Sunday, September 25, 2016

De Mockery of Democracy (Reprise)

[My young friend Kamil sent me the following assignment question, asking for some viewpoints from me. I figured my response to Kamil was worth blogging, so here it is...]

It has been said that democracy may not be the perfect form of goverment but it is better than the alternatives. To what extent do you agree?

Certain assumptions are being made here that may be inaccurate or incorrect, So before we can answer the question, let's examine what these assumptions are.

Assumption #1: Democracy exists and is practised in certain countries.
In truth democracy is purely theoretical. Even in old Athens where it was invented, there was only democracy up to a point - beyond which one could get arrested for subversion, imprisoned, and end up drinking hemlock. The state is forever jealous of its authority and power, and will not hesitate to use force if persuasion fails. In so-called democratic countries, we find that the public is led to believe it has freedom of choice - but in actuality that freedom does not extend beyond the most trivial matters (like the make of car you drive or the scent your date prefers). In all crucial areas decisions are made by "backroom boys" acting on behalf of a tiny handful of plutocrats (people who own banks, newspapers, TV stations, bomb factories, armies, spy agencies, and governments).

The machinery of political power is driven by popular votes. However, elections can be rigged, conducted on an uneven playing field, and stolen outright. Voters can be bought, hoodwinked, disenfranchised or overlooked completely. Because "majority opinion" is measured quantitatively, human destiny can be jeopardized or hijacked by a corrupt and dishonest clique willing to take extraordinary risks. The proverbial man-in-the-street doesn't stand a chance against a cartel of well-funded criminals, who obtain their money through illicit means and buy up all the airspace. He can't be heard against a well-coordinated media blitz.

In effect, scratch a modern democracy and you'll find mobster rule. Robber barons and pirate kings now come with a slick corporate image and very expensive tailoring. But gangsterism is gangsterism, and privilege actually means "private law." So when even the law is privatized, is it any wonder that justice is blind?

Democracy originally meant "popular rule" - in effect, government of the people, by the people, for the people. Which sounds pretty similar to Marxist/socialist ideals. However, you only have to have the means of influencing the collective psyche to make the people believe they are exercising their democratic rights when all they can do is predictably react to pre-programmed stimuli.

Assumption #2: Though imperfect democracy is "better than"...
"Better" is a very vague term and begs redefinition. This dish is good but that one is better... in reality the other dish is simply different. You cannot compare pheasant-under-glass with a hamburger. Each recipe works in a specific context. In other words, a fair comparison is hinted at where none is possible.

Assumption #3: The word "alternatives" implies Communism.
A popular misconception is that the opposite of democracy is communism. Actually, it's dictatorship we're talking about: what's antagonistic to popular rule is state despotism - whether the despot is a single individual or a faceless committee. The alternative to democracy might also be monarchy - or various spin-offs like aristocracy, meritocracy, or plutocracy. Nevertheless, there are no clear-cut categories of power. If we have an absolute monarch who is approachable, open-minded, empathetic, humble, friendly, and wise - let's take as an example the notion of a "King of Kings" like Jesus the Christ, or Aragorn of Arathorn in J.R.R. Tolkien's ringlore - the public may actually enjoy great freedom and security, prosperity and success under such benevolent and enlightened rule. As opposed to the situation where a supposedly democratic government functions under the secret orders of an invisible brotherhood of black magicians and decadent junior gods: people would endure increasing oppression and never know who exactly is taking away their freedoms and rights, life just seems to get rougher and tougher all the time.

Courtesy of Bodohland

The concept of government itself needs to be reassessed. An individual with sufficient inner discipline can be described as a Self-Governing Individual who does not subscribe to or support any form of external government. When enough such individuals emerge in a community, it's possible that anarchy will blossom in a wholesome and workable way where each member of the community cooperates with the others consciously, willingly, and wholeheartedly. Imagine the amount of creativity generated by humans no longer engrossed in destructivity or obsessed with conformity and homogeneity.

One can view government as an unwelcome intrusion - akin to a high fence built around the crest of hill to prevent people from rolling down through carelessness. In trying to ensure "public safety" what government effectively does is disempower and desensitize. After a few generations, people would become incapable of taking any initiative whatsoever, in a sure-footed way. They will NEED official guidelines, clearly-marked trails, and instructions at every turn. In effect, people would no longer be able to sit quietly atop the hill and gain divine inspiration from the beauty around them – because the man-made “security” fence mars the view and is ugly, that is, a violation of the natural environment and the unwritten laws of harmony. This may suit those in power very nicely, but it invariably incapacitates the masses from independent and original thought. They will become blind and allow themselves to be led around by ravenous wolves disguised as professional seeing-eye dogs.

