We Voted out a Tyrant to Save our Fragile Democracy: Now What?

Embodying Balance in our Relations by Proliferating Everyday Democratic Practices

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Southern Oregon gun show at Josephine County Fairgrounds, 2017 :: photo credit: @dr.cbg

Authoritarianism is a Power Imbalance

Authoritarianism is, at bottom, a severely imbalanced power relation where one (person or state) steals power from another (person or state) and hoards it. Authoritarian practices are currently proliferating in the United States, between individuals and at the state level. They were most obvious currently at the state level, and we saw the practices employed by those in the highest government offices using state resources.

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Medford, OR :: photo credit: @dr.cbg

The power relations that founded our institutions, our laws, our systems and processes, and “the people” could not have been more severely imbalanced.

American racism is a form of authoritarianism. So is classism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, and speciesism. Each has as its core feature an imbalanced power relation. Each imbalanced relation functions in (racist, classist, sexist, heterosexist, ableist, and speciesist) practices that are entrenched in systems and processes and also present relationally between individual human beings.

power is stolen and hoarded by those few who claim authority, forcing those with less or very little power to adapt to that power scarcity and comply or face punishment in some form, the threat of which is directly expressed or implied.

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Cave Junction, OR :: photo credit: @dr.cbg
  • Bullying (repetitive aggression in the form of personal attacks and exclusion)
  • Name-calling (intentional or mindless use of language to reject, condemn, and demean)
  • Weaponized fear (telling unfounded or exaggerated stories of danger meant to scare into control)
  • Willful ignorance (intentional exclusion of commonly accepted or new information)
  • Calling the cops (personal appropriation of state power)
  • Asking to speak with the manager (personal appropriation of professional power)
  • Exclusion (intentional lack of eye contact, acknowledgement, and response)
  • Cynicism (intentional disparagement of optimism, hope, and altruism)
  • Lack of transparency (intentional vagueness and informality to hide intent and discourage informed response)
  • Unfounded doubt (intentionally ignoring commonly accepted credentials and qualifications)
  • Stoicism (intentional withholding of emotion, imagination, and creativity)
  • Passive aggression (intentionally offering inaccurate relational information)
  • Trivialization (downplaying feelings as being too sensitive or events as unimportant)
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Southern Oregon gun show, Josephine county Fairgrounds, 2017 :: photo credit: @dr.cbg

Democracy Functions in Power-Sharing Practices

Power is shared at a state level through democratic processes and systems. Relational practices that are open, transparent, and accurate share power and are the enabling conditions that support healthy democratic systems and processes. Relational power-sharing supports everyone’s ability to generate and maintain their forward momentum and to exercise their agency (which is power aimed at a chosen goal).

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Southern Oregon gun show, Josephine county fairgrounds, 2017 :: photo credit: @dr.cbg
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What It All Means

We need to reframe. The problem of American authoritarianism has been framed in election terms: everyone who cared needed to vote out the tyrant at the top. Job done.

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State of Jefferson ads at Southern Oregon gun show, Josephine county fairgrounds, 2017 :: photo credit: @dr.cbg

Democracy cannot be imposed. It cannot be elected. It cannot be bought. It cannot be attained through prayer. It must be lived in bodies, in relations, in all of us. Every single day.

SF Bay Area critical researcher, creative, & cultural worker. Content developer for The Relational Democracy Project relationaldemocracy@gmail.com IG @dr.cbg

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