Modern forms of democracy were invented to restore to the members of large societies their self-determination and their participation in large-scale decision making which our ancestors, living in purely small communities, had always enjoyed. It is in our nature that we desire to have a say in our own affairs, both large and small. Without this, we easily feel enslaved, and – more importantly – actually ARE enslaved, even if we have been duped into being unaware of it. We want freedom. We want our say. But when we are duped, we lose both.
In the modern case of sly enslavement, we typically only feel the horrors of denied healthcare, broken dreams, blocked opportunities, crushed hopes, financial despair, and the shame imposed on us when we get blamed for our situation, even if overwhelming outside forces brought each of us there. We feel the pain, but we fail to notice our enslavement coupled with our loss of democracy.
So, how can we be fooled like this? Who does the fooling? How can we be duped so that democracy crumbles and is replaced with either an overt dictatorship or, as in the U.S., an oligarchy disguised as a democracy that, in reality, has become a mere sham?
The enemies of democracy come from various corners and in various shapes and sizes:
One, most powerful group, even though they are small in numbers, are psychopaths, sociopaths, and blinders-wearing lofty lords, all of them plutocrats residing at the top of our steep wealth pyramid. Knowingly or unknowingly, they exploit and oppress those below them and undermine democracy with Big Money, since democracy stands in their way of living the lives of unfettered pharaohs. They want to have exclusive say, not a voice for and participation of the unwashed masses below them, who – in their minds – only exist as commodities, tools, or cattle to be used and abused any way these lords see fit. Likewise, many of them are so far removed from the realities of life, that they gladly destroy all life on Earth if it makes them a slightly larger profit.
At the opposite end of our sick society, where poverty and blocked paths abound, exists a group of hooligans, socially retarded individuals who have replaced any and all hope of communality, acceptance, and opportunity with enormous hate, which has become their primary tool for dealing with the hardships of their lives. They gather at sports events in order to beat up, stab, or even shoot fans of the other team, even smash their heads to a pulp with a brick. Violence like this has become their only means to relieve their emotional pressure.
These two groups sooner or later come together to form a fascist movement, garnished with frills like white supremacy and wrathful hate of immigrants, differing religions, or ethnic groups. These fascist movements, engineered and funded from the top, give both groups what they want: opportunity for violence, a sense of acceptance, and status elevation for the hooligans; and total power mixed with a twisted ideological justification for the top.
People who are currently dismayed at the 45th President of the United States and see all those who voted for him as deplorables are wrong. Many folks voted for him in a miscalculated attempt of an anti-establishment vote (they should have voted third party instead!). Still, it is dangerously naive not to be aware of the deranged hooligans who do exist in every society. Likewise, we must not overlook the demonic oligarchs at the very top of our dungheap society, nor their professional thugs, who together work against democracy, gladly drafting the hooligans for extra support. They work against a good society and against everybody who isn’t part of their dark circles.
Who are the professional thugs? They come in many colors. We do have actual hit men in our country, hit men assassinating presidents who don’t toe the line and whistleblowers who try to inform the people. For each of those, we have an army of more conventional sentries of the ruling class, such as police officers, politicians, lobbyists, media personalities, voting machine programmers, and so on — all of whom get paid to defend the status quo or even drive us further down the drain. Some do this innocently, thinking they are merely protecting law and order, some simply don’t understand what they are doing; and others are biased in their thinking from the convenience of justifying good pay and elevated status.
An even larger group of convenience-driven guardians of the status quo are people who are neither at the bottom nor the top of our wealth and income pyramid. They grew up in family-owned homes, got a nice inheritance (or know it is coming), got a good education, and maybe even got invaluable connections, as well as insider knowledge, all of which allowed them to replicate the comfortable lives of their parents. As they came of age, their advantages let them move into their own self-owned homes, enjoy annual vacations, and benefit from substantial income security (such as from secure jobs). Thus their lives have always been pretty good, and they therefore don’t want things to change. That’s quite understandable, even more so if the social circles in which they have spent all their lives form a perception bubble that makes them unaware of their less well-off fellow citizens’ plight, or make it all too easy to blame the less fortunate for their situation. Blaming victims is a great way to abdicate one’s own responsibility. In the extreme case it leads to a logic such as: “Why should I bother to help a man bleeding in the street if I convince myself he got there out of his own stupidity or laziness? He failed on his “personal responsibility”. Therefore I don’t have to answer to my own social responsibility as a member of the same society. I cannot possibly guess that the bleeding guy is perhaps the hospital worker who delivered me into this world. So, all is well...”
