To the editor:
This letter is written in response to Larry Knilands’ article on August 19th regarding democracy. There are a few points that I would like to make about democracy.
Democracy seems to be the most practical system of government that we as a society have come up with in the last ten thousand years. As we’ve all been taught, it is the pinnacle of government in modern civilization. It is a goal that all should strive towards and put their faith into. The salvation of modern civilization lies in democracy. Sorry, but I can’t buy that.
Our society is based on a product-oriented economy, hence capitalism and democracy are, in fact, the most practical method of running things. But let’s look at where these methods have gotten us, so far. Overpopulation, drug abuse, violent crime, pollution, and corruption are all rampant in our modern society. All of which are American dreams. In the name of “advancement”, we continue to bite the hand that feeds us, Mother Earth. In the name of democracy, liberty, and freedom, we push our ways on everyone else, resulting in a society to which all must belong. Our way has resulted in a world of conformity. A “global village” with a “global economy”. Nature abhors conformity, as does the individual. The problems in our society are merely a result of living product-oriented lives governed by a corrupt system that refuses to recognize that there isn’t any “one true way”. Democracy is the excuse, and genocide is the action. We hide behind the idea that democracy and capitalism is the right way to do things, allowing us to therefore conclude that anything else is the wrong way. “We the people” refuse to let anyone do things any other way, because we must defend and protect our own way. Is this really worth defending? Is democracy really “the basis of our well-being”? I think not. Look at our country, our problems. Sure we’ve got the whole material wealth and world power thing going for us, but look at our people. Suffering, dying, killing themselves, all in the name of democracy, all in the name of money, power, and prestige. The “equality of sexes, races, religions, and ages” that you speak of is non-existent. I don’t see any of that where I’m sitting, but maybe things are different for you. You speak of America as “a fertile field from which to find ideas and values”. Whatever. Most of these ideas are founded on the same principles. There’s nothing new in what we’re postulating about government and economics and technology. We’re finding more and more ways to let the same old stuff control us more and more. The growth that comes from this “fertile field” is composed of more bars to the same old cage. Our science, technology, government, economy, and way of life altogether are the causes of our problems. Yet we continue to look to those for the answers to our problems. You speak of “thinking and problem-solving”. How can even pretend to solve the rest of the world’s problems if we can’t solve our own. Korporate Amerikkka is a big-business machine, reliant on systems of money, property, and prestige. Korporate Amerikkka is guilty of genocide, homicide, and stands directly between “the people” and liberty. We call this freedom? Patrick Henry said “Give me liberty or give me death.” If this is liberty, if “democracy is the basis of our well-being”, then I think I’d prefer death.
Not long after sending this letter, I received the following from a friend-of-a-friend—the spelling errors are his:
Young Mr. Corning,
It is gratifying to see a person of relatively tender years espress an interest in political science.
Unfortunately, I find you attempt at this seriously flawed, your arguments lacking in merit, and your approach intellectually lazy. I shall not attempt the thorough analysis provided by Mr. Young, but I will offer a few thoughts. In keeping with your anarchistic tendencies, as well as my own democratic principals, you are of course welcome to take them or leave them, as you see fit.
- Your response to Mr. Young indicating that you had drafted your letter to the press in a hurry, and did not wish to delay its submission until it met your exacting standards smacks of intellectual laziness. If you are going to write something, and particularly if you are going to expound a political philosiphy with the express intention of getting a reaction from the public at large, at least take the time to do it right. The fact that you cannot seem to complete a project is a poor excuse, and suggests that the work submitted is of inferior quality. You take issue with our elected leaders, suggesting that they have no ideas to offer, and provide little leadership. On the contrary, I can think of few political leaders of any prominence who would so casually fashion a political philosiphy. I do not have the solution to all the world’s woes, but I am confident that it is not contained in someone’s hastily written, poorly reasoned submission to an editorial page. I am equally certain that society suffers from an abundance of poorly reasoned political arguments. We don’t need another one. If you have something to say, at least take the time to do it right.
