Voting is a mechanism invented so people can distance themselves from responsibility. Voters never really DO anything they just vote for people who do things. Those people, in turn, say that they do everything FOR the voters. In the end when shit goes down, each sides points to each other until the next election when everything is “changed” by electing a “different type” of president. Another example of great and wonderful American Democracy.
Posts Tagged ‘Democracy’
We, because we are members of this whelmed democracy, must remember that laws are simply extensions of ideology. They are neither good nor bad, neither helpful nor harmful, neither prudent nor ignorant by nature. Laws find justification by assuming an ideology of concepts too grand to be refuted. In every debate surrounding law reform a heady concept is thrown around like peanuts at a baseball game. We must decide as a nation what the goal of laws are.
Do they promote freedom?
Do they promote rights?
Do they promote equality?
Do they promote order?
Do they preserve the Union?
Do they aid in our development or education?
Is there goal to make us better human beings?
Are they attached to justice or ethics?
Or are they simply the voice of the herd with absolutely no concrete guidance whatsoever?
Please leave your comments about which you feel and why. This is but a small sampling that I wish to discover. Please also note that some may comment on what they feel is the reality of laws while others should feel free to comment on what laws OUGHT to be. Please consider both what laws ARE and what they OUGHT to be.
“I hear you saying that liberation is possible
and that Socratic wisdom
is identical with your guru’s.
No, Raja, I must start from what I am.
I am those monsters which visit my dreams
and reveal to me my hidden essence.
If I am sick, there is no proof whatsoever
that man is a healthy creature.” (“To Raja Rao”, Czeslaw Milosz)
The problem then is this: in our modern paradigm we assume man to be able to overcome any limitation he may face using the sheer force of reason. Even at the height of religious fanaticism in the Renaissance, faith was not even allowed to have such power – for the Christian teaching was always one of inevitable fallenness. This is the new faith, the faith of science.
However, this new faith treads on shaky grounds. What if this cannot be said about man? What if man is not a healthy animal, nor ever was, nor ever could be? What then does it mean for science to tell us anything by using the light of man’s reason? Is it not just better defining the edges of the shadows on the cave wall – making the illusion MORE real, rather than allowing us to understand anything truer, deeper.
But such a question cannot be asked of the new faith, for it is outside the purview of the new faith. To ask: “Why do we assume reason is flawless” is an unscientific question – and unscientific questions are simply improper to ask. Science doesn’t even attempt to answer such questions, because such metaphysical concerns are deemed inappropriate before they even enter the scrutiny of science.
So we must understand that the new faith is as dogmatic and pretentious as any other, assuming its own foundations to be correct, and then proceeding along as successful judged only by its internal consistency. It, like all other faiths, lends itself to the weak willed, and is only practiced truly by a few elites. The rest simply listen to what the prophets hand down, and accept, for whom else has the time to read the bones except these blessed wise men.
But listen to what I say, for this is more important than the rant thus far. We cannot abandon science because it is like this. We must instead understand ourselves and that we are flawed. Rather than believe that we cannot know, because all previous examples have fallen short, we must assume that we can only know in small amounts. Science has given birth to many miracles, miracles that we cannot deny because of its apparent contradictions and ethical, metaphysical, and ontological errors. It was never supposed to be our savior, asking it to be the explanation of all is in our arrogance, not its shortcomings.
The answer is not a disbelief in all things, but the use of these tools to understand a world that is complex and yet experienced everyday. Understanding shouldn’t be perfect, it should aim at perfection, but never should it be complete. Do not confuse this for a fruitless task, for in so doing you bask in the light of nihilism.
The enlightenment convinced us that man can be shaped to the point of perfection – we can be the perfect arbiter, the perfect class, the perfect race. None of these are true, and all that the enlightenment has accomplished is to fuel the egomaniacal with ideology to persuade the masses. For once perfection is brought into the purview of man, he will do anything to reach it, even commit genocide that he previously would’ve found revolting.
But communism and totalitarianism are not the only culprits, just the more obvious. Their brother, democracy, practices perfection in a more benign form – the form of perfect equality. The ideology of freedom and equality has convinced an entire society that greatness is impossible, that selfhood is found outside of anything higher or different from the individual and that a culture has nothing more to offer history than its own vein reflection – and the result is a gulag that cannot be fought. Not even by the pens of Solzhenitsyn, Czeslaw Milosz, or Tocqueville.
Even under oppression in the Gulag of Russia there was still an idea of greatness. This idea, though grown from the bastardization of communism, did propel a man toward greatness (so long as it was in the name of the party), the government endorsed writing, art, film, and culture advancement in the name of the Russian people – but in so doing reaffirmed the power of the poet, the artist, the director to bring down the system the same way it arose. Without such a confirmation from the government even great authors find it hard to criticize American democracy – for the tread on the most holy grounds our modern society can offer – freedom and equality. There are none better than you, you cannot be great, and hence you cannot contend with what the majority says. Who can deny that one voice cannot outweigh ten voices that weigh the same? – Such logic is infallible, it has been dictated by our ancestors, and can never be questioned.
