Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Democracy? What is it in the first place?

The notion of American proto-individualism (as I will call it for fun's sake) during the early years of the revolution seems to be what has led us down a rather interesting path towards this glorified notion of democracy, which has mixed itself so wonderfully with the thoughts of capitalism, or has it?

I pose this question rather rhetorically, of course, I do not think that this country is a democracy, as we ought to raise the word. If we go as far back to Plato he would call our system a Polity. A good constitution he would mention, where the essential crux of power is in the hands of what he called the middle-class; a pre-Marxian notion of the Bourgeois, perhaps? Not quite, but it is interesting to note that he did think there would be at least some kind of middle class capable of being the mean between the rich and the poor, while being (as he put it) frugal so as to not fall into unnecessary appetites.

What would he think of our culture now? One would have to ask. Although, perhaps he isn't the best person to ask, if we are to speak about cultural decay, yes decay. Why is America not a Democracy? Because it doesn't even know what the word means! After decades with this amorphous notion of democracy being touted in classrooms, we stand today less sure of what we are, and who we are than the founders who created the censitary republic back when. I argue this without arrogance, without contempt, but honestly. What does it mean to be in a democratic state; we think we know, we assume we know. We spout things like we have fought for freedom when we use it in thousands of ways; each time we contradict the other ways. Is freedom for all? Is freedom a right? A natural right? What limitations are on our freedom? Is religion the limit of freedom? Can freedom be limited without us throwing our words into a vaccum? Is it freedom of the individual or freedom of the commonwealth? Is there a common good that our nation cares about? Is freedom more important than economic wealth?

This country lost democracy the moment it stopped knowing what it was in the first place. Is democracy filled with fillibusters and private interests? Is democracy filled with million dollar campaigns that aim to shine the bright spots on people? What about our thousand person bureacracy, does freedom watch over the arbitrary actions of some civil servant writing a memo in Saudi Arabia?

For this country to truly be free, it must be free from its arrogance. It ought to relinquish these petty notions that we are right because we have always been right and start asking the bigger questions. If we don't then do we have the right to spout the words democracy and freedom with such ease? Lets get our priorities straight and stop bullshitting under some cover that we some how are democratic, and that there is not any corruption. Our nation is slowly beginning to uncover its darker sides: people are disenfranchised. We cannot even hold onto that as a notion of democracy; not everyone even has the right to vote. We neglect our poorest constituents, and we succumb to awkward prejudices that pit man against man, man against woman, class against class, race against race. We have so lost the ability to think clearly that we are fueling this cultural illusion to use Nietzsche's words, until we can't even tell the difference between the real world and the fake world. We hold ourselves to be stronger than our enemies, but if we only claim to know ourselves (and never take time to study our history, to ameliorate from our dirty past, and to push forth to redeem our past) we shall never have the right, nor the clarity to say we are a democracy and mean it. Because ignorance surely plays into an authoritarian's frame of mind.


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