- Regarding your dubious claim that democracy is the cause of pollution, overpopulation, drug abuse, etc, I sould submit that these conditions (with the exception of overpopulation) have existed from the dawn of time, and exist in nearly any politcal system. Indeed, history has demonstrated that the governments most effective at controlling drug abuse, violent crime, and any number of other societal ills are the most repressive. Mussolini really did make the trains run on time, and not a few Argentinians shamefacedly admit that they supported the repressive military governments of the ’70’s and ’80’s, because at least they kept the streets safe. Regarding genocide, you might consider that the term was invented to describe the systematic slaughter of millions in Europe during World War II. The government involved was decidely undemocratic.
- Regarding overpopulation, this is a pretty complex issue. It stems in large part from the fact that fewer people die today than used to. We could of course go back to the merry days of the plague, but I would hardly see this as an improvement. To the extent that capitalism (not democracy) had contributed to this, it has done so by providing the highest standard of living in history, and consequently, the longest life span. What would you suggest as an alternative? A massive war, to lower the population? Perhaps the Chinese system of forced abortions, sterilizations, and infanticide? This too, is not a democratic ideal.
- While you suggest that anarchy is a natural system of government, and many communities have existed for thousands of years, without the need of government, you fail to indicate what any of these communities might be. Before you mention it, forget the American Indians before Columbus discoved America. Nearly every tribe had a well developed social structure and manner of governance. Not a few of them engaged in reckless behavior, which had a permanant and negative effect on the enviornment. The only reason they did not cause more harm to the enviornment was that there were simply too few of tehm scattered over too great an area. Some of them were also pretty ruthless in their dealings with one another. The entire idea of community implies some sort of rules or agreements regarding the rights and duties of members of the community, i.e. some sort of government. Anarchy is neither natural to humanity, nor to most other animal species. Apes have communities with clearly defined and understood rules of behavior for the members. Oh yes, different groups occasionally fight one another, indicating that group violence is neither unnatural or limited to humans. You could, of course run off to the wils of Montana, and live in a cabin, alas Ted Kazynski, (sp?) but I do not think this a practical solution, even if you share some of his contempt for technology. Anarchy is a pretty stupid idea, when you get down to it.
- While decrying societal woes, you offer no practical solution at all. You fail to take note of the great deal of social progress which has taken place, much of it the direct result of political action in a democratic society. In my own relatively brief lifetime, I have seen some considerable strides made in controlling pollution, and tremendous progress in promoting racial and gender equality. What do you suggest which would produce a better result, or even equal the success of democracy? I believe Winston Churchill was correct. Democracy is the worst form of government there is, except for all the alternatives.
- Don’t use the term “Amerikkkan Kapitalism,” unless you want people to laugh at you.
Old Mr. Baker,
Let me begin by saying thank you. I am glad to see that someone saw fit to read and think about the letter that I sent, let alone respond to it. Most of the response that I’ve seen, so far, is more along the lines of “hey I saw your letter in the paper.” That’s all, not many really read it, not many took the time to actually think about it, and hardly anyone has thought to respond to it. So thanks, to both you and Esti, for actually challenging me and forcing me to use my thinker.
In your response, you talked about intellectual laziness and taking the time to do things right. While I certainly don’t argue that I am not guilty of such things, I must caution you with this. Those who live in glass houses should not cast stones. Do not attempt to use my personal shortcomings to discredit the message that I intend to carry at least until you free yourself from such burdens. But let’s get to the gist of things, shall we?
