"Taking himself seriously, so you don't have to."

A Democratic Apology

When considering the merits of democracy, I have always stood by three things:

 

1. The intentions of the founders of this country.

 

Recent developments have caused me to examine both rationale. First of all: the founders of the United States of America had some democratic ideals, but not entirely. It was a democratic experiment certainly, and I doubt that one could prove otherwise. The restrictions they placed on that democracy were however brilliant. And they have seemed to work for a very long time. We have become much more democratic in the time since, however, so their slight ideals (and those of others) have proven true. Democracy certainly feeds upon itself, and the result is what we see about us presently.

Still considering the reason why I have always tended to give it more credit than it was due, the fact remains that they were very smart men, and our reality is more or less what they envisioned. In this case, I defer to a higher authority. Presently, however, despite my attempts, I can see no living higher authority. And so we must determine the best course of action on our own.

 

2. The fact of my own existence within it.

 

To one who considers their own life a miracle (a double blessing, as it requires a life worthy of such regard, and the perspective to view it as so), I must be grateful to the system that has allowed me to come about. The extension seems also true, that by my own experience, there must be many others brought about grateful for this fact. Thus it is within a realm to consider the danger that the destruction of this system may be an end to that which has hitherto been quite beneficial, from at least one grateful perspective. From Socrates’ accepting the judgment of Athens, to some derivation of the anthropic principle, in the face of numerous attacks, this seems a good defense.

Still, to revert to the founders’ state of mind (or any other responsible individuals, successful in altering their governance), this was no impenetrable defense to their aristocratic upbringings. It is important, surely, but it is certainly not one worthy of disavowing all attempts at betterment.

 

3. Freedom

 

The people like to be able to do as they please (at least they like to think that they do). For individual freedom, nothing appears better than democracy, besides perhaps some future form of governance heretofore unattempted. Individual freedom appears to be a positive thing (astounding, right?). Adherents of determinism, and disbelievers in the “freedom of the will” notwithstanding (that is a topic for a different time). Individual freedom, as we collectively tend to define it, is a benefit to society, and there is no reason to ever wish it gone. And were one to try, I suspect that there would be one hell of a fight, and in that case, there ought to be. There are few concepts more worth defending.

Sticklers may respond that there are a great many actions restricted them still. So, there are restrictions:

“Natural” restrictions: with our own bodies, we cannot fly. Nor can we live forever (literally, anyway). I sincerely hope there is no one who blames democracy for their “inability to fly”.

“Civilized” restrictions: Thievery, murder, trespassing, vehicular recklessness, blackmail, and other crimes that are base, immoral, or especially disrespectful. Concerning these limits, the golden rule is a good base point for determining “civilized” restraint on our individual freedoms. In this way, empathy is necessary for a good democrat. Of course, “to do unto others what one would like done upon oneself”, and its corollary, is not universally perfect. There are many an occasion where even one lacking a single hint of hypocrisy still manages to offend another terribly. Our individual lives are full of such events, but among a populace, so long as they operate by this general rule, and there stand guardians of the peace to prevent criminals benefiting from acts contrary to it (who thereby weaken the authority of that principle), these civilized restraints will stay present and allow the people to go about their lives secure in peace. Democracy is especially civil in this respect, as the inherent total equality reinforces empathy between the people (a big reason why America has been the “melting pot” of the world).

There some restrictions hampering us that should best be done away with, if we are indeed to progress toward a new age. These are of a small scale compared to the greater work, of which there requires a much more fundamental alteration of government and economics. Slight changes toward our individual freedom may be effected through the system we currently have in place. These would be beneficial changes, but they are not of a catastrophic character, that is, failing to implement them will not directly bring about the degradation of our society. Every social issue that is popularly argued falls within this category: abortion, gay rights, the drug war, teen pregnancy, euthanasia, prostitution, age of consent, sexual deviance, racism, public education (the how of it), child protection services, police brutality, and illegal immigration. These are all social problems that can be, not exactly fixed, but soothed by our current system. And they would exist no matter what system we had. Therefore, I will not be addressing these problems. They are too myriad to discuss generally. Every case requires a special focus. And besides, these problems are discussed on a daily basis, on every news show and in every newspaper. There are thousands of adherents for all sides of every topic, and I am not writing to delve into those murky waters.

