Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Democracy Dying On The Altar Of "Democracy" And "Liberty"

It's necessary when using the word "democracy" to be more specific because there are forms of democracy that are fundamentally different from egalitarian democracy.  Frankly, if it were possible to drop the word "democracy" and be understood to mean what I mean I'd do it because "democracy" is a word that, if anything, is even more damaged than "socialism" by those who have latched onto it, everyone from Marx to Hitler and many others of that ilk, in the later, pretty much everyone, these days, when it's "democracy".

The original "democracy," the Athenian democracy,was by modern standards, a seriously awful system in which a small group of Athenian men, defined in terms of gender, family lineage and class, had some say in the governance of Athens and its occupied territories.  They maintained a terrible and harshly oppressive rule over Women, People held in slavery, minors, foreigners, etc.   I mentioned recently that even an Athenian citizen could lose his status by being the passive partner in sex, even, in some cases, if it was not voluntary on their part.   Their phallocentric despotism was, as one gay scholar I heard say in the early 70s, "fucked up."*  It was, in effect, rule of a territory by hereditary male gang who, granted, had a taste for a life of the mind. Which only goes to show that without the Jewish ethic of justice and the kind of love that is the central ethic of Christianity, even a life of the mind will serve greed and oppression, oppression which is based in violence.  Why the Athenian democracy maintains anything like its status as a role model for egalitarian democracy is only proof of how a word can formally mean very different things but even educated people will simplify on the basis of convenience and laziness. It is nothing like what I mean.

The American democracy, which, of course, the friggin' Founders never wanted, was and still is far from perfect.  Lots of it was based in their 18th century conception of the even less democratic Roman Republic.  It a form of gangster governance in practice, despite the rhetoric of Madison and Hamilton* and Jefferson.  That it incorporated both the system of slavery and the subjugation of Women as well as other features to prevent direct democracy proves that it, as well, is no model for a modern democracy based in equality, in justice and in love as an ethical foundation.  As long as Women, Black People, members of other groups were kept from voting it was more in line with the kind of thing that the vaunted Athenian democracy was instead of what any egalitarian democrat wants.   The extent to which equality is absent from democracy is the extent to which it shares in the oppression of its opposite, gangster governance. 

I think one of the biggest obstacles in understanding this has been that the ethical foundation that is as essential to egalitarian democracy, the things which keep it from devolving into just another flavor of the poison that gangster governance is, have been ignored or demoted because male academics and writers think it's girly to consider things they believe to be soft, what Athenians might have called "effeminate".  Education and accurate information - also essential for good government - is no where near close to being enough.  Without those ethical foundations intelligence will only make tyrants, gangsters more effective.  The homicidal regimes of the 20th century were so effective BECAUSE they were scientifically informed and they harnessed modern, science-based technology.  As mentioned here the other day, a smart person who is bent on oppressing other people to benefit themselves is just a more effective bad guy. 

Our legal system is totally inadequate to avoid gangster governance, look at how it hasn't even been able to avoid or oust Trump, a particularly stupid and irrational gangster after two years in which it has become known that he not only is a crook and creep himself, he is the puppet of billionaires foreign as well as domestic.  It is a legal system which puts legalism ahead of not only justice but even reality.  The Supreme Court is dominated by apparatchiks of out domestic billionaire gangsters - as are the law schools that produced them - our laws are totally inadequate to protect us from them.  And what you say of the Courts and Senate is as true for the mass media which is owned by billionaires and serves them by lying, by undermining not only a sense of decency and fairness but by making us stupid, credulous and debased.  A startlingly large percentage of the population has imbibed so much of that poison, racist, misogynist, regionalist, suspicious,  paranoid, etc. that even when they are presented with the truth about Trump, they aren't much bothered by it as long as that strong man on The Apprentice is protecting them from whatever danger FOX and Sinclair are peddling to them now.  People who vote on that kind of a basis will vote themselves into tyranny by gangsters, it's why in so many places newly freed from colonial oppression, there is one and only one free election, if that.  The United States under the "free speech - free press" absolutism given to us by the courts has produced where we are now.   Under a far more restricted media, even in the Great Depression, as Europe was falling under fascism, we managed to advance towards egalitarian democracy under a restricted media who were liable to be sued for lying and which was required to serve the public.  The theories on which so much of what was mistaken as liberalism in the 1950s till today is based have been given and have failed the test of time.  Trump is the failing grade for it.  Those theories have to be scrapped and the residue scraped out of our legal system. 

One of my now very tarnished heroes I. F. Stone, in his still fine book The Trial of Socrates, constantly missed the chance to point out the anti-egalitarian features of the Athenian democracy were the very things that its aristocratic enemies used to damage and destroy it.  He also made the mistake of thinking that the Athenian system was admirable and that it had anything to teach us about democratic governance except through cautionary tales to be taken from it.  I think if we get hung up on the word "democracy" will will never understand why we're in so much trouble.  Without equality, democracy is just another kind of gangster governance and its more attractive features will give way, in the end.  Equality, those ethics mentioned justice, love, are the only safe and effective means of preventing bad governance, without those you can have all the intelligence and wit in the world and it will only serve the gangsters, in the end.   Those modern standards I mentioned in the first paragraph are based, as Jurgen Habermas did, in fact say, are only based in and nourished by the ethics of justice and love.  Nothing else produces them. 

*  The romanitic 18th-19th-20th century notions of European paganism are about as realistic as any goofy, fact-free fairy tales.  I think the "enlightenment" authors were continuing a practice that started in the Renaissance period of creating a largely make-believe past during that era based on the nice statues and literature.   I don't think that the European motives in that are in any way divorced from the aristocracies interests in practicing imperialism and slavery.   Needless to day, I don't think we should be looking to ancient Greece and Rome for models for egalitarian democracy.

**  Which is why peddling bullshit like "Hamilton" during a time when the Federalist-fascists are throttling democracy in the courts and the Senate is as dangerous as it is fictitious.

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