Saturday, January 07, 2006

Enslaved by Ignorance?

Spinoza said "If men may become enslaved by their ignorance, uninformed freedom of choice may take the road to disaster".
The government of the USA is described as a Democratic Republic. What do those two words really mean? Well, as most of us, I have not dwelt on this question much since those civic classes in high school.
Democracy is the "rule" by the majority of adults governed and a Republic is when the titular head of state did not acquire his position by heredity. Very simple concepts to remember. I wonder, though, if we really examined these concepts against what the reality is, can we still hold fast to our political identity? I am sure these two concepts have been debated ad infinitum on many academic levels. To what degree can each concept be held before it looses its true meaning or essence?
A Democracy requires good stewardship by "adults". An adult is someone who is of a legal age. That requirement seems skimpy to me. I know many adults who have reached maturity and have never voted and could not care less who is in charge of our government. So maybe we need to be "informed" adults to be good stewards of Democracy. Unfortunately, it is in our nature to be comfortable and as such we are creatures of habit. We tend to congregate towards like-minded friends, associates and even our sources of news media. We love to have our beliefs reinforced. It's comfortable and sometimes even pleasurable. "Birds of a feather flock together." Consensus is the mind magnet that blinds us to reality. Why upset this comfortable zone we're in by listening to opposing viewpoints? Because it is our duty as informed thinking adults to be open to all possibilities. To be good stewards of Democracy we need to break out of our comfort zone and actually consider "other" ideas. It takes effort.
Are our votes shaped by informed unbiased ideas or are we being "herded" by our own comfortable consensus and just "going along" because all our friends are of one mind?
If we dwell only on our side of the idea fence, is this not a self-imposed enslavement to ignorance? Thank you Benedictus. Point taken.
Do we have a Democracy? Hmmm.
How about the word "Republic".
Do we qualify?
Saddam and Uday? That definitely was no Republic.
No way, not here, not that kind of "all in the family" politics.
Can it be that we have an identity crisis going on? It is starting to look more like a modified monarchy when we examine the actual reality.
First it was Bush #1 and now it's Bush #2. Bill first and now, possibly, Hillary?
What's going on here?
I can't imagine that out of a possible three hundred million, we have to settle for sons and wives of past presidents.
It's just not logical to me that these are the best qualified candidates for the job.
I like the term Modified Democratic Republic, it has a nice modern ring to it.


Pete's Blog said...


Democracy is a relative term.

In Australia voting is compulsory in federal, state and local (county) elections. We can sell you the copyrights on this political improvement (for an outrageous price!!).

I was going to spring the Bush dynasty reality on you until you (unfortunatly) mentioned it. But, there is Jeb you know, 7 years youger than George W. After the next presidency (Hilary or Oprah - naturally) young Jeb will be it.

Kinda makes one want bring back a constitutional monarchy - you can have ours.

Just to confuse things more the English had a republic before the American colonies. George Washington, very much an enlightened English gentleman versus George III, a throwback to European kingship, in many respects used the traditions of England's Long Parliament as a model.

I would venture that Washington went out of his way to avoid many of Cromwell's excesses and inclinations.

I wish to inflame your nationalism by noting that "Jefferson was original to the extent that he brought many of the existing concepts of English liberalism together".

There roman I can imagine you fairly seething :)

roman said...

spying bad things,
Seething? Not at all. The idea of original political concepts never even crossed my mind. As a country of immigrants (I am one myself), the USA is a melting pot of not just people but of ideas. Our political structures/organs were an evolutionary bunch of ideas brought here by the colonial settlers and has been "refined" ever since.
If King George would have listened to some of his advisors and not taken such draconian measures to subjugate the colonists, we would now be part of the Commonwealth. It may surprise you to know that I would not mind that at all. We here in the states see little if any distinction between our model of governance and Canada. They have the same problems that we do.
I like Oprah. She is a genuine success story.

Pete's Blog said...

Interesting about your interest in the Commonwealth. Most of the intelligentsia in Australia appear to prefer an non Executive (Irish like) Republican model. This model went to a popular vote several years back but was overwelmingly rejected.

