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Why I Don't Believe in DemocracyDaniel Johnson Salem-News.com
The problem is not lack of leadership, but the presence of the wrong kind of leadership—meaning they don’t have the interests of the polity in mind.
(CALGARY, Alberta) - The Republicans winning Ted Kennedy’s old seat in Massachusetts confirms my pessimism about democracy. While a Republican agenda is far from a slam-dunk, there are nation-shaking possibilities near at hand. This may end Obama’s quest for health care reform as a small number of people in one state are able to derail national policies.
Look to more public support for tax cuts that benefit the wealthy while hurting public services that almost everyone relies on to one degree or another. People are so brainwashed that even the poor will decline public assistance out of misplaced pride, even though they are suffering--ignoring or totally oblivious to the fact that the rich and powerful find ways to take hundreds of billions of dollars out of the public purse with no conscience whatsoever.
This is my first caveat against democracy: People can generally be counted on to vote against their own best interests.
The electorate is also, overall, stupid to use a technical term. George W. Bush and his politics of wealth and phoney wars left the nation almost prostrate. But, because a new president, arguing for reform, couldn’t turn things around in only a year, when Bush had eight years to do his damage, the stupid electorate turned against him and his progressive policies.
Writer Colin Wilson said: “When we look back over the past eight thousand years, it is clear that the most irritating characteristic of human beings is their passivity. The mass of people accept whatever happens to them as cows accept the rain.”
That’s democracy in action. The problem is not lack of leadership, but the presence of the wrong kind of leadership—meaning they don’t have the interests of the polity in mind.
The playwright George Bernard Shaw once asked the explorer H. M. Stanley (Dr. Livingstone, I presume) how many other men could take over leadership of the expedition if Stanley himself fell ill. “One in twenty,” said Stanley. “Is that exact or approximate?” asked Shaw. “Exact”.
Biological studies have confirmed this fact. For some unknown reason, precisely five percent—one in twenty—of any animal group are dominant and have leadership qualities. During the Korean War, the Chinese made the discovery that if they isolated the dominant five percent of American prisoners of war, and kept them in a separate compound, the remaining ninety-five percent made no attempt to escape.
It was Lord Acton who said: Absolute power corrupts absolutely. “No human being can withstand the lure of it, not even the Gandhis and Mother Teresas of the world,” argues Adam Galinsky, professor of ethics at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University, who has been studying the effects of power for 10 years.
The rich and powerful, Galinsky argues, believe they become invisible. He uses the auto executives as an example. They flew to Washington in their private jets while, at the same time, they were demanding huge pay cuts from the workers and huge bailouts from the government. They seemed to be genuinely surprised when people reacted with outrage at their insensitivity. They thought they were invisible, says Galinsky.
And so it is with democracy. The bovine electorate of America elect the worst of the five percent leadership who promptly begin to do whatever they want. “People in power,” Galinsky says, “act more like themselves; their true personality emerges.”
But it’s not just America. We are coming up to 40 years in 2011 of Conservative rule in Alberta. We, too, have a largely bovine population.
What democracy ends up being is a kakistocracy—rule by the worst. It seems to be in human nature for this to happen. After this election in Massachusetts today, I feel no optimism, just like I feel after the Alberta elections I’ve watched since I became politically aware in the 1982 Alberta election. Kakistocracy here, kakistocracy there, it’s a disease.
Daniel Johnson was born near the midpoint of the twentieth century in Calgary, Alberta. In his teens he knew he was going to be a writer, which is why he was one of only a handful of boys in his high school typing class — a skill he knew was going to be necessary. He defines himself as a social reformer, not a left winger, the latter being an ideological label which, he says, is why he is not an ideologue. From 1975 to 1981 he was reporter, photographer, then editor of the weekly Airdrie Echo. For more than ten years after that he worked with Peter C. Newman, Canada’s top business writer (notably on a series of books, The Canadian Establishment). Through this period Daniel also did some national radio and TV broadcasting. He gave up journalism in the early 1980s because he had no interest in being a hack writer for the mainstream media and became a software developer and programmer. He retired from computers last year and is now back to doing what he loves — writing and trying to make the world a better place
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