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Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Jefferson’

Ah, the subtle swaying of simple minds ...

Election furor in the US.

Some of that here, too, with the National Assembly vote very soon.

Palestine’s bid for membership in the UN will be vetoed.

An execution in Georgia took place.

Austerity measures are protested in Greece.

Facebook makes changes.

Just a few of the topics swirling this morning that bring to mind a recent discussion on democracy, what it means, what it is, and what’s do be done with it, spawned partly from last week’s declared International Day of Democracy marked on the 15th.

So, what exactly did that occasion celebrate?

democracy
diˈmäkrəsē
noun ( pl. -cies)

a system of government by the whole population or all the eligible members of a state, typically through elected representatives : capitalism and democracy are ascendant in the third world.

• a state governed in such a way : a multiparty democracy.

• control of an organization or group by the majority of its members : the intended extension of industrial democracy.

• the practice or principles of social equality : demands for greater democracy.

ORIGIN late 16th cent.: from French démocratie, via late Latin from Greek dēmokratia, from dēmos ‘the people’ + -kratia ‘power, rule.’

As a quick read through the democratically organized Wiki shows, democracy comes in many different flavors.

You’ve got your Representative Democracy, your Consensus Democracy, your Deliberative Democracy, Cosmopolitan Democracy, democracy Representative, Parliamentary, Presidential (and Semi-Presidential), direct, inclusive,
participatory, Socialist, Sortition, Supranational and the Anarchists … any of which can be liberal … or not … characterized by Majority Rule, but, as mentioned, ” … it is also possible for a minority to be oppressed by a “tyranny of the majority”.

While there is no universally accepted definition of ‘democracy’, equality and freedom have both been identified as important characteristics of democracy since ancient times.These principles are reflected in all citizens being equal before the law and having equal access to legislative processes.

Nice idea, heh?

Those of us who were around during the time the US was busy wrestling dominos in the course of “saving the world for democracy” might be forgiven for thinking democracy a new-ish, western-ish concept since not a lot of talk about Mesopotamia, Phoenicia and India, cultures that adhered to democratic practices before the Greeks came up with the word, entered debates over whether or not dropping cluster bombs over Cambodia was a good plan.

Democracy went from being a Greek word to a Buzz word once … dum de dum dum … communism gave it something to bounce off of and resonate, and as is the nature of such things it became undemocratic to question the righteousness rightness of democracy.

It doesn’t take a deep investigation into history to see how that worked out. Do the term McCarthyism ring a bell?

During the McCarthy era, thousands of Americans were accused of being Communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government or private-industry panels, committees and agencies. The primary targets of such suspicions were government employees, those in the entertainment industry, educators and union activists. Suspicions were often given credence despite inconclusive or questionable evidence, and the level of threat posed by a person’s real or supposed leftist associations or beliefs was often greatly exaggerated. Many people suffered loss of employment and/or destruction of their careers; some even suffered imprisonment.

As Thomas Jefferson so aptly put it: A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.

So, is democracy a red herring, a set of shiny, jangling keys designed to take our eyes off the prize of true freedom and call it healthy compromise?

American history is rife with praise for the democratic way of doing government, starting as it did from roots dug from monarch trees that had held the mountaintop for centuries, but perhaps the motivation was best summed up years later by that very British brain, Winston Churchill, when he said, ” … democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

Unless the world ends in 2012, there is much more to come in the way of evolving systems of governing bits of our increasingly crowded planet. Power will shift, economies will weaken and strengthen in little relation to rightness or wrongness, wars will happen and winners will be touted as those holding the true path to glory. People will even adjust to Facebook altering the way feeds work.

“Democracy… while it lasts is more bloody than either [aristocracy or monarchy]. Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There is never a democracy that did not commit suicide.”
~ John Adams

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