The Powerful Powerless

Continuous democratic reform is needed to keep the political machinery above the natural gravitation towards self-service. PROUT’s augmentations will go a long way to solve the problems of systemic corruption and abuse of power.

By Trond Overland
25 years ago a small neohumanist primary + KG school in Sweden came up against the local government. The more religiously motivated among the school inspectors had indicated their displeasure with the school’s spiritual practices and outlook. In the end they joined other centrist politicians in playing the democracy card with reference to a brief mentioning in some non-curriculum literature about neohumanism contributing to the creation of a high type of leaders. The authorities concluded by refusing the private school funding on grounds that it was anti-democratic.

The fact that the government had found the school to be anti-democratic is thought-provoking. The philosophy of Neohumanism is closely related to PROUT. Actually, it was PROUT’s basic principles of leadership that troubled the political representatives, namely:

  • PROUT seeks to generate a morally-conscious electorate.
  • It promotes a greater sense of responsibility on the part of both electorate and candidates.
  • It paves the way for a sense of universalism in the political sphere by seeking to remove the constraints of party mechanisms and machinations.
  • The system of social sadvipra boards aims at resolving problems of corruption and power abuse.

A morally-conscious electorate

Modern democracy places increasing pressure on people to follow current issues. In antiquity, when democracy was first introduced, the world was a very different and “slower” place. Democracy meant the rule of a small upper class as opposed to monarchical-dictatorial rule. Today, voting rights are universal, the world and social life is very hectic, which presents us with numerous enlightenment issues:

• Where goes the line between democracy — and “fooolocracy”, “mobocracy” and other “cracies”?
• Should there be a minimum requirement for the right to vote?
• How may voters participate in a better way to evolve democratic processes?
• How may democracy be improved in other ways?

Firstly, while some may say that democracy is in itself an education, PROUT holds that various forms of education are required for democracy to start with. For instance, if the majority in society cares little about morality elected leaders will eventually tend toward to be immoral too. Hence morality is a must for democracy.

Secondly, where illiteracy reigns democracy tends towards the preposterous. This is a real problem in many Asian, African and Latin American countries where democracy sometimes becomes undemocratic and corrupt as the electorate remains largely ignorant. In countries where illiteracy is still a fundamental reality, basic literacy programs are required to make democracy more functional.

Thirdly, in order to take a proper stand, people need to be able to follow the public discourse. Such an ability requires more than simply being able to read. Opportunities and facilities to participate in democratic processes must be integrated and interwoven with everyday life. Elections once every four or five years or sporadic referendums on particular issues will not do.

PROUT suggests that the right to vote should be given to the socially and politically conscious only. A driving license is never issued on the proof of age alone but on proof of ability. Age does not automatically qualify people for such a demanding task as driving a car. If age had been the only prerequisite, society would have put its members at great risk. Similarly, the right to vote should not be accorded on age basis alone.

Age is not a measure of social, political and any other form of intelligence. For instance, many young teenagers know a good deal more about and express a greater interest in political issues than their seniors. Should such youngsters not be allowed to vote and contribute in a positive way to the political processes? And why should their ignorant seniors be allowed to continue to influence society arbitrarily by their own uninformed voting? Let everybody educate themselves at least up to a basic standard so that they may participate more capably in society.

In order to improve the quality of democracy, PROUT suggests a system of voter qualification. In areas where illiteracy is high this requirement would set in motion universal literacy drives. In countries where basic education is already universal, the criteria for voting rights should be determined on an even more progressive basis, such as:

• What defines a democratic person?
• What are the criteria necessary to achieve voter status?

In order to generate sufficient democratic enthusiasm and understanding, the emphasis should be on active participation in a variety of ways. Voter registration programs should acquaint the electorate with plans and programs of various candidates and make sure that individual voters know properly their rights and duties.

Voters should have the right to question elected representatives if concerns arise regarding their implementation of election promises. They have a duty to be well acquainted with the issues at stake as well as the various candidates’ plans, programs, attitudes, etc. Every voter needs to know in detail how to participate in regular non-party democratic processes between elections so that they may at any time choose to initiate or participate in such processes themselves whenever they deem it important.

Elected representatives who fail to deliver on election promises – for instance by acting in very irresponsible ways, or by not being true to his or her published election program – should be properly quizzed. If subsequent court proceedings prove that any representative indeed has deceived the electorate, a by-election would be held where only other candidates may participate. The representative in question will not be allowed to stand as candidate in the following regular election either, and will have to take time-out awaiting the subsequent regular election.

Partyless democracy

In most countries at present political parties horse-trade compromises among themselves resulting in numerous puzzling parliamentary and governmental constellations. The fact is that in such a conglomerate, labyrinthine party system the prime minister and other high-ranking representatives may have little democratic backing throughout the country. Instead they may have risen to power through a weird process of twisted party-political bargaining and not as the result of substantial voter confidence. The same is true in local elections where councils and governments regularly field bizarre leaderships due to the grave imbalances resulting from the capricious party-system.