What would be much "better than" democracy would be an evolutionary quantum jump that would effectively upgrade Consciousness and Intelligence and realign them with Compassion. No amount of theorizing can make this happen. Those of us who realize this simply have to embody our ideals and break free of semantic traps such as the question above. No statistics are required. It only takes ONE individual to crack the code - and before long, not only the entire species, but all lifeforms will regain their primordial freedom.

"Drug control is a thin pretext, and getting thinner, to increase police powers and to brand dissent as criminal." - William S. Burroughs, @ 1971

[Originally published on this blog 19 March 2007, reposted 27 March 2009]


Pat said...

An excellent essay, Antares. And I agree with you on all the points you make.

I think there is no nation in this world that practises true democracy. And you are right, I don't think there ever was one.

If I were still teaching, I'd make my students read this. It'd go a long way towards helping me explain the ideal that is democracy; an ideal yet to be realised, if ever.

Monsterball said...

Democracy needs a certain level of education in the population, so people can make reasoned voting decisions.
It also needs a certain minimum level of physical and economic development, so that people don't vote purely with their stomachs.
It needs a minimum level of peace and security in the society, so people don't just vote out of fear.

It also requires the majority of the people in the nation have a certain shared concept of nationhood or community.

If these basic development levels can be met, I would say democracy is probably the least bad of all the other systems of government.

It at least has the potential (not guaranteed) of respecting people as human beings, not just serfs of a power elite, which is basically what all the other authoritarian government systems survive on.

Overall, its a very middle-class concept for middle-class countries.

If these minimums are not met, as many 3rd World countries and the Middle East have found, it can be a recipe for disaster.

Anonymous said...

In respond to the blogger ~ Hantu Laut


"Autocracy Or Atonement ?"
Hantu Laut

"So! Najib got his dream team after all, if not all, at least most of it.With the exception of the Youth and Wanita wings nearly all his men are in place at the top echelon of the party.....blah..........blah.........and so on...."

There are in the world three forms of government,

3)and democracy.

a government in which one person has uncontrolled or unlimited authority over others; the government or power of an absolute monarch.

(Government by a single person having unlimited power; despotism.)

a form of government in which all power is vested in a few persons or in a dominant class or clique; government by the few.

(Government by a few, especially by a small faction of persons or families.)

a government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.

(Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.)


(The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.)


(Government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is retained and directly exercised by the people. )

“We need to teach the next generation of children from Day One that they are responsible for their lives. Mankind's greatest gift, also its greatest curse, is that we have free choice. We can make our choices built from love or from fear.”

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross quotes (Swiss-American psychiatrist and author )

Hantu Laut ,

What say you !?


ocho-onda said...

Thanks for sharing your view, Antares.
If I may ,the way I look at it, at the end of the day, it is all about freedom of choice but that freedom has to be accompanied by responsibility and accountability.
Governing a nation is not unlike managing a corporation which in turn is like managing a household - someone, the parents, have to make the decisions and take all necessary actions to protect and to nurture the brood (and family) till they come of age and are able to leave the nest and fend for themselves but till then everyone has to abide the house rules !
When dishing out democracy,to a child, make sure that the child does not choke in the process as the diet may be too rich for its constitution, lol.

montanamay said...

I think you need to examine the fact that a certain system is susceptible to corruption and decay precisely because it is run by people on any level. Any system of government seems like a perfectly good idea in a perfect world. For example supporters of monarchy through the past centuries have firmly believed that the king may not be anything short of a deity, the aristocracy is there to be educated and responsible towards those it is destined to lead, the clergy are the most enlightened and pure and the serfs are capable of nothing more than toiling over the land. In a perfect ant-like society where everyone is born into their proffession this would be true but we all know people are always so much more and so much less than what everyone thinks. You could take this to democracy or authocracy if you like- if the people are governed by a "good shepherd" than they do not need or desire to be envolved in ruling themselves- they are content. As we have seen with many African and island states that is rarely the case. I agree with you that democracy does not exist- it exists little more than the guy with a perfect soul or the guy with the perfect body- but we may choose to strive for perfection and in that persuit reach the best of our abilities. In my opinion even communism would be able to work if people had no personal flaws and desires for power. It all sounds pretty good as an idea but let us not forget East Germany used to call itself a Democratic Republic and so does North Korea, so labels mean nothing.