This morning I read an article in Consortium News, one of the few reliable sources of objective and critical information on national and international events in a world dominated by manipulative propaganda. I recommend that it be read and shared widely. I’ve provided details in the footnote below. It warms me to think that, although it is perhaps a tiny club, the “sane” still, to some extent exist. It also motivated me to make some observations as to how delusionally we permit ourselves to be governed.
These observations could have been shared at almost any time during the past two hundred years but seem even more relevant today when it seems obvious that the great experiments of 1789 have failed to fulfill their expectations, but that nonetheless, criticizing them is an intolerable heresy. Still, the following question just won’t go away:
How reasonable is it to propagate a dysfunctional system, in this case, the oxymoron which the term democracy has come to represent?
While direct democracy may somewhat function, its oligarchic variants, representative and participatory democracy have been utter failures.
First of all, as majority-premised representative systems, representative and participatory democracies require widespread participation by the citizenry with citizenship open to at least all adults impacted by governmental decisions. Majority means more than 50% of the total, not more than fifty percent of a fraction, thus, in a real democratic system, non-participation at best qualifies as a negative vote. In most so called democracies, the best that is attained is a plurality of those participating, i.e., a fraction of those participating larger than any other fraction, but all too frequently, less than the combination of all participating fractions and hence, not close to a majority.
Secondly, perhaps the most obvious characteristic of representative and participatory democracies is corruption in an ever expanding plethora of forms ranging from the concept of gerrymandering criticized but frequently implemented in the United States by all major parties, to structural rules designed to facilitate electoral fraud in the name of “counting every vote” (even those of people who don’t exist or vote several times and in diverse jurisdictions). In addition to electoral fraud, there is fraud associated with false electoral promises by those elected, as to which there exist no means of enforcing compliance. Finally, there is the massive use of deception in electoral campaigns by special interest groups meant to perpetuate governance by wealthy economic elites, now expanded beyond electoral campaigns into an omnipresent system of constant organized deception maintained through controlled corporate and social media and heavy handed censorship facilitated by the growth of communicative technology.
Even if representative and participatory democracies functioned as a means to permit rule by majorities, there is little hope that such rule would be just and equitable rather than selfishly oppressive of the rights of individuals and minorities. Democracy is not synonymous with liberty and certainly not synonymous with the concept of individual or group rights. One only has to consider the current “cancel culture” which the purportedly liberal “woke” seek to impose on everyone.
Finally, one has to take into account that political and economic power is not centered in political entities but rather, has been concentrated in systems that not only do not answer to political or judicial institutions, but rather, which effectively own and control them, and which use them to fleece the huge majority of people through endless wars either carried on directly or orchestrated through manipulation. Manipulation through which the majority of the world’s resources are filtered in the form of “defense” expenditures necessary to orchestrate and fund wars. The current United States and NATO orchestrated conflict between the Russian Federation and the Ukraine is only the latest example. Such wars, are, ironically defended, in large part, as necessary, to expand the use of the dysfunctional representative or participatory forms of purported democracy described above.
As individuals at least many of us appear capable of discerning the situation in which we find ourselves. A form of slavery more or less comfortable for some but devastating to a huge segment of the world’s population. As groups, however, sociological dynamics come into play which obfuscate our perceptions and render us all too easy to manipulate. The concept of “others”, our opponents conceived of as brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers and friends, seem, to disappear, along with our empathy, and society becomes polarized into an us-versus-them, self-destructive organism, one all too easy to control through tried and true divide-and-conquer strategies and tactics.
Given the foregoing, is there no hope? Are there no better possible systems? The answer is: probably. Some form of meritocracy perhaps (not currently in vogue in the face of a “handicapper general” quota mentality). Plato believed in a benign fascist führer based system led by an all-powerful philosopher king who could own nothing and have no family and would thus be immune to corruption. Indeed, the concept of concentration of power in a dictatorship, not in a pejorative sense but representing the opposite of today’s popular purported division of power systems, was popular for limited periods in Republican Rome and is, in fact, an emergency feature in most modern governments under circumstances where governing efficiency is essential. At the other end of the political spectrum lie anarchism and communism, both predicated on a belief that humans are innately good and that little or no governance is required, a philosophy to some extent shared by libertarians. Somewhere in between one might hope lies an answer. But implementation of reforms is almost impossible given the concentration of power everywhere in the hands of the most selfish, most ruthless and most corrupt who (as Donald Trump may have learned and Vladimir Putin may be learning) are not willing to accept any changes in a system that works so well for them and for their friends and families.
So we vote, at least some of us, then complain about the results; usually all of us. And we continue to fruitlessly spin our wheels while, all around us, millions are murdered or sentenced to unfulfilled lives and early graves to feed the boundless greed of the very worst among us, many of whom are those who, in our ignorance, we most admire.
Like automatons we are programmed through purported entertainment, video games and news programs. We grow to hate those who seem different (although in most cases the differences are illusory or minor), fighting over things that will not change, their continued existence being essential distractions from our real problems. And we blithely continue on the road to perdition.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2022; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at email@example.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.