The Guardian SEPTEMBER 27, 2007 - by Brian Eno & others


Why democracy? Answers from Brian Eno, Camila Batmanghelidjh and Peter Tatchell.

Brian Eno: Nobody. It's much too complicated for that. There are six billion interested parties competing for slices of the control cake (and that's only the humans), but the world as a whole is such a complex organism that to ask who rules it is like saying "which cell rules the body?", or "which animal rules the jungle?". It's an ecology, stupid.

Of course, power is moving all the time. The nation-state, for example, is having an increasingly hard time deciding what it's for, since many of the problems with which it traditionally dealt are no longer resolvable at national level. The most important big issues are out of the hands of national governments and will increasingly be dealt with at the global level: trade and business, climate change, the use of the sea and other natural resources, technological standardisation, security and cross-border crime. The EU is an example of a response to this: the governments within it cede power to the union because it is calculated to be in everyone's best interests, on average, to coordinate at a transnational level.

Bettany Hughes: Large corporations and techno-bureaucrats. When modern democracies were founded "the people" were protected against massive concentrations of power. Today the stretch of the new multinationals and their mediators is unparalleled.

But at source the world is ruled by attitude. The market recognises this. "Word of mouth" is still the best seller. The media chases not demographic, but "attitudinal" groups. It is the attitude of a single trader that can bring chaos to the financial markets, it is raw, unmediated attitude that can transmit across the internet to spark terrorism. Attitude is omnipotent. We should be less complacent about what we think.

Peter Tatchell: Big business and multinational corporations. The big ones - mostly American - have more economic power and political clout than the democratically elected governments of half the nations of the world.

This immense power is non-transparent, unaccountable and based on economic dictatorship. The political systems of democratic nations involve one-person, one-vote. In contrast, within the global economic system - including the economies of the so-called great democracies - the majority of people have no votes at all. Employees and consumers are economically disenfranchised. All the votes are held by major shareholders, directors and managers. They decide everything. This economic tyranny contradicts the modern democratic ethos. We've partly won political democracy. Now we need to begin the battle for economic democracy as well.

Sam Duckworth: From the moment we wake up we are bombarded by marketing, encouraging us to live beyond our means, inspiring us to purchase products we can live without and to aspire to fit a pre-defined stereotype, specifically constructed to make us spend. These same corporations own the world's news sources, allowing them to influence the way we think through the way stories are written (or left unwritten). We then take these views and apply them to our surroundings, living our lives by a competitive capitalist dogma, that encourages us to think selfishly, all whilst the consequences of our selfishness are devastating.

Exploitation, pollution and extreme poverty exist in a world with enough resources to allow everyone to live a good lifestyle. Whether it be our growing relationship with capitalism or the media justification of our living habits, the truth still cannot be hidden. We still rule the world and we're screwing it up.

Camila Batmanghelidjh: Ancient politics was very reliant on personalities and individuals. However, with the development of information technology, the world is no longer ruled by individuals. The "leader" is viral and more abstract. It's based on emotional and social metamorphosis. The force that is leading us can't be captured or identified within individuals.

Some people, symbolically and momentarily, embody or represent aspects of the leadership momentum, but it's not located in any one place. Contemporary society is fundamentally led by the communication media, who capture themes and reflect them back to us.

Some people are very good at tuning into these abstracts and they have a particular talent for articulating them for the group. Invariably, these personalities assume a public profile because they represent an archetypal space, but they are not necessarily the leaders of those spaces.

Modern leadership is about making visible the viral psychological momentum and the media occupy that space the most. So they are, arguably, the force which rules the world.

John Pilger: American corporate and state power, assisted by their equivalents in Europe and Asia, certainly aspire to rule the world, and they probably do. At the turn of the millennium, the US Space Command announced that American policy was "full spectrum dominance". They likened this to the European imperial navies' domination of the oceans. Thus "imperialism" was officially returned to common usage, if not to the vocabulary of the "mainstream" media. Of course, imperial rule has been the ambition of US planners since they declared "Manifest Destiny" in the nineteenth century.

Since 1945, the US has overthrown, directly and indirectly, fifty governments, including democracies, in pursuit of this goal. Looking at the league table, it's clear the Eisenhower and Clinton administrations were the most successful, though the Truman administration deserves special mention for dropping the atomic bombs and casting a permanent nuclear shadow over humanity.

Nitin Sawhney: Last week Alan Greenspan, America's elder statesman on finance, declared that Bush's prime motive for invading Iraq was oil. When you add this to the fact that three generations of the Bush family and John Kerry all belonged to the same cult/fraternity at Yale university, responsible for grooming many senators, presidents and secretaries of war, and then throw Leo Strauss' influence into the pot, it becomes quite evident that the world is run by very greedy, aggressive and ruthless neocon businessmen.