Though in certain circumstances these gentlemen bellow their loudest like bulls, though this, let us suppose, does them the greatest credit, yet, as I have said already, confronted with the impossible they subside at once. The impossible means the stone wall! What stone wall? Why, of course, the laws of nature, the deductions of natural science, mathematics. As soon as they prove to you, for instance, that you are descended from a monkey, then it is no use scowling, accept it for a fact. When they prove to you that in reality one drop of your own fat must be dearer to you than a hundred thousand of your fellow-creatures, and that this conclusion is the final solution of all so-called virtues and duties and all such prejudices and fancies, then you have just to accept it, there is no help for it, for twice two is a law of mathematics. Just try refuting it. – Fyodor Dostoevsky “Notes from the Underground”
Let us take a step back at this moment and examine this notion of freedom and equality in the eyes of Dostoevsky in more precision. Our goal; to understand man’s nature and the possible flaws in his freedom and his equality; our tool – Dostoevsky’s “Dream of a Ridiculous Man”; why go through this trouble – so that some will be able to say that from ideology there rose a voice of discontent even if only to make others think of the consequences of their dogmatic adherence to the democratic process. Such will be the aim of the next post – my apologies if it takes some time to write.
“Memory was once regarded as the mother of the Muses: Mnemosyne mater musarum. I can testify that it is really so, that when perfection summons, it is untrappable except as the detail recalled…” (The Land of Ulro, Czeslaw Milosz, pg 11).
As stated in the previous entry, Dante is the patron saint of all those who only visit their homelands in memory – Milosz being one of those who pray to Saint Dante for strength and inspiration. Such a distance from one’s homeland, a distance of the time and space of forced exile, is the mother of the Muses which informed the poetry of Milosz: whose aim was to capture a significant and precarious century which most others had swept under the rug as finally overcome when the Berlin wall fell leaving only Democratic freedom within the purview of the globe.
Dante adds to the conversation of exile a pre-democratic (once again, democracy in the modern sense) look. Dante himself was a white Guelph who opposed the presence of the Pope in Florentine politics. Dante was part of a movement which would eventually lead to the enlightenment and the separation of religious authority and political authority which makes possible the modern American Democracy.
Dante’s discontent with the political situation of his day arises from a concern with corruption in the church. The realization that a religious government was prone to corruption was also a concern for Pride, that a Pope could put himself above the needs of God, and when he does so politically he corrupts an entire nation. In some ways, his discontent is one of Ideological Absolutism, which, since the birth of Christianity had manifested itself in Religious terms, but since then has reared its head in secular forms. In short, despite Dante’s role in bringing forth the enlightenment, his desire to do so was born from a concern that he thought would be removed by removing religious authority. This concern did not disappear. Whereas Dante assumed religion would still play a major role in people’s lives, hence balancing political tyranny, the institutions that arose did not maintain religious authority in any way, allowing secular Ideology to merely replace Religious Ideology.
Such a move was incomprehensible to a Europe that had been understanding its politics within religious contexts for a millennium – incomprehensible to all except Tocqueville. Tocqueville’s Democracy in America was published in 1835 and talked much of a perceived possibility of great decline in the spiritual characteristic of America – one that for better or for worse we all must admit, has come true – 173 years after he first published. This merely goes to show that democracy was not always considered the only option for political justice, despite the modern trend, it was considered by many foundational thinkers in Western Civilization, as a dangerous turn – one that always comes before tyranny according Plato.
Hence, after three entries, we have finally concluded the introduction to a most interesting problem, which challenges a paradigm once thought unquestionable. Our allies in this questioning range from the former Soviet Union, to Imperial England, Renaissance Italy, and even Ancient Greece. The thing they all have in common is exile. Solzhenitsyn from Russia, Milosz from Poland, Dante from Florence, and Plato from Athens (Plato being the only one exiled FROM a Democracy in leau of execution, which was Socrates destiny).
Exile brings from the fore what exactly caused all these people to bring the best critiques. Exile means you have no home, nothing to lose, no national language, no cultural pressure – you are allowed to be a voice of all, of yourself, and of none simultaneously standing outside culture, outside history, and yet inside the vision of all. The memories, usually painful, of their homeland and of their loss, are the motivations, the Muses, that drive them with otherworldly fervor and power. They, unlike us, understand what it is to lose it all, to walk but be dead and this inability to lose any more, to understand what it is at stake gives them an omnipotence and wisdom beyond their peers.
