the only actual law in town…

                      We are not there, yet. We may not get there, or it may take a long time. But we are moving in that direction…

                      The twilight is coming…

                      At a guess, I would say the hunger for power – the lure of it – builds upon two of the most basic and most direct of human instincts: survival and procreation. Which also tells you why that attraction is so infernally powerful, once you get a whiff of it.

                      Be sure, all of the major powers are eyeing the future. They gaze into the crystal ball and look at the projections, and what they see is – scarcity, scarcity, scarcity. The growth of the human population on Earth is not abating. The need for more and more resources is – absolutely certainty – going to rise and rise for at least the next 2 generations: not only are we still increasing the human population on the globe, but we are even increasing the living standards of all of those people at the same time.
                      Think – China is still, overall, far beyond the living standards of the West, for most of their population. What is going to happen when – not if, but when – those people are getting to the same standards?
                      That is the actual reason why the Chinese are extending their reach – they want first dibs at those resources.
                      And it is the game which Putin, over in Moscow, banks all of his new kingdom on: his country is very rich in resources as well, and whoever owns resources is going to make a killing in the decades to come.
                      Perestrojka almost destroyed Russia, yes. And an estimated 50-60% of their total economy is probably “black” these years. But the key word here is: almost.
                      The core survived, and underestimating the new Russia under Putin would be a fatal mistake.

                      Why do we allow it?
                      In the short run, it does not harm to have rich oligarchs buy up swathes of land. And most people do not look at anything else than the short run…

                      There is a major gamechanger lurking in the corner, though. All of this – both China’s ventures and Russia’s hopes – build upon scarcity.
                      But scarcity is only a factor as long as we are limited to the Earth.
                      What happens if we get to the asteroid belt and can begin mining that?
                      Well… resource prices are going to plummet, for sure.
                      Will we get there? Within 20 years, maybe, but doubtful.
                      Within 40 years: I would be willing to bet a small fortune on that.
                      Now, 40 years is a long time – for a democracy. But it is less than a lifetime, for an autocracy…

                      Democracies really suck at long-range planning.
                      But both Russia and China display all the hallmarks of autocracies.

                      PS: the thread here – and your interesting questions! – looks more and more like a dress rehearsal for (a number of) posts to come. 🙂

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • “And when people see that discarding those rules hold no penalty, then why should they stop doing that?” They are already pushing boundaries here and securing their power. Today there was discussion about civil rights, how it is only implied and not enshrined in our constititution, as the federal police seized documents and USB drives of journalists in our public broadcaster relating to information from whistleblowers about leaks from government sources!
                      The government most likely initiated it; we are not fools who might believe their line that “the police are just doing their job. ” – These are dangerous waters, Northern Dragon when perceived dissent is refuted and ridiculed and opposition thought criminalised.
                      You are correct about democracies and business – planning and looking for short term solutions and benefits. It is very frustrating. Autocracies have some small advantage in that regard. Is it really possible to reach the asteroid belt in 40 years?

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • 40 years may even be an understatement; there is maybe a dozen large consortiums currently – in addition to state-sponsored research – whose asserted goal is to reach the asteroids and earn a fortune…
                      I still hold that 20 years is overly optimistic though. 😉

                      The problem with whistleblowers is that they call the alarm on the same system which is supposed to protect them. And human-built systems have the same innate behaviour as the humans which built them – they tend to aggressively defend themselves when threatened…

                      Whistleblowers are a great idea, somewhat akin the ombudsman invented in Scandinavia, but it really requires amazing self-control on behalf of government, when it calls the whistle on them. We have seen that again and again – Snowden and the NSA is a prime example.

                      The Ombudsman institution works fairly well – in Scandinavia. I am not sure how well it functions elsewhere. But whistleblowing is even more difficult to bring to work, because it is far less institutionalised – dealing with people who do things of their own accord, rather than being appointed to the position.

                      All of which does not in the least excuse the behaviour of the Australian government. I am just trying to understand it…


                    • We have a range of state and national ombudsmen here. Mostly effective and they do carry a reasonably large stick in terms of being able to embarrass government agencies, but I am unsure how much legal power they actually have. Goverment must respond to them but probably don’t have to do anything about the problem if they don’t want to. It is a free service:-
                      ” The Ombudsman Act provides special powers to support our investigations, including powers to:

                      – make preliminary inquiries to decide whether a complaint should be investigated.
                      – investigate informally and formally, using coercive powers.”

                      I will have to research their real coercive powers a bit more. We do also have whistleblower legislation in this state. An Indian Doctor operated here without a license for some years and several patients died. The nurses that attempted to blow the whistle were vilified for a long time by authorities. so after the fraud was uncovered and the Doctor jailed, whistleblower protective legislation was introduced. It is a state law so not applicable federally. Handling Whistleblowers are a can of worms for governments when we think of the likes of Julian Assange. However they cannot be dismissed out of hand. That is why the treatment of the Abc journalists is so worrying. The AFP (police) hid under the veil of a ‘security threat,’ which appears to override any norm and gave them extra powers. (Thanks to global terrorism, Bali bomb attacks and the Lindt cafe seige in Sydney for instigating those legal changes) Sounds a lot like a tactic Naziis used to gain control.

                      Liked by 1 person

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