Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Disfranchised and Dissidents of Democracy

At another point I may go on to develop a more thorough look at democracy as a viable political system, but as for now, I am spurred by recent events to comment briefly on the given topic.

While patting ourselves on the back over the success of our democratic system, a republic, to elect us a radically new president by unprecedented voter turnout, there lingers a harrowing contradiction. Proposition 8 was democratically and fairly passed, eliminating the validity of same-sex marriage under California state law along with the rights and tax-benefits of marriage. Democracy was used as a tool of oppression on the very day we celebrated its success, allowing for the removal of citizens’ rights. Inequality is voted right into the entire system with the jovial cries of -- no, not Mormons, but a majority of Californians!

And the culture war? (to regress back to some of my previous posts) It is not dead in the newly united “Obama generation.” It remains quite alive and in a “blue state” no less.

The reality of our situation presents itself starkly in the contrast of Obama’s politics of hope brought to life by the same system that robs all hope of equality for a particular minority. Can democracy escape its ironic nature? The ideal of democracy is the empowerment of the people over any form of institutional rule, but who are these people? The people is an abstraction that loosely ties individuals together and gives them a bond, and hopefully, a shared goal in their bond. Many national identities have been fashioned within or slightly before modernity out of farcical notions of history and culture in an attempt to legitimize a government’s expanding boundaries of power. As I’ve stated, the current identity and self-identity of the American people is a narrative constantly being woven -- it’s not some unshakable essential identity synonymous with the Pilgrims (they are the antithesis of modern Americans) as they stepped on to land. The people does not exist as an organic and real thing; the people are brutishly divided into numerous groups that identify within categories of race, religion, sexuality, political group, class, geography, etc. -- some allowing for more significant social cohesion than others. There is never a truly united people beyond the abstract pandering of the state; rather, a heterogeneous collection of groups with differing relations to power is the real makeup of the participants in a democracy.

Ultimately, democracy means little more than the preservation of the majority’s beliefs and needs at the expense of the minority. Democracy can be only contingently(!) aligned with truth, equality, justice and rationality by the actions of unrelenting educators and politicians working within the democratic system to keep it from consuming the very ideals it supposedly propagates through its essence.

A quick and a dumbed-down example to fully grasp what kind of danger lurks in a democracy is a hypothetical situation that reveals democracy nihilistic indifference to truth.

“Imagine a nation made up of the mathematically incompetent at 51 percent, and the mathematically competent at 49 percent. You’ll have to suspend the material issues of evolution and survival here in our hypothetical human species. The state asks to place on some national ballot whether 1 + 1 = 2 or 1 + 1 = 11 should be taught in every school. By some godsend all the mathematically incompetent manage to vote for the mathematically impossible without accidentally killing themselves in the process. The majority of our hypothetical human species has developed a social or perhaps a religious custom that states 1 + 1 = 11 with total indifference to rational argument, pragmatic usefulness and the general framework that can allow a basic arithmetic to work. By the democratic ideal, 1 + 1 = 11 is the new solution to the equation and the people rejoice! There is also absolutely nothing wrong, or flawed, or incomplete in this democratic process. It should actually be cited as a great achievement and success of democracy!”

So we must ask, what should we be celebrating -- the democratic system’s success or our luck that it failed to stand in the way of a more competent government? And we, the few, unsettled individuals, are left with the most startling question as we enter the edge of our known political system and come in contact with the horizon of the negative space of the unknown beyond the foundation of democracy. Is there something better, and can we be sure it is not an illusion hiding some new form of fascism?

1 comment:

yatpay said...

"Democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried" - Winston Churchill