Listening to “To the best of our Knowledge” today set me thinking about democracy again. With a Master’s (actually 1 semester away from being ABD, but I’m not too bitter) degree in Political Science with an emphasis on ethnic conflict, democratization, and political theory, democracy floats through my skull frequently but few hear those thoughts but me. The reason? Most people who talk to me about politics only want to hear their own opinions vindicated by a person with a degree in the topic of their opinions.
The initial discussion on “To the Best of Our Knowledge” was the only one of any value, and only a moment of that 15 minutes was good. A serious disappointment for someone who LOVES this Wisconsin Public Radio and Public Radio International program!
Democracy is more than, and much less than, what the vast majority of people realize. This same can be said about other Political Scientists. Problem is, so few people think. Same goes for people with degrees. Education doesn’t teach you to think, it just gives one just enough to be dangerous, but not enough to be effective.
Firstly, can you name the most democratic state in history? Bet you can’t.
The German Third Reich.
Confused? Don’t be. Most are. You see, the most democratic constitution ever written was that of the Third Reich. Look it up. If you actually read that constitution you’ll wonder how the hell it could bring into being such a destructive fascist regime that murdered so many millions of people.
Which leads us to the more important point…
Secondly, democracy does not mean freedom. It doesn’t even mean individualism or equality or human rights or any of that other liberal bologna. That’s the problem with cultures. It is so ingrained in our psyche that we are rarely capable of seeing past it.
Democracy only means “the people” choose the rules of the game. That means, if “the people” choose to elect a vicious Nazi party that eventually commit mass genocide and try to take over the world, that’s democracy. The interesting part about democracy is, if “the people” decide to give up their rights through a vote, they can. At which point, is it still a democracy? Sure is.
Bet you’re wondering why I keep putting the phrase “the people” in quotes. Because, by “the people”, I mean those who are handed the privilege to vote or have any sort of voice in the state. In ancient Greece, only property owning males who were considered true “Greeks” were allowed to take part in their democracy. “Barbarians”, women, slaves, and indentured servants were forced to live in what could easily be considered dictatorship, or at the very least oligarchy in the truest sense of the word.
That description of Greek democracy should ring familiar. The original U.S. democracy only allowed property owning white males to participate. Now, only citizens who don’t commit a felony or are seen by their government to have committed terrorism against it.
There is something else you should have picked up on a few paragraphs back. The government has to first GIVE its citizens the right to a voice. That means: democracy, aka government by the people for the people, is bestowed upon the people through the benevolent kindness of the government.
Now, some of you will say: BULL. History shows us that many democracies are born out of popular revolutions. This is mostly true. But, what happens after a popular revolution? The people who are chosen to decide what sort of government will take the place of the dictatorship or monarchy the revolution destroyed create a new government. That new government can easily choose oligarchy. Then what? The revolution ensues again? Not likely. That new government can also choose to give the people a voice to quell anger. Just look at China.
China is more democratic than Communist. Don’t roll your eyes. Don’t believe me, do a little research and stop living in the 60’s. Chinese government GIVE the people a voice by allowing elections…to quell anger and dissent.
Democracy is a circle. But that circle begins and ends with the will of the benevolent government.