As well as Hilary and Oprah another female possibility is, of course, Condi. If she were to show a little more independence from Bush and edge towards the centre who knows the election, say in 2012, would be interesting.

roman said...

spying bad things,
Condi's not bad. Very intelligent. Anyone who has been part of this administration, carries the Bush millstone around their necks and will need to overcome a lot of bad publicity. Condi so far has been able to stay above the fray but I don't know how long that will last.

Mohamed said...

Very interesting post indeed!

I just wondered what do you mean that the US and the Canadian moods of governance are similar.

Canada by far is closer to a european style socialist state (i.e. Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, etc..) than it is to a US model which is reflected on its overall low poverty rates and a more equitable distribution of wealth and better welfare, etc.

This model certainly has profound effects on the mood of governance. Even if the political process seems similar to the naked eyes the lobbyists around the government in Canada are rather different that the sort of lobbyists for government in the US. The difference being more social interest groups around the Canadian government, while it’s more corporations and corporate interests around the US government. My presumption is that corporate lobbying groups can and do manipulate the public opinion in strange familiar ways whenever they take over leading to adverse political effects that tend ot be unfavorable on the long run.

Interesting post again. Waiting for your next post

roman said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog.
Your assesment of the differences between governance in US and Canada are correct. I should add that corporate lobbying, while very public here in the states is also very active in Canada, although not as public. We hear of political scandals up in Canada quite frequently involving very familiar political corruption.
On a recent trip to Montreal and Quebec, I noticed that there were teachers and public worker strikes on going. I was surprised to hear that workers strikes were a common occurance. The price of gasoline (this was during Hurricane Katrina)
ran up over 40% in just one week just like here in the US. To me, it looked like they had the same problems we have here in the states. Also, there sure are a lot of former Canadians living and working here especially from the Maritime Provinces where there is very little industry.

Oricon Ailin said...

I like the way you look at it. Here where I live, the percentage of eligible voters that actually turn out to vote is like 12%. That is really sad. Most people don't care.

A Modified Democratic Republic sounds about right.

roman said...

oricon ailin,
According to commenter 'spying bad things" voting in Australia is compulsory. It must be the same system as we employ in the states for jury duty. Dodgers from jury duty sooner or later must answer or be fined. Maybe it's time to consider the same voter laws as in Australia.

Pete's Blog said...

Yes in Australia those over 18 who are registered to vote are fined if they don't vote.

This "encourages" people to do their democratic duty to vote (hopefully) on an informed basis.

This makes "underpriveleged groups" who I suspect are under-represented in US voting trends, vote. This in turn makes our political spectrum considerable more to the left than that in the US.

The trend though as in the UK, France and Germany is that the left is edging towards the centre. In my book this is not a good thing as well funded social programs are always necessary.

roman said...

spying bad things,
You know what's funny, I used to be socially and politically liberal all my life. My brother used to call me a "bleeding-heart" liberal whenever we had any kind of discussion over the dinner table. This was up to the time when Bill Clinton was impeached by the House and his staff "took stuff" out of the White House and left it in shambles when they turned it over to the Bush crowd. His last minute pardons of corrupt wealthy people, just before he left office, was the final push for me. I wondered, who can we turn to for more responsibility and more honest accountability? I guess that there is something inherently dishonest in all politicians no matter what their stripe. It's just so frustrating how these prominent politicians always leave me sad and dissapointed.
Sorry, just venting... hope you don't mind.
More on point,though, some social programs will be threathened with
funding cuts if, like you say, the drift is back to the center and right. That means the misery index will rise for those who rely on some of these services. Vital services should never be cut but wherever there is waste, fraud or abuse; well need I say it? I am always reminded of a former public school teacher who confided in me and told me that it was "understood" that all monies in their budget had to be used up, no matter if purchases were wasteful or redundant, before year end because that would insure that at least the same amount or more would be set aside for them in their next fiscal year budget. It should never be construed that funding was sufficient or, God forbid, excessive. Multiply this "reasoning" by all the social programs and cities and towns accross this great nation and one can clearly see that the money is mostly there but I suspect it may be mishandled at various levels by career bureaurats.
Anyway, that's where I'm coming from on most social issues. I know, I'm a bit suspicious and maybe bordering on paranoia but since I can acknowledge this, I guess I'm OK.
Peace :)