Marina Sitrin, a leading thinker for Occupy, author of multiple books on Horizontalism, and now, co-author of the new book, They Can't Represent Us! reinventing Democracy from Greece to Occupy.
MS: Great, thanks for having me back again.
MS: That's great, that's great.
Rob: So, let's start with the idea of "everyday revolutions". What does that mean for this book?
MS: You know, I mean I think that the concept the everyday revolutions for this book is what people are doing - kind of the alternative to voting. What people are doing as far as how they're experimenting with alternative forms of democracy and their locations. And also what they're doing to recreate how they live, so everything from education and healthcare to housing and new social relationships as a whole, so taking out the state part of when we think about revolutions and thinking about all the other things that are supposed to happen and the transformations of daily life. That's what we're seeing all over the world. And this book focuses on Greece, Spain and the U.S. but mentions a number of other locations and then also grounds all of that in Latin America.
Rob: Yes, it sure seems that the American people have a lot to learn from the people in Spain and Greece and Latin America in terms of how they make some changes happen. And you do a great job of bringing the concepts together with examples. So one big message in the book is the belief that representative democracies are not democratic, later in the book you talk about liberal democracies not really being democratic. Can you get into that?
MS: Sure, I mean the book we use in each chapter, except for the one on democracy, which uses a little bit less, but the chapters in different countries as much as possible, we use peoples' voices from the different movements. So we traveled around and spent time, you know multiple visits to Greece and Spain and I was apart of Occupy. So to bring peoples' voices forward and what people were saying and continue to say everywhere is they don't represent us. The title of the book comes from a slogan that nomos no representan in Spain that was also used in Portugal, in Moscow they said that and they also said they can't even imagine us. So it's this sensation of not being represented, which I think most people listening will be nodding their heads saying well yeah we're not represented. And what we do in the book is not just say okay, this is a slogan, this is what people are saying and they're experimenting with something else, but we have a whole chapter on the concept of democracy and getting into the fact that in just about every country in the world where there's liberal democracy, democracy wasn't meant to be democratic. We often say things like oh it's not very democratic in the U.S. or it's becoming less democratic and when you thinking about it, women couldn't vote when the U.S. was founded, neither could -- I mean it was a country based on slavery, not only good slaves not vote there were slaves or indentured servants. There was a whole sector of society intentionally left out of the decision making process and this is true all over the world that its a small group of elites who set up a system that they call democratic and then have representatives based on this idea, but it's not actually what it was meant to be and it's not what it is. So the movements around the world saying they don't represent us and they can't. It's really accurate, it's kind of finally calling the -- saying the emperor has no clothes on.
Rob: Yes, that's a -- I wrote an article today after the election, I used that emperors with new clothes concept. Yeah, really okay --
MS: It's a children's book, but you know that Princeton University, which is known for doing research for the rights and for those in power and institutions of power. They did a whole bunch of research on this question saying well people around the world are saying you know, they don't live in democracies in the U.S. people are saying it's not a democracy so let's research it, let's show that it is. And at the end of their study they said actually the U.S. resembles more an oligarchy than it does a democracy. And so their conclusion, I mean it completely backfired on them, but even conservative think tanks are saying no it's not actually a democracy the way one would understand a democracy.
Rob: Could you define what an oligarchy is?
MS: Well it's the rule of a small interest group.
Rob: Okay, so basically the message is that you can talk about democracy but democracy is for the most part not democratic.
MS: Right, right and that it's used as this kind of slogan or excuse by people who have power, but it means something else. Yeah, I mean everything is done in the name of democracy; in the name of democracy we restrict peoples' rights; in the name of democracy the U.S. wages war; in the name of democracy -- you know, I mean and it's -- somehow I think in the U.S. especially we've gotten caught up in this idea of how terrible things would be if it wasn't for the democracy that people in power say we have, but when you really break it down what are they talking about? What democracy are they talking about? We don't vote for meaningful anything. You know, things that affect our lives or those things that we do perhaps or have referendums for generally don't have any way of -- any mechanisms of enforcement.
Rob: Okay. So you introduce, in the beginning of the book, a great batch of concepts and terms. So, these include: territory, assembly, rupture, popular power, horizontalism, autogestion -- which is self-administration -- and protagonism. So let's talk about some of those, rupture. What is rupture about?
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