We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore Lappé, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Friday, July 6, 2012

Democracy from Below in Bolivia: An Interview with Oscar Olivera

Click here to access article featuring the interview by Peter Lackowski and Sharyl Green from Unside Down World. 
Oscar Olivera is an activist, thinker, and writer based in Cochabamba, Bolivia. He was a leader during the uprising in 2000 in Cochabamba in which the people of the city threw out Bechtel, the multinational corporation that had privatized all the water in the city – even the rain that people collected. (His book on that process is listed in the bibliography at the end of this interview.) This interview was conducted in Cochabamba, Bolivia on January 27, 2012.
Although Olivera seems to go out of his way to exculpate Evo Morales--who like Obama promised all kinds of changes, and then changed very little--he does shed light on the role that political actors play to front for the real political decision-makers. The former consist of political parties, caudillos (strongmen) or leaders, and nation states. He argues that the real decision-makers are the transnational corporations and the international banks. Thus, the critical task is to organize a new activism to promote a new social-political model that can challenge this reality.
People want to construct something different.  What we were proposing in 2000 and 2003, a new kind of economy, a way to recover politics for the people.  I think that people in Europe and the United States and here in 2000 and 2003 did not fight for a political party.  They fought to get back politics not understood as a form in which someone rules over other people, but politics as a form to establish a type of relationship, a way of living together.  A new way of living together not based on competition, individualism, but rather on solidarity, equality, complementarity.