In order to avoid such undesirable consequences, PROUT advocates a non-party system where candidates are elected on an individual basis instead of being tied down by group loyalties. Such independent representation would allow for a vibrant political environment where movements will form and dissolve largely on issue-consensus and not be controlled by party machinations. There will be no allegiance to a group or party but only to the welfare of everybody.

The elimination of the party structure is seen as non-democratic and undesirable by those who want to continue to make a living inside the party machines. However, their expressed self-interest cannot hide the fact that democracy at present requires radical reform. Political parties grew out of the parliamentary (“talking”) sessions at European royal courts where various interest groups – farmers, merchants, clergy, etc. – gathered in front of the monarch to promote their respective interests and causes. A revolution of the archaic institution of the party-based parliament is long overdue. We should liberate our political life from the fundamentally divisive party structure and get on with evolving a universal political paradigm that will implement the far-reaching social visions of the 21st Century.

Social boards: Little brother watching Big Brother

Misconceptions regarding PROUT’s socio-political system are easily removed by a proper understanding of the role and functioning of its social boards. Social boards at every level of government will monitor what their elected counterparts are doing. Thus social boards will run parallel to the regularly elected political institutions. For example, where there is an elected village council there will be a parallel social board monitoring that council, etc. In this way social boards will be established at every level from the village to the global level. Their members will be elected by simple democratic processes outside of the regular political elections.

The members of social boards will have no direct political power. They will have no direct influence on the legislative, judiciary, executive, and audit functions. Their means of initiative and correction will be their close communication with general society which will enable them to communicate their findings to both the representatives in power and their electorate.

Criteria for membership of social boards will include:

• Unquestionable moral reputation
• Genuine social service track record
• Public respect
• Great personal values
• Professional know-how relevant to the job at hand

PROUT suggests that the main governmental powers – legislative, judicial, executive, financial, and audit – should remain vested with politically elected representatives and their governments. On the other hand, social, moral and spiritual authority should also be institutionalized in the form of social boards and the main job of these boards is to monitor the politically elected power structure and continuously communicate their findings in order to trigger the necessary extra-systemic dynamics without delay.

This new and enhanced political dimension of PROUT may be termed as super-democratic. It generates or reinforces society’s political strength by exercising the democratic muscle power in new, inventive ways. In this way PROUT introduces a mechanism for reducing the fundamental factors of corruption, namely the concentration of power in the hands of a few. It offers the people means for continuous dialogue with its elected representatives beyond the reach of commercial media.

The genius of the social boards system is that it accords the ultimate political power to those who have no means to exercise such power. Those in power stand to be questioned and corrected by the people represented by the social boards. It may also happen that dominant groups and governments may be toppled in such processes.

A question thus arises: Who would best qualify to join the ranks of those “powerful powerless” and sit on social boards? In his article The Political System of PROUT, Dr. Ravi Batra offers:

“In every country, whether democratic or authoritarian, the ruling bodies are usually composed of people belonging to the same class. Hence they fail to serve properly as checks and balances. Separation of powers is not enough; there has to be another powerful institution guaranteed by the constitution, an institution whose members stand above all mean and narrow tendencies; which belongs to all classes, and whose word prevails over that of others.”

According to PROUT, commitment to social welfare through selfless service and sacrifice is the basic requirement for membership of social boards. Such expression of lofty human values is how one may gain the respect and confidence of others. Throughout history many great souls have sacrificed their personal comfort and prestige in order to pave the way for the upliftment and progress of humanity. Ordinary people keep such great personalities in high esteem and close to their hearts. PROUT therefore opens up for a system where persons of particularly high social standing, spiritual vision and genuine love for humanity can make a difference without joining the regular political system so that the wielders of direct political power will not fall victims to that power.

In his article Society and State, Ac. Krtashivananda stresses the need for emphasizing society vis-á -vis the state machinery:

“The creation of social institutions on the world level with organs on the lower levels can eliminate threats from political and economic oligarchies and religious fanatics. Members of the social institutions should be established in the spirit of universalism. Sarkar explained that to be established in cardinal moral principles is essential for the qualitative transformation of the personality. He frequently used the term sadvipra in this regard. This is the only way to create social unity. Value-oriented intellectuals and spiritually free persons, who have moral integrity and are not motivated by self-interest, are the best persons to organize themselves to form the social structure.”

PROUT seeks to pave the way for a value-oriented society that may allow people to realize their true potential. Qualified conscious democratic participation, enlightened leadership, and social boards parallel to the political power elite are among PROUT’s political inventions that will aid society in reaching its goal of a corruption-free world with real progress for all. Abuses of power will be greatly reduced under the watchful eyes of PROUT’s “powerless powerful”.

Copyright The author 2011

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