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Peace, Power, Righteousness

16 Jul

Let me be pretentious a moment. Reading about the Haudenosaunee Kaienerekowa (Iroquois Constitution) made me realize two things. One, the US Constitution was NOT based on it; and two, it’s a really good system! The ideals of power, peace, and righteousness are a great way to think about fixing democracy today.

Now why am I studying this? When your wife is a religious scholar, the strangest books appear in your house, and she moved into colonialism and its aftereffects. Normally this would give me a giant yawn — “Oh Lord, not another hippie dippie political tract.” But the missus insisted that I might like this one book called Heeding the Voices of Our Ancestors by Gerald Alfred. (He goes by his Mohawk name now, and is a lot more activisty, but this was his dissertation at Cornell.) It’s short, so I decided to try it. Suddenly, I’m now reading about the political conflict of First Nations with the Canadian government and the nature of the Iroquois Constitution. This scratched me where I itched because history and politics are my bailiwick.

Since he’s explaining the rise of Mohawk nationalism on this particular reserve south of Montreal, he has to summarize the Iroquois Constitution (and forgive me if I’m missing the salient points), which was designed to balance all the political factions, more specifically, the tribes and gender. They ensured that each tribe and clan had representation, women exclusively voted for their representatives, which were exclusively men. Now here’s the point I found interesting. They did not try to achieve majority… they tried to reach consensus.

They used oratory to convince the different chiefs of their opinion. I’m guessing this might have taken a lot longer, but hell, I don’t see majority rule being any shorter. They had to achieve consensus before they made their move. This is why they stayed neutral during the French and Indian Wars, and when the Mohawk decided to attack the French on their own, they got cut off from Iroquois support.

Now it doesn’t sound perfect, but to quote James Madison, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” The idea of reaching consensus, of forcing compromise between two diametrically opposed points of view, would give power to the moderates, and things would actually get done in government! That’s a really exciting idea.

So how do you implement it? As Mohawk activists are quick to point out, you don’t get peace and righteousness without power. If you don’t have the idea to enforce consensus (like the joke about fascist libertarianism, “You WILL be free!”), then you go nowhere. So the first step in changing the culture is having politicians willing to make compromise. There’s a reason why they don’t, but if you’re in a safe district, you don’t have to risk your job to try.

And would that be worse than what we got? What you do think? Put your comments below!

You say you want a revolution?

28 Jun

When I was bored with my current library, I decided to turn to the authors in The Royal Manticoran Navy and found this interesting story from Leo Champion, an indie author from Australia.

Our hero is a kid named Jake Linder, who leaves an overly regulated, rich, and boring Earth to seek his fortune in the stars. Instead, he gets hijacked by pirates and sold into slavery on the backwater world of Verana. One day, as he’s on a suicidal work detail, he decides he’s had enough to blindly following orders, and fights to live as a free man.

The next thing he knows, he’s started the Veranian Revolution, an entire planet rising against an empire. Jake becomes not just a soldier but a hero. He gets caught up in a galaxy-spanning conspiracy. He finds the love of his life, and lose her! It’s a wild, interesting ride!

Champion does a great job of balancing two main plotlines and a couple minor ones, so that you get Jake’s perspective on the front lines (with some really good, gritty but not depressing war realism), Damien’s perspective as the leader of the independence movement (so you get the cool diplomacy and problems of political struggle), and you get the minor plotlines that cover conspiracies, backstabs, space combat, and all the things that you want in a space opera.

This book happens to hit me where I’m itching because of the other book I’m reading…

That’s right, I’m double-fisting my books reading two books at the same time. I’m a madman! 🙂 What happened is that my son is really into Hamilton: The Musical. (Which is like saying a fish is really into water.) So when I went over to a friend’s house and he had it on his bookshelf, I asked to borrow it. Really amazing detail about the American Revolution, our early government, and the political backstabbing and nasty press that reminds me that plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. (That means I’m pretentious.)

So if you’re into Sci-fi, especially Military Sci-fi, check out Leo Champion and his other works! If you’re into American History, check out Ron Chernow… although he doesn’t need as much press, so go to Leo’s page first! 🙂

Now what do you think? What’s the biggest obstacle to revolutionary success? Write a comment below!

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