I did not intend to imply that democracy is the cause of the problems I mentioned in the letter. It is quite apparent, however, that any rational thinker would take what I said to mean that. (I knew what I meant! You should have, too! 🙂 ) I do intend, though, to say this: none of the current establishments in modern civilization seem to understand the urgency of our situation. For the environment, for our posterity, and most importantly for our own well being, we must change the way we view the world. That is my proposed solution, which I consider to be a necessity for the sake of the aforementioned reasons. These are the things that really matter, and no system of government that focuses on regulation, administration, and commerce is going to do anything to further this cause. They do what they must to ensure a forum in which property is sacred, and money a deity. Possession is nine-tenths of the law. This is what they are concerned about, and certainly not those things that I mentioned above. If we are to ensure these things for our future, we must subscribe to a system that will focus on these. I am certainly not interested in making “the trains run on time”, no more than I am interested in guaranteeing corporations the right to rob the people blind. I am interested in educating the people of the world about the nature of our problem, and discussing issues that are of dire importance to the survival of the society and the individual. We have seen how our current republic has addressed such issues (legislation and programs which prove to be relatively ineffective), so why do we continue to look to that republic for answers? Just like a friend mentioned last night, “Well, plan A didn’t work. Let’s try plan A”. The answers to our problems will not be found in allowing elected officials to do the footwork, they will be found in the mass enlightenment of the people of our society. We must all know and understand the situation in order to do anything about it. In short, “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem,” and our government has shown that it isn’t a part of the solution.
Anarchy – “the total absence of government” – is something that is inherently impossible to achieve in any society. Government is defined as “the institution through which a society makes and enforces its public policies”. I think that by virtue of being a society, a society must have public policies. In order to have public policies, that society must have first made such public policies, and by virtue of having public policies must enforce them. Anarchy seems to be an imaginary thing when looked at in that light. Therefore, I must conclude that anarchy is not the solution that I claimed it to be. Moreover, I think that I labeled what I think is the most ideal form of government as anarchy, while a direct democracy was what I really had in mind. I will address that topic more in a bit, after I address a few other topics. First of all, it is my duty to volunteer that I am quite guilty of intellectual laziness. Luckily neither of you failed to point this error out to me. I believe that this problem has been the biggest cause for the difficulties I’ve had in getting a point across. Nonetheless, I will attempt to make myself clearer. To begin with, I must talk about our current government. As Esti, et al, has pointed out, we do not live in a true democracy. We live in a republic, which is more or less a representative democracy that is headed by an executive officer, such as a president, prime minister, or premier (president, in our case, of course). While I am not particularly fond of our government, I must admit that it is ideal in many respects. I do not intend to focus on what type of government we do have, though, but rather what type of government we don’t have. The only true freedom can come from anarchy, as one source stated, but true freedom is not what any of us look for, anyway. There must be some sense of belonging to a group, some larger organization of like-minded individuals involved, because we are social beings, and alone we will perish. With that in mind, I contend that a direct democracy (a society in which the peoples will is translated directly as public policy) is the only truly ideal form of government. It allows for the freedom for both the individual and the group.
At our current population, it is neither realistic, nor possible, that a direct democracy could work. This, of course, brings me to the topic of overpopulation. To say that overpopulation stems from “the fact that fewer people die than used to” is quite inaccurate. This notion suggests that the birth rate has remained the same for the last ten thousand years or so, while the death rate has dropped sharply. On the contrary, Mr. Baker, the birth rate has risen sharply in the last ten thousand years, while the death rate has remained relatively stable. It is quite evident that overpopulation is more realistically attributed to overproduction. In the last ten thousand years, production has continued to increase along with population. Technological advances that have increased life span have occurred primarily in the last three centuries, while technological advances that have increased productivity have been occurring for the last ten thousand years. The world population didn’t suddenly start to boom three hundred years ago; it has been growing exponentially since the dawn of civilization in Mesopotamia. Let us open our eyes and see that any continued increase in production will result in an increase in population. It has happened that way for the last ten thousand years, why would this year be any different? We’re back to the idea of plan A. Each year, it is decided that we will increase production (whether to feed a growing population or line the corporate pocket, all the same), and each year, the population grows. The first step in dealing with the population problem is to stop the overproduction. The solution is, of course, not war, not infanticide, not sterilization; rather the recognition that so long as we continue to do what we’ve been doing, we will continue to get what we’ve been getting.