Finally, from ambiguity, we are free to rise to a particular question. The question is exile. The frame is 20th century ideologies including democracy. The people are Milosz, Dante, Tocqueville, Solzhenitsyn, and Plato. Together they form an unbroken line which runs through the heart of every man. They share a destiny, a pain, and an insight which, if we are to be free thinkers, we must confront as the possibility that there is an option outside of our current system, which may allow the soul to ascend to greater heights.
“Moreover, since I have lived a long time in exile, I may be legitimately claimed by all those who had to leave their native villages and provinces because of misery of persecution and to adapt themselves to new ways of life; we are millions all over the Earth, for this is a century of exile.” – Czeslaw Milosz Banquet Speech 1980
I now return to anthropocentricity, and in particular evaluate the 20th century (‘the century of exile’) and how these strange sons of the enlightenment became distasteful of the direction that Western Civilization is heading in. In particular the role of extreme oppression, totalitarian regimes, and genocide on all sides turned the minds of Solzhenitsyn and Milosz toward democracy with a critical eye – but first lets turn several centuries back to a man heavily admired by Milosz: Dante Allegeri.
Why Dante? Why do we trun centuries back to Italy to discover our current dilemma? “A patron saint of all poets in exile, who visit their towns and provinces only in remembrance, is always Dante” (Milosz, Nobel Prize Lecture 1980). Dante not only embodies poetics but he was also an exile, who, unlike Milosz, could not find solace in being in the century of exile. Dante also understood anthropocentricity as he placed pride in the bottom two layers of hell, as well as the first layer of purgatory. It is the proud who become traitors, as we see Judas, Brutus, and Cassius in the mouth of the devil himself. But alas, Milosz is not talking about the pride of just one man against his fellow man, but the pride of Man against God (or anything higher than man, for that fact).
This anthropocentricity arrives as a product of the same movement that brings modern democracy – the enlightenment. Note here a delineation between modern and ancient democracies – this will be explored later. Ironically, the enlightenment also makes way for the two greatest opponents of democracy – communism and fascism (fanatical nationalism). All three governments share a commonality, which shows best their relation to anthropocentricity and the enlightenment.
Democracy is founded on the principle that man can logically understand what is best for him and that in groups his desires are checked by others to form a common good created through the fulfillment of contrary private goods. It is man who makes laws which reflect what is best for man and only through this communal process can he create a government which is just. Here anthropocentricity appears as man’s ability to rule over himself – through law.
Communism is the belief that true utopia can be created on earth by the sharing of all, and is not far from Christian Theology. However, Communism puts heaven on earth by creating an ultimate and absolute end to history whereupon all social classes are equal and all conflicts cease. Any aim short of this absolute end is deemed political heresy, and what arrives is the belief in man’s unlimited possibility to achieve this end; a faith in mankind over God.
Fascism is the bond one has with his nation – and its absolute leader and speaker. Here we see cold efficiency of tyranny combine with ideology to create a super state whose goal is the consumption of all. Fascism’s close ties to nature and scientific realism allow it to set aside justice as something higher than man, and rather embrace the cold power of the will to achieve ends – for what else is there for man other than ends – the belief in anything higher than man himself is deemed a dream.
All three were born from a single principle of the enlightenment – that man’s reason (and his reason alone) is what gives him his identity – and furthermore – his power. This power, if properly aimed, could and SHOULD master nature to make it his slave. It is cold reason which rejects anything higher (anything beyond reasoning, i.e. epiphany, faith, belief, or revelation), it is mechanical reason which applies lifeless history to known future in an attempt to reach a paradise within man’s mind, and it is short-sighted reason which dictates the new laws.
Triplets of the Enlightenment. Of whom, 1 has risen from the ashes of two world wars and one cold war. Democracy, the child of liberalism, of the ill-fated French revolution, of Locke, has stretched the globe like the once great English Empire. Democracy, the study of Tocqueville, the asylum of Solzhenitsyn, the linguistic prison of Milosz, offers freedom of the body, and enslavement of the soul. So is the contention of these three authors, who see in the world’s most prolific political institution a problem only visible from outside its persuasive walls.
Inside its walls nothing is clearer than the supremacy of democratic Western ideas – it is enough to fuel wars and commit atrocities so long as democracy is preserved and is allowed to metastasize. Allowed to escape criticism by being in the shadows of its two brothers for an entire century, it has now emerged as a beast too big to be fed, but it eats and it is still hungry. The two biggest modern critics of this beast are already layer before you (Solzhenitsyn and Milosz), and interestingly, grew up under the oppressive weight of democracy’s twin; communism (Milosz having experienced all three triplets of the Enlightenment when Nazi Germany invaded Poland).
How could these two writers be so critical of democracy? The answer lies in exile, and in Dante Allegeri.
More on Dante’s role, and role of Exile, in the criticism of Democracy to come… but I feel enough head way has been made to warrant a rest to better distance ourselves from this material for a short while.