 

The Problem with Democracy

There are many negative points that arise when democracy is discussed, and even more so when it is lived. I would like to point the user toward a few critiques of this sort: any of Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America”, Book VIII of Plato’s “The Republic”, and anything by Nietszche. There are surely many others. Here is an excerpt from an essay, “Otium et Opium”, by a friend and contemporary, John Leonard:

 

“Modernity, on the other hand, is decidedly civilized. It is the product of the Enlightenment; it is founded on a new set of laws, laws in turn founded on the idea of “rights.” Through these new laws, modernity may well have elevated civilization to a height never yet reached. But this has yet to be seen. What is presently clear is that these laws, in order to be established, required the leveling of all social classes, and in this leveling, the political theorists of the Enlightenment at once created modern civilization, and cut civilization off from its purpose; for they destroyed the subtle social structures within which culture was protected and nourished, and upon which it was able to ascend to the heights.”

 

I hope, firstly, that John would forgive me for using his writing so brazenly out-of-context and running counterpoint. Further, however, I refuse to believe that the progress we have made is entirely in the wrong direction. There are aspects of modern life that are regrettable, and there are signs that we might not make it through this part of human development, but I am not relinquishing hope any time soon.

Essentially, the problem with democracy (besides the tyranny of the majority, which can be legislated out) is equality. It may sound strange to call equality a problem, but as great thinkers have thus explained, in many ways, it is. There is a conscious demeaning of individuals by the masses when one thinks themselves better. There is a demeaning of them when they prove themselves better. The masses react to the creator of an invention with the thought, “Well, I could have come up with that. He’s not special.” Same with anyone considered a celebrity or prominent figure. The people love to watch them fall from heights, see those that were once placed upon a pedestal (arbitrarily in their mind), tripping and falling, crashing to the earth into a thousand pieces. And to entertain fantasies of their own, that the same would not happen to them.

The equality favored upon all of us prevents the ascendency of those who truly deserve it. For what can one do to rise? What can one, in all honesty, while maintaining dignity, do to rise above? Let’s look at a few cases:

Let us imagine a man. This particular person would make the best astronaut. He is strong, quick, intelligent, courageous, a leader, etc. He has all of the qualities best for this particular job, and they are in good proportion. He is sober, readily available, and in total control of his appetites. Will he be found? Can he rise above the others? Yes. He certainly can. He approaches a training site, completes the training with the highest marks, and is subsequently sent into space with applause and commendations. There is very little animosity for this occupation, because the requirements, talents, and skills necessary are of such a nature that they can be defined and tested. The selection process follows a scientific approach. The best man for the job can be found, because the definition of “the best man” is evidently discernible.

The flip side is where it is difficult. And this is where democracy has traditionally been attacked. Where the definition of “the best man” is not so easily identified. In all matters of popularity, where someone is chosen by the whims of the masses, whether it be an artist who receives a grant from a general assembly, or a singer who gets the most votes on “American Idol”, or anyone elected to the legislative or executive branches. These are popularity contests, where to win is not to be “the best at doing particular job”, but to be “the best at making yourself look good in front of these wholly backward masses”.

So again, let us imagine a man. This particular person would make the best president. He is most aware of the pressing needs of his country, and the best able to make positive decisions of all of them. He is a practitioner of all disciplines, bears the strongest intellect, and the most foresight. Will he be selected? No. For the very acts through which he must undertake, the pandering and persuasion of the masses, the obfuscation of truths necessary for the unenlightened to select him, the dishonesty and deception inherent in the selection process. All of these things require a twisting of his character. A wrenching of the soul that is not beneficial for that person, and not conducive toward his being fruitful when his period of leadership comes, if it does. For that man, having stores and stores of money is his best bet. But in the event that money has little more meaning, in that age when we have found that our best talents and abilities need not remuneration, that when usage of currency has become more tedious than it is worth, that when free energy and free pursuit make the next evolution of humanity, what is to become of him? What is to become of him when there is no other way to win the support of the democratic masses than by dropping to his knees and pleasuring them, when, as Plato says, “In such a state of society the master fears and flatters his scholars…and the young man is on a level with the old?” Rather than leader, he becomes the chief flatterer of the many who deserve no flattery whatsoever. Such demeaning would create someone for whom leadership lies completely outside any form of political influence. And the politicians would take on the form of clowns (for which many already have).

And yet, through all of these critiques, through all of the beatings that the highest soul may endure for the sake of democracy, for the sake of the equality of his brethren, for the sake of peace (for value holds at least in outcome), there is something to yearn for. There is another world ahead of our democratic revolution. In Plato’s mind, and I can see the possibility of such, there is the possibility that, when all have become equal, and continued as such for many generations, that there would exist a vacuum of power above these people. One that may be filled by a tyrant, someone to beat them back down to earth and establish a new order of sorts. But I do not see that happening as necessity. I see another possibility.

Granting free energy and free pursuit, and money becoming obsolete in itself, laws slowly fade from necessity, individuals best suited to a particular thing will find themselves pursuing that particular thing. Teachers will teach, out of necessity to themselves. Police will police, out of necessity to themselves. Artists will create, out of necessity to themselves (this fact is alive at present, and through all history, and is one of the reasons for which I believe the same necessity would come for others in our democratic future). In effect, what happens in this world, and others certainly, is that with enough freedom, with enough resources at one’s disposal, and with a goal that others are neutral about or agree with in principle, there is little resistance to be met for its final absolution. At present, there are many forces arrayed that prevent one from, for instance, building a house. The labor and energy required to create the pieces of lumber must be paid for by currency. In effect, there is less resistance to cutting down some trees and bringing them to a market of sorts. Suppose it can be done solely through one’s own labor, and on this particular day, for this particular person, that may be the thing to do. To help provide for someone who may or may not wish to build a house. Lacking any other profession to follow, lacking an artistic discipline, and being particularly good at cutting wood and transporting it, there would be little reason not to do so, unless it was raining that day, or something. Anyway, there would be something of that sort available, based on the demand for it. If no one wanted any wood, if wood for building houses became obsolete, then there would be no reason for it, and thusly, there would be nobody to cut the wood. The job would lay itself off. And this particular worker would find something else to do. But so long as there is someone who wants to build a house out of wood, there would be wood available to do so. And the man who wants to build a house will build that house. He does not need money, he just needs the will to do it. It is a world that would reward courage, strength, and will.

Anyway, back to the topic. In this world, where such would be so, and that should be a goal of sorts for civilization, there still remains the question of who is to lead. And how the best might be selected. Considering that the inclinations of the people will have a rough correlation with present times. The same would apply as for the man building a house. Suppose a man would like to lead. “Well,” I say unto him, “Go. Lead.” It is simpler for there to be some stage to stand on, some group of bureaucrats arrayed about, some crowd to lift one onto their shoulders, than it is to actually “do it”. But in the doing is the act itself. It is not required that one be lifted up as such, and recognized to begin directing. Moving toward the act of which one is best suited, in this world, and in ours at present, can only be accomplished by the act itself.

I had previously wondered (and the intention has carried itself for some time) that the best course of action for one such as myself, one who I believed was deserving of recognition, was to advertise it. To make a grand advertisement for my own purposes, to say “this is who I am”. But that sort of thing is unnecessary, for who I am, and who you are, and who anyone is, is the product of what they do. If it is my intention to lead, I will lead. If it is my intention to do nothing, I will do nothing. Nowhere is advertisement necessary for the individual. Of course, considering the length and breadth of our world, one will never reach the heights that celebrities have without it. But there are people who are good at advertising. When it is unnecessary, they will be there no longer. Some tenets of capitalism do not require money.

So far as one can foresee the effects of a free energy and free pursuit world, this is it. It will be “free”. Truly, for each individual, free. It gives me some hesitancy, because the possibility is there, and it is a bit scary. Many people require something to react against. I suspect that this world would lead to some great despondency, but for those who are great, for those that have grand desires, and the purest natures, they will “do”.

So, for the critiques leveled by the greatest thinkers of our history, for the observations that our democratic republic has been reduced to refuse, that there is little if any culture left, that the stupidest, most animalistic of our brethren have been deciding the fate of our country, that the popularity contests are shallow and deceptive, I respond so: there is not enough freedom. Bring about freedom to its full conclusion, and there will be true competition. And those that deserve more than the bare minimum will get it, and by their own hand. I have seen it happen in the world we know, and the future will provide nothing less, but much more.