My goal is simple, therefore my solution is simplification. The solution I have in mind is a deconstruction of the complex world that we’ve made for ourselves accompanied by a return to the simple life that was there all along. My goal is for humanity to live among creation again, rather than continuing to try to conquer and rule over it.
As you mentioned in item 4, “nearly every tribe had a well developed social structure and manner of governance”. Their social structure and manner of governance was ideal for them for many reasons. Such things were not put in place by a political doctrine or code of law, and the leadership was not limited to those trusted few. They, as a tribe, collectively came to understand what worked and what didn’t work for them, through thousands of years of trials and tribulations. Whatever worked for them was passed on, and whatever didn’t wasn’t. It was a matter of social Darwinism, if you will. That which worked survived as policy. Their systems of government, morals, ethics, religion, and all of the components of their culture grew up together, and therefore worked together. They had no need for separation of church and state, because it was all the same thing. This is of course, not to say that these tribes were perfect, nor is it to say that we should try to live the way they did. They embodied what I consider to be a true community, which is what our goal should be. There should be no one true way, but many ways for many peoples. Rather than one society with many different cultures, I think we should strive for many societies, each with its own unique culture. It is much more effective to raise a generation in a society with just one culture than in a society with diverse cultures, because to do so promotes the awareness of the posterity. In a society with many different cultural backgrounds, it is much easier for the individuals to be confused as to what they should believe. Raised in a society of one culture, the individual will see and understand that culture at work, and will therefore know that it works. In a world where so few people know what to believe in, each generation becomes more separated from the beliefs of the previous generation. The individuals are then more apt to use what is there for all of the wrong reasons, corrupting and destroying the systems that once were pure and innocent. I must reiterate, I do not strive for an absence of government, but rather I strive for a society in which there is one unified system of governance, religion, spirituality, belief, lifestyle, etc., in which I can truly be free. I strive for a society in which I know that my way of life is not the one right way, but rather just a way that works for me. A world in which there are many different societies that act in the same manner, doing what a society is supposed to do: provide a way of life for all of those belonging to it. This is a goal that cannot come over night, and most likely will not happen in my lifetime. It is something that can be achieved, as the problem of overpopulation is dealt with. I put my faith in this. I intend to do what I can to educate others and serve as an example that being confined to this society is no excuse for complacency and/or giving up. I do what I can with what I have, and what I have is a desire to change the world for the better. It is only through working out my own problems that I will be able to do anything for anyone else. With that in mind, I look forward to the future with hope.
Before I end this letter, I must address just a few somewhat off-the-topic items. First of all, you mentioned in your response: “regarding genocide, you might consider that the term was invented to describe the systematic slaughter of millions in Europe during World War II.” I thank you for sharing that with me, but I fail to see how that is relevant to the topic at hand. Genocide, defined as “the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group”, did occur before World War II. Just because there was no word to describe it does not mean that it didn’t happen. I maintain that the United States government has been, and still is, guilty of just such an action.
The second topic at hand is your mention of “the highest standard of living in history”. Of whose standard are you speaking? Based on what and how much we have, in a material sense, I suppose this is a rather accurate statement. Based on the degree of comfort, happiness, spiritual well being, and overall wellness of the population, I’d say we’re not doing so well. I must stress that long life and material prosperity are quite undesirable in the light of what we’ve given up to get such things. You can have all of the material things you want, but I’m holding out for serenity, peace of mind, and happiness for myself and my loved ones.
Finally, I will end on this note. I don’t intend to stop using the term “Korporate Amerikkka” (as opposed to “Amerikkkan Kapitalism”) and those who choose to laugh can laugh all they want. I find it more saddening than humorous that this description is a fitting one.