These relatively well-off people gravitate towards “conservative” parties which quickly become business parties, working on behalf of the haves against the have-nots. The promulgated worry in those circles: government may come for some of my stuff via taxes to give it to the undeserving lazy poor. With this ideology, kindness and compassion go out the window because of their inconvenience, and the group members’ sense of justice is warped into me-me-me, only-my-family, hands-off-my-stuff, and get-off-my-land! It basically becomes OK to leave Marines behind, not to help one’s fellow citizens or human beings in need, and even to worship the super-rich, hoping to become that rich oneself some day. This abandoning of huge sections of one’s society is justified by a focus on one’s inner circles, an edification of family and family traditions, public authority, and specific nationalist ideals over everything else (as they provide a sense of stability), or by religious leaders who preach that the world we live in is garbage unworthy of attention, that only an afterlife counts. Here is your pair of blinders, with the letter “R” on it.
Another large group, are people aware and bothered by social injustice (either because they have experienced some of it themselves, or because their blinders are less effective). Their prime concerns should be things like poverty, wealth and income inequality, the generation of these inequalities built into our system of laws and attitudes. However, many of them can be distracted by more isolated injustices, such as gays not being allowed to marry (when so many marriages are so hellish they end in divorce!), transsexuals not knowing which bathroom to use, or also more serious issues like legalized and regulated abortion which prevents terrible back-alley abortions. Especially for those who also belong to the group of the haves, such distractions are easy and also convenient, since – for them – the status quote is also worth protecting. Many of these folks flock into “liberal” parties and become foot soldiers for neoliberal deviants who are part of the professional thugs I mentioned, working for the top in order to rise closer to the top themselves. Others are loyal foot soldiers from less fortunate socio-economic layers who have somehow failed to notice that a party which formerly represented them has long stopped to do so. Here is your pair of blinders, with the letter “D” on it.
Between the secure haves and the condemned have-nots there also live those who have, but whose position isn’t secure and who see their government coming for their stuff with fees and taxes, as well as regulations that may make their lives as small business owners more difficult, while the same government gives to the less fortunate below them. Those folks have trouble knowing to whom to turn in order to ensure their own good life. Often they turn to a declared business party, not necessarily out of contempt for others, but out of fear.
Because of such distractions, confusion, and convenient blinders, many members and groups of a sham democracy end up fighting over issues like gay rights and abortion (or insignificantly tiny tax breaks) and never look at the underlying principles that create huge wealth and income inequality (replete with enormous financial insecurity) and the dreadful consequences of piling so many of our resources onto a handful of billionaire bullies in the sociopathic first group.
It’s like quarreling about scratches and band-aids while ignoring the shattered bones and internal injuries underneath.
Clearly, such quarrels tend to eternally divide us since many of the topics chosen are particularly complex without easy or quick solutions everyone would be perfectly happy with. Obviously, such infighting will get us nowhere.
Instead, we must learn to open our minds and (while the hooligans and sociopathic plutocrats may need therapeutic counseling first) put our heads together to arrive at a deeper understanding of the forces that are behind the national, state, and community problems we experience and which affect us all personally in our own lives.
These forces are not only groups of people, like the mentioned groups who uphold anti-social or anti-unity interests. These forces also come in the form of societal structure and people’s perception and mentality. Where structure is concerned, our system of laws that regulate ownership and access control has us all participate in a game of Monopoly where a small fraction of the players, and the bank as well, have been given all the streets and buildings (and most of the money) right at the outset, while most of the rest of the players spend our time in this game struggling to survive under those extremely unequal conditions.
A little inequality, better called variety, is normal and tolerable since we are all different individuals. But our current scale of inequality is totally out of balance and has disastrous consequences.
To make matters worse, this set of laws and practices goes hand in hand with warped perceptions of reality and a mentality that makes each of us adapt to this horrid system and uphold it at the same time. Hence, we absolutely must open our minds to taking a fresh look around us, rethinking conditions, and working out together what solutions will work best for all of us.
Recognizing the anti-democratic forces as a critical part among the causes of our various problems is vital. Recognizing that they come in three categories – namely anti-democratic or blinders-wearing interest groups, socio-economic-legal-political structures, and a warped widespread perception and mentality that permits this mess – regarding it as natural and normal – may be a good start, since all three categories require fixing. Mentality and perception are the most fundamental of all. I would like to live in a country where all of us agree on the prime goal of a good life for all, and as old faults become obvious and new situations arise, we figure out the best solutions based on this shared prime goal.
To some, this principle will appeal out of compassion. To others because there is no better guarantee for a good life for them. Let’s give it a try. Deal?