The Question

Are you interested in a movement to create a global direct democracy based on the principles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Earth Charter?


The most emphatically positive answer I received for a long time was years ago from Mary Beth Tinker when she spoke at an auditorium in Webster Groves about the part she played in a freedom of speech case that went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States. Her answer was, “Yes. Yes. Yes.”


That was a rare, and unique answer. You really don’t hear much about the subject of this question; not from Noam Chomsky, or from Bernie Sanders, or from Ralph Nader. You don’t hear it talked about on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! show, or on the Jimmy Dore show on the Internet.


There is no such thing as a movement that consists of just one person, or close to that number. It's stalled, not moving.


On Tuesday, September 18, 2018, I was riding my bicycle back to my apartment, and while I was on the 3800 block of Pennsylvania in south St. Louis, I heard two gunshots. I heard something else that I had never heard before, and hope I never hear again. It sounded like, “Phhttt,” and I am pretty sure that one of the bullets had come close enough to me that I could hear it.


What the fucking hell? Oh, excuse me. Did I offend someone? We’ve got gunshots, and unprecedented climate catastrophes, and poverty, racism, and militarism, and a demagogue, fascist in the White House. It’s not just him. It’s the hierarchical structure of power that allows and enables anyone like him to do the things that he’s doing. Have we decided yet to move outside business-as-usual in our daily lives?


How we say things is important. Let me try again, and correct myself. What the fucking fuck?


There is no normal anymore. We are very close to tipping points on a number of curves. The most impactful curve for the near (one year) to mid-term (two to five year) future, and on which we are now ascending at an accelerating rate, might be machine intelligence emerging in our personal devices and in the Internet cloud. Will it become a tool for liberation, or for repression?


At this moment, there may still be only limited things we can do to create a movement for global direct democracy, or something else that helps flatten the structure of power. At the very least, though, we can spend some time thinking about it, and talking with other people about it.


It would be great to transition from blank looks, or expressions of pity for being out of touch with reality, to it being a common topic of conversation, with a general sense of commonality about it.


In closing, this article is in memory of Joe DeLassus, my closest friend for the last thirty years, who died on Saturday, September 15, 2018. Joe was as decent a person as I have ever known. He had a true sense of Justice, and tried to act it in the world.


There were times when Joe and I argued. Who better to argue with than a friend? He thought we could work within the Democratic Party, or maybe progressives should try to start a third political party. Our friendship was more powerful than any disagreement we ever had.


John Kintree

September 21, 2018


The next article in this series is Elizabeth Cady Stanton.