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Tuesday, April 26, 2016

What One Word Would You Associate With Democracy?

It can be tough writing a new blogpost each week. That is because there is a tension between the desire to write something new  and the perception that some ideas still need to be repeated.

Observing our current process of electing a President, it seems that the need to repeat a theme has won out over the desire to write about something new. In fact, we might want to look at how candidates campaign for the office of President as a microcosm for America's role in the world and America's role in the world as a macrocosm for how candidates run their campaigns. It is all about competition and conquering. Basically, both running for President and trying to maintain a global hegemony is a king-of-the-hill battle. The pressures from that struggle can cause people to do anything from making simple mistakes to doing what is unethical and even immoral. But to the winner goes not only the spoils, but usually immunity for any violation of the rules.

We should note that neither of the two major parties have a monopoly on the vice required to win. But that is not how they talk in conversations either between the two parties or within the 2 parties during the primaries. To hear how candidates and their respective political parties speak to and against each other, it is suggested that each candidate believes that they must win so as to block the other candidates from having any access to power or any influence on the new government. Thus, our elections have become contests where each person and/or party seek to win to rule over all others.

With that thought in mind, answer the following question: What is the first term you think of when you hear the word 'democracy'? For many, the first word or term would be 'vote' or 'voting.' The problem with thinking of this word first when we hear the word 'democracy' is that there are many nations in which people can vote and yet they do not live in a democracy. The former USSR was such an example from yesteryear while Iran could easily provide an up-to-date similar example. What this simply means is that we can have voting without having a democracy, but we can't have democracy without voting.

A term that antagonists of democracy often associate with the word is 'mob rule.' Such strongly suggests negative characteristics to democracy's participants. And we should note that such a word association is made by conservatives who believe in elite-centered rule provided that the right elites are in control. But lest we think that conservatives have a monopoly on the association between mob rule and democracy, many liberal Democrats make the same association. The differences between the two groups become which elites gain power as well as the fact that Conservatives are more honest and open regarding their feelings about Democracy.

Others might first think about the word 'equality' when they hear the word democracy. That is because democracy does carry with it the idea that there exists a certain degree of equality between democracy's participants such as is seen in one-man, one-vote. But what kind of equality exists is somewhat of an unknown. Are we referring to economic equality or political equality? In addition, we might want to ask how does equality result from the existence of Democracy.

The word that now first comes to my mind when I hear the word 'democracy' is the word 'sharing.' We always have the issue of how the group(s) we reside in and will share society with others. Will we share society with others as equals or will we seek or have forced on us some hierarchical order? To share society with others as equals means that regardless of whether the numbers allow our group(s) to gain control, we will exercise care so that neither we or others will dominate any particular legitimate group in society. We do this by sharing power rather than trying to monopolize it and pretend to use it paternalistically.

Such sharing is what fasciliates equality in a democracy. But not only that, without this sharing, voting can easily result in the self-delusion that one lives in a democracy. 

So how should the ties between sharing and democracy apply to our elections? Yes, there will be a certain effort to compete to win. But what is at stake and what kind of contest we could participate in is not power as it would be in a king-of-the-hill battle, but the extended opportunities to converse and cooperate with others as we try to ensure that each group has an equal place in society especially concerning what laws are passed.

We currently don't have that kind of approach to our elections just as our nation does not have that kind of approach to its place in the world. Rather, just as our nation seeks by hook or by crook to dominate others, so we see those running for elected offices do the same so that they can be part of some domination over others during their terms in office. This competition and the need to conquer shows that our Free Market values influence our moral values more than Democracy does. And thus, this competition and the need to conquer shows that we have a greater love for money than we do to govern ourselves in ways that require that we cooperate with others--others being those from different groups.

It is the conjunction of sharing power and voting that makes a democracy. For if we have a legitimate concern for sharing power, we will insist on fair elections. And voting without sharing simply meets the conditions for a coming tyranny practiced by some individual or group. 

So as we listen to the candidates campaign, how many of them are making speeches about sharing power with those from other groups in order to ensure a properly functioning democracy? How many times has either Sanders scapegoated the 1% or Clinton denounced pro-life advocates? How many times has Trump shown disdain for those from other ideologies, nationalities, or those who do not fit in with his idea of what normal should be? And how many times has Cruz expressed concern for equal rights for those in the LGBT community or any concern for the Palestinians? The answers to these questions tell us about the level of commitment each of these candidates have to Democracy.

Without sharing, we are simply fooling ourselves into believing that we have a democracy. In fact, one recent study shows that because government decision making so vastly controlled by those with wealth, that what we have today is an oligarchy, not a democracy. And yet, we change our democracy so that the 99% are in control and we leave out the 1%, we will still fail to have a full democracy.

The above tells us that the way to beat the oppression caused by those who seek to hoard power is to invite them to share power rather than to give up all power.

Without sharing, we will continue our seemingly endless king-of-the-hill battle and we will do that at both home and abroad. And though that might seem like a major inconvenience and uncomfortable state of affairs at home, seeking to rule others in the world eventually leads a nation to war and/